Category Archives: Health / General Awareness

The Vagus Nerve: A Back Door for Brain Hacking

Doctors stimulate a nerve in the neck to treat epilepsy, heart failure, stroke, arthritis, and a half dozen other ailments

“This is a bottle of pills,” says J.P. Errico, showing me something that’s obviously not a bottle of pills.

Errico, who is cofounder and CEO of ElectroCore Medical, is holding the GammaCore, a noninvasive vagus nerve stimulator. If ElectroCore’s R&D work holds up, this device is about to turn decades of evidence about the importance of a single nerve into a new kind of medicine: an electrical therapy as benign as a morning swim and as straightforward as popping a pill with your coffee.

Look at an anatomy chart and the importance of the vagus nerve jumps out at you. Vagus means “wandering” in Latin, and true to its name, the nerve meanders around the chest and abdomen, connecting most of the key organs—heart and lungs included—to the brain stem. It’s like a back door built into the human physiology, allowing you to hack the body’s systems.

Vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, got its start in the 1990s, when Cyberonics, of Houston, developed an implanted stimulator to treat particularly tough cases of epilepsy. That application was just the beginning. Researchers soon found that stimulation had the potential to treat a variety of ailments, including painful neurological conditions such as migraine headaches and fibromyalgia, inflammatory problems such as Crohn’s disease and asthma, and psychiatric ailments such as depression and obsessive- compulsive disorder.

Scientific enthusiasm notwithstanding, the clinical history of VNS has been mixed. Trials with patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression produced good results—but not quite good enough to convince U.S. government-run insurance programs to pay for its use. This past August, a stimulator produced by Boston Scientific performed poorly in a major trial with heart-failure patients. Cyberonics and its competitors are still figuring out what signals are best to send along the vagus nerve to tap into the brain’s systems and fix what ails us.

Progress has been excruciatingly slow. Treatments typically require implanting a pocket-watch-size pulse generator in a patient’s chest, which is wired to a pair of electrodes encircling the vagus nerve in the neck. These trials involve patients for whom all other options have either failed or been ruled out and who are willing to undergo an invasive “treatment of last resort.”

But what if VNS could be the first thing your doctor prescribed? What if, as ElectroCore promises, it really was as easy as taking a pill? That’s what the New Jersey–based startup is aiming for. ElectroCore has developed the first vagus nerve stimulator that isn’t implanted: It’s a handheld device you simply press against your neck. If that’s all it takes to hack into the brain and treat some of the most troubling conditions around, medicine might look very different a decade from now.

The idea that this single nerve can have such a profound effect on so many different organs and ailments might seem far-fetched. To understand the underlying logic of this treatment, consider the anatomy of the vagus nerve and where it connects to the brain.

The nerve terminates in the brain stem at a structure called the nucleus tractus solitarius. “The NTS is a junction in the brain,” explains Milton Morris, who until recently was senior vice president of R&D at Cyberonics. From there, the vagus nerve’s signals travel to other important brain structures with bewildering Latin names, such as the locus coeruleus and the dorsal raphe nuclei. Most of these structures produce neuro transmitters—the chemicals brain cells use to communicate—that have an inhibitory effect, decreasing a neuron’s excitability.

That anatomical perspective clarifies how VNS produces its therapeutic benefits. An epileptic seizure, for example, is the result of waves of excitation sweeping through the brain. Deploying the brain’s natural dampers should—and apparently does—cause these waves to peter out. Many of the ailments now being investigated by vagus nerve researchers likely involve similar overexcitation, or oversensitivity. “Epilepsy might be just one end of a spectrum,” Errico says.

Some connections along this spectrum have been known for a long time: About 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates noted an association between epilepsy and depression, two ailments now treated with VNS. Researchers have stumbled upon other links more recently: Errico and scientists at Columbia University discovered that asthmatics they successfully treated with stimulation reported fewer headaches.

ElectroCore found further hints of relationships between maladies by delving into patient complaints collected by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Sorting through the data helped the company identify its first clinical targets—migraines and cluster headaches—but also suggested future research directions. The data showed that care for patients with headaches is surprisingly expensive, as they consult doctors up to three times as often as average and take up to four times as much medication. But all this extra health care isn’t necessarily to address their headaches; these patients tend to have other chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, anxiety, and asthma that may be treatable through VNS. The data suggest that these conditions may have a common root, at least in some patients.

