So many are concerned with the quality of our collective consciousness and the state of the world.
What is the real solution?
Tom proposes a new solution to our world problems.
Challenging the belief about how we collectively blame something or someone else for the current high entropy state of the world, Tom provides us with another approach that puts us in the driver’s seat.
We sit down and talk with filmmakers Sheila Marshall and neuroscientist Kris De Mayer from the documentary Right Between Your Ears about the story of people who came to believe the prophecy of Harold Camping’s May 21, 2011 end of the world prediction, and how you can learn the blind spots in your own thinking.
Many people have a strong sense that their views are right and couldn’t possibly be wrong. So how do we come to hold strong convictions and why is it hard to consider we could be mistaken?
Through the eyes of a group of people convinced that they knew the date for the end of the world, Right Between Your Ears explores how people believe, how we turn beliefs into certainties, and mistake them for the truth.
A stock trader with a young family, a philosophy student about to graduate, and a retail manager who became so convinced she quit her job of 18 years. Crossing the boundaries between belief, psychology and neuroscience, the film reveals how we can become convinced we’re right, even when we’re wrong.
What is it about us humans that we insist on always having to be doing something? Honestly, I believe it’s just as important to teach our kids how to BE, rather than what they are expected to always be doing. And perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned along the way, that the only thing you need to ever BE to get ANYTHING done, is your authentic self.
When you are fully in the mold of who you were destined to be, life is easy. I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and unicorns, but it’s easier in the fact that it’s “simple”. It’s simply because when you literally get out of your own way, the Universe has this funny way of always having your back and is in constant communication with you through your very own Soul; or what some might call your Higher Self. I am not fond of hierarchy-sounding titles, and since it’s still “you”, I prefer to call it your “Intuition” with a capital “I”. And that is perhaps the one “I” your ego will never understand and will yet fight to the death to prevent you from listening to.
You see the ego does not want to change. It’s that voice always telling you that life is hard because if you didn’t struggle, you wouldn’t have earned anything (insert guilt-motivation here), while in the same breath growing ever resentful as to why all this hard work isn’t getting you everything you want out of life. You might even look around and compare yourself to other people who seemingly have not worked as hard as you (biased judgment no matter how you look at it and it only damages your own growth) and ask yourself, “Why not me?”
I am as guilty as the next person of always feeling like I’m not doing enough and if I happen to take a breather, I need to feel guilty about it, or work extra hard when I get back to “make up for it”. For some reason, (I know why, but that’s an entire article all in itself regarding inherited traumas which I will write about very soon!) But at the same time I have the knowing sense that it’s not even a matter of me “deserving” a break, it’s a matter of asking myself, “Does this bring me joy or not?” If not, DON’T DO IT! And I’m not talking about if you’re finding yourself flaking out on every opportunity afforded to you, or refusing to take risks that are ultimately holding you back from making progress in areas of your life.
What I’m referring to are the things we ALL do that we (usually secretly) hate to do! The things we do that are only motivated out of guilt, fear, or other people’s expectations of who they think we are and who they think we should be. I’ve come to learn when we live to meet the expectations of others, you die a very slow and painful death. Action with the energy of resentment behind it is toxic even if it has a fake smile plastered on it and especially if it doesn’t and no one else seems to mind you keep doing it anyway.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase that we teach others how to treat us through how we treat ourselves. I feel while there is so much truth in this as energy truly is reflective and self-fulfilling whether you have any conscious awareness of it or not, but I think that it goes beyond that. You see, no matter if we are treating ourselves poorly and allowing others to cross personal boundaries, or whether we are aware of our needs and take great care to make sure we are meeting them, people are always going to BE who they are.
Some of us are better than others at being true or “real” with others. And I honestly don’t believe that most of us do this intentionally. I think there is a huge epidemic going on in the last few generations and it’s called WE HAVE FORGOTTEN WHO WE ARE.
And who we are, while divinely grand and cosmic, is the simplest most pure form of Spirit and no one (not even ourselves) can take that away from us; no matter how mean we want to be, no matter how hard we want to be on ourselves in the name of “encouragement”. When it comes down to it, we were all put here for a grand purpose that upon incarnation is usually lost to us. But as we age, the memories begin to flood in through our creativity, inspirations, and karma.
Withania somnifera, better known as ashwagandha or “Indian ginseng,” has been a traditional staple of Ayurvedic medicine for over 3,000 years. The herb has a wide range of activity that promotes physical, emotional and mental health, body rejuvenation, and longevity. It is known to inhibit anxiety and improve energy. Ashwagandha may also promote healthy fertility.[1, 2]
Ashwagandha for Energy
Long distance cycling is an endurance sport that requires aerobic fitness and energy. Many products have been developed to provide energy in a quick, easy form: gel packets, energy chews, sports drinks, and more. Generally, these products just provide extra calories, which are necessary if you’re expending energy but don’t actually support physical ability.
