June 4, 2013

Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday Series

Posted in Experiences, Inspiring Stories, Philosophers, Science and Relgion, The Mystics, Theologians tagged , at 7:51 pm by tiffanyannbrown

It’s been nearly two years since I last wrote a post on this blog – hard to believe. Around the time I wrote my last post, I recall that Oprah was just getting ready to launch the first episode of her new self-help and spirituality series known as “Super Soul Sunday,” which premiered on the OWN Network back in October of 2011. At the time, I had been listening to her Soul Series podcast on iTunes and thinking about how neat it was that Oprah was giving some air time to such interesting and progressive thinkers as Eckhardt Tolle and Jill Bolte Taylor. But I didn’t realize how soon she would be taking everything so mainstream (and to her credit, for these are important topics).

As might be expected from any modern day media mogul, in approximately two years time, the original podcast has extended into an extremely popular TV series supported by a flashy web site that includes a blog and catalog of videos, which has also led to a strong social media following with nearly 50,000 followers on @SuperSoulSunday’s Twitter account and 119,000 likes on the Facebook page. She also has a great list of books that have been featured on the series, which you can explore in more detail here.

Super Soul Sunday FB

According to a recent press release about the series, Super Soul Sunday features exclusive interviews and all-new conversations with top thinkers, authors, filmmakers and spiritual leaders. Exploring themes and issues including happiness, personal fulfillment, wellness, spirituality and conscious living, Super Soul Sunday presents an array of perspectives on what it means to be alive in today’s world.

If you haven’t had the chance to check out the show yet, I highly recommend that you do. As of today Oprah has hosted dozens of speakers on her series, people I originally first heard about mainly through Tami Simon’s “Insights at the Edge” podcast and other non-traditional avenues like the Omega Institute and the Institute of Noetic Sciences. The discussions she hosts not only raise important questions and new ways of thinking about the world, but bring certain well-accomplished, lesser known, and thoroughly inspiring individuals to the forefront of mainstream dialogue.


August 25, 2011

Insights at the Edge

Posted in Experiences, Inspiring Stories, Science and Relgion, The Mystics tagged , at 11:31 pm by tiffanyannbrown

Earlier this year I came across a goldmine of content when I happened upon the web site located at www.soundstrue.com. While searching for podcasts related to school assignments on iTunes, I stumbled upon some episodes of “Insights at the Edge” with Tami Simon that caught my attention and eventually found a link that provided dozens of free podcasts showcasing some of the world’s foremost authorities on the topics of health and healing, self-empowerment, and spirituality and consciousness. According to the web site:

Sounds True is an independent multimedia publishing company that embraces the world’s major spiritual traditions, as well as the arts and humanities … Sounds True was founded in 1985 by Tami Simon with a clear mission: to disseminate spiritual wisdom. It is in this spirit that we present this podcast, a series of interviews with the world’s leading spiritual teachers, visionary writers, and living luminaries about their newest work and current challenges—the “growing edge” of their inner inquiry and outer contribution to the world.”

Whether it be driving to and from work, running errands, shopping at the grocery store, or on a walk, I’ve managed to log countless hours of listening to these thoroughly introspective and addicting interviews.

Some of the aspects I have most enjoyed about Insights at the Edge have included the caliber of the speakers, the quality of the discussions, and the range of content. While some interviews focus on more practical subjects, others can be highly obscure and complex, bordering on the realm of “out there,” but Tami always has a way of bringing the conversation back to a level of common understanding. Never have I come across such a wide range of specialists, spanning so many disciplines, providing such an array of provocative thinking in one place.

In addition to interviews with such speakers (that I already know and love!) as Peter Russell, Bruce Lipton, Stanislov Grof, Gregg Braden, and Fred Wolf, below is a sampling of some new individuals I came across through this show and would like to hear more from in the future:

