The Natural Order of Things – Part 5

The Techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Hypnosis

Richard Bandler

Dr. Richard Bandler

Neuro-Linguistic Programming was developed in the mid-70s by John Grinder, a Professor at UC Santa Cruz and Richard Bandler, a graduate student. It has since been greatly expanded by others such as Robert Dilts, Judith DeLozier, and Leslie Cameron-Bandler.

NLP originated as an approach to modeling how communication impacts and is impacted by subjective experience. By modeling the effective behaviors of exceptional people, NLP has assembled a huge set of pragmatic tools while being relatively unconcerned with underlying theory. As Bandler once said, “NLP is a methodology that leaves behind a trail of techniques”. This approach has resulted in a lot of argument in scientific circles about NLP’s effectiveness, but the “official” NLP doctrine is “pretend it works, try it, and notice the results you get. If you don’t get the result you want, try something else.”

Much of early NLP was based on the work of Virginia Satir, a family therapist; Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy; Gregory Bateson, anthropologist; and Milton Erickson, hypnotist. Erickson’s work in particular formed the foundation for a lot of NLP, which is one reason why NLP has so many techniques for trance induction and use of hypnotic language patterns.

Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson

NLP consists of various models and collections of techniques based on those models. Some of the major models usually associated with NLP are:

  • Sensory acuity and observing physiological cues in people’s communication. — People’s thought processes change their physiological state and learning to observe these physiological changes can provide an additional source of information when trying to communicate or understand another’s communication.
  • The “Milton model” and “meta-model” of linguistic structures. — The Milton model, named after Milton Erickson, is a detailed description of linguistic patterns used in hypnosis (and, more importantly for most of us, advertising, political speech, and other attempts at influence). The “meta-model” inverts the same linguistic structures, using the concepts to help uncover the “deep structure” in people’s communication and teaching people to avoid generalization, distortions, and deletions and to challenge them when encountered.
  • Examining how people use representational systems. — Different people seem to represent knowledge in different sensory modalities. That is, we all tend to focus on different senses. People’s language reveals their representation. Communication difficulties sometimes result from people speaking in incompatible representation systems, giving an impression of bad communication. For example, a person focused on their auditory channel might say “I really hear what you’re saying” where someone more visually oriented might say “I see what you mean.” While this might sound trivial, it can make a great difference in perception of how well we are communicating with one another.
  • Milton Erickson

    Milton Erickson

    Eye accessing cues. When people think visually, remember music, focus on their physical feelings, or otherwise access a particular representational system, their eyes move in certain ways. Everyone is different, but each individual will tend to exhibit certain eye movements in relation to how they process information. This is one of the more controversial ideas in NLP, partly because it is very difficult to effectively research.

  • Submodalities – This is the idea that the structure of how you represent things to yourself in the different sensory channels determines your response to the content. For example, when visualizing something, you can change its effect on you by changing the intensity of the color, the sharpness of the picture, its distance from you, and so on.

NLP contains many other models and associated techniques. Again, many techniques in NLP are derived from the methods of hypnosis, but in general, NLP doesn’t use the term hypnosis because so much of human behavior is hypnogogic that the term hypnosis is too vague. (For example, think about how many times you’ve been driving, thinking about something intently, and suddenly you are home.) As far as NLP is concerned, and altered state is only a state of consciousness different from one’s usual state. For a very visual person, hearing internal sounds or voices might be an altered state, while for a kinesthetically oriented person, seeing a visual image might be an altered state. Hence, in NLP, a trance state is defined as an inwardly directed altered state.

As far as this book is concerned, NLP is the source of many useful techniques, but also serves as a way of organizing and examining practices from other traditions. It’s been said that, because of NLP’s

NLP Society Logo

NLP Society Logo

emphasis on the “Meta Model” and understanding representational systems, one of its goals is to get people to represent memory and imagination in direct sensory form. That is, instead of describing an experience to ourselves in our internal dialogue, we move towards hearing, seeing, and feeling the experience or imagination directly. In this sense, one of the goals of NLP practice is similar to that of the other traditions drawn upon in this book – the direct perception and experience of the world around us without fear, desire, or other condition of illusion.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

As we said when we started this series of posts, one of the most daunting questions remaining in the production of The Book of Good Practices is how should all this material be best ordered.   We are very interested in people’s opinions as to order of chapters (a screen capture showing a very provisional table of contents is shown in The Natural Order of Things – Part 1).  We also want to know what else you think we should include.  If you know of other topics we should cover, other material and sources we should examine, or you have any other constructive suggestions, we would love to hear from you.

