SAND 2014: Brilliant Minds on our Brilliant Minds

If nothing else (and there is more), the Science and Non-Duality conference is a testament to how many brilliant minds and creative souls are on the side of connecting in a healthy way.

rudolph.e.tanziTake, for example, Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard, who has spoken here not only about his groundbreaking research in tackling Alzheimer’s – which affects half of the people who live past 85 – but who is open about the fact that some of his genome-identification breakthroughs came when he used lucid dreaming to find a solution. He is publishing soon a second book with Deepak Chopra, as well as co-authoring a soon-to-be-released paper about the surprisingly strong effectiveness of meditation on the disease.

Frenkel-photoOr consider brilliant mathematician Edward Frankel, who was aided in leaving Russia, where his Jewish background prohibited him from being accepted to university. He asked the audience of several hundred scientists and spiritualists to wonder, “What gives us so much confidence in science above everything else?” Can we prove the “wholeness” of the universe, or only feel it? He talked about the openness of noted physicist Wolfgang Pauli to collaborate with Carl Jung, and sees math as yet another portal that shows us the brilliance of the universe. He quoted e.e. Cummings who wrote: “life’s not a paragraph, and death I think is no parenthesis” and wondered why smart people like Ray Kurzweil want us to consider the ultimate goal of humanity is to become machines. We spend a lot of time trying to extend our lives, he said, and less time living it.

neiltheiseMount Sinai pathologist Neil Theise pointed out that for someone who looks in microscopes at cancer cells all day, it is not a stretch to consider that our “selves” are, at a deeper level, much different than we think it is. Cells are communities of smaller things — the ‘building blocks’ of everything we see, but are themselves transformed all the time. We share our bacteria with others. Pheromones, sweat, breath are all extending the boundaries of self. We eat, drink and breathe in that which largely comes from plants. Nothing about the make-up of our foundation is permanently “us.” We tend to be rigidly stuck in seeing the biology of a “self,” often forgetting that we are not one thing but – as in a flock of birds – a constellation of multiple bodies moving together as one.

And there-in lies much of the focus of the conversation here, more so than entanglement.

What is the “self?”

Tanzi says that an Alzheimer’s patient in later stage can’t store memories of the present moment. The memory of “self” requires continuity of time and a context in space. With no ability to store memory, eventually a kind of horror sets into a patient’s eyes when they realize they have no context for who the “self” is – they have lost the ability to learn anything in the present that connects to the past, or informs the future. While it might seem like enlightened bliss to truly be “living in the moment,” he says it is actually terrifying to have no ability to return to a context of self.

In his perspective on self, Jay Kumar, professor of comparative religion at Chapman University, pointed out that we tend to think we are in a state of Being, whereas it’s more accurate to consider ourselves in a state of Becoming. He likens the state of “emptiness” as much more than what we define as “a lack of purpose” – but rather to being like a blank sheet of paper for a writer, full of potential and infinite possibilities, where anything can be created.

Northwestern’s experiential psychologist Julia Mossbridge pointed out that the brain’s role in defining self might be to send us the message, “We’re going to make you think you know what’s going on.”

The noted Henry Stapp, a quantum physicist who trained at Berkeley, who was invited to learn alongside Wolfgang Pauli in Zurich in the 1950s, and who had many conversations about quantum mechanics with Werner Heisenberg (who developed the infamous Uncertainty Principle)… he was here as well. His view is that classical physics has always tended to leave out consciousness, as if the mental world had no part of the physical world. As if we are cause-effect robots, where our conscious choices as observers in the connected universe have no influence.

He says nature responds to the questions we ask of it… and (my words), maybe it’s time to start asking better questions.

Mikki Morrissette, founder, Connected in the Deep

[Use the “SAND” tag for more from this gathering; future posts coming as well!]

 

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