  1. Ken Wilber – Ken Wilber is the author of over a dozen books, including The Spectrum of Consciousness; Up from Eden; and Grace and Grit. The Spectrum of Consciousness, written when he was twenty-three years old, established him as perhaps the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times. Credited with developing a unified field theory of consciousness—a synthesis and interpretation of the world’s great psychological, philosophical, and spiritual traditions—Ken Wilber is the most cogent and penetrating voice in the recent emergence of a uniquely American wisdom.
  2. Caroline Myss is a five-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally renowned speaker in the fields of human consciousness, spirituality and mysticism, health, energy medicine, and the science of medical intuition. After completing her Master’s degree, Caroline co-founded Stillpoint Publishing and headed the editorial department, producing an average of ten books a year in the field of human consciousness and holistic health.  Caroline developed the field of Energy Anatomy, a science that correlates specific emotional/psychological/physical/spiritual stress patterns with diseases.
  3. Sandra Ingerman – Sandra Ingerman, MA, is the author of eight books including Soul Retrieval, Medicine for the Earth, Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide and How to Heal Toxic Thoughts. Sandra is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist and Professional Mental Health Counselor. She is also a board certified expert on traumatic stress as well as certified in acute traumatic stress management.
  4. Anodea Judith, Ph.D. is the founder and director of Sacred Centers, and a groundbreaking thinker, writer, and spiritual teacher. Her passion for the realization of untapped human potential matches her concern for humanity’s impending crises — her fervent wish is that we “wake up in time.” She holds Masters and Doctoral degrees in Psychology and Human Health, is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher, with lifelong studies of healing, mythology, history, sociology, systems theory, and mystic spirituality. She is considered one of the country’s foremost experts on the combination of chakras and therapeutic issues and on the interpretation of the Chakra System for the Western lifestyle.
  5. William Buhlman – William Buhlman is America’s leading expert on out-of-body experiences. The author’s four decades of extensive personal out-of-body explorations give him a unique and thought provoking insight into this subject.

While it’s important to take each interview with a grain of salt, there is always wisdom to be uncovered and connections to be made when listening to new and engaging perspectives. What have you got to lose?

March 6, 2011

Positive Thinking’s Impact on our Biology

Posted in Current Issues, Science and Relgion tagged , , , at 4:51 pm by tiffanyannbrown

A new, long-term medical study found that hospitalized patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease who had a positive outlook about their recovery were less likely to die over the course of a 15 year period and had better physical functioning after one year. According to an article from the Duke University web site entitled “You’ve Gotta Have Heart: Positive Outlook Increases Heart Patient’s Survival,”

Cardiac patients with optimistic expectations about their recovery were 30 percent less likely to die over the next 15 years than patients with less optimistic expectations, regardless of the severity of their heart disease, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center. This study is unique because it shows that a patient’s attitude toward their disease not only impacts their ability to return to a normal lifestyle but also their health over the long term and ultimately their survival,” said John C. Barefoot, PhD, the study’s lead author.

So is this just another obscure medical study citing heavily-skewed statistics, or could there really be some science behind this finding?  For more information, click here to view the ABC News clip interviewing Dr. Redford Williams, Division Head of Behavioral Medicine at Duke University.

According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD who wrote the book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, positive thinking can have a direct impact on our biology. Having spent years conducting stem cell research, he’s concluded that our environment and not our DNA is that which affects life at the cellular level. His research at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, between 1987 and 1992, revealed that the environment, operating though the membrane, controlled the behavior and physiology of the cell, turning genes on and off.  His extensive study of cell life, including his 20 years of teaching the “History of Cell Biology” at various universities, has given him unique insight into the structure and function of our cells. He writes:

When we look into a mirror we usually recognize the image as our self, a single living human entity. But this is a misperception, because in truth the cells are the living entities. An individual human is actually close-knit community of approximately 50 trillion cells. Every cell is intelligent and can survive outside of your body by living and growing in a tissue culture dish.

However, when in the body, each cell is becomes an integral part of a community, working with the other cells that share the common vision of the community. The nervous system acts as a government that controls and coordinates the functions of the body’s cells. When the mind serves as a “good” government, the cellular community is in harmony and expresses health. If the mind is confused, angered, in fear or disturbed, it can destroy the harmony of the cellular community and lead to dis-ease or even death.

Just remember, your thoughts are sent to the body’s cells via neuro-chemicals and nerve transmission. If you are harsh on yourself, it’s your cells that are the ones that physically feel the brunt of your anger. Cell’s are generally very loyal, to the extent that if you so wish it, they will actually commit suicide (apoptosis in the cellular world). Positive and negative thoughts shape your biology, for your mind is actually “governing” 50 trillion cells.