 

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The Natural Order of Things – Part 4

Buddhist and Taoist Breathing and Meditation Techniques

The Buddha

The Buddha

Both Buddhism and Taoism emphasize mindful awareness through breathing and meditation techniques. The breathing and meditation are connection, with focus on the breath used as a way of leading a person into an altered state of consciousness. However some of the focus, particularly in Buddhist practices also involves maintaining mindful awareness in everyday consciousness, especially when it comes to feeling desire. These practices have the added benefit of improving a person’s physical health, because the breathing techniques are used to develop and maintain awareness of how the body feels as well as identifying not merely the symptom of pain, but also the root cause of the pain (physically, emotionally, or mentally).

Buddhism focuses on freeing people from attachment to their desires. The attachment to desire leads to suffering because the desire can never be completely satisfied. Some schools of Buddhism, however, argue that desire can still be enjoyed provided that it is enjoyed in the moment and not held onto as a fixation. The emphasis ultimately is to let go of attachment in order to free yourself of the eternal cycle of reincarnation and karma.

The focus in Taoism is different. Taoists want to achieve immortality by using different techniques to prolong the life a person has in the physical body, while refining that person’s spiritual essence so that it can retain the Taoist practitioner’s personality and sense of identity when the physical body finally dies. The breathing techniques and meditations are focused on helping a person invigorate their body, while also building up its immune system.

With both practices, breath is the key. The breath serves as a focal point which is used to guide the consciousness of the practitioner. Additionally different types of breath can produce different physiological reactions (Try drawing your stomach in when you breathe to get an example of this). By learning to follow and be mindfully aware of the breath as you inhale and exhale you can learn how to regulate your sense of consciousness as well as become more aware of areas of tension and stress in your body. Eventually you can actually use breathe to decrease the sensation of tension and stress in a given area of the body, as well as even communicate with that part of the body.

We are not focusing in detail on the spirituality of Buddhism or Taoism or the terminology that is used in either belief system. Instead we want to show readers how to take the principles and practices of breathing and use those to improve the overall health you have in your life. The additional benefit of achieving a state of relaxation and meditation is useful learning how to focus the mind, relax the body, and release any stress or other emotions which might otherwise affect your health. While the spirituality and terminology of Buddhism and Taoism can be important, we feel that the essential practices and benefits of breathing can be understood, because breathing is an activity all of us do.

Continued in The Natural Order of Things – Part 5

The Natural Order of Things – Part 3

Patanjali’s Raja Yoga – The “Royal Road” to Enlightenment

Patanjali

Patanjali

There area vast number of yogas in existence. The most common form of yoga, hatha yoga, refers mainly to a system of physical exercises that some teachers view as simply a preliminary step to other yogas. There are yogas that stress religious devotion, service to others, intellectual understanding, philosophical investigation, immersion in daily life, divine sexuality, symbolic ritual, and virtually every other method that anyone has ever devised. The word yoga derives from the same root as the word yoke, indicating that the practitioner “yokes” him or herself to a particular discipline to achieve enlightenment.

The Hindu Yogi Patanjali synthesized what he thought of as the most important forms of yoga of his time into a single tradition comprised of eight limbs (in Sanskrit, Angas), each limb representing a stage of development or class of practices:
• Abstentions (Yama)
• Observances (Niyama)
• Physical Postures (Asana)
• Breath Control (Pranayama)
• Sense Withdrawal (Pratyahara)
• Concentration (Dharana)
• Meditation (Dhyana)
• Union (Samadhi)

Most traditions contain some form of most of these practices. While the Sanskrit terms have very specific and technical meanings in relation to Hindu yoga, I will use the following definitions for the purposes of this book:

Observances and Abstentions
In their most simplistic form, observances and abstentions refer to doing things that are good for you and avoiding things that are bad for you. Typically, these will include conscious practice of virtues (such as meekness, humility, generosity, tolerance, chastity, moderation, and zeal) and the avoidance of their opposites (such as pride, envy, avarice, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth).