Today these problems are served by a multibillion-dollar pharmaceuticals market. But those drugs don’t always work, and they can have troubling side effects. So instead of trying to squash these electronic upstarts, some big pharma companies are getting in on the game.

British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has been the most public with its support, even coining the term “electroceuticals” to describe the emerging therapies. “Our goal, basically, is to speak the electrical language of the nerves to achieve a higher treatment effect,” said Kristoffer Famm, head of bioelectronics research at GSK, in a recent interview. In 2013, GSK created a US $50 million venture capital arm, Action Potential Venture Capital, to fund electroceutical startups. It’s first pick was the vagus nerve implant company SetPoint Medical.

SetPoint was cofounded by Kevin Tracey, a neurosurgeon and immunologist. Motivated by the mysterious death of an infant burn patient under his care, Tracey went on to prove the existence of the “inflammatory reflex”—a pathway through which the brain can quell inflammation by sending signals through the vagus nerve to the spleen. SetPoint Medical is dedicated to manipulating that reflex to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, among other inflammatory afflictions. Though its therapy requires an implanted stimulator, the small device fits entirely in the patient’s neck, greatly reducing the extent of surgery. The company has always aimed to make the device as much like a drug therapy as possible, explains SetPoint chief technical officer Mike Faltys. “We didn’t get pharmaceutical funding until recently,” he says, “but we had the pharmaceutical idea from the start.”

Think about pills for a moment: You take them either on a schedule or in response to a symptom. They’re portable, and their number can be limited by prescription.

ElectroCore’s device shares all these attributes, says Errico. A typical regimen is two or three 2-minute doses twice a day, but if you sense a migraine coming on, you can use the stimulator to head off a full-blown attack. ElectroCore’s device is smaller than an iPhone 6, so it’s easy to tote around. (The company’s engineers recently built a stimulator into the case of a Samsung smartphone just to show it could be done.) And it can be programmed by your doctor to deliver a set number of doses.

Making the world’s first noninvasive nerve stimulator was quite an engineering challenge. Consider the signaling problem: The vagus nerve is made up of many individual nerve fibers of several different types, some transmitting signals up into the brain and some signaling down to the organs. Some do helpful things such as calming over excitation in the brain or signaling the spleen to reduce inflammation, but others do things that could be dangerous such as slowing your heart rate. The signal must be able to activate the “good” fibers while leaving the “bad” ones unchanged.

Adding to the difficulty is that to reach the nerve, the stimulator has to transmit its signal through several centimeters of flesh without causing excessive muscle contractions. The signal must also pass through a layer of skin that’s both electrically resistive and chock-full of pain receptors.

ElectroCore’s researchers knew that directing the signal through the good fibers instead of the bad ones is just a matter of hitting a sweet spot of signal strength. Their real innovation was sending that signal painlessly through the skin, explains vice president of research Bruce J. Simon. The key, he says, is to understand that the skin acts the way a capacitor in a filter circuit does: It blocks direct current and low frequencies, but a high enough frequency signal will pass through it. But brain responses to VNS are frequency dependent. ElectroCore’s brain- hacking code needs 25 one- millisecond pulses per second—but this low a frequency would trigger pain receptors while passing through the skin. So the stimulator forms each of the 25 pulses from a burst of 5,000 hertz. The high- frequency signals slip painlessly past the skin, losing only about half their strength along the way. The nerve fibers themselves do the rest of the job, modifying the signal that reaches them so that only the train of 25 pulses remains to propagate up into the brain.

The handheld stimulator can produce pulses at a range of voltages; because people’s necks and nerves vary anatomically, the voltage is adjustable for each patient—though it always remains below the level that would trigger the bad nerves. ElectroCore’s researchers found that the optimum voltage is about equal to the level that causes a person’s lower lip to twitch.

“My number is 28 [volts],” says company chief operating officer Frank Amato, as he demonstrates the device. You get the sense that everyone at ElectroCore knows his or her number. I tried it as well, though on my arm and with the goal of causing my hand to contract. My number was 12.

ElectroCore isn’t alone in seeking a noninvasive way to access the vagus nerve. Germany-based Cerbomed has developed a stimulator that hangs on a part of the ear where a minor branch of the vagus nerve lies close to the skin. Competitors are skeptical that stimulating this small branch will cause sufficient changes in the brain, but Cerbomed cites studies showing that its stimulator produces a pattern of neural activation similar to that produced by more typical forms of VNS. The company is now conducting a clinical trial for the treatment of epilepsy and has experimented with treatments for migraine, schizophrenia, and tinnitus as well.

