Five or six centuries ago, when the Church was burning scientists at the stake as heretics, a deal of sorts was struck in order to stop the slaughter: the Church would retain primacy over the internal world, while the Science would take charge of the external. The split between inner and outer became only more entrenched with the work of learned people such as Descartes and Newton. They proclaimed that the Universe and everything in it operate like a machine. They also believed, as did the Church, that mind and body are separate entities, and that the pure, lofty intellect was vastly superior to the frail, disgusting body. Taken together, all these forces created the belief in separation, which became entrenched in their time and continues today, still driving much of what we do and believe.
This Western scientific belief in separation has led to many tragedies. On the global scale, they include environmental destruction and climate change. On the individual scale, the tragedies include situations such as war and healthcare as something done to us from the outside.
Unlike Western science, however, Eastern spiritual systems have for millennia proclaimed Oneness, the unity of all things, rather than separation. This includes the belief that mind and body are one inseparable entity, together forming the whole of who we are.
And in recent decades, quantum physics has demonstrated that this unity is, in fact, the truth of our existence. From the tiniest atomic article to the largest planet, from the smallest cell to the most immense galaxies, everything exists together in an infinitely intricate web of interconnection. Furthermore, with the work of organizations, it is being clearly demonstrated that the mind/body split does NOT exist.
With this expanding knowledge coming from rigorous scientific study as well as personal experience, it is becoming obvious to growing numbers of people that true, solid solutions to the major challenges we face today do not come from the outside. Rather, the lasting solutions must come from within: to change the world, it is necessary to first change our consciousness. When Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell flew to the moon, he was part of a highly scientific and technological program designed to explore outer space. He was, and is, a scientist and engineer who demands proof of any hypothesis. Yet, heading home to Earth after his walk on the moon, he had a mystical experience of an intense sense of universal connectedness. It was his epiphany in which he realized, without question, that Earth is part of a living system that embraces EVERYTHING and that we all participate in a “Universe of Consciousness.”
Seized with the conviction that the most important work for the human race in the twentieth-century and beyond was not to be found in space or any other external realm, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) soon after his return. ION’s mission is “supporting individual and collective transformation through consciousness research, educational outreach, and engaging a global learning community in the realization of our human potential.”
According to Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, PhD, immediate past president and CEO of IONS, “people assume that the solutions we’re seeking come from outside ourselves, but it’s important that we shift to an internal recognition that problems come from within ourselves, as do the solutions.” In other words, it’s all about consciousness. No one yet has fully defined consciousness or know its origin or even why it exists. But, like another unexplained phenomenon called “gravity,” we know it’s there, and we can describe it at least in general terms.
Schlitz thinks of it as a “process, and it’s not just about humans. It’s about the great unfolding of the nature of reality. It is a process by which we have self-reflection, awareness, and are able to self-correct.” Consciousness exists in various levels, according to Schlitz. For instance, our bodies are conscious because they can self-correct without our being aware of it – and they do so all the time by regulating our temperature, fighting off microbial invaders, and so on. Yet, when we become aware and use intention, we can direct consciousness through our mind-body for our HEALING. One of the most fundamental tasks facing society in this century, according to Schlitz, is “encouraging people to explore consciousness in ways that invite them to become more balanced, compassionate, appreciative of difference, and oriented toward pro-sociality,” or caring about the welfare and rights of others, feeling concern and empathy, and acting in ways that benefit them.”
However, “people are distracted, bombarded by ‘weapons of mass distraction.’ We don’t take mindful action, or if we do, it’s in circumscribed ways that are limited,” says Schlitz, “such as going to church one day a week and not living in that same spirit all the time. The question is, how can we become aware and break free of this cultural hypnosis rather than just being victims?”
The answer: transform our worldview so that new possibilities can emerge. For example, it is common to view Nature as something humans are meant to dominate. However, a transformation in worldview that leads to seeing how we are one with Nature makes us more likely to protect the environment and exist in harmony with it. “If there’s something yearning in us, it often comes because of a noetic experience (an inner knowing). We can have a positive experience that rocks our steady state, but more often it’s negative. Yet it can make us curious and move us into exploration rather than keeping us entrenched,” explains Schlitz.
We must build a practice to sustain and incorporate it into our lives. Your practice can be anything meaningful to you. It can be something as structured as formal meditation or yoga. Or, says Schlitz, it can be “anything where you’re bringing intention to your attention.” There are five elements to the process of changing our consciousness:
First is the intention to make positive, life-affirming changes. Second, is building spiritual practices out of our exploration, and shifting our attention from external to internal forces. Third, is repetition of our practice to build new behaviors to create a new habit. Fourth is guidance, which can come from many sources, such as a trusted teacher, reading an article, or a book that rocks you. Finally, all of these elements are wrapped in the arms of surrender. “It’s all about yielding to potential,” Schlitz says.
A growing chorus of voices, including many from science as well as spirituality, is calling for transformation of our worldview so that we can not only survive but THRIVE!!
-Excerpts taken from the Science of Mind October, 2012 issue of the article “The Ground of All That Is” written by Barbara Stahura.