Consciousness practices – scientific research and public opinion
Socrates: “Know thyself. Real wisdom begins with self-recognition.”
“Oxford Handbook of Happiness”: Spiritual traditions describe many of the experience’s psychology has yet to discover. Spiritual development is very closely related to a person’s psychological maturation. If we contributed more to spiritual development, many of the complexities in the psyche would disappear (ch. 26, p. 349).
Dalai Lama: “Negative thoughts and emotions undermine the very causes of peace and happiness. In fact, when we think properly, it is totally illogical to seek happiness if we do nothing to restrain angry, spiteful, and malicious thoughts and emotions.” Dalai Lama’s post on Twitter, December 2018
P. Yogananda lecture in California (1942): “The ability to manage your emotions makes you a master of yourself.”
Research on consciousness, awareness and mindfulness
NEWS (2019). British Government states that, in the context of the critical situation of the mental health of the young generation, a long-term study of mindfulness was launched in 370 schools. It is the largest study of that kind that has been conducted in the world so far.
VIDEO (2018). In the light of future technology, during World Economic Forum panel discussion, the sector’s opinion leaders (including Prof. Yuval Noah Harari) called upon a paradigm shift from task-specific education towards learning “broad, universal skills”, such as awareness.
REPORT (2017). Mindful Nation UK. The report is a compendium of the research conducted in the British Parliament over a year, including issues handled in 8 sessions. The report was inspired by a mindfulness training involving 115 MP’s and 80 team members.
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2015). Mindfulness in the Heat of Conflict. Even people who know, how to manage conflict situations, are sometimes unable to apply their skills in real time, either correctly or at all. Behind this failure is the lack in use of awareness, or 6 obstacles: 1) overly self-centered view; 2) strong negative emotions; 3) automatic, habitual way to think, feel and behave; 4) excessive suggestibility by emotions; 5) inadequate social skills; 6) inadequate observation.
VIDEO (2013). Neuroscientist Richard Davidson describes the impact of mindfulness meditation on brain activity and the effects of long-term mindfulness practice.
VIDEO (2011). The Science of Mindfulness. Prof. Mark Williams explains the neuroscience of mindfulness.
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2007). Mindful brain. Scientist and MD Daniel J. Siegel: “Although mindfulness is often seen as a form of attentional skill that focuses your mind on the present, this research takes a deep look at this type of awareness through a perhaps surprising perspective: seeing mindfulness as a form of a healthy relationship with oneself”.
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2005). Mechanism of mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness leads to the shifting of the inner perspective, and the former “subject” becomes an “object.” In developmental psychology, this shift is a key factor in lifelong development and growth. Being a meta-mechanism of mindfulness practice, these practices can be considered as a successful continuation of the natural development process, thereby allowing for an increase in objectivity towards internal experiences.
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2004) “Aha” experience changes a person’s convictions, improves the ability to manage situations, increases professional competence, and leads to an improved capability to remain mindful. The number of “Aha” experiences can be fostered through training.
SCIENTIFIC BOOK (1999). ACT therapy. By training capability to apply mindfulness to the monitoring of mental activity, the shift in self-perception takes place. The conventional “I” will be then perceived as a psychological structure consisting of constantly changing concepts, images, feelings, and beliefs. There will be a distance from the inner “narrative” of who and what we are, and the center of identity moves from the content of consciousness to consciousness itself.
Scientific findings on the impact of mindfulness:
– Changes in the brain: thicker prefrontal cortex; increase in hippocampal volume. Increased volume of gray matter in the putamen, insula, and cerebellum. Decreased activity in the amygdala and increased activity in the neural circuit mediating empathy (2005, 2011, 2011 et al.).
Findings and remarks on yoga
NEWS (2019). Prince Charles recommends yoga stating that the physical and mental benefits of yoga would allow the British National Health System (NHS) to save valuable and expensive resources as a result. In a conference “The role of yoga in healthcare”, Charles said in his written address: “For thousands of years, people have experienced the benefits of yoga in improving their lives.” The NHS has announced a plan to integrate yoga into its services.
STATISTICS (2018). Yoga as the most popular complementary measure to take care of one’s health. The report of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out that in 2017, about 35.2 million Americans (14.3% of the population) practiced yoga, and yoga is the most widespread form of complimentary healthcare used among American adults besides conventional medicine. In 2017, meditation was practiced by 35 million adults (14.2% of the population) in the United States.
NEWS (2018). How does meditation help for depression? Yoga and meditation are described separately, but it is important to realize that meditation is at the heart of yoga. Meditation changes brain regions that are directly related to depression: it reduces the hyperactivity of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC, “self-centeredness” region), calms the amygdala (the “fight-or-flight” area) and protects the hippocampus (the region associated with memory).
SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE (2018). Yoga as a way of treatment of lower back pain. Hatha yoga consists of postures, breathing techniques, concentration, and meditation. Earlier studies and a recent randomized study show that yoga helps reduce pain and formation of disability, is safe, and well accepted by participants. While maintaining adequate BDNF and serotonin levels in the brain, a positive effect of yoga on depression and other psychological disorders has been observed, although these effects require further research.
STATISTICS (2017). The benefits of yoga for well-being. 94% of adults said they were practicing yoga for reasons related to wellbeing – to increase general wellbeing and energy, as well as for disease prevention. 18% reported practicing yoga to relieve a specific health disorder. A large number of yoga practitioners bring out various benefits: 86% have experienced stress relief; 59% noticed improved sleep; 67% felt better emotionally; 82% improved their overall health status; 43% were more motivated to eat healthier.
