Meditation seems so much easier when you are sitting in your regular spot with your usual accouterments. It is relatively easy to be mindful when you are doing something mundane like brushing your teeth or walking or eating. Have you ever had a very stressful event when you really needed to be mindful? The other day I had two major events that required my ability to consciously shift my awareness out of my subconscious fight or flight drive and into conscious mind. I needed to immediately activate my prefrontal cortex and my anterior cingulate cortex.
The first event was catching a plane to go to Vancouver. I was asked to present at a conference on Mindfulness in Healthcare to over one hundred conference attendees. Flying as been a tricky thing for me. Many of you know that I have run off of two planes just before push back due to panic attacks. Thanks to meditation and mindfulness, I have largely got it under control (thanks also Ativan and beer). I have experienced several successful flight since my two rude ejections a few years ago.
Yesterday we were catching a plane to go to Vancouver for the conference. While waiting in the lounge area for boarding, I started to get that old familiar feeling: prickling skin, sweating, racing heart, and I stopped talking. Siri notices these signs quickly and deftly slides an Ativan across the table. I put it under my tongue and begin to focus on breathing. To add to the mindful experience, I listen to a meditation audio track on breathing. I start to relax. We wait until the last possible moment before boarding. Being herded like cattle down the Jetway contributes to my anxiety as I feel like I am being led to slaughter. Once the plane pushes back, and the air flows, I am all good. The flight was bumpy but that never has been my concern or trigger – it is always the lack of airflow. As you know when they shut the door and they wait for the engines to fire-up, there is no air flowing and this is what kicks off (or used to) my panic attacks. It is essentially a hypoxic reaction.
We make it to Vancouver without a hitch. Thankfully the years of mindful practices pays off. We quickly settle into sleep at the hotel as the presentation on Mindfulness in Healthcare is the next morning. We wake-up early and a bit groggy – Ativan still lingering. We caught a cab to the conference. We arrived to meet the conference organizers who seemed to know who we were but they couldn’t find our name tags – no big deal. We met some lovely people and enjoyed the keynote speaker. After lunch it was my turn. I never experience tech problems because I always have back-ups. I also have no anxiety with public speaking. Thirty minutes before the presentation I check my presentation by handing my flash drive to the tech support guy. I am most concerned to see whether my embedded videos will work as they are the most important part of my ninety minute show. The videos did not work. Now five minutes to start. Time for mindful practice Brett. I smile and focus on deep belly breathing. Eureka! I remember I brought my laptop. We quickly switch cables and with a minute to spare, it seems the videos work!
I am introduced and I begin…showtime! I start the group with a meditation – not guided…just a two minute experience of silence. I ask them to open their eyes and they seem receptive. After my bio, I jump into some theory on the brain and how meditation works (if you want to see the video, it is here: https://youtu.be/j0q3ejahq_8) The group seems to be hanging in there with the more dry part of the presentation. I know the good stuff is coming. My awesome videos that explain the concepts perfectly and then…it…happens! My computer starts to randomly shut down. At first it was every few minutes and then every few seconds. The tech guy wanted to switch computers but I knew my videos would only work on my computer. Every time it crashes, there is a collective and audible sigh of disappointment. I could lose my mind! But I do not. I practice what I preach and breath through the challenges. We get through the videos and then switch computers. The last few slides work flawlessly. The presentation is over. A sympathetic applause ensues. I thank them for their patience. A mindful group of attendees comes up and offers support and seemingly genuine compliments. I survived an ordeal that could have been a disaster. I have seen presenters lose their mind over technical failures. It is stressful presenting in front of a group of people who are hanging on your word – judging and evaluating. Even without technical challenges, it gets your cortisol flowing. It is during these times when mindfully focusing on your breathing can help avert disaster.
The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to apply the acronym S.T.O.P. Stop what you are doing. Take a breath. Observe what is happening in your body. Plan to try a different approach.