In addition, most traditions include daily practices like:
• Ritual cleansing
• Ritually preparing, blessing, consecrating, or “charging” food and water
• Small rituals or prayers to be performed at different part of the day
Typically, practices of this sort are performed in an attempt to “make sacred” one’s daily activities and to become more conscious of one’s actions.

Particular emphasis is placed on fulfilling vows and following rules and observances faithfully. This is done as much to cultivate the will as it is to attain benefit from the specific action. Will is very much akin to what Victorian schoolmasters called “character”: honesty, self-discipline, commitment, and conviction.

If you want to strengthen and use your will, you must be scrupulously honest in your personal life. If you habitually lie to others, perform your job indifferently, steal, or simply break your promises, you cannot build your will. Unless you have enough personal power to keep commitments in your daily life, you will be unable to wield power beyond your daily life.

It is important to foster a basic belief in your ability to do things and cause things to happen. That belief is generated and sustained by your daily actions. If you say you will finish a job tomorrow and you do so, you have strengthened your knowledge that you are a person who can do what you say you will do. If you let the job slide, you have undermined that belief. Of course, we all make mistakes, but the more you can keep your commitments, the stronger your will becomes. Stated simply, your will is fostered by saying only what you mean and meaning what you say, and by doing the things you intend to do.

Some traditions also stress conscious speech, which is the deliberate avoidance of casual speech, using the first person (“I”), profanity, or similar ways to become more conscious of verbal speech and thought.

Many traditions also practice fasting or vigils involving the conscious endurance of hunger and thirst, heat and cold, sleeplessness, etc. Such practices are sometimes used to attain altered states of consciousness, as in the shamanic practice of the vision quest, but they are also performed as a form of initiation to strengthen the will by letting someone experience that he or she can withstand such conditions.

Physical Postures
Stretches and physical exercises, but also all postures practiced to cultivate stillness. In the broadest sense, this area of practice involves anything necessary to maintain the body in basic health, such as dietary and hygienic practices.

Breath Control
All exercises involving patterns of breathing. Breathing practices increase awareness and control of emotions and increase ability to control one’s level of alertness or relaxation.

Sense Withdrawal
Practices intended to develop the ability to screen out distractions or to suppress pain or discomfort.

Concentration
This includes all practices intended to develop “one-pointedness” and concentration, including visualization or other focus of sensory imagination or memory.

Meditation
This includes all practices intended to silence the internal dialogue, clear the mind, and foster “emptiness”.

Union
Practices attempting to break down the distinction between self and not-self. Samadhi is often translated as “union” or “oneness”, but it is also translated as “reality”, implying that it is our natural state. That is, we naturally perceive reality directly without differentiating self and other, subject and object, when there is no intervening thought or mental processing.
The Sanskrit term sanyama (“poising the mind”) refers to the practice of achieving samadhi in relation to some specific concept or thing for the purpose of accessing a particular “power” (in Sanskrit, siddhi) or talent. In a sense, this is what is intended by Western magicians when practicing the invocation of particular forces or entities.

Continued in The Natural Order of Things – Part 4

The Natural Order of Things – Part 2

Dr. Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson’s Model of Neural Circuitry

Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

Dr. Leary created a model of the brain and nervous system, later refined and propounded by Robert Anton Wilson, consisting of eight potential circuits or mini-brains. Four of these brains are in the usually active left hemisphere of the brain and are primarily concerned with our daily physical survival. The other four reside in the right hemisphere and, Leary believed, were intended for our use in future evolution as we moved into outer space. While it is very arguable as to whether we could be biologically prepared to evolve into conditions we’ve never experienced, there is a lot in the eight circuit model worth examining. Here is a brief description of the eight circuits:

1. The Biosurvival Circuit – Physical Intelligence (“Consciousness”)
The Biosurvival Circuit is concerned with sucking, nourishment, cuddling, and security. Imprinted in very early infancy, this circuit sets up the basic attitude of trust or suspicion, dividing the world into nurturing-helpful and noxious-dangerous phenomena, and establishes our tendencies to approach and accept versus fight or flee. According to Leary, this circuit can be observed in the effect of opiates. (This is why Freudians identify opiate addiction with the desire to return to infancy.)