In 2012, the Faculty of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy at India’s Guru Nanak Dev University conducted an eight-week study in which forty elite cyclists supplemented with ashwagandha. By the study’s conclusion, significant enhancements in both cardiovascular and respiratory endurance were reported.
Perhaps even more importantly, research out of Malaysia found that when ashwagandha root extract was regularly administered to persons receiving chemotherapy, it had potential to relieve fatigue and improve their quality of life.
Cognitive Benefits of Ashwagandha
In Ayurvedic medicine, one of the primary uses of ashwagandha root extract is to enhance memory and improve brain function. One of the mechanisms responsible for this effect is ashwagandha’s antioxidant action. Since oxidative stress contributes to neurodegenerative disorders, lessening oxidative damage may offer neuroprotection.
Multiple studies have been performed to evaluate the neuroprotective properties of ashwagandha root extract on rats and found that it may prevent some instances of memory impairment and oxidative stress on the brain.[5, 6]
Ashwagandha to Relieve Stress
Stress affects both mind and body and can be a strain that leads to underperformance. Most people will also testify that stress affects their quality of life. Ashwagandha has been documented in Ayurvedic and Greek medicine for its stress-combating properties.
The Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at India’s Asha Hospital orchestrated a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving sixty-four subjects with a history of chronic stress. After separating the participants into control and study groups, the study group began supplementing with high-concentration, full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract. After two months, the study group reported significant improvements in all stress measurements and quality of life; all without serious side effects.
Stress and Male Fertility
Additionally, stress is known to be a contributing factor for male infertility. Along with Tribulus terrestris, Ashwagandha is prized for its stimulating effects on fertility.
The Department of Biochemistry at C.S.M. Medical University conducted a study involving sixty infertile men who, however, did have normal sperm production. Participants were given five grams of ashwagandha root powder every day for three months. At the study’s conclusion, stress reductions and improvements in semen quality were observed and 14% of the participants’ partners ended up becoming pregnant.
Starting 2018 off with a bang. The first guest of the year is none other than Dr Rupert Sheldrake. Dr Sheldrake joins us to talk about his latest book, Science and Spiritual Practices, which is already available to you lucky people in the UK, and will be out later in the year if you live outside the UK.
The ancient and traditional Japanese class of warriors, known as the Samurai, have been widely immortalized in popular culture as the ultimate icon of military prowess, stealth, swordsmanship, loyalty, and honor. Known to be an elite group of military nobility, the Japanese Samurai were perhaps most revered for their codes of honor and principles, known as Bushido; which governed the Samurai’s way of life and might also be loosely related to the European concept of chivalry.
The era of the noble Samurai came and went but the principles they lived by are universal and timeless. In a world where the romantic idea of chivalry or abiding by codes of ethics has eroded to make way for inauthentic lifestyles driven by self-gratification and a faulty moral compass, the Bushido way of life can offer more than a simple insight and serve as a reminder of how we can direct our lives for the better.
I am listing the principles of Bushido and some ideas on how it can be picked up by the modern ‘spiritual warrior’ to build a robust inner life, while creating more meaningful and authentic relationships with others around us.
Living life with integrity is a good starter for the warrior’s code of ethics, before applying or adopting any other moral virtue or practice. Everything starts with your integrity. It is the moral fiber that holds all the other pieces together. Without integrity, there is quite the opposite–disintegration. Integrity is synonymous with rectitude, upstanding, righteousness and decency. The degree to which we live with integrity is reflected in anything we say and do. People around us can sense our integrity, even though it is an inner trait. Our trustworthiness pretty much hinges on how people sense our integrity or otherwise.
Samurai are the ultimate icon of military prowess, swordsmanship, loyalty, and honor.
Yes, integrity is something you do solely for your own sake, firstly and mostly. It is for your own growth as a spiritual being. You can’t fake integrity. Yet at the same time, we need integrity in society because of how it is reflected clearly in the interactions and transactions we have with others. We are social creatures after all, and something like integrity is the glue that holds bonds of sane relationships together. This was–and still is–something so important in elite groups such as the Samurai or tribal communities. On the other hand, this is why we can observe so much insanity and distrust in today’s society. Integrity can be a scarce human resource to find nowadays.
For the noble Samurai, integrity or rectitude was principally the ability to make a wise discernment or judgment: “To die when it is right to die, to strike when it is right to strike.” Now, this might sound a bit extreme and bloody but the idea is that discernment can be applied to any circumstance and not necessarily life-threatening ones. Integrity gives us the discernment in thought, speech, and action. For example, it enables us to refrain from talking or acting in a nonsensical, hurtful or egocentric way. This generates peace both internally and between people.
Courage is obviously one of the first associations we make with warriors–both those on the battlefield and those in spirit. Many people overlook the difference between fearlessness and courage and there is a very important point to take home from this difference in our everyday life. Living without fear is most certainly an illusion. If you are completely fearless you are not alive or have a very short lifespan. Fearlessness can be equated with foolhardiness or ego-based illusions. Nobody can be completely without fear because, in its pure form, fear is an evolutionary survival tool.
