Recognizing that virtually none of us can keep informed about our changing world, Mind, Body, and Spirit shares the author's personal search for answers, providing an overview of discussion and an extensive bibliography. Each chapter represents a different window on the human experience, from before birth until the time after physical death, including a perspective of our souls' existence in the spirit world.
Within each chapter are unusual perspectives about our world and our selves. These offer new insights or different ways of thinking about our lives. Each revelation is built upon a strong foundation of more than two hundred reports from researchers around the world. You may be among the many searching for greater meaning in their lives. The new "truth" that you find in this search may become more valuable to you than any dogma or cherished beliefs.
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Mind, Body, and SpiritChallenges of Science and Faith
By William Pillow
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 William Pillow
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSome Facts About Thinking
"The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking." Albert Einstein
As you read through this part of the book, you may question the value of paying so much attention to "thinking." However, I believe you'll find at least some of its dimensions worth contemplating further. After all, you might even wonder "What if ...?" What would any of this mean not only for you but also for your family?
Even if this chapter sounds philosophical, it is based on sound scientific data. It provides a broad-brush look at just how significantly our thoughts can influence our health, our environment, our interpersonal relationships, and even our successes or disappointments.
The obvious advice is "just stop thinking about it!" Have you ever tried to stop thinking? Even seven-year-olds say they can't stop thinking enough to go to sleep. Mary Louise Bringle offered an excellent online article "I Just Can't Stop Thinking About It: Depression, Rumination, and Forgiveness" in Word & World 16/3 (1996).
So if our thinking controls our very being, what insights can we find on how to improve our thinking. Of course, there also is the matter of what objectives we have for influencing our thinking. Just as our thinking can have a negative impact on us, our thinking also can have a negative effect on others. The same is true for positive thinking.
* Focused Thoughts
In an earlier book I described an aspect of thinking we all typically employ in performing routine tasks (2009). Examples are riding a bicycle, driving a car, and locking a door. If some skill is involved, as in driving a car, we master the skill then give little thought to it later. This is termed "procedural memory." We may even have forgotten when and from whom we learned how to perform the procedure.
Perhaps, like me, you may have driven a car, ridden a bicycle, or locked a door automatically. Later, I might question whether I did lock the door. Driving, I sometimes pass the intended highway exit if deep in thought about something else. Also like me, you even may be unable to account for what was going on around you during the previous several minutes, from a lapse in attention. This is not to criticize our action, but to acknowledge that it is a natural part of us.
As you might expect, focused thinking sometimes involves sincerity. We all participate in "rituals," from saying "Good morning" and "Thank you" to religious rituals. You will read later about evidence that subtle energy may be part of human behavior called "intention." This requires focused thinking, may involve sincerity, and is particularly applicable to intercessory prayer. This subtle energy may affect others as well as our selves. It's been shown, for example, that honest gratitude can have a beneficial effect on our bodies. Also, our feeling about caring for others can include both intention and sincerity, whether this is a personal act of helping another or an indirect act of contributing to a charity.
I have found it important to try to be more focused "in the moment" in everything I do. This seems nearly impossible with the flood of demands for my attention. But then I find that I don't have to question whether I locked the door or ignored a friend who passed by as I rushed somewhere.
* Instinctive Ability with Numbers
One of the criticisms I have about today's store cash registers is that it deprives teen-agers manning checkout stands from counting out change. I've had experiences where cash registers were temporarily inoperable and young people had difficulty giving me the correct change. I grew up counting dollars and cents, almost without thinking. Maybe addition and subtraction is a bygone subject for early education.
But now scientists have found an innate ability in young children about counting. It is said to be "hard-wired" into the brain. A good example can be seen on television programs about mammals picking fruit. They instinctively go for the tree, bush, or limb with the most delectable. In short, some animals recognize a difference in quantity. Anthropologists found that humans in primitive cultures also have had a general grasp of quantity.
Recent brain imaging studies revealed "a sliver of the parietal cortex, on the surface of the brain about an inch above the ears, is particularly active when the brain judges quantity." Called the intraparietal sulcus, this area contains "clusters of neurons sensitive to the sight of specific quantities." They fire differently according to the number of objects seen: "Some vigorously at the sight of five ... less so at the sight of four or six [or] not at all at two or nine. Others [respond according] to one, two, three, and so on."
According to Stanislas Dehaene, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Collège de France in Paris, "focused math education ... sharpens the firing of these quantity neurons." He is author of the books The Number Sense and Reading and the Brain. He believes that this capability can "begin to communicate with neurons across the brain in language areas," enabling young children to put numbers into words.
