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Are we drivers in our own biology or victims of our genetic makeup?

The research that first led me to question scientific dogma took place in the petri dishes that are the workhorses of cell biologists' laboratories when I was cloning stem cells. Stem cells are embryonic cells that replace the hundreds of billions of cells we lose daily in normal attrition due to age, wear-and-tear, etc. As hundreds of billions of cells die every day, hundreds of billions of new cells are created from our bodies' stem cell population.

For my experiments, I would take one stem cell and put it in a petri dish all by itself. That cell would then divide every ten to twelve hours. After a period of about a week, I’d have about 50,000 cells in the petri dish. For my experiments, the most important factor was that all of the cells were genetically identical because all of them came from the same parent cell. Then I split up the cell population into three dishes, each with different culture mediums, i.e. each with a different environment. Despite the fact that all the cells were genetically identical, in environment A, the cells formed muscle; in environment B, the cells formed bone; and in the third environment C, the cells formed fat cells.

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Human Potential Takes a Huge Leap - and You’re Already There

The human potential movement has become a roaring success over the past few decades. Yoga, meditation, the evolution of consciousness, even human potential itself are terms almost everyone knows. But the aura of spirituality hovers around them, which leads scientists to ignore human potential or to relegate it to psychology, considered the softest of soft sciences.

So it is quite startling, and a major leap forward, to find out that human potential deserves its place among the hard sciences. In fact, the five senses, instead of being grossly inferior to modern scientific apparatus, turn out to have abilities ten times greater than anyone ever supposed. In a nutshell we are quantum detectors, meaning that simply by sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell we are participating in the finest fabric of Nature, and possibly can cause the quantum field to move at will.

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Do Your Genes Run You or Vice Versa?

There's a disturbing trend in science to try and prove that human beings are machines, and where this was once a metaphor, it is being taken more and more literally. We are told that a brain hormone is responsible for falling in love or a mother's affection for her newborn baby. Brain areas that light up on an fMRI scan supposedly indicate that a person is depressed or prone to criminal behavior and much else. Besides being brain puppets, we are supposed to believe that our genes program us in powerful ways, to the point that "bad" genes doom a person to a host of problems from schizophrenia to Alzheimer's.


There needs to be a clear rebuff of this notion that human beings are mechanisms, and the fact that science has a wealth of findings about both genes and the brain doesn't make the notion any more valid. The general public isn't aware, for example, that only 5% of disease-related genetic mutations are fully penetrant, which means that having the mutation will definitely cause a given problem. The other 95% of genes raise risk factors and in complex ways interact with other genes.
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A Brain Theory That Work - If You Turn It Upside Down

Neuroscience is based on the assumption that the brain produces the mind. After all, without a brain, most of us would be much poorer thinkers. If the brain produces the mind, then it’s important to know how it does it. A team at the University of California Santa Barbara has come up with a new theory—actually, an ancient theory now couched in modern scientific terms—basing mental activity on vibrations.

For a long time it’s been known that various waves of electrical activity are present, and these waves are independent in how they relate to having a mind. As explained by one of the team members from UC Santa Barbara, “Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness…”

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There Is No "Real" Universe. Now What?

More than six decades after Einstein's death in 1955, his prestige is enormous and worrisome. It is enormous because relativity remains tremendously important and to this day, both the special and the general theories of relativity remain valid. It is worrisome because Einstein harbored a deep skepticism about quantum mechanics, even though quantum mechanics has been validated time after time experimentally and despite the fact that Einstein himself was one of the founders, receiving the Nobel Prize for the quantum photoelectric effect. The embarrassing fact is that quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of the smallest level of Nature, cannot be reconciled with general relativity, which explains the behavior of the universe at the largest level. They are both right but not merged yet.

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Tips to Embrace Mercury Retrograde

Yup, it is that time again! By now, you have probably heard someone say … “Oh, It’s Mercury retrograde”.

Mercury Retrograde is about to begin and many people are beginning to “feel” the energy shifts … possibly without even knowing it … as it moves in. Now, I’m not an expert in Mercury Retrograde … nor am I an astrologer. I’m a psychic medium and someone who is sensitive to energy … just like you. I notice when the energy shifts … especially the strong shifts. As I tune into the energy (and look at the calendar) I usually discover that Mercury is retrograde … and I take a breath, look up how long it will be in retrograde … and then plan to move forward at a slower pace … knowing that it always has something to teach me. Not that I always love this … but, I can either hit my head against the wall, pushing and forcing OR go with the flow of Mercury in retrograde … and embrace its teachings. Which do you choose?

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The Future Is Accelerating - Will Humans Fit In?