The sense of your spirit, or consciousness, only becomes apparent when you develop the gap between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the here and now- it is present moment thinking. The subconscious mind is habits, emotions, memories, and reactions. It is the “gap” between these two minds where the spirit exists.
By developing an awareness of the separation between the two minds, you develop the space for consciousness to exist and to grow. In other words, you grow to know and develop your spirit. The more you expand the space between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, the more apparent your spirit becomes. You gradually become aware that spirt does not exist in the mind, or in any one place, but is everywhere and in every cell of your body. It is only through the separation of two minds that you can begin to experience it.
Spirit or consciousness is not matter. It is energy; it is light. It is the energetic wave produced by matter but it is not matter. This energy is subtle. It is not easily measured by the equipment we have today, but it can be sensed. We can learn to sense other spirits, too. By expanding the gap between the two minds, we become more and more aware of the field of consciousness giving rise to spirit. We realize that this space created is consciousness, and that consciousness is spirt.
We then become aware that our emanating field of consciousness is connected to all other spirits – differing only in vibration. We see that our spirit is vibrating out, and is transmitting and receiving the waves of all other spirits. We realize that we are not alone. We are all connected to each other, and all other spirits, in this universe and other multiverses.
As we continue to expand our consciousness, we realize that we are not who we think we are, or we are not who we thought we were. We are spirit, which is energy, which is information. We are a vibrating field of information contained over many lifetimes. We begin to realize that our only purpose is the sharing of the information contained in the vibration of our spirit. We do this not by words but by extending our spirit outwards. This, by definition, is love, “Extending your spirit out to help another spirit.”
As a physical form, we do not matter. As a spirit, we are not matter.
We exist to love one another. We will eventually realize this in this lifetime or another. Nothing else matters. Every ascended master, prophet, or sage realized this before physical emancipation. Love is all there is. Energy is love and spirit is energy.
It has always been with you; waiting for you to open the gap for consciousness to allow the spirit to flourish and gain power. Before any of this can happen…we must create the gap. Witness the difference between your chattering mind and your conscious mind. When you perceive the difference, the gap begins to open and spirit begins to shine.
Patience is required in the process. Keep practicing expanding the gap by witnessing the two minds. With practice, the gap opens wider and awareness of true self begins. You realize that you are not your ego, or your hairstyle, or your waist size, or your bank account – you are a spirit. You are energy. You are not alone. You are here to share your information. You are here to love.
As I near the completion of my second book, I have been wrestling with the definition of consciousness. Most of my professional life has been spent in healthcare. In healthcare, the definition of consciousness has to do with brain injuries and resultant brain activity. The survivor is rated in their ability to move their eyes, to speak, and to move their body. Usually, consciousness is assessed after a brain injury by using the Glasgow Coma Scale. Neuropsychologists define consciousness as the ability to know that you are alive, that you are you and you are different from everyone else. When you look in a mirror, you recognize yourself. You also are aware that at sometime you were born and at sometime you will die. In the last decade or so, the New Age community has come to describe consciousness as being synonymous with the word spirit or soul.
I have always believed in a spirit residing in the “meat suit” of humanity but I have wrestled with trying to understand how spirit is the same is consciousness. This conundrum most likely reflected my professional life intersecting with my spiritual evolution. This morning, it became clear to me that the neuropsychologists definition can be a suitable description for spirit. Spirit, as I see it, is the essential part of you. When you were born, or likely by about five months in utero, a spirit began to emanate from the cells of your body. From the moment you were born, you appeared as pure spirit. You had no control over your flesh – you were reflexes, but beneath the reflexes and the flesh, your spirit was singing out to the world. I do not see the newborn as a tabula rasa as John Locke would describe it but rather the complete representation of you and your past lives. Everything else we add on top of this spirit merely begins to cover it up like layers of paint on a house. We were spiritually complete at birth and we just made ourselves into something unrecognizable to our own spirit.