You might think ElectroCore’s noninvasive vagus nerve stimulator would have makers of more conventional systems worried. It doesn’t. For those companies, it’s all a matter of compliance and control.

Compliance is the ability or willingness of a patient to follow through with a therapy. As former Cyberonics staffer Morris points out, some of the company’s patients may be too sick to reliably use a self-administered system. Some epileptic patients, for example, can feel their seizures coming on and activate their implants, but others don’t experience such foreshadowing. Implanted stimulators can deliver their therapies automatically. What’s more, it can take months or even a few years for epileptic patients to get the full benefits of vagus nerve stimulation, he says. “If he’s not getting relief, a patient might quit before it gets there.”

Companies making invasive vagus nerve stimulators also like the guarantee that they can control the delivery of a precisely tuned signal to the vagus nerve alone. Cyberonics is also working on a heart-failure therapy, in which the doctor carefully ramps up the electrical signal over many weeks. Morris thinks this progression would be too difficult to control without an implant.

The Dallas-based company MicroTransponder is developing an implanted device to treat tinnitus and stroke. The company’s chief scientific officer, Navzer Engineer, says external stimulators couldn’t match the timing precision and signal integrity of his system. “We know it works and we know the parameters,” he says. “I’m not sure we’d know these parameters if we used a noninvasive system.”

ElectroCore’s Errico acknowledges that compliance may be a problem for some patients, but he’s convinced that his company’s device has exact enough control to treat a broad range of ailments.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the noninvasive approach is the economics. Implants must operate inside the body for years without being damaged or causing problems themselves, and that doesn’t come cheap: The U.S. government insurance program Medicaid pays about $20,000 for the Cyberonics epilepsy device and its implantation. At that price, it’s not surprising that implants are often a last resort. By contrast, ElectroCore’s noninvasive system costs the equivalent of $200 to $400 in Europe, depending on how many doses are programmed into the device.

At that price, Medical University of South Carolina brain-stimulation scientist Mark S. George imagines a scenario that would be a win for both invasive and noninvasive technology. Like any therapy, VNS doesn’t work for everybody. Even in its most established use, epilepsy, VNS helps only about 40 percent of those who get the implant. George suggests that patients might start with noninvasive stimulation, and if they respond to it, they could go ahead with the implantation procedure knowing ahead of time that they’ll benefit. This would cut costs overall, because fewer patients would needlessly get implants.

In any case, ElectroCore still has a lot to prove: While its device has met Europe’s regulatory standards as a treatment for migraines and other headaches, U.S. market approval requires more rigorous clinical trials, which are now being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. And the company’s scientists are still investigating potential applications in gastroenterology, psychiatry, and pulmonology.

If clinical trials eventually prove this system’s worth for other chronic ailments, its low price tag would make it competitive with standard drug treatments. And unlike pharmaceutical treatments, the nerve stimulator seems to have no major side effects. Hence the buzz about electroceuticals. Anyone who will ever suffer from one of those ailments or cares about someone who does—in other words, just about everyone—may soon benefit from this new electronic age of medicine.

This article originally appeared in print as “Follow the Wandering Nerve.”

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“Alcohol” is said to come from the arabic term “Al-khul” which means “BODY-EATING SPIRIT”

The word “alcohol” is said to come from the arabic term “Al-khul” which means “BODY-EATING SPIRIT” (also, is the origin of the term” ghoul”).

In alchemy, alcohol is used to extract the soul essence of an entity. Hence its’ use in extracting essences for essential oils, and the sterilization of medical instruments. By consuming alcohol into the body, it in effect extracts the very essence of the soul, allowing the body to be more susceptible to neighboring entities most of which are of low frequencies. (why do you think we call certain alcoholic beverages “SPIRITS”). That is why people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol often black out, not remembering what happened. This happens when the good soul (we were sent here with) leaves because the living conditions are too polluted and too traumatic to tolerate. The good soul jettisons the body, staying connected on a tether, and a dark entity takes the body for a joy ride around the block, often in a hedonistic and self serving illogical rampage. Our bodies are cars for spirits. If one leaves, another can take the car for a ride.