Dr. Lipton’s discoveries, which ran counter to the established scientific view that life is controlled by the genes, presaged one of today’s most important fields of study, the science of epigenetics.  Epigenetics is the study of how environmental signals activate and regulate gene behaviors.  At its most basic, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to the genetic code but still get passed down to at least one successive generation.  To learn more about epigentices, click here to read the Time Magazine article entitled “Why your DNA isn’t your destiny.”

Below is a video interview with Wayne Dyer discussing his research and findings:

This video provides more detail for anyone who may be interested in the science behind the power of positive thinking.

December 30, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Mystic

Posted in Poets, Science and Relgion, The Mystics tagged , at 7:09 am by tiffanyannbrown

Mysticism is nearly universal and unites most religions in the quest for divinity. According to Wikipedia, mysticism is defined as “the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight.” It is derived from the Greek word “mystikos” meaning “an initiate of a mystery religion,” which is in reference to the classical Greco-Roman mystery cults where initiates were sworn to keep secret about the inner workings of religion that they were privy to.

There are many famous mystics in our culture you may have heard about including American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, and Beatles guitarist George Harrison, but perhaps none so intriguing as Lithuanian child prodigy Akiane Kramarik who began painting remarkable artwork at the age of 4 and attributes her talent to divine inspiration from God:

Currently at 16 years of age, Akiane has been featured on nearly 50 international television shows and documentaries including Oprah, CNN, Good Morning America, The View, and the Montel Williams Show. According to her web site at www.artakiane.com, she has published over 200 works of art, 800 literary creations and 2 best-selling books. Click here to view her gallery of artwork, where prints range in price from $5,000 to $3,000,000, or you can click here to view her poetry. I would suggest taking some time to browse through her paintings and skim through the narratives that go along with each of them. Akiane donates a large percentage of her income back to charity, and her goal with each painting is always the same: to serve as an inspiration for others, provide hope, and to share her love for God with people around the world.

Below is a more recent, longer video of Akiane explaining her artistic processes and the guidance she receives, providing a deeper  level of insight into her world. It is interesting to note that she was brought up in an atheistic household with no introduction to religion, limited access to the media (she didn’t even know who Oprah was when she went on her show at age 9), and was homeschooled.

In the book From Science to God, author Peter Russell argues that science is just beginning to understand and uncover what mystics have known for centuries; he believes that science will soon confirm what the mystics have been saying all along bridging the age-old gap between science and religion. He writes:

The worldviews of science and spirit have not always been as far apart as they are today. Five hundred years ago, there was little difference between them. What science there was existed within the established worldview of the Christian church. Following Copernicus, Descartes and Newton, Western science broke away from the doctrines of monotheistic religion, establishing its own atheistic worldview, which today is now very different indeed from that of traditional religion. But the two can, and I believe eventually will, be reunited. And their meeting point is consciousness. When science sees consciousness to be a fundamental quality of reality, and when religion takes God to be the light of consciousness shining within us all, the two worldviews start to converge.

Peter Russell earned degrees in both physics and experimental psychology from the University of Cambridge, England and also holds a postgraduate degree in computer science. He studied meditation and Eastern philosophy in India, and upon his return conducted research into the neurophysiology of meditation at the University of Bristol. Over the past twenty years, he has been a consultant to IBM, Apple, American Express, Barclays Bank, Swedish Telecom, Nike, Shell, BP, and other major corporations. Some of his books include The Global Brain, Waking Up in Time, and The Consciousness Revolution.  He certainly brings a unique perspective to the topic of mysticism given his scientific background. To listen to some of his talks online at www.peterrussell.com, click here.  For a brief video of his on the primacy consciousness, see below:

Peter Russell is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on the topic of consciousness today. He believes that consciousness does not arise from matter and that modern science has been unable to address the deeper, more fundamental questions that mystics have been understanding for centuries. Moving forward, it will be interesting to keep an eye on both Akiane and Peter, to see what insights and discoveries will be made on both the levels of mysticism and science in our 21st century society.

