Meditation and use of the brain

I recently posed this question on Facebook: “what would it feel like if we used 100% of our brains instead of the usual 15%?". Somebody responded that it must be awful because it's bad enough feeling like overload at 15%!

It is a common misconception that brain usage is pretty much equivalent to thinking, perhaps aside from instinctive and reflexive behaviour. But actually, brain usage can be increased by decreasing thought activity! What I meant was how would it feel if we increased our intelligence by deepening and broadening perceptiveness (consciousness)? If we can perceive more of what's going on inside and outside of ourselves, then surely we can act more wisely.

The science of neurology has not yet been able to find a part of the brain that they can call consciousness because physicality is a subset of consciousness but more recent studies have shown what happens when the brain is operating at deeper levels of consciousness. Using electronic sensors, brain researchers are able to detect electrical signals in the brain, determining how much activity there is and in which parts of the brain it is occurring.

Normally, during the state of being awake, we are predominantly in thinking mode which is known as the beta level of consciousness. The typical electrical activity is sporadic and uncoordinated between different areas. However, in experiments where subjects entered deeper states of consciousness, so-called Alpha and Theta-levels, (in this instance through transcendental meditation) the study showed a synchronised pulsing of electrical signals which occurred over a much bigger area van at the beta level. Activity was happening in an organised fashion.

For people who meditate regularly, this makes sense. Effective meditation calms the mind, creates a restful state and allows for a larger perspective. That means greater intelligence because more information can be assimilated and processed than with a very active mind. This is why proven relaxation techniques, such as classical music in the background, are popular in some teaching courses, as it has proven to increase the rate of learning.

Masters of the martial arts know that with a calm mind you can achieve a great degree of concentration and are able to react much more quickly and effectively van with a mind full of thoughts. They demonstrate how a calm mind can be extremely alert.

It is essential to practice some form of effective meditation to achieve this clarity and regeneration of a healthy mind which is exposed to so much thought pollution. It aids the power of self-observation which is essential for personal development. One becomes more true to oneself and the inner wishes. Greater wisdom means making the right choices at the right times. That benefits health as appropriate dietry decisions are acted upon, and stress reduction because of the implicit relaxation and also due to the meditator becoming more in tune with the body's stress reactions. Compassion grows due to increasing attentiveness to the needs and suffering of fellow beings.

There are many different forms of meditation, most of which stem from a complete spiritual philosophy, the best known being Buddhism, but in many ancient traditions meditation is a cornerstone. Some practices involve a mantra or mandala (the continual repetition of a word or sentence), whereas others are completely silent. It is best to experiment and find what works best for you. I personally normally practice either the Japanese Buddhist meditation of Nichiren Daishonin with a mantra "Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo" basically meaning "I commit myself to the law of the Universe of cause and effect" or the silent, mindfulness meditiation of Samadhi-Vipassana. I find there are complimentary qualities in the two

The object of worship – setting priorities

The title here sounds like I am about to present to you the dogmatic proceedings of a sect. Actually what I am intending is to illustrate how important it is to:

  • identify the main priority we set in life
  • analyze the motive behind it
  • critically question if that is what we really want and how it will affect other aspects of our life
  • re-prioritize if necessary and set the number one goal to creating value for the whole
  • learn from desires in the context of working for the higher good
  • remain wakeful to any tricks of the ego to get the upper hand!

 

In many cases we blindly follow abstract and conventional goals that society dictates to us simply because we haven’t been trained to think independently of the status quo, or it is too challenging to do so. We aren’t aware of where we are heading and why! It could be anything from getting rich, wanting a family or the perfect partner, the most secure job, become the best painter etc. In themselves these goals are not “wrong”, but why we have them and how we deal with them has vast implications. 

 

Many goals are fear-driven, not by a rational drive to survive, but by the negative mindset that our culture of dependency promotes. We naturally organise our priorities according to the top one, so many sub-goals will also tend to be fear-driven. Even if with fear as a motivational force, we have strong drive, are highly efficient and organized and do manifest the goal we are aiming for, we may find out after years of labouring that it’s not what we were really looking for. We discover that the new situation has its own set of challenges and we saw it before as a kind of escape. “The grass is always greener over there” can be a strong motivation for perseverance and much activity but if it is the underlying personal trait, we will eternally be dissatisfied, ungrateful, and would have been better off spending perhaps much less time and energy in confronting and transforming our escapist habit. In that way we could have opened up many doors to real happiness and success.

 

I want to broadly identify the relationship between the matter of greatest value that a person gives in life, and the typical consequences of “worshipping” this object. As I see it, there are 2 types of worship which have massively different outcomes.

The creative form of worship is that of the greater good, of which one is part. It is done with the intention of gaining spiritual strength through learning and the use of free-will.  

The destructive form is to worship with the intention of dependency.

 

I use the word worship because attaching extreme importance to an aspect of life is equivalent to bowing down before it like a deity. We can do that consciously to grow, as I’ve stated, or blindly, habitually unquestioningly – expecting to be rescued from suffering by some external power. This is another form of addiction and is largely overlooked.