“To die when it is right to die, to strike when it is right to strike.”
Yet, we can recognize our fears and learn to put them in their own place without letting them run our lives. This takes courage. It is the courage that we summon in our hearts when we step out into the world and make that important move, even though we still have some fears and uncertainty about it. Courage is a beautiful energy that initiates a lot of changes and decisive movement that takes us far and forward in our life.
Now, this is something that is not a stereotypical association with anything warrior-like but together with courage, it is one of the most important virtues of the 21st-century spiritual warrior. It centers us in the power of the heart space, which is the source of so many other beautiful qualities and feelings such as love, benevolence, sympathy, and empathy. Compassion is a very noble virtue and one that Bushido, or the way of the warrior, holds up high in importance and value.
Without nurturing compassion, you can’t sail very far in the ocean of life, for you are surrounded by so many sentient beings that are both a reflection of you and coming out from the same source as yourself. Compassion is in fact nurtured through a very simple first step–loving-kindness towards oneself. Without giving love to yourself and allowing yourself to be loved, it is very difficult to be compassionate towards others. In turn, lacking compassion is like living in a dried up river bed–disconnected from both the source and flow of life. The warrior understands the power of being connected with life and other sentient beings, and so, he understands the importance of compassion.
Respect and/or politeness in the world of Bushido can be seen as a little bit parallel to compassion, in the sense that it stems from a sympathetic regard for the feelings of others. “In its highest form politeness approaches love”. Like compassion, to respect others you need to first respect and value yourself. Respect for others without respecting yourself is only a faint shadow of the virtue. We live in a world where politeness is often born out of conditioned responses or fear of being disapproved or disrespected in return, rather than true sentiments.
Warriors understand the power of being connected with life and other sentient beings.
Real politeness and respect are authentic and very often do not require words–although a timely compliment or kind words and gestures do no harm. To be able to respect the feelings and opinions of others and use politeness to harmoniously keep social connections meaningful is both a beautiful virtue and skill to have. The real warrior is both respected and knows how to show respect. It is such a valuable implicit agreement between gentle souls.
There is a meditation practice within Tibetan Buddhism called Sky Gazing it comes from the Meditation tradition of Dzogchen – which strongly emphasises resting in a natural state free from conceptual elaborations. This natural state is wide open, clear and lucid; it neither rejects anything or clings to anything and is sometimes referred to as spontaneous awareness. It is spontaneous because nothing has manufactured or created it, like having to meditate or having to be calm. It always has been there and therefore is also called primordial awareness.
The clear blue sky is the closest external example of what this natural state is like. The clear sky is also a metaphor for the natural states indestructibility. Just like the sky is not affected by the passing weather neither is our natural state stained by thoughts or emotions no matter how strong they may be. This is a liberating view in the field of meditation. No longer do you have the idea that you have to purify and remove all the negative states of mind, now there is a teaching that directly points to an aspect of yourself which is your essential nature.
This nature is pure right from the beginning and accessing that awareness is what sky gazing skilfully aims to do.
Another important things to understand is that the sky like nature of your mind is always there, it is permanent. All other mental states come and go. This is the reason enlightenment is possible. If disturbing and negative states where permanent or fundamental to the mind they could not be removed, but because all negative states are impermanent and not an essential nature of the mind they can be removed. This is great news.
Sky gazing is apart of the Dzogchen tradition which is considered the highest spiritual path within Tibetan Buddhism and has been kept secret and only given to the most devout students, but as one Meditation Master has said in these times of strong materialism, chaos and disturbing emotions there needs to be an equally strong practice that can counter those negative forces and sky gazing is a practice that can do just that.
“Sky gazing is a way to feel release from the narrow confines of the personality or ego. It connects a person to the vast, expansive, clear, open, space of awareness that is their authentic nature. It brings relaxation, peace, joy, and a fresh, crisp sense of connecting to reality; the natural state of things.”
Before I explain how to do it I would like to include here the psychology of why it’s so powerful. My Buddhist teacher always emphasised how the mind is clear like water and whatever you focus on colours that clear awareness. By it’s very nature the awareness is clear and pure but gets muddied and coloured by focusing our attention on negative thoughts and disturbing emotions. In fact just like water becomes muddied our mind becomes the same as what we focus on. If we focus on anger our minds become anger, if we focus on our ego our minds become the ego. In this way what you focus on is like cordial and your mind is like water, once they are mixed together they become almost inseparable. This is where sky gazing comes in. By gazing into the clear sky you can experience the purity of awareness without it being coloured by thoughts and emotions, this is an amazing discovery, which you can realise for yourself, it does not require belief it requires practice.
Your awareness becomes clear and open too like the sky and this becomes an access point for the clear and lucid spontaneous awareness of the natural state itself.
The key to the natural state is that it is both empty, without boundaries like the sky but it is also lucid and cognizant, the realisation of these two inseparable things, emptiness and awareness, as your true nature is your enlightened nature which does not need to be created because it’s always there – it needs to be discovered.