Our Consciousness Journey - Why and How Do We Shift?

Author // Lisa Reagan

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Why and How Do We Shift?

Rumor has it that Dr. Katherine Solomon, the noetic scientist in Dan Brown’s novel The Lost Symbol, was inspired by Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Ph.D. A real-life noetic scientist, Schlitz is the immediate past president and CEO of IONS, and now serves as its global ambassador and senior scientist. Noetic science is mentioned heavily throughout Brown’s book, his follow-up to The Da Vinci Code. Below, Dr. Schlitz explains a 10-year study’s revelations on how and why we experience epiphanies that shift us toward a greater consciousness and expanded capacities for wellness:

IONS did a 10-year project looking at consciousness transformation. And we looked at the catalysts that shift someone. It can be anything...people describe something as mundane as washing dishes, or as in the case of Edgar Mitchell, as profound as coming back from the moon, that would allow a moment of reflection to say, “Wow! I just feel there is something more here.” It could be the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, a divorce...all of these can be helpful to disrupt our steady state. It’s really beautiful when we can move our conversation about something that is traumatic into something that can help us grow and evolve, because that’s a worldview shift. It’s how we define the situation. One person can see it one way, and another person can see it another way. It is how we can begin to own the power of the interpretation of the experience.

After we looked at the catalysts, we looked at the preconditions, those things we can cultivate in ourselves that would make us more open to see things from this relationship-centered model, rather than from this separation model. In addition to the basic precursors, such as curiosity, playfulness, meditation or ways to quiet the mind, we discovered there were different practices people used to shift from these limited perspectives to one where there is a much greater interconnectedness, a whole-systems type of thinking.

We interviewed some 60 masters from different world traditions to discuss their practices and how they can help people make these life-enhancing changes. Although you may expect the traditions to offer widely different perspectives, there were many commonalities. Essentially we identified four components:

Intention. I set an intention to come into this place of interconnectedness and see my place in the whole.

Attention. Where are we placing our attention? Pay more attention and become aware of what we are not attending to. This gives us a sense of humility that we aren’t seeing everything, even when it’s there. Practicing attention can look like contemplation, meditation, turning off the TV and taking a walk, or moments of reflection with your family. Those are just some of the many forms. The essence is that we are consciously shifting our attention.

Building New Repetitions. Neuro‑science tells us that our behaviors become neuropathways that become habit-making grooves in our brains. As we build new habits, there is neuroplasticity, which is our capacity to build new grooves in the brain— and we begin to think and respond in new ways with less reactivity, more gratefulness, and more forgiveness.

Guidance. It may be a teacher or a book, or it may be—and often is—some means of slowing down enough that we can shift our attention toward our inner experiences. We can begin to trust our own guidance, and begin to listen to that noetic voice within us that can help us to calibrate what’s true and useful for each of us.

I like to think of those four pillars as wrapped in the arms of surrender. Because ultimately, transformation isn’t about everything changing outside of us, but more about our capacity to respond with resilience to what is so.

The Final Frontier: IONS Explores How Death Makes Life Possible

IONS continues its paradigm-busting investigations into taboo topics in 2013 with its latest film and book project, Death Makes Life Possible. In IONS’ new documentary, Schlitz unveils center stage the overwhelming accumulation of science that shatters the Western cultural belief in the unknowable finality of death, and instead points to evidence of life as a continuum of consciousness, with birth and death functioning as entry and exit points to a brief human drama.

Schlitz says it is the current shift in consciousness, a “Spiritual Renaissance” in the West, that is ushering in a desire for understanding death. “It is at the meeting place of science and spiritual wisdom traditions that we are discovering a new paradigm of reality and what it means to be fully human,” she says. “We are discovering that simply contemplating death can make us happier, healthier and better citizens…. As we confront our mortality we are midwifing the difficult birth of a multidimensional transformation—physical, spiritual, psychological, social and ecological.”