BOOK (8th century) The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation: “The Yoga of Knowing the Mind”. Guru Padmasambhava: “Because the omnipresent Consciousness is misunderstood and not experienced as it really is, there is an indispensable need for appropriate teaching. People who live the most mundane life, who without the knowledge of the omnipresent Consciousness will not know themselves, will begin to seek this teaching. They roam here and there and suffer. This is the result of their mistake. But because suffering is all-encompassing, the capability of self-control is incomplete. It is precisely because of affection that the pure Light (awareness) cannot be recognized so that the journey can be hindered. So, even if one wants to experience the omnipresent Consciousness in its actual form, without a teaching, he will still fail and remain in the dark.”
Education on the inner world, mental health and emotions
NEWS (2019). Trend: Meditation as diverse toolbox in the arsenal of mental well-being. In the future, we will begin to see more and more research on how one or another type of meditation leads to specific results in the context of a particular background – be it to improve creativity or to control absentmindedness.
REPORT (2018). White paper on mental wellness, Global Wellness Institute. Around a billion people globally suffer from anxiety, with one in four having a mental health disorder. Although mental health is one of the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), only modest results have been achieved so far. Sector overview and the source document.
STATEMENT (2018). Emotion Revolution Psychology Congress – panel discussion of international sectoral leaders. “If you only remember one important thing from these three days, it would be the word “emotion”. The core of the problem is always emotion” (Leslie Greenberg, EFT). “We need a new approach. One that would focus on prevention and education and what would be people-centered, practical and usable at all times” (Steven Hayes, ACT).
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2018). Skills to manage the inner world as a masterkey for mental health. Psychiatrist Dr. Helena Lass argues that until we consider awareness and True Self as part of a holistic approach to a human being, the main criteria for effective self-management is not fulfilled and attempts to formulate a pro-active education for the management of the inner world will remain without significant results. As long as the skills to consciously manage emotional-mental processes, the core elements of mental illness remain unaddressed, prevention as well as development of new therapies will be hampered.
REPORT (2017). World Happiness Report. Mental health issues affect happiness more strongly than income, work or physical illness. Physical health is an important criterion of happiness, but in no country is it more important than mental health.
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2017). The era of third wave psychotherapy began 13 years ago with new approaches that focused on the relationship between man and his emotions-thoughts, not just their content. The focus is on moving from syndromes to processes, with a focus on thriving instead of the former focus on pathology. Third wave methods emphasize mindfulness, emotion management, acceptance, and metacognition.
SCIENTIFIC PAPER (2017). Psychological rigidity is formed by a pattern where behavior is guided by a repetitive set of thoughts, feelings, and other internal motives (or desire to avoid them) at the expense of smarter choices. Psychological rigidity and prevention are important factors in the development, preservation, and expression of a large number of mental disorders.
VIDEO (2014). The effects emotions have on the body, American Museum of Natural History. A recent study highlighted the link between specific emotions and bodily sensations. Identifying the areas of the body where emotions cause change, the corresponding maps were created.
BOOK (2013). Oxford Handbook of Happiness, Chapter 3, pp. 47 and 104. The restrictive effect of negative emotions on attention is well known. A large number of studies confirm that the ability to notice is reduced and the focus on the negative is amplified. Fear and anxiety have a crippling effect on attention, and in anxious people, an automatic shift in the direction of an interpretable threat occurs, noticing it faster, and unplugging from it slower. From this, it can be concluded that emotions affect several different stages of information processing. Positive emotions do not always lead to a positive result, reducing accuracy in performing tasks that require depth and thereby causing a poorer ability to make the right decisions.
BOOK (2013). Oxford Handbook of Happiness, Chapter 6, p. 101. Our system of emotions is not perfect. In order for emotions to support the achievement of larger goals, they must be guided by awareness and “higher skills”. At its basic level, “emotional intelligence” means a collection of skills to recognize, understand, and use emotions wisely.
BOOK (2012). The Emotional Life of Your Brain, p. 59. Neuropsychologist R. Davidson highlights two main regimes of awareness – “selective” and “non-judgmental”. Strong emotions affect both, so the ability of a person to focus depends directly on the skills to manage emotions.
STATEMENT IN THE BOOK (2012), page 269. 14. Dalai Lama: “Although our knowledge is broad, it is mainly about the outside world. There is still a lot of ignorance in the area of “internal science”. You spend too much of your ability to look outside and contribute inadequately to looking inwards. Perhaps now that Western science has made it both to the atom and the cosmos, a groundbreaking moment has arrived when the primary importance of “inner science” becomes clear. Although physics created bombs, biology created a bacterial weapon; chemistry created nerve gas, etc., it is the unhealthy emotions of people that cause them to launch those horrors. Successful “inner science” means techniques to change these emotions and be in charge of the situation.”
REPORT (2010). Mental Health Foundation, on mindfulness. In addition to mental health, practices of consciousness also have a positive impact on wellbeing as a whole. Mindfulness-based approaches need to be included in the curriculum and further education of the Faculty of Medicine. People practicing awareness have better engagement with others, more fluent communication, and less conflict. According to neurologist Daniel Siegel, consciousness practices improve the compatibility of nerve cells, thus supporting mental health.
BOOK (1998). Jung’s Map of the Soul. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, presented his work “An Overview of the Theory of Complexes” at the 7th Psychotherapy Conference in 1934. The feeling-toned complex has a dual core, consisting of a central “image” (mental impression) and an emotion that acts as a “glue” that holds the complex together. The complexes erupt with an intense force and cause automatic reactions, similar to the primitive instincts of other mammals. We are not born with these complexes, instead they are created by man himself, they are man-made “instincts”.