Essentially when someone goes dark after drinking alcohol or polluting themselves in many other ways, their body often becomes possessed by another entity. Have you ever felt different, more sexual, more violent, less rational and less logical………after drinking alcohol? Are you aware we already live inside an ancient religious cult who are schooled concerning the dark powers of alcohol? It is this cult that popularizes alcohol, through the media and government it controls, to serve a very ancient and dark agenda.

The solutions to our crumbling society are only to be found within our non polluted collective humanity, not within modern science and the death cult it represents, Our dark and immoral human farmers masquerade as altruistic governments, who then serve us up to dark spiritual entities that feed off our energies when we consume alcohol and a host of other toxic substances they rain down from the top of the ruling pyramid. We’re slaves living on an elaborate control grid…..based on indoctrination, propaganda, chemical sedation, toxic medication and we’re even used as food energy for dark spirits who live outside the frequency of visible sight. I haven’t drank alcohol in almost 5 years. Now, the dark spirits are in fear of me and that’s the way it was always meant to be. Join the moral rebirth of humanity, unslave, reject the poison and lets get to work doing what we know has to be done.

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No Longer A Conspiracy Theory: CIA Director Admits Plans Of Aerosol Spraying For Geoengineering

By Matt Agorist
thefreethoughtproject.com

In June 2016, , the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John O. Brennan addressed instability and transnational threats to global security at a meeting with the Council on Foreign Relations. During his long-winded talk of threats to US interests and how the largely CIA-created ISIL threat is impacting the world, Brennan brought up the topic of geoengineering.

Another example is the array of technologies—often referred to collectively as geoengineering—that potentially could help reverse the warming effects of global climate change. One that has gained my personal attention is stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI, a method of seeding the stratosphere with particles that can help reflect the sun’s heat, in much the same way that volcanic eruptions do.

Brennan went on to echo the calls from some scientists who have called for aerial spraying.

An SAI program could limit global temperature increases, reducing some risks associated with higher temperatures and providing the world economy additional time to transition from fossil fuels. The process is also relatively inexpensive—the National Research Council estimates that a fully deployed SAI program would cost about $10 billion yearly.

The extent at which Brennan talked about stratospheric aerosol injection shows that he and the CIA have likely been considering this for some time.

As promising as it may be, moving forward on SAI would raise a number of challenges for our government and for the international community. On the technical side, greenhouse gas emission reductions would still have to accompany SAI to address other climate change effects, such as ocean acidification, because SAI alone would not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

On the geopolitical side, the technology’s potential to alter weather patterns and benefit certain regions at the expense of others could trigger sharp opposition by some nations. Others might seize on SAI’s benefits and back away from their commitment to carbon dioxide reductions. And, as with other breakthrough technologies, global norms and standards are lacking to guide the deployment and implementation of SAI.

“Chemtrails” have long been the talk of conspiracy theories with massive amounts of disinformation being posted all over the internet including fake studies and photos. However, several real studies show that some ‘seeding’ or geoengineering may be taking place.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is suggesting that geoengineering has already begun, and the substance being used is a toxic by-product of coal burning call coal-fly ash.

“The widespread, intentional and increasingly frequent chemical emplacement in the troposphere has gone unidentified and unremarked in the scientific literature for years. The author presents evidence that toxic coal combustion fly ash is the most likely aerosolized particulate sprayed by tanker-jets for geoengineering, weather-modification and climate-modification purposes and describes some of the multifold consequences on public health.

Also, it has been proposed that unintentional geoengineering may already be taking place as well. As Derrick Broze points out, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are suggesting contrails from airplanes may be inadvertently geoengineering the skies.

Chuck Long is a researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory at the University of Colorado in Boulder. At the recent American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Long and his team released their paper, “Evidence of Clear-Sky Daylight Whitening: Are we already conducting geoengineering?” The analysis found that vapor from airplanes may be altering the climate through accidental geoengineering.

It may be a very long time before we know what, if anything, is actually going on in our skies. However, when the CIA, who is responsible for so much turmoil on a global scale, begins talking about geoengineering, we should listen.

Please share this story with your friends and family who think it’s only conspiracy nuts who talk about spraying things into the sky.

The part of the speech where Brennan talks about geoengineering begins at the 12:05 marker.

Dumbing Down of Society

There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism especially within American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.

Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, says in an article in the Washington Post, “Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.”