The celebrity inventor, thinker, and entrepreneur has joined other voices who worry about a future dominated by supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In a widely publicized podcast, Musk announced that Neuralink, a company he cofounded, plans to announce in a few months a brain-machine interface breakthrough that’s “better than anyone thinks is possible" This would be a device implanted in the brain that would communicate thoughts directly to digital sources like the Internet.

In parallel, 60 Minutes aired and then re-aired a story about the futurist Media Lab at MIT where one of the researchers had already devised a headset that can turn mental activity into a message that appears on a computer screen. One aspect of this brain-to-digital conversion is that someone can do a Google search simply by thinking about it and then seeing the answer on the computer.

Musk’s motivation seems to be his fear of the existential threat of AI to humans, which echoes similar fears voiced by leading scientists, including the late Stephen Hawking. What is envisioned is the emergence of supercomputers that not only can out-perform the human brain in speed, storage, and complexity of calculation—none of which exactly looms like a Frankenstein monster—but will somehow cross a borderline to acquire independent “will,” or a simulation of this. What might follow, the worriers fear, is a race of supercomputers with their own agenda, and in keeping with many sci-fi plots, humans will no longer be necessary.



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You Are Cordially Invited to a New Universe

Most people have heard about the fragile start that the universe had. Although the big bang sounds big, it occurred in a space smaller by millions of times than the period at the end of this sentence. The forces of nature had to be exquisitely balanced for the infant universe to work once it expanded to its present enormous size. This exquisite balance is known to physicists as fine tuning. If any one of about twenty constants responsible for the nature of the cosmos had been off by one part in a billion, the infant universe could have collapsed in on itself or flown apart so fast that atoms would never emerge from the primal quantum soup surrounding the beginning of the universe.

A constant is an unvarying number like C, the speed of light. Constants aren't allowed to be wobbly. The speed of light can't be unpredictable, changing in the Andromeda nebula (the next-door galaxy to our own Milky Way), from what it is here on Earth. Nor can it change from Monday to Tuesday. Whether you speak of the universe 13.8 billion years ago or today, C hasn't changed, nor have the other constants that regulate all the matter and energy in the cosmos.

The Universe Has Become a Risky Numbers Game

Although advanced instruments like the Very Large Telescope in Chile grab spectacular images and space probes give first-person access to distant bodies like comets, asteroids and planets, the story of the universe is largely told by the numbers. The cosmos holds together, particularly at the farthest horizons, through mathematical calculations. It's incredibly tricky to calculate what actually occurred during the big bang, for example. At the other extreme, the potential (inevitable?) death of the universe is conjectured, not by envisioning it but by taking the known laws of nature and foreseeing how they play out over time.

There are so many variables in this numbers game that huge gaps are possible and possible errors that are more than sizable. Trouble was recently reported in the October 3 issue of New Scientist, a "glitch at the edge of the universe that could remake physics," as the headline declared. What's in question--perhaps--is one of the constants upon which most of our theoretical understanding of matter and energy rest. The general public is aware of constants like the speed of light and the force of gravity, but the "fine structure constant," also known as alpha, has deep implications for the biggest and smallest things in creation.

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Reinventing the Brain: The final Step

We're living in a golden age for brain research, which aims to revolutionize how we think, feel, and behave. Thanks to brain scans like the fMRI, brain activity can be localized and even the most precise activity pinpointed. For example, researchers can spot the minuscule area in the visual cortex that, when damaged, prevents a person from recognizing faces, including one’s own.

The ultimate challenge in neuroscience is to map the whole brain down to the tiniest detail. This is the brain equivalent of mapping the human genome, and a public-private collaboration began in 2013 called the White House BRAIN Initiative is underway.

But what will we use the completed brain map for? One obvious area is medicine. The more we know about what goes wrong in Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, the closer we get to a cure. Yet one could argue that a higher goal would be to reinvent how we use our brains. "Reinvent" isn't an exaggeration. Thirty thousand years ago Homo sapiens had evolved the same genetic array that modern people inherit. In those thirty thousand years arose reading, writing, advanced art and music, government, mathematics, and science. Their foundation was an ever-evolving relationship between mind and body.

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Your Body Is Trapped in Stale Information

One of the mysteries about our bodies is how they manage to change and yet remain the same. DNA is routinely called the blueprint of life, yet no other blueprint actually builds the house or skyscraper it models. Once DNA builds a body, the body grows and disintegrates at the same time. This is apparent from the skin and stomach lining, which rapidly form new cells as old ones die. But every cell has a given lifespan and willingly dies, so to speak, when it's time is up. 