2. The Emotional-Territorial Circuit – Emotional Intelligence (“Ego”)
Imprinted in the toddling stage, this circuit is concerned with territorial demands, emotional power tactics, and political domination/submission strategies. The manner in which this circuit is imprinted determines the stimuli that will automatically trigger dominant, aggressive behavior or submissive, cooperative behavior. When we say that a person is behaving ‘like a two-year-old,’ we mean that he or she is blindly following one of the tunnel-realities imprinted on this circuit. Leary believed this circuit could be observed in the effect of large amounts of alcohol. The more alcohol is consumed, the more vertebrate territorial patterns and mammalian emotional politics become apparent.

Robert Anton WIlson

Robert Anton Wilson

 

3. The Semantic Circuit – Conceptual Intelligence (“Mind”)
This is the time-binding, semantic circuit, also called the Dexterity-Symbolism circuit. Imprinted by human artifacts and symbol systems, it is concerned with handling the environment, invention, calculation, prediction, and creating a “map” of the universe. Depending on how stimulating the environment may be, a child may take a “bright” imprint, becoming dexterous and articulate. If the necessary stimuli are lacking, a child may take a “dumb” imprint and remain more or less at a 5-year-old stage of artifact clumsiness and symbol-blindness. Leary believed this circuit could be observed in the effects of caffeine, cocaine, and other stimulants.

4. The Socio-Sexual Circuit – Social Intelligence (“Adult Personality”)
Imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences and tribal “morals”, this circuit is concerned with sexual pleasure, local definitions of morality, reproduction, and the nurture of the young.
Social Intelligence

5. The Neurosomatic Circuit – Sensory Intelligence
This circuit is concerned with neurological-somatic feedbacks, feeling high, and somatic reprogramming. Activating this circuit shifts focus from linear visual space to all-encompassing sensory space, resulting in a degree of detachment from the previously compulsive mechanism of the first four circuits. According to Leary, this circuit is activated by ecstatic states such as those produced by cannibis, the practice of sexual yoga, sensory deprivation, or the experience of zero gravity. (Something like 85% of those who have experienced zero gravity describes “mystic experiences” or rapture states typical of the neurosomatic circuit.). Historically, this circuit has traditionally been reserved to the educated aristocracy of leisure societies who have solved the four survival problems embodied in the first four circuits.

6. The Neuroelectric Circuit – Psychic Intelligence
Imprinted by advanced yogas, this circuit is concerned with reimprinting and reprogramming all earlier circuits, and realization of the relativity of “realities” perceived. (Compare this with the “Self-Metaprogramming” level of Dr. John Lilly’s model.) According to Leary and Wilson, this circuit could be activated by advanced practices of Raja Yoga, Aleister Crowley’s approach to western magical practices, and the experience of indole-based psychedelics such as psilocybin and mescaline.

7. The Neurogenetic Circuit – Mythic Intelligence
Imprinted by advanced yogas, this circuit is concerned with evolutionary consciousness (both past and future), DNA-RNA-Brain feedbacks, and Jung’s “Collective Unconscious.” (Compare to levels IX and X of Dr. John Lilly’s model.) Activating this circuit produces experience of “past lives” and perceptions of immortality. The “akashic records” of Theosophy and the “collective unconscious” of Jung are examples of seventh circuit experience. According to Leary, this circuit can be activated by LSD. While there are no specific exercises in yogic traditions that activate this circuit, seventh circuit experiences occur spontaneously to some, and regular practice of advanced Raja Yoga techniques can eventually be followed by seventh circuit experiences. …

8. The Neuroatomic Circuit – Spiritual Intelligence
Imprinted by shock or near-death experience, Leary believed that this circuit is concerned with quantum consciousness and non-local awareness, resulting in so-called psychic or magical powers and perceptions. Activating this circuit typically results in “Out-of-body” experiences, and experiences of contact with alien or spiritual “entities”. Activation of this circuit obliterates space-time as we normally perceive it. Again, sometimes spontaneously experienced by some people on rare occasions.

The various levels neural circuitry can be viewed as stages in the evolution of the nervous system. Each imprint creates a bigger tunnel-reality. As we become aware of our programming and metaprogramming, we become more capable of creating our own programs and metaprograms, taking an active part in the assemblage of our world and in our role in evolution.

As with Dr. Lilly’s model of neuro-circuitry, Dr. Leary’s model may be most useful as a descriptive scheme and a methodology for categorizing and evaluating different practices.