 

There is nothing wrong with concentrating efforts on attaining things that are greatly lacking in our lives – themes which cause suffering. These could be long-term or short-term efforts. The problems start, however, when the focus on the feature desired becomes the number 1 priority in life as a rule, taking precedence over our responsibility to the whole. When our humanity takes second place, generally, we will inevitably cause suffering for ourselves and others at some point. If this becomes habit, we not only lose strength as we succumb to fear-based decisions, but when we are faced with major problems, we might be reduced to behaving like animals, with negative consequences for everyone concerned. 

 

Fortunately we are always in a position to maintain our sense of humanity, even in the direst circumstances. It all depends on maintaining the fighting spirit and wakefulness to cause and effect. There have been many accounts in history of people, e.g. in poverty or war-situations who have shown courage, compassion and wisdom despite being under duress themselves. When we tap into our human potential in those worst times, we gain strength and hope and can move mountains. When we lose sight of our humanity, we operate solely on the level of fear, which is fundamentally weak. If we connect ourselves with the greater good, we can see many doors of possibility opening up and transcend the dependencies- and transitional nature of material existence.

 

Isn’t that something worth struggling for? The feeling of being completely alive, connected and eternal all at once?

 

The fantastic thing is, as long as we make the greater good our top priority, and I mean not just theoretically or with words, but with our full intention so that it infiltrates our thoughts, words and actions – we can use our desires as a motor for learning. We can follow our desires in order to see them for what they really are! Desires are a powerful tool, but need to be mastered, kept in check, recognised and accepted as they arise as an inevitable part of life, in order to learn more and expand our consciousness. If the basis for decisions now is the greater good – a higher life state, then following our desires becomes a liberating experience because it starts from the point of strength and consciousness.

 

If we choose to place highest value on the desire itself and commit ourself to that goal without greater perspective, it is like a headlong projection into a cycle of unconscious dependency from the starting point of worshipping dependence!

 

Once we have experienced the benefits of priority setting at this no.1 level, we can more wisely apply the techniques of  improving our ability to manifest our creative wishes. Most importantly, we should remain wakeful to the tricks of the mind (ego) which will regularly try to convince us to follow the path of fear and separation again! Thus the need for regular reflection, and the exercising of courage and strong resolve!

 

What is empowerment?

What do I mean by empowerment? Let’s first exclude the contradictory interpretations. I am not talking about the commonplace, materialistic notion of the giving of power, or enabling because this is by default limited to material dependency. It is not about having or enabling political power or the power to control or manipulate others, being at a competitive advantage, achieving unlimited technological progress or having access to vast choices of affordable material goods. It is not about licensing to destroy.

Whilst these features of a materialistic society might appear to seem beneficial in the short-term, it is only at the cost of others less advantaged and the environment. What goes around comes around: the greed, aggression, domination and all the symptoms of a belief that we live in isolation from one another, has bred more of the same.  In fact this belief, although part of human nature, is psychopathic, irrational and yet so institutionalized that it allows for extreme human rights abuses to be committed, and often directly or subconsciously hidden from others’ eyes, whether through media control, politically, or individual cover-ups. That world-view says nothing about how to enable the sense of freedom and hope, despite e.g. a lack of material possessions, low status in an official hierarchy, a period of illness or conflict with others. It only tells us how the material status can be improved for a limited time for a restricted number of people and ignores the costs to a dangerous degree because it doesn’t understand the concept of unity.

True empowerment is when an individual or group recognizes that they have a choice to push those limiting fears aside, the type of fear that constrains our creativity, love, wisdom, compassion, ability to follow our dreams. It is the enabling of courage to rise up out of incapacitating negativity and apathy, to move forward towards the desired situation. It is when we start to understand that our lives are inextricably linked to others’ in a vast network of existence, despite our differences, so we become more conscious of our responsibility to support the whole and not just the self. This allows compassion and wisdom to increasingly infiltrate our thoughts and deeds. Simply the connection with the whole gives a sense of place and meaning to life which, naturally, creates a deep feeling of happiness in itself. It is the use of free will to choose new, unexplored paths that broaden horizons instead of narrowing them. It is the creation of a vision of value for the self and the whole. In these moments we are empowered. We are then conscious of the power to change the course of our lives for the better, and how we can positively influence our environment. We can act, regardless of how hopeless a situation may seem to be at the time. The voice of hope becomes louder than the voice of circumstances. We cease to be the effect and instead become the cause. We see that problems are a springboard for gaining greater strength.

This is the greatest power there is to be experienced, because problems become our nourishment when they unavoidably arise!  When this all becomes the basis for our life, we will start to manifest amazing, ultimately desirable changes. Life becomes an adventure, something joyous, precious and full of meaning and patterns of causality. We become grateful for the wealth that life has offered us. Empowerment is the realization of happiness through unity and free-will. Once we become empowered we are in the position to make quantum leaps in personal development relative to the non-conscious state. We start taking full responsibility for our situation – we are the creators. 

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