In bridging outer scientific revelations with inner spiritual wisdom, Deepak Chopra joins Schlitz as a co-producer of the film. Chopra, a pioneering mind-body physician and founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, has written more than 65 books, with 19 New York Times bestsellers. Chopra says that he is “confident this movie will change your perception of death and, ultimately, your experience of death.”

Chopra, who penned the film’s title, explained its meaning: “Without death there can be no present moment, for the last moment has to die to make the next one possible. There can be no present love, for the last emotion has to die to make a new one possible. There can be no present life, for the old cells in my body have to die to make new tissue possible.

“This is the miracle of creation, which in every second is one thing: life and death joined in an eternal dance. Without death, that would guarantee a universe with no change for renewal. Fortunately, creation wasn’t set up that way. We live in an endlessly re-created universe.”

In his book, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, Chopra scoffs at the idea of science’s ability to truly explore the dimensions of death. “Science is still burdened by spiritual materialism, the belief that any explanation of God, the soul, or the afterlife is valid only if matter contains the secret. This is like saying we can’t understand jazz until we diagram the atoms in Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.”

“Consciousness is a huge mystery and we are only just now taking it seriously as a science, and that science needs to mature a little bit because it wants to reduce everything to the brain,” says Schlitz. “Science is very influenced by the dominant paradigm of materialism, but it is now being informed by spiritual insights. This is one of the extraordinary things of our times: Never before have so many ways of approaching reality come into contact.

“There is a changing perspective about our consciousness and our interconnectedness. We are caught in the middle of that paradigm shift. It’s not entirely clear where it is going. But where we go in the movie and the book is the notion of a new story.

“We have all the beauty that comes from these wisdom traditions, and the insights and the practices and the cultivation of a lifestyle that comes from those traditions. We have the opportunity to look at what is true for us individually through the Western, scientific, criticalthinking approach, and that is beautiful, too.

“So, watching these worldviews come together and then talking with someone, like Stuart Hameroff, author of The Quantum Soul, who talks in the film about our souls taking on the principles of the quantum universe—we are seeing that things that people talked about thousands of years ago are finding legitimacy in these theoretical physics experiments.”

It is Chopra who integrates the science through spiritual wisdom and reveals the unfolding of a new story of human experience as a seamless and continuous whole. “The most important thing we need to understand is, what is death? Who dies?” says Chopra, discussing the film. “And in order to understand that, we also need to understand who is born. Death is not the opposite of life. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is the continuum of birth and death. There are many ways to understand this.

“At the most fundamental level of nature, or the whole universe, is a discontinuity, which means it’s going on and off. You have particles and you have waves. Nobody contests that. A particle is supposedly a thing which has units of mass and energy. And a wave is not a thing, it has no units of mass and energy, it’s a bunch of numbers. Schrödinger’s wave equation is the most important equation in all of science, in all of mathematics, and what it describes is the probability distribution of space-time events, which appear as particles. If you leave a particle alone—which means you don’t watch it or it’s not interacting with other particles—it evolves into a wave. And then you go and ask our scientist friends, a wave of what? And the best answer you can get is, it’s a wave of possibility, it’s a wave of potentiality, it’s a wave of probability. And then you ask them, where is it? And they can’t tell you, depending on their training, the school they come from, they’ll say it’s in Hilbert Space. What’s Hilbert Space? It’s mathematical space. The fact is, the wave is not a thing, and it has no units of mass and energy. It’s a possibility. And it’s transcendent. It doesn’t exist in the realm of space-time. Only when it collapses, whatever the reason for the collapse, when the wave collapses it becomes a thing. If you leave it alone it becomes a wave again.

“The human spirit is degraded when we confine ourselves to the span of a lifetime and the enclosure of a physical body. We are mind and spirit first, and that places our home beyond the stars.

“Knowing that I will return to the field one day to find my source provides me with immeasurable confidence in the purpose of life,” says Chopra. “As fervently as any devout believer, I have faith in this vision. My faith is renewed every time I have a moment of witnessing, in which I can touch the silence of my own being. Then I lose all fear of death—indeed, I touch death right now, and gladly.”

Pathways Issue 37 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #37.

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