Continued in The Natural Order of Things – Part 3

The Natural Order of Things – Part 1

Although different forms of the exercises in this book can be found in many, many different traditions, this book’s practices are primarily classified and organized according to the following models:

• The neurological models of Dr. John C. Lilly
• The neurological models of Dr. Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson
• Recent discoveries concerning neuroplasticity and other research in neuroscience
• The techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnosis
• Patanjali’s Raja Yoga – The “Royal Road” to Enlightenment
• Buddhist and Taoist breathing and mindfulness meditations

tocHere’s a screen capture of the book file sub-directories, which as of December 2012, are the closest thing to a complete table of contents. Some directories have only approximate titles. The sections highlighted in yellow are either just a collection of notes or don’t really exist at all yet. Of course, it’s always possible we’ll add a couple more and one or two may drop out (for example, it’s possible we have nothing all that meaningful to say about Samadhi in the context of this book).

The biggest remaining question, however, is…is there a natural order to this material? That is, in what order should these chapters appear? Some of it is straightforward. The
Material regarding the eight limbs of yoga should appear in the traditional order of the limbs (or “angas”). Some of the techniques and process in neuro-linguistic programming definitely depend on foundation skills. In other cases, the order is not that clear. We are very interested in people’s opinions as to the best order of material. We also want to know if, within the defined scope of behavioral practices with definable verifiable benefits, is there anything else we should include.

Here’s some material regarding the various organizational and taxonomic models that will eventually be included in Appendix I.
Dr. John C. Lilly’s Model of Programming and Metaprogramming
In Lilly’s conception of neural circuitry, the human mind (or biocomputer, as Lilly called it), is constantly and continuously running a complex set of programs that control our biological functions and behavior.

Many of these programs, such as those that maintain your heartbeat and breathing are “hardwired”. In other words, they are part of you when you are born and don’t require any kind of learning. Other programs come with the hardware, but require a significant amount of learning, such as the programs that allow you to walk or run.

Above these programs in Lilly’s hierarchy of processing, are more complicated programs that control symbol manipulation, social interaction, and other “higher” human skills, such as learning how to learn. These are metaprograms, which coordinate existing subordinate programs and enable people to develop new programs. The term “metaprogramming” was coined by Dr. Lilly in his book Programming and Metaprogramming the Human Biocomputer.

Out of this orchestra of various metaprograms arises a coherent voice, a set of metaprograms, that we perceive as representing the self. This set of metaprograms is what most of us refer to as “I” and which Lilly called the “self-metaprogrammer”.

Beyond these metaprograms, there are controllers in the hierarchy, which Lilly called “supraself-metaprograms”. As he put it, “These may be many or one, depending on current states of consciousness in the single self-metaprogrammer. These may be personified as if entities, treated as if a network for information transfer, or realized as if self traveling in the Universe to strange lands or dimensions or spaces. If one does a further unification operation on these supraself metaprograms, one may arrive at a concept labeled God, the Creator, the Starmaker, or whatever.”

According to Lilly, we have the ability to program any conceivable model of the universe inside our own structure, reduce the single self-metaprogrammer to a micro size, and then travel through our own model as if real. Essentially, we have the ability to change the world by changing our programming and how we perceive the world.

The following list summarizes Dr. Lilly’s conception of the levels of functional hierarchy of programs and metaprograms.

I Biochemical/Chemical/Physical External Reality
II Biochemical/Sensory/Motor/Vascular Body
III Biochemical/Neural/Glial/Vascular Brain
IV Biochemical/Neural/Glial/Vascular Signs of Activity
V Subroutines/Subroutine Storage Details of Instructions
VI Programs/Program Storage Detailed Instructions
VII Metaprograms/Metaprogram Storage To Program Sets of Programs
VIII Self-Metaprogram (Awareness) To Metaprogram
IX Supra-Self-Metaprograms To Be Metaprogrammed
X Supra-Species-Metaprograms Beyond Metaprogramming
XI Unknown Above and in Biocomputer

Dr. Lilly’s complete scheme is complex, but for our purposes, we need mainly be concerned with a simplified version.