There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, unlike most other Western countries. Richard Hofstadter, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life, describes how the vast underlying foundations of anti-elite, anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into America’s political and social fabric. Famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Mark Bauerlein, in his book, The Dumbest Generation, reveals how a whole generation of youth is being dumbed down by their aversion to reading anything of substance and their addiction to digital “crap” via social media.

Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America, adds another perspective: “The rise of idiot America today represents–for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert.”

“There’s a pervasive suspicion of rights, privileges, knowledge and specialization,” says Catherine Liu, the author of American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique (link is external)and a film and media studies professor at University of California. The very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.”

Part of the reason for the rising anti-intellectualism can be found in the declining state of education in the U.S. compared to other advanced countries:

After leading the world for decades in 25-34 year olds with university degrees, the U.S. is now in 12th place. The World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. at 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly 50% of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are foreigners, most of whom are returning to their home countries;

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs commissioned a civic education poll among public school students. A surprising 77% didn’t know that George Washington was the first President; couldn’t name Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence; and only 2.8% of the students actually passed the citizenship test. Along similar lines, the Goldwater Institute of Phoenix did the same survey and only 3.5% of students passed the civics test;

According to the National Research Council report, only 28% of high school science teachers consistently follow the National Research Council guidelines on teaching evolution, and 13% of those teachers explicitly advocate creationism or “intelligent design;”

18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a Gallup poll;

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities report on education shows that the U.S. ranks second among all nations in the proportion of the population aged 35-64 with a college degree, but 19th in the percentage of those aged 25-34 with an associate or high school diploma, which means that for the first time, the educational attainment of young people will be lower than their parents;

74% of Republicans in the U.S. Senate and 53% in the House of Representatives deny the validity of climate change despite the findings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and every other significant scientific organization in the world;

According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 68% of public school children in the U.S. do not read proficiently by the time they finish third grade. And the U.S. News & World reported that barely 50% of students are ready for college level reading when they graduate;

According to a 2006 survey by National Geographic-Roper, nearly half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 do not think it necessary to know the location of other countries in which important news is being made. More than a third consider it “not at all important” to know a foreign language, and only 14 percent consider it “very important;”

According to the National Endowment for the Arts report in 1982, 82% of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later only 67% did. And more than 40% of Americans under 44 did not read a single book–fiction or nonfiction–over the course of a year. The proportion of 17 year olds who read nothing (unless required by school ) has doubled between 1984-2004;

Gallup released a poll indicating 42 percent of Americans still believe God created human beings in their present form less than 10,000 years ago;

A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously.

In American schools, the culture exalts the athlete and good-looking cheerleader. Well-educated and intellectual students are commonly referred to in public schools and the media as “nerds,” “dweebs,” “dorks,” and “geeks,” and are relentlessly harassed and even assaulted by the more popular “jocks” for openly displaying any intellect. These anti-intellectual attitudes are not reflected in students in most European or Asian countries, whose educational levels have now equaled and and will surpass that of the U.S. And most TV shows or movies such as The Big Bang Theory depict intellectuals as being geeks if not effeminate.

John W. Traphaga, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Texas, argues the problem is that Asian countries have core cultural values that are more akin to a cult of intelligence and education than a cult of ignorance and anti-intellectualism. In Japan, for example, teachers are held in high esteem and normally viewed as among the most important members of a community. There is suspicion and even disdain for the work of teachers that occurs in the U.S. Teachers in Japan typically are paid significantly more than their peers in the U.S. The profession of teaching is one that is seen as being of central value in Japanese society and those who choose that profession are well compensated in terms of salary, pension, and respect for their knowledge and their efforts on behalf of children.

In addition, we do not see in Japan significant numbers of the types of religious schools that are designed to shield children from knowledge about basic tenets of science and accepted understandings of history–such as evolutionary theory or the religious views of the Founding Fathers, who were largely deists–which are essential to having a fundamental understanding of the world, Traphagan contends. The reason for this is because in general Japanese value education, value the work of intellectuals, and see a well-educated public with a basic common knowledge in areas of scientific fact, math, history, literature, etc. as being an essential foundation to a successful democracy.

We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.

Bill Keller, writing in the New York Times argues that the anti-intellectual elitism is not an elitism of wisdom, education, experience or knowledge. The new elite are the angry social media posters, those who can shout loudest and more often, a clique of bullies and malcontents baying together like dogs cornering a fox. Too often it’s a combined elite of the anti-intellectuals and the conspiracy followers – not those who can voice the most cogent, most coherent response. Together they forment a rabid culture of anti-rationalism where every fact is suspect; every shadow holds a secret conspiracy. Rational thought is the enemy. Critical thinking is the devil’s tool.