How did the body develop this ability to be born and die at the same time, to balance creation and destruction? If we dive to the molecular level, the mystery only deepens. Cells need food, air, and water, and the molecules of each are in constant transport, passing through the cell wall and out again. In addition, the messages that the brain sends to every cell in the body course through the bloodstream with precise messaging that doesn't get confused--in effect, the bloodstream is an information superhighway in which there are no traffic accidents even though the cars have no drivers.

To date, the best way to understand what's going on is through genetics, and now the whole field of genetics has entered the information age. As summarized in a recent TED talk by biologist Dean Gibson provocatively titled "How to Build Synthetic DNA and Send It Across the Internet " there are now machines that biologically print DNA once they are fed instructions in the form of data easily transmitted on the Web. This conversion of information into actual DNA builds upon previous technology that enables bits of stored genetic material (the basic four-letter alphabet of ACGT) to be combined in any conceivable way.

Gibson's lab has pioneered sending information and turning it into genetic material, which in 2013 allowed them to take the code for an alarming new strain of bird flu in China and in a matter of hours turn it into a viable vaccine to fight the disease, a process that normally takes up to six months. The promise of similar applications is set to revolutionize how new drugs are made.

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If a Machine Could Make You Happy, Would You Do It?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes many claims, some quite futuristic, others just around the corner. Somewhere in the middle lies the prediction of human behavior, with the attendant claim that if people are predictable, this could be the future of well-being.

 

To predict when someone is going to get angry, sad, afraid, or tense is already well within reach. AI is developing readouts of muscle activity and related bodily responses that indicate what the brain is going to do. Going a step further, at the MIT Media Lab they’ve taken enormous steps into translating thoughts—i.e., words in our heads—into signature brain signals. These signals can be digitized, and suddenly, a thought in your head can be sent to Google’s search engine via Wi-Fi, allowing you to search the Internet simply by thinking.

 

If you put these breakthroughs together, a new model of human behavior emerges, one based on predictability and reading the signals originating in the brain that attend predictable behaviors. AI experimenters get very excited about the notion that the brain, and the behavior it triggers, can be mathematically reduced to equations that in essence turn people into a complex of algorithms. The excitement is justified, because anything that can be expressed logically is understandable in computer language.

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The spiritualistic vs. scientific worldview: Finding common ground

Famously, the Book of Genesis opens with the presumptuous statement that, “In the beginning … God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This very first line of the Bible has put the Christian faith – or any other faith for that matter – in direct contrast with the scientific worldview, which states that everything is created by chance and that matter is all that exists. Between both irreconcilable ideologies, there lies a world of endless possibilities to explore that may shed a more comprehensive light on the extraordinary nature of our existence.

The materialistic vs. spiritualistic worldview has been a source of much dispute between scientific hardliners and religious fundamentalists. To figure out which of the two is more credible, let’s take a closer look at both positions.

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It's Time for Science to Accept Consciousness

Although it takes place outside the headlines, even those that deal with science, a heated debate is occurring about mind and matter. On onside is a camp of so-called physicalists, formerly known as materialists, who hold fast to the assumption that any and all phenomena in nature can be reduced to physical processes and the interaction of objects (atoms, subatomic particles, etc.) --these for the building blocks of the universe. On the other side is no single camp but a mixed assortment of skeptics who hold that at least one natural phenomenon--the human mind--cannot be explained physically.


When one explanation (the physicalist) is supported by the weight of highly successful theories in physics, biology, biochemistry, and neuroscience, and the other side has no accepted theory on its side, the debate seems totally unequal. But in David versus Goliath battles, be careful of rooting for Goliath. The possibility of a science of consciousness, which would involve a thorough explanation of mind and how it relates to matter, can't begin until the obstacles in its path are removed and old accepted assumptions are overturned.


That has already begun, on all fronts. In physics, the essential problem of how something came out of nothing (i.e., the big bang coming out of the quantum vacuum state) stymies cosmologists, while at the microscopic level the same mystery, this time involving subatomic particles emerge from the virtual state, is equally baffling. In biology the prevailing Darwinism cannot explain the quantum leap made, with astonishing rapidity, by Homo sapiens in terms of reasoning, creativity, language, our use of concepts as opposed to instincts, tool-making, and racial characteristics.


We are the offspring of the newest part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, and yet there is no causal connection between its evolution and the primal Darwinian need to survive. This is evident by the survival of a hundred primate species lacking a higher brain, reasoning, tool-making, concepts, etc. Finally, in neuroscience and biochemistry, there is zero connection between nerve cells, and their chemical components, and mind. Unless someone can locate the point in time when molecules learned to think, the current assumption that the brain is doing the thinking has no solid footing.