The first three or four levels of processing are formed by our physical structure, which Lilly referred to as “substrate programming”. This level of programming cannot be changed without changing our physical structure, but we can be aware of these levels and their nature. Breathing exercises are an example of practices that function on these levels. How you breathe affects you regardless of your previous conditioning, what you believe, or how you describe the experience. Even micro-organisms have these first levels of processing.

Levels four and five are the levels of programming or stimulus-response conditioning. These levels control our habits and imprints, operating independently of consciousness and language. This is the level of liking and disliking, pain and pleasure. Practices that involve changing habits and “automatic” responses function on this level. Any organism with any capacity for learning has level four and five processing.

The seventh and eighth levels encompass meta-programming. These are the levels of self-consciousness, language, and symbol systems. This level of processing allows us to have a sense of self and to represent knowledge and experience to ourselves. As far as we know, this level seems mostly confined to mammals, with only the higher primates exhibiting the most obvious forms of self-consciousness. Of the mammals, only human beings seem to use symbol-systems. All exercises involving language and symbol-systems, such as hypnosis or ceremonial ritual, function on these levels.

The eighth level is self-metaprogramming. People aware of this level are conscious of the previous levels of processing and can make use of them to actively change their own programming. Some would say that becoming aware of this level of processing is the primary goal of self-development systems.

While not associated with any specific techniques, Lilly’s conception of human information processing provides a superb framework for evaluating consciousness-changing methods. Lilly’s description has some correspondence with Leary and Wilson’s model of eight neural circuits, which is discussed in the next section.

Continued in The Natural Order of Things – Part 2

Here We Go

cliff_divingOk, we are going live.  So far, we have only posted material from the book introduction, but in the coming weeks, we will start posting material (particularly exercises) from the book chapters in more or less the order they will appear in the book.  We’ll try to post new material every two weeks, starting with:

  • Attention (Observances and Abstentions)
  • Habits
  • Beliefs
  • Goals and Organization

Of course, we want to know what you think and whether you like what you see, but most of all, we want people to try out the various exercises and procedures.  We want to know what works and what doesn’t work, how you think we can improve what we’ve got, and we want you to tell us about additional source material we may not have seen.  If you can think of a way to improve our procedures or if you know of techniques or exercises that really should be included, we want to know.  Remember, we’re trying to stick to material that provides verifiable skills and benefits, and uses techniques described in concrete behavioral terms, but we’re sure there’s a lot out there we’ve never even heard of.

So, look around the site.  We hope you enjoy what you see and find it useful.  So far, we’ve mostly just talked about the material we’re going to provide), but we’ve got to start somewhere.  Let us know what you think and we will move forward from there.

More Material from The Eupraxicon Introduction

Image

Just to get started, here’s some additional material from the book introduction…

What’s the Point? — Models of Self Development

There are a bewildering variety of terms used for the goals of various systems of self-development, such as individuation, self-actualization, initiation, enlightenment, and illumination. There have been at least as many systems of spiritual and mental development as there have been human cultures. The benefits of some practices and the skills they cultivate are obvious. Most of us would agree on the advantages of better memory, more stamina and clarity, greater ability to focus one’s attention, and increased ability to overcome distractions or pain.

On the other hand, few people completely agree on the meaning of virtue, wisdom, freedom, or happiness, but there does seem to be common ground in recognizing these concepts as ideals worth pursuing. Here are a few concepts common to many traditions concerned with self-development.

We experience happiness and unhappiness in direct relation to our degree of attachment and desire. The more we are concerned with what we like and don’t like, want and don’t want, have and don’t have, the less happy we are. The ability to feel desire, but not let it consume us is key to feeling happiness. Ironically, continuously focusing on what one wants and one’s own satisfaction tends to make people less happy. Being open to what one is experiencing, being in the moment, and losing oneself in process, all tend to make people happier.

Spirituality can be defined as being concerned with or focused on patterns larger than the conventional self, whether that means knowledge, art, the environment, service, or other people. The less “self-centered” we are, the more we tend to find meaning in the world and in our lives.

We are usually surrounded by illusion. We are separated from the “real world” by our conditioning and our knowledge. Only rarely do we perceive the world directly without editing our perceptions according to our previous experience and what we think we “know”. We often react unconsciously because we are not in the moment, or because we ourselves are not aware of our true beliefs or motivations. We confuse the map with the territory, mistaking our descriptions of the world for the world itself. In the words of an ancient Zen Buddhist parable, we mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon.