Keller also notes that the herd mentality takes over online; the anti-intellectuals become the metaphorical equivalent of an angry lynch mob when anyone either challenges one of the mob beliefs or posts anything outside the mob’s self-limiting set of values.

Keller blames this in part to the online universe that “skews young, educated and attentive to fashions.” Fashion, entertainment, spectacle, voyeurism – we’re directed towards trivia, towards the inconsequential, towards unquestioning and blatant consumerism. This results in intellectual complacency. People accept without questioning, believe without weighing the choices, join the pack because in a culture where convenience rules, real individualism is too hard work. Thinking takes too much time: it gets in the way of the immediacy of the online experience.

Reality TV and pop culture presented in magazines and online sites claim to provide useful information about the importance of The Housewives of [you name the city] that can somehow enrich our lives. After all, how else can one explain the insipid and pointless stories that tout divorces, cheating and weight gain? How else can we explain how the Kardashians,or Paris Hilton are known for being famous for being famous without actually contributing anything worth discussion? The artificial events of their lives become the mainstay of populist media to distract people from the real issues and concerns facing us.

The current trend of increasing anti-intellectualism now establishing itself in politics and business leadership, and supported by a declining education system should be a cause for concern for leaders and the general population,one that needs to be addressed now.

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The Awakening of the Thinking Machine

Stop thinking… now stop it… just stop it… stop thinking. See you can’t do it…

The Awakening of the Thinking Machine

Please, carry out a simple, nonetheless astonishing experiment:

Take a watch or a stopwatch, and decide that you are not going to think for a while, as long as you are able to do so! Well, how long has it taken until the first thought slipped into your mind? 5-10 seconds? Are you able to avoid thinking for minutes?

You will be astonished: you are incapable of not thinking. Thinking takes place, it happens to you. The thoughts thinks you, and it is not you who thinks it. You do not do it at will (if it depended it on your will, you could simply avoid thinking), and you are unable to suppress thinking or keep it under control.

We are proud of capable of thinking, as this is what elevates us above the animal kingdom, and our personal identity is also rooted in our thoughts to a large extent. Philosopher René Déscartes declared ”I think, therefore I am.” But is this really thinking that makes us what we are? Would we exist if we did not think?

If we devote some time to monitoring our thoughts, we soon realize that thoughts in our mind keep shifting and changing: a thought appears, then it vanishes, and is replaced by another thought, linked, associated to the previous one–that is how thoughts stream continually, without a stop. Where is this vast stream of thoughts coming from, how has that stream become the foundation of our identity?

The Unconscious Deep Programs of the Mind

When we come to this world as newborn babies, we do not have thoughts, we only have an unconsciously experienced uniform experience. From that, the world of forms and shapes gradually unfolds and, with the help of the language, we learn to categorize our experiences, to put them into conceptual pigeonholes. ”She is mother, that is a tree, and this here is a house.” The language appears, and together with it, the thoughts.

As small children we are extremely open to the outside world, we want to know all about it, we want to conquer it. But we have very little experience in connection with the world, so we apply to the adults around us: parents and teachers. The adults are pleased and willing to tell us how the world works–that is, the way they perceive the world, with their own eyes and in their own beliefs. We are fed partial, fragmented pieces and bits of information, and that is what we devour and believe without hesitation–the program of a system of beliefs.

These explanations run like some sort of programs in the child’s mind. Children are willing to accept unconditionally what they hear from the adults, who are, in a child’s mind, authorities like a God or a sorcerer. Children believe that in this way they will be able to understand the world around them. Parents, kindergarten nurses, teachers, the priests of the congregation and later politicians–who were previously programmed by their own parents, teachers, priests and politicians in a similar manner– form ideas in the children’s minds that are presented as unquestionable truths. These ideas are fixed in the subconscious parts of our minds as a complex system of beliefs that are built upon each other as complementary elements and determine how we see the world and how we act in it.

The beliefs function as hypnotic programs in the computer of the mind, and we are hardly able to resist them. What I have already believed, what is a part of my own ideas, is something that I do not question, that is ”my own truth” and I live my life according to those truths. Our beliefs and convictions are like programs running automatically in the hardware of a computer.