You were never more close to your spirit or your actual self than the moment you were born. Each moment from birth forward was programming from parents and society and all your experiences – good and bad, began to add layers upon layers which started to cover the spirit. As you moved through adolescence and into teenage years, ego began to quickly add more and more layers for fear that if you listened to your spirit or let it shine, you would be ridiculed and not fit in – you had to conform. As you entered your early twenties, your ego which is produced by the programming from your subconscious mind, is well versed in portraying you as the version people thought you should be and who you started to believe you are. As often happens for people in their twenties, they start to move away from home and become more confused about their identity. A feeling of loneliness begins to creep in and the young adult begins to question who he or she actually is. Now comes along a job and maybe a family and responsibility and “poof” the memory of self is buried so deep, the person can barely remember anything about themselves. As middle-age approaches and kids leave home and jobs become routine, thoughts of retirement begin to arise.
Once a person starts thinking about the reality that they are not, in fact, their jobs and they are not their car and they are not their home or possessions or savings and they are not their hairstyle and not their clothes. They are struck with something even more frightening and that is once again, the question of , “Who am I?” The same fearful question that they asked themselves in early twenties was completely stifled in middle-age by deepening the groove of who people thought you should be and who you thought you should be. Now a person thinking about retirement or into retirement is confronted again with this, most important question. Into late adulthood, if a person has not done the work to scrape off all those layers, the older adult accepts the reality that they will either only figure out again on their last breath or they choose to make their final opus the work of discovering self again.
This journey back to self can happen at any stage of life. The sooner one starts to regularly commune with spirit, the less likely they are to start adding egotistical layers of a disingenuous self. At any age a person needs to decide that if they want to do the work, they can re-discover themselves. This process sounds simple enough – consciously descend beneath all the layers. You must descend deeper than the chattering subconscious which created your ego – you must go deeper down. This is indeed going to be work. In the depths of conscious awareness you become aware of consciousness – you meet spirit. In this meditative space you may have an emotional experience as you remember that you were and in fact are bliss – happiness and joy. See a newborn when their physical needs are met – look at this spirit, this is bliss. In addition if you choose to spend more and more time with your blissful spirit, you can get some glimpses into past lives as well. These past lives explain why you are passionate or skilled about inexplicable things – these are the gifts of your past that you have brought forward.
I hope you get sometime this Thanksgiving weekend to go home. Take the journey back to self. Honour your spirit and try not to stay away so long next time.
It seems like this should be a non-starter for a question? I mean "real" is the opposite of imaginary - isn't it? The dictionary defines real as "actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed." The real question is, in my mind, "how do you know something is real?" When I hold my favourite pen or my coffee cup in my hands, they seems real. In lecturing on topics related to quanta (very small), I found that people can believe in things that can be seen or touched but beyond that, many question the reality.
As an example, I can have a person hold a pen and then I ask them if it is real. Everyone says "yes". I then ask how they know it is real, and most say because I can see it and I can touch it. If I then ask them to close their eyes and I place the pen in front of them and ask them again, "Is the pen real?" People usually say, "Yes the pen I saw is real." But if you cannot use your sense of touch or vision - how can you know? You have a memory which, when I ask you to think about a pen, you can conjure up a vision of pen and therefore it must be real?
Our reality is shaped by not only what we touch, see, hear, taste, or smell but also by what people tell us is real. As a child, you most certainly, remember believing in things that later turned out to not be real? What changed with those beliefs of reality? At some point most of ask for proof and if proof is not provided, we reject that which we formerly viewed as reality. If somebody introduced you to a tooth fairy and you watched the tooth fairy in action, all over the world, depositing money under the pillows of children around the world, would you believe again?
Think about something like long-term memory. If I ask you to remember something from your childhood, and the details of your memory and not perfectly clear, you will likely embellish the details of your memory - the history changed. is it still real? Did all of that really happen? What about deja vu? Deja vu is the sense that you have experienced an event before when there is no plausible way that you could have experienced it. Scientists have no explanation as to exactly why deja vu occurs but most people experience at least one episode in their life.