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A Message From Our Ancestors

Visiting ancient sites of the Aboriginal people here in Australia, I am struck by both their deep connection with nature and their fascination with the mysteries of the universe. The cave drawings and glyphs carved into stone cliffs that I have seen tell stories similar to those still told today by my indigenous friends, the Shuar and Achuar of the Amazon, the Kogi of Colombia, and the Maya of Central America.

Throughout the world, we see that ancient peoples had a deep fascination with Orion, Pleiades, and ideas around mysterious visitations from other planets. We also see that they enjoyed rich traditions centered on the spiritual and healing powers of animals and plants.

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Who’s running the show?

The subconscious mind is an astonishingly powerful information processor that can record perceptual experiences (programs) and forever play them back at the push of a button. Interestingly, many people only become aware of their subconscious mind’s push-button programs when their own “buttons are pushed” by the actions of others.

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Welcome to the Society for the Suppression of Curiosity

The secular world is built upon science, which overturned the world of faith. Exchanging spiritual beliefs for objective facts looks like a clear-cut choice, but it isn't. In all our lives there are values like compassion and loving kindness that are not scientific, and so everyday life straddles two worlds. In one world having a compassionate heart means something important. In the other compassion has no meaning unless it can be reduced to data on a brain scan.

 
A mature person can live in both worlds comfortably, because they don't need to clash. Dr. Francis Collins is a physician and geneticist who is the head of the National Institutes of Health, but he also happens to be a devout Christian who has written movingly about his religious awakening. Besides straddling two worlds, which we all do, Collins has explored them both, in keeping with his bent for inner and outer discovery.

  

Yet some religionists can only tolerate one view of life, and they insist on fundamentalist beliefs, such as the belief that God created human beings in their present form and reject all scientific claims to the contrary. In the other world, some science-minded people cannot tolerate faith and mystery, and they reject any thing that cannot be proven as experimental fact.

 

In both cases, there is a total suppression of curiosity and a rigid insistence on "right think," to adopt the Orwellian term for beliefs enforced by punishment from higher up.

 

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Science provides a model for Awakening

Science tells us that the world around us is made of tiny bits of matter called particles. We can get a sense for the truth behind this by breaking up anything around us into smaller parts. The piece of furniture in front of me, for example, can be cut smaller and smaller into ever-finer pieces. No matter how small the piece, however, it will still be particulate - a piece of something.


Science took this process to its endpoint by cutting up matter to the smallest possible size so far, and arrived at what we call elementary particles. Take a look around you. All the objects you see are aggregations of elementary particles that are only about 0.00000000000001 meters wide!


Going beyond the particle

  • In this article from Symmetry Magazine, theoretical physicist Greg Gbur says particles "...travel freely through space as a wave."
  • According to string theory, particles are the vibrations of a string.
  • Invoking mass-energy equivalence, we can say a particle is a dense form of energy.


Accordingly, these waves or vibrations that we localize as particles are also delocalized processes. Let's dig deeper.

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Hard-Wired or Habit?

There is a trend lately to think of certain behaviors as immutable and impossible to change. We hear comments like “Oh, he’s just hard-wired that way.” Meaning, it’s in the genes; he (or she) can’t change. Really? That line of thinking can take us down a rather pessimistic path into entrenched fear. Fear of the external world, fear of change, fear of those different from us. Are these fears hard-wired in us or simply habit? Do our genes control our destiny? Maybe not. Perhaps our genes and we ourselves can be transformed by shifts in collective consciousness and the power of divine energy. By connecting through the heart with our fellow human beings and to the God/dess within us.

 

Biologist and author Bruce Lipton has written about “spontaneous evolution.” He cites scientific studies that show that “genetic determinism” is an outdated belief, and we are not victims of heredity. Signals from our external (or internal) environment ultimately control gene activity. Translated, this means that genetic predispositions can be overridden by real-world experiences such as those that open our hearts or connect us with our soul. Spiritual awakenings or other transformative moments have a power that can break through habitual personality patterns. As our awareness grows, we can also consciously choose to align with our soul instead of our personality self or ego.

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Artificial Intelligence, False Gods, and Driverless Everything

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has succeeded by being far-seeing; it’s a field where proponents began by envisioning a computer that can take over functions of the human brain, like computation and logic. Today the field has progressed to the point where algorithms can recognize photos, speech and emotions, fly a drone or drive a truck, spot early signs of diabetes or cancer, and play chess and poker at a championship level. Now, in a leap that could be futuristic, absurd, or life-changing (nobody can predict which), the vision is of a robotics religion that worships an AI godhead.

 

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