These systems of beliefs that have been installed into us will then do strange things to us. As these are usually unconscious rules, they tend to largely inhibit our creativity. Our beliefs clearly determine what we should think and do and how we should think and do that. I cannot do this, I should not do that, I should not be thinking like that, and must not feel this etc.

A number of the programs are “good” and ethical, as these prevent the impulsive and aggressive outbursts of the Ego, the small ”Self” but, unfortunately, most of the programming is harmful, since these systems of beliefs make us predictable and easy to control.

The Phantom who Lives in Us and Says that it is Us

It is important to understand that during most of our life we are asleep, we live in deep narcosis. Even when our eyes are open, we are still in the dreams of our thoughts, in the imaginary world of our desires and fears, and we are no fully aware of the depths of the present moment. The pure space of Consciousness is shrouded with the clouds of more and more thoughts, the thoughts are joined with emotions, and the thoughts and emotions develop into intricate systems of beliefs which, in the end, cover up the entire space of Consciousness–keeping it in a narcosis, in the narcosis of the systems of beliefs until the end of the person’s life.

Inside the Consciousness a condensed core of thoughts is generated: the Ego, a phantom that does not even have an existence of its own. It is but a mere idea, which calls itself ”ME!” Through self-observation and meditation you are able to look beyond thoughts, in search of your thinking Self, and you are surprised to find that the voice chattering in your head is not somebody, it does not have an existence of its own, it is just a bundle of the systems of beliefs and the emotions connected to these.

Expressions like “my religion,” “my tribe,” “my country,” “my faith,” or “my principles” indicate how deeply we identify with some sort of a system of beliefs. So much so that we do not even know who is ”I,” because we fully identify with a role, with the ideological mask we are wearing.

Waking up from the Hypnotic Dream

It is worth monitoring our thoughts. At all times and under every circumstance. Especially when we need to make a decision in an apparently important issue. We then may observe that though we make a seemingly rational decision, the decision is in fact based upon the systems of beliefs petrified in us. We cannot speak about free will and freedom when we are the captives of some dogma: it is the dogma that makes the decision. For us and instead of us!

Let us make a habit out of examining our thoughts! Let them emerge, and let us contemplate them peacefully–but keep a little distance from them. We should not believe our thoughts, we should not believe in the absolute truth of our thoughts. We must realize that they are only the ”tentacles” of the systems of beliefs that wind themselves around us and eventually strangle us. Free ourselves from the obligation of confusing our systems of beliefs with absolute truths.

Watch carefully our thoughts, derived from our beliefs, and notice that they keep us in some sort of a dazed state, a hypnosis. Once we have experienced that, we are free to wake up from a hypnosis of thousands of years.

Unleash the self-inhibiting beliefs in order to–finally!–allow Life, the Miracle emerge in us and through us.

Consciousness: the Ultimate Mystery

Have you ever been thinking about what is hiding behind your eyes, contemplating the world through your eyes? Who is experiencing its environment through your body? Who is that knows your emotions and thoughts?

Tasting a Newly Discoverable State of Consciousness

Have you ever been thinking about what is hiding behind your eyes, contemplating the world through your eyes? What is the thing that is experiencing its environment through your body? What is the thing that knows your emotions and thoughts? Please, in this very moment turn your attention to the intellect, awareness reading these lines! Watch the observer hiding in you!

What you may find is an existing, real ”something,” and not some abstract metaphysical concept, new age-, esoteric or religious-dogmatic thing that you must believe in. You do not need to believe in it, as it is there in everybody as an alert, intelligent space. It is possible to experience it directly.

This is a new concept that has so far escaped our attention. This is, in fact, the only existing dimension into which the objects and forms of the external world are projected, and that is where we experience our bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts, which are no more than the phenomena of this dimension.

There are basically three–entirely different–states of consciousness:

*The ordinary state of consciousness, which is unaware of the space in which patterns and forms (an image of the world, thoughts, emotions and feelings) appear. This is our everyday consciousness, when we are submerged in forms and shapes – in the contents of the consciousness

*The state of identifying with the pure consciousness, free from forms and shapes. Initiated, mystic or spiritual disciplines call this state ”divine.”

*The experience of completeness, which is equally aware of the domain of forms and shapes and the space-like consciousness.

Space as a Reality which is Hard to Understand

We do not sense the space in which the forms appear, since our attention is diverted by our identification with the forms, the emotions and thoughts. Our like or dislike of various forms prevents us from experiencing the space, where forms and shapes appears. We are abandoned in the play of the actors so much that the stage as such ceases to exist for us.

