June 28, 2007 In The Universe in a Single Atom, his holiness the Dalai Lama, has put forth his personal journey describing the need for the convergence of science and spirituality. The core approaches of Buddhist psychology are: meditative contemplation, observations of motivation, manifested by emotion, and thought patterns and behaviors, all of which are subject to critical philosophical analysis.
The goal is to overcome suffering, especially psychological and emotional sufferings. Psychiatry in particular and the mental heath field in general, have both long shared this goal.
Only since the advent of fast computers, beginning in the seventies, has mental health been able to investigate the usefulness of various types of Neurofeedback and EEG readings in general, to learn more about the advantages of four thousand plus years of meditative states.
As those of you who have explored my site know, Neurofeedback has long been of interest. You can find two interesting articles at http://yourmindfulcompass.com/consulting/neurofeedback-for-leaders/
Or my current view
Or one version of the history of Neurofeedback
It is possible that this western technological advance will be a way to introduce the benefits of being present, to the western mind. Technology may enable building a knowledge bridge with the Buddhist focus on healthy practices to alter suffering in our everyday lives. Two questions the Dali Lama poses are; how do we know what is useful, and has our capacity for moral reasoning kept pace with knowledge? Clearly humanity in general is in need of what he describes as a moral compass, to preserve our human sensitivity, and to retain in our minds our fundamental human values. He urges us to hold compassion as the key motivation for all our endeavors. Loving kindness is the key to compassionate interactions with others but it is often blocked by emotional reactive states which are often laid down in the uterus on or even in past lives. One way to look at the impact of loving kindness is in our relationship with people, the other is our relationship with the earth and even with the food we consume. In a world attuned to scientific facts we need to understand in a rational way the long term consequences of our actions. The methods of science can enable us to measure the impact of loving kindness on the earth and its inhabitants. Since my years of experience are in the filed of mental heath I can only give my perspective on the struggle metal heath has had in find ways to speak with those who represent the more spiritual worlds. These separated knowledge compartments can only be opened by the correct attitude towards all.
Freud took a position that all religions were based on the delusion of a promise of salvation. Therefore he considered religions as a drug, especially when used as a way to avoid the ordinariness of life and the challenges of knowing the darker side of one’s actions. His ideas set up a polarization. Needed or not this polarity still exists and can be summed up by saying if you can not prove it then it’s a belief and belongs in the unscientific camp. Psychiatry has long had ways of understanding man’s attempts to struggle with his dark side and to enhance his or her functioning in relationships. At its base psychiatry has as long of a way to go as religions in making the pathways towards more mature functioning a knowable and scientific fact. Murray Bowen, the originator of Family Systems Theory, thought there was a way to see how beliefs of all kinds functioned as gateways to change one’s life. There is no way to put a belief, be it in Jesus, God or emptiness, to a rational fact based test. But as the Dali Lama noted we can look at the behaviors generated by the energy of these beliefs. The fact that life energy may be transmitted in interpersonal relationships may be harder to measure than when this energy is transmitted into a substance like food. There are so many factors that can impact on one’s relationships that they are harder to measure. We may know and or believe that motivation and perception are the keys to being able to experience and to stay in a state of loving kindness, but how do we measure this? Humans and the human brain are non linear systems, which refuse to be controlled by the laws of cause and effect. Francisco J. Varela, Ethical Know-How: Action Wisdom and Cognition, was one of the early founders of the Mind Life Institute. He was also one of the earliest neurobiologist to gives us profound evidence of the lack of causal relationships in network driven closed loop systems. There is no A in and B out in the perceptual system. Humans are also not A in and B out systems. We are non linear systems. Changes occur in very unpredictable ways. The end result of altering behavior can still be measured as a flow towards more maturity or better heath or more acceptances of what is. It is the central nervous system which regulates our ability to pay attention and to self regulate. In the book Personal Transformation: An Executive’s Experience of Grief, Loss and Renewal by Kiril Sokoloff describes how both the relationship with the Dali Lama and the grounded ideas of Buddhism enabled a complete transformation and relief from suffering in one man’s life. This family story is a perfect example of emotional blindness in family dynamics. My heart went out to him, as he described not knowing how fusion between two people works in intense relationships. People do things out of love that ends up with one person becoming erased or divorced. Clearly we are a network of interconnected beings and when we get over controlled, confused or cut off, troubles magnify in the brain and in our lives. The inability to separate out a self when someone we “love” makes an incredulous demand on us, leads to a dark and confused road. To see this and know what to do, I think is one of the ways Bowen Family System Theory connects with Buddhism.