We create ourselves and our world around us through our beliefs, our desires, and the way we focus our attention, but few of us are particularly conscious of our role in this creation. In a sense, most of us are “robots”, spending much of our lives asleep. We are programmed by our “nature” as human beings, our conditioning (our upbringing and experiences), and our verbal knowledge (the things we’ve read, been told, and repeat to ourselves). Only occasionally do we wake up enough to make very conscious choices, unless we choose to train ourselves in techniques that help us stay aware and conscious of the choices we can make in a given situation.

In addition to providing specific skills in imagination, concentration, memory, and so on, the practices described in this book are intended to help us wake up, to perceive ourselves and the world around us more clearly, and to be more mindful of our actions and our choices.

But Wait, There’s More!  If You Order Now…

As important as psychological and spiritual development may be, the exercises described in this book have another benefit. Recent brain-imaging research has shown that our brains are very adaptable and literally rewire themselves to better perform our daily tasks. When we learn new things, change our routines, or otherwise challenge ourselves, we activate different regions of the brain and, over time, expand the brain’s connections and neural pathways. Regularly spending time on tasks as simple as crossword puzzles or doing simple calculations in our heads can help keep our brains active and more resistant to memory loss and cognitive deterioration.

Certain exercises, particularly those related to pattern recognition and synchronizing different types of brain function, can help overcome dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Other exercises can emphasize the ability to multi-task and process multiple streams of incoming information. All of these exercises are based on the idea of neuroplasticity, which argues that the brain can continue to develop new connections for new skills that are learned.

Neurological Models of Neuroplasticity

In Neuroscience, the concept of neuroplasticity has become increasingly relevant to understanding how the brain works, as well as where the “mind” fits into how we think and even how the body and brain recover from illnesses and conditions such as strokes. Neuroplasticity explains how someone can still learn a new language or play a new musical instrument at age forty, as well as how the brain adapts to these new skills. It also accepts the relevance of the mind in creating changes in the body, either negative or positive. Here are some of the ways that the model of neuroplasticity is being applied:

 Techniques such as Constraint Induced (CI) therapy are being used to help people recover from such afflictions as strokes. The active limb is constrained to force the person to use the affected limb – that is, to focus their attention and intention on the paralyzed limb. This causes the person’s brain to develop new connections in the brain and central nervous system to enable the movement of the affected limbs.

  • The use of Facial Action Coding (FACS) to read emotional cues in a person’s face and use those cues to thoughtfully and mindfully moderate the response in a situation.
  • The use of systems of mindful and conscious thinking applied to conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders in order to help re-wire a patient’s brain.
  • The importance of memory, its integral relationship with imagination, and how it can be used for healing psychological issues.
  • The importance of movement in establishing a sense of identity and placement in space and time.
  • Development of techniques that help people mitigate dyslexia and similar conditions.

 

The recent developments in neuroscience have increasingly acknowledged the power of attention and intention in healing as well as controlling physiological conditions that were previously handled through medication.

By understanding how the brain interfaces with mindful awareness, we can learn how to take a proactive role in dealing with mental and physical ailments and in learning new skills that help us achieve maximum awareness of our environment, other people, and of course, the self. Neuroplasticity explains how the brain adapts and learns as a result of the experiences people go through. With the breakthroughs in neuroscience, as well a comprehensive understanding of how to harness attention and use it consciously it is possible for a person to use neuroplasticity to his or her advantage.

In this book, it’s our goal to show you how to take principles of neuroplasticity as well as developments in neuroscience and apply them to the exercises in the book. Ideally, you will recognize how you can change not only your behavior, but also the physiological conditioning for that behavior. Just as what you think about affects how you act and feel, how you act affects how you feel and what you think. Over time, all of these things make changes to you body, including your brain.

The exercises in this book, practiced regularly, can help you learn new skills, but at the same time, can actually change the architecture of your brain, increase its capabilities, and help maintain its long-term health!

While it is outside the scope of this work, recent research demonstrates that how we live even changes how genes are expressed – not what genes we carry, but how our genes are expressed – so that that it is extremely difficult to determine the limits self-transformation. From the looks of things now, those limits are farther than almost any of us have dreamed.

 

Copyright

All Content Copyright 2012 Bill Whitcomb and Taylor Ellwood