It is a familiar experience that while we are watching a movie that we find exciting, we tend to forget that it is only a movie, a virtual reality. We are so deeply involved in the magic of the images that we experience intensive emotions: we shed tears when the protagonist dies, though all this is just an illusion. The only real thing is the movie screen.

Relax, and release all thougths and emotions whirling in you.

Look around! Look at the objects surrounding you. With your eyes, scan all the objects in your environment and take notice of them. Then concentrate on the empty space separating the objects! Sense the ”no-thingness” between the objects, the space in which the objects appear. Sense as the objects emerge from the space. Watch for the space!

It appears to be a simple exercise but sometimes we encounter unexpected difficulties. Although we are intellectually aware that objects exist in a space, we are still unable to focus on the space itself, as we consider space as an emptiness, as nothing. As reasonable creatures, we cannot comprehend the concept of ”nothing” (no thing). We believe that space is ”nothing,” and we do not pay attention to the ”nothing,” to the non-existent, though we are aware that space must exist. If space did not exist, objects would be scattered on each other, and we would not be able to separate and identify them. This very gap between things, this spaciousness enables the objects to appear separately, and this is the way we are able to take notice of the objects around us.

Our culture recognizes material, substance the only existing reality, and places material into the focus of its attention. Everything material is important for us, and what is not of material nature will be ignored. Our conscious attention is directed towards material, and space around the material is considered as non-existent. It is, however, space in which all creatures appear, it is the silence on the surface of which sounds dance, and Consciousness in which thoughts, emotions and images of the world appear.

There is no form without space and there is no space without forms–forms appear in space, and every form exists in a surrounding space. That is what Buddha asserts in the famous Heart Sutra: “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.”

The Miracle of Space

Once we are able to concentrate on the gap, space between the objects, a strange change of state of consciousness takes place in us. We experience the same emotion as we do when we concentrate on the attention hiding inside us.

You identify with the thing your attention is focusing on.

Before concentration, all observed, experienced things are of material nature: solid furniture, our own solid body; we only sense things that are manifested–we are deeply involved in the material world and all its details: the mutual transformation of things and phenomena into each other.

Once we are able to concentrate on our own attention or on the space between the objects, our state of consciousness changes, and we have a peculiar experience that challenges all our previous systems of beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.

We experience an entirely new dimension of our self, and this dimension is in fact an ancient, undescribable, intelligent, living, endless space, an emptiness, in which bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts as well as material objects appear and vanish, like the waves on the surface of the ocean.

We know that it exists, it is the one and only Life, and at the same time it is the essence in us we call ”I” (The ”I am” sensation). It exists as an ancient, living empty space, a Consciousness conscious of its own existence that comprises everything. Nothing exists outside it, and everything that exists is born inside it: within its space and as its own manifestation.

This state is characterized by tranquillity, deep silence, peace and all-permeating love. We know that this mysterious ”something” is beyond time, it does not have a beginning and end, it was never born and it will never die. If there are no forms and shapes inside it, it will not be conscious of itself, it simply, ”passively” exists, in a sort of dreamless sleep.

Once it has created forms and shapes, it will awake to the existence of the forms and, as it recognizes itself as the creator of the forms and shapes, it will awake to its own existence, too.

It creates forms and shapes in Its own space, in the space of the Consciousness. It permeates the forms and appears as life in them, and plays the role and life of the forms. Once the form has been used up and is no longer suitable for the one and only Life to live Its life through it and experience Itself through that particular form, the Life sheds the form and assumes a new one to experience itself in a different form. The more forms it identifies with, the more experience it gathers about its own individual characteristics.

It is most easily approached through paradoxical statements, like: It exists and is still beyond existence. Only It exists, the forms coming into being in It are all transient and, as they are temporary, transient, they are in fact but illusions.

It is more difficult to describe It in traditional concepts: it is not possible to learn anything about It; we are only able to exprience It in a direct way. Perhaps that is why Jewish mysticists said that it is not possible to pronounce God’s name, and that is why the commandment of the Christians says, ”Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

Buddha never spoke about God, because he was sure that once he had called It God, his followers would identify It with beliefs and concepts they create about God. The one and only existing ”something”–which remains a mystery forever–the human mind is unable to comprehend as It is beyond comprehension:

It is the knower of all thoughts, the mysterious Consciousness.

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