Einstein was quoted as saying, "“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
Perhaps everything we view as reality is not actually real but rather a construct of our conscious minds. Our limiting views of reality can interfere with the field of possibility. If we believe that we have limited abilities - this will be our reality. If reality is created by our own consciousness, then it stands to reason that, within indisputable laws of nature, reality is what we make of it; ergo, life is what we make of it.
There is a beautiful song by Brett Dennen called “Ain’t no reason.” One of the lines in the song is, “Keep on building prisons gonna fill them all.” I love this song very much and I also find the metaphor of prisons to be very meaningful to me. A prison, of course, is a building meant to keep people from escaping. They are built to house people who have committed some kind of crime.
I am a prison builder – not literally but figuratively. I am a creative person who loves build things and create things that I become a slave to. My crime has been my lack of awareness that I am building prisons. Even my habits have become prisons. Anything that eventually takes away choice and takes away your power is a prison. My prisons are not grey and stark. They are not guarded by anybody but me. There are no barbwire fences either.
From the outside, most people would not see my prisons as prisons at all. Some people might look enviously at my prison as a wonderful creation or even an enviable lifestyle. The prison, is all a matter of perspective. At times, while living in my prison, I have been able to temporarily adjust my perspective and see it as a place where I can have some power and some choice. Like Viktor Frankl described in, “Man’s Search for Meaning” if people can find meaning, they can endure extreme conditions – for a time.
Eventually though, reality dominates the adjusted perspective and I am reminded that I am “doing time” in my own prison. Sometimes the prison is actually a thing I built or modified such as a house or a business or a vehicle. Sometimes the prison I built was a job or a lifestyle. Sometimes a relationship can become a prison. Even my drink, has become a prison. All of these prisons were of my design and were all prisons I chose to build. The building process is always the same. At first the prisons have no doors. I can come and go as I please. Soon, with each of the prisons, doors get installed, locks get installed, and keys become lost. My abilities to find meaning became more and more difficult. They soon started to resemble prisons. My power was gone. My choices were limited. Sadness, and even depression, set in. As time passed I became obsessed with the idea of breaking out of my prison. I couldn’t take it anymore. I cracked. There was no longer an ability to alter my perspective. I could not see the sun anymore.
I am fortunate. For almost every prison I have built, I have found a way out. Not only am I creative but I am an escape artist. Once I leave each prison, I vow never to go back – never build another prison! Each time I successfully escape, I look over my shoulder and see what I left behind. I see the legacy. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. There have been many people hurt as I escaped the prison. To those people, I am eternally sorry. I have regrets that invited many people into my prisons and when they weren’t looking, I ran. Eventually most of the people I left behind moved on but without question, forever changed.
I could accept some of my escapes if I learned some valuable lesson but in many cases, I have not. The only thing I can say, at this time in my life, a middle-aged man, is that I am aware of my proficiency in building prisons and escaping them. I never realized that this was my skill. I have taken years to hone this craft. I have finally become aware that this skill, while it has provided some colour to my life, is starting to take its toll. I am not young anymore. I cannot endure the physical and emotional stresses of prison building and escaping. I cannot take the burden of having more people left behind; the mountain of guilt is oppressive.
As I write this, I am aware of my current prisons and my need to escape from them. I know it seems like after this awareness, I shouldn’t be trying to escape again but I must. I must perform a few more escapes to get back to zero point. I need to escape and then be very, very still. I need to accept what I have done and make a pact with myself that from this zero point forward, I stop building prisons. I must learn to be still. I hope to never build a prison again. Maybe, sometime in the future, I will pick up my tools again but it will be a mindful build that never, never removes choice and never takes away my personal power.
Thanks for reading. I am working on my final escape plan now.