There is a beautiful piece on Swarm behavior in July 2007’s National Geographic. http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0707/feature5/
How do we explain, then, the success of Earth’s 12,000 or so known ant species? They must have learned something in 140 million years.
“Ants aren’t smart,” Gordon says. “Ant colonies are.” A colony can solve problems unthinkable for individual ants, such as finding the shortest path to the best food source, allocating workers to different tasks, or defending a territory from neighbors. As individuals, ants might be tiny dummies, but as colonies they respond quickly and effectively to their environment. They do it with something called swarm intelligence.
The authors depict how easy it is to get caught up in signals from local interactions. It is a beautiful adaptation for bees, birds and even locust when they are really hungry. But in some case becoming part of the swarm is very dangerous to our heath.
A group won’t be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it’s made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part. For those of us who sometimes wonder if it’s really worth recycling that extra bottle to lighten our impact on the planet, the bottom line is that our actions matter, even if we don’t see how. The Lemmings are good example of how local signals build and result in destruction, as are stock market crashes. When one person can separate out and be different, then the love and even the wisdom of the crowd are much likely to predominate. We also know that mediation and prayers have enabled people to be focused on organizing their mental energy to be more autonomous and responsible and that this has a tremendous impact on one’s health. Those who are able to self regulate live in a world with less anxiety and blame. Some people have describe feeling great compassion or profound love, which has enabled them to find a deep way to connect with others as who they are, and to stand apart from the confusing signals of others.
There are many new ways of knowing that science has brought into awareness, which deeply connect with ancient Buddhist texts.
There are also many areas of investigation which can enable people to use a compass that guides the individual to a healthy road. One is the use of Neurofeedback to increase the ability to both pay attention and to become profoundly relaxed.
More of this kind of technological inventiveness will be coming your way. I think scientific research will enable us to find many roads which can enhance our strengths and alerts us to our human weakness.
Here is a short summery of my overly brief and somewhat humorous thoughts on the field of mental heath. The Four States of Revolution within Mental Health and Hopes for the Future 1- Freud unearthed the feeling system. There is not much left of repression, after the internet and the media in general. People are still addicted to keeping secrets and unaware of forces impinging on them in all groups. People still learn from dreams. (12 years to do a psychoanalytic stint or a life time.) 2 – The interpersonal family interactions over the generations, Bowen family theory, has used the intellect and cognitive reframing if you will, to enable people to function better, make more authentic contact with others by being less cut off over the generations. People talk biology but are still blind to the deeper process in the hive or the swarms or the group. (6 to 9 years for serious students of the family as a system or a life time.) 3 – Drugs have been the answer to serious symptoms for almost sixty years. Food has been ignored as way to alter one’s health status. Talking and altering relationships has not been able to address problems deep in the CNS. 4 – Hope for the future take mental heath back to contemplative practice:The useful direction of metal energy can be enhanced by 1) greater ability to be present in life and 2) the ability to see the consequences of what we do, be it eating or relating.
Neurofeedback and mediation offer transformational possibilities as they both alter the functioning of the central nervous system. The discipline of training enables the CNS to reorganize. Specific types of Neurofeedback such as www.zengar.com
target the process of giving the brain itself adequate feedback on the current state of the brain. Any new product that offers greater ability to be aware will run up against the automatic resistance in the brain. Clearly the group process in society can enhance or inhibit awareness. All each of can do is move in the direction of compassion. It begins with the self, radiates out to the family, to the community and then to the planet and is always in the empty universe.