Benedict Carey discussed Dehaene's work in his article "Studying Young Minds and How to Teach Them" in the online New York Times. According to Carey, scientists also say that "Cells in the visual cortex wired to recognize shapes specialize in recognizing letters ... [can] communicate with neurons in the auditory cortex as the letters are associated with sounds," although this capability doesn't occur until about age eleven. As suggested by Dehaene, a focus on math education with young children can enhance their ability with numbers.
* Irrational Thinking
Every one of us probably believes we always make rational choices. It may surprise you how wrong we often are. Two books provide an unusual perspective on human behavior from in-depth research. The books are Ori and Rom Brafman's book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior and Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions.
Dan Ariely's online Weblog "Predictably Irrational" explained one factor that shapes our decisions and actions irrationally at times. Our cranial neocortex is the center of our higher mental functions not shared by other primates. But experience has shown that this does not always make us more rational than other animals. Apparently we humans add other considerations into making decisions from mental inputs not directly related to the decision at hand, emotions for example. Our neocortex provides our sense of right and wrong as well as empathy and the ability to reinforce societal rules. "Yet, in certain contexts, the neocortex can cause us not to maximize our self-interest," Ariely said. "Evolution then is a mixed blessing: it makes us better at some things and worse at others."
Ori and Rom Brafman's book provided illustrations from everyday life where seemingly irrational behavior resulted in outcomes ranging from the crash of a jumbo jet to auction bidding far beyond the value of an item. Their book offers suggested strategies for disarming irrational behavior by recognizing its implications.
Some illustrations of this behavior may seem humorous despite being true. They include:
Having second helpings if it costs no more even when our stomachs are full Splurging on an expensive meal yet using a fifty-cent coupon on a can of soup Stealing office supplies but not money Never checking further about someone or something after our initial impression Willingly shelling out five dollars for a cup of coffee Pursuing a bad business plan rather than starting over
Examples of irrational thinking may make us chuckle. But it seems to be a fact that this is a learned behavior, a human trait that an individual likely will have difficulty changing. I believe psychologists would remind us that each of us becomes accustomed to his or her learned behavior over a lifetime and it's not readily susceptible to turning off or on like a light switch. Nevertheless, this human characteristic, like other learned behaviors, can be modified with appropriate effort.
* Fantasies and Faux Pas
All of us at some time have had thoughts surface in our consciousness that we'd never, ever risk saying or doing. These range from the impolite to the risqué. Often, these occur at the most potentially embarrassing moments. Yet they are among the spectrum of thoughts that zip in and out of our heads.
Fortunately, we typically have enough self-control to be aware of the latent danger of succumbing to these moments. Our restraint may soften or even disappear if alcohol or drugs get involved. Tensions between individuals, at work, at home, or elsewhere may push us over the cliff, and soon it's too late to withdraw what's been said or done.
Benedict Carey provided insight into this kind of thinking in his article "When the Imp in Your Brain Gets Out" in the New York Times online. He quoted from Edgar Allen Poe's essay on unwanted impulses The Imp of the Perverse: "That single thought is enough. The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing." Once the words have flown or the act is done, beware the consequences.
The "imp" obviously is an impulse that naturally might have appeared in our thoughts in our very early years before we learned to behave according to social norms. The American Heritage College Dictionary calls an imp "a mischievous child" or "demon." One cause might be the adolescent male urge that accompanies the surge of testosterone. However, as you'll read later in this book, the proverbial "hell" now is believed to be a product of our minds, just like the devil and demons.
Interestingly, Rebecca Webber had an article "The Wholesome Guide to Misbehaving" in Psychology Today. The kind of misbehavior she addresses includes "what time we get to work, how far over the speed limit we drive, [and] what kinds of white lies we tell." She also recognizes that being naughty makes us feel nice and allows us to sense a different life style. But Webber acknowledges that such behavior helps us realize that this conduct "might not be sustainable for the long term." No doubt some people may consider this article to be on the cusp of encouraging very risky behavior that could backfire.
This discussion applies too to the topic on "Intractable Situations" in the later chapter on evil. But it applies most directly to how people think and behave. Territoriality is natural because it arises from primitive animal instincts. You've likely watched the territoriality of wild animals in videos of African wild life parks. They mark their territories to discourage competitors. Other family members typically treat the matriarch or patriarch with respect. Often this role is hard- won and vigorously defended.
The problem with this thinking in humans is the extremes to which some people go. Even though the human habitat is drastically different from the African savannah, human self-control is too often lacking. Road rage and spousal abuse are examples. Competitive behavior in the business world sometimes reaches a similar intensity. Individuals and groups practice territoriality. It has been the cause of wars, ethnic discrimination, and ideological differences.
Serge Kahili King's online article "Territoriality" suggests that the passion humans invest in protecting their turf might be more wisely used "to focus intensely on [more worthwhile pursuits] and energize that focus with all your love, power and skill. Who knows what amazing things might result?"
* Perceived Threats
As perceived by a group, state, nation, or world, a threat is generally viewed as something that could wreak harm on a significant number of human beings. But an individual best recognizes a personally perceived threat. The potential list is limitless, ranging from a personal insult to a confrontation by an armed person or a dangerous animal. Stress may persist in a continuing perceived threat, such as an authoritarian supervisor. The degree of threat seemed related to an individual's felt extent of control over the situation. Ronald Rapee's online abstract of his research paper "Perceived Threat and Perceived Control as Predictors of the Degree of Fear in Physical and Social Situations" addressed this variable.
Occasionally, humans might take lessons from animals. A fascinating case in point was illustrated in Olivia Judson's article "Leopard Behind You" that appeared in The Wild Side section of the New York Times online. She described various animals' vocal warnings about threats of dangerous predators. The word "dangerous" is used because, for example, an eagle might be a threat to small mammals but not to adult antelopes. Various animals therefore have an assortment of different alert calls that have a particular meaning. Young ones seem to learn these from their parents. Animals other than the kind issuing the alert have learned to pay attention too, apparently able to recognize whether the warning is applicable also to them.
The illustration seems especially applicable to this part of the book in our efforts to be our "brother's keeper." Neighborhood watches seem to be expanding in our country. Parents and older siblings sometimes are successful in helping younger kids avoid the peer attraction of gang membership. Recently there even seems to be more state and national activism among the formerly "silent majority." Sadly, though, there seems to be an understood penalty on the "street" for anyone caught "ratting" to the police about the identity of the perpetrator of a crime.
* Spiritual Threats
This topic is included in this chapter to illustrate the power of our thoughts. "Thoughts" as used here involve our mindsets: our beliefs, attitudes, convictions, insecurities, fears, uncertainties, and such other thoughts we hold about life and death.
You've heard it said that "you can't carry it with you" when you die. But noted psychic James Van Praagh disagreed. His book Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side claimed that the human mindset we have at death of the physical body can significantly influence our souls' transition to the spirit world. Van Praagh wrote that souls do carry their human state of mind with them. Such mindsets might include misperceptions of death, fear of eternal damnation, or disbelief in God or Heaven.
Van Praagh indicated that any such negative thought energy might impede souls' access to the "white light" and to the higher astral levels. Instead, souls might confine themselves to a lower plane, at least initially. Both Van Praagh and Michael Newton's book Destiny of Souls claim that the spirit world respects a soul's choice even if it is based on faulty information.
Van Praagh describes ghosts as earth-bound souls who refuse to leave the earth plane for a number of reasons. For example, they may believe they're not dead, some have unfinished business, or others may want to protect their loved ones. By contrast, those souls who appear to get stuck in a low astral plane seem to be locked into their earthly mindset. Only as they willingly seek freedom from that state of mind to progress spiritually do they move into higher astral planes.
If this were true, it would appear that the mindsets people acquire might account for so-called "negative" near-death experiences (NDEs). These cases exist but occur much less frequently than positive NDEs. Survivors of negative NDEs often described their experiences as confusing, disturbing, or even "hellish." Some researchers suggested that patients' reactions might be caused by their fright, bewilderment, or even religious beliefs (Chopra 2006).
Howard Storm's book My Descent Into Death described his negative NDE that turned positive when he eventually called upon Jesus to save him. This transitory aspect of negative NDEs seems fairly common (Sabom 1982).
Excerpted from Mind, Body, and Spirit by William Pillow Copyright © 2010 by William Pillow. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. Some Facts About Thinking....................3
2. Mind-Body Influences....................20
3. Enhanced Thinking....................33
4. Mindfulness, Meditation, Living in the Now....................40
5. Into the Jaws of Desperation....................49
6. Loss of a Child....................54
7. You Owe Me!....................62
8. Influence of Evil....................66
9. Who Killed God?....................73
10. You're What?....................82
11. Consciousness, Mind, and Brain....................87
12. The Heart of It All....................103
13. Coming of Age....................107
14. Interpersonal Relationship....................117
15. A Balancing Act....................123
16. Centers of Balance....................132
17. Subtle Energy....................140
18. Marvelous Coincidences or Divine Handiwork?....................152
19. What Are We Searching For?....................161
20. Who Am I?....................169
21. Why Don't We Believe?....................173
22. Controversial Beginnings....................187
23. What Is the Purpose of Humankind?....................195
24. Energy of Love....................202
25. The Power of Synchronized Intention....................208
26. What's Ahead?....................215
27. The Human Soul....................226
28. Personal Conclusions....................243