November 16, 2010

Huston Smith: A National Treasure

Posted in Inspiring Stories, Philosophers, Science and Relgion, Theologians at 10:22 pm by tiffanyannbrown

Huston Smith is perhaps one of the wisest, most charming, and insightful men that the good world has ever had the pleasure of knowing. Now in his 90s and living in a Berkeley, California-based assisted living home, he is still married to his wife, Kendra, of nearly 70 years. Having grown up in rural China alongside of missionary parents, then quickly rising up the academic ranks while teaching at such schools as Washington University, M.I.T, Syracuse, and Berkeley, Smith is perhaps best known for his traipsing around the world to discover the unique varieties of religious experience while at the same bringing insight and understanding of such lesser-known traditions to the West. This man has literally seen and done it all.

I was first introduced to Huston Smith, as most college students were, when assigned to read one of his books, The World’s Religions (which sold over 2.5 million copies), during an “Introduction to World Religions” course in college.  Never before had I been presented with such a clear and colorful, concise and vividly written account of the world’s religions. As a result, I became completely captivated with this author, especially after watching portions of his five-part PBS special with Bill Moyers, and went on to read additional books of his including Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, Beyond the Postmodern Mind: The Place of Meaning in a Global Civilization, and most recently Tales of Wonder: Adventures in Chasing the Divine. (For a full list of books he has written, click here to visit his Amazon.com page.) In Why Religion Matters, Smith argues that religion is humanity’s greatest asset because it provides us with aspiration, hope, and courage. In Beyond the Postmodern Mind, he distinguishes between the “traditional” worldview that placed God at the center of the universe; the “modern” view in which science ruled; and the “postmodern” view that doubts whether the universe makes sense at all. In Tales of Wonder, he documents his extraordinary travels around the globe that have taken him to some of the world’s holiest places, where he has practiced religion with many of the great spiritual leaders of our time.

From a May 2009 San Francisco Chronicle article entitled “Huston Smith: Rock Star of Religions,” below are some of the reasons why I find him so interesting:

His autobiography is a dizzying tour of a singular life. Smith was there when the 1945 U.N. charter was signed in San Francisco. He met Mother Teresa, interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt and invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at Washington University in 1956. Seeking enlightenment, he took mescaline with Timothy Leary and peyote with an Indian shaman. He counts Saul Bellow, Aldous Huxley, Pete Seeger and the Dalai Lama among his legion of friends …  and late on the night before the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, he arrived unsuspectingly in Beijing for a conference on Chinese philosophy.

In addition to his books, Smith has (luckily) given many interviews and lectures. Being an ordained Methodist minister, I came across an interview on the United Methodist Church web site where he discusses his faith story. I found his answer to the question of why he has remained a Methodist after having been exposed to so many of the world’s religions interesting. He stated:

I’m often asked why have I stayed in the Methodist church when there are so many other denominations and even other religions which I have studied and venerate. I take my answer from his holiness, the Dalai Lama, whom I have had a very deep friendship with for 35 years and I heard him ask whether conversion to another religion was ever appropriate. He said, it’s better if you can stay within your own tradition because you are imprinted with its form, and its music, and its literature, and Christmas carols, and the like. However, if you’ve been bruised by your tradition, your religion, why then, it is a good idea to look into others and possibly converting. Well, I have never been bruised by my church. I disagree with some of the policies, but just as we can disagree with the policies of the current American administration and still be an American, well, it’s the same way with me.

The link to the full interview is available by clicking here.

In May of 2000, Smith lectured at Duke University on “Why Religion Matters” where he outlined some of the major ideas from his book. Though not told in the rapid, bullet-point fashion of most lectures and presentations given today, and not accented with any flashy graphics or visual representations, I promise that if you listen to this lecture you will not only find wisdom in his words, but such beauty in his expression of them. Smith was in his early 80s at the time; if we could all only aspire to be like him!

In looking back across Smith’s life, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason that his life has not served a uniquely divine purpose given the coincidences of his interactions with famous cultural icons in American history combined with his presence and involvement at various key events. For a truly enjoyable read and a full outline of his life experiences and lessons to date, please check out the aptly named Tales of Wonder and feel free to share any thoughts here!

September 28, 2010

An Exploration of Noetic Science

Posted in Experiences, Science and Relgion tagged , , , at 11:17 pm by tiffanyannbrown

What do Harvard-trained neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, Nasa-trained astronaut Edgar Mitchell, and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra all have in common? If you haven’t already guessed it’s that they all share a background firmly grounded in science—neuroanatomy, engineering, medicine—but due to one circumstance or another have all come to question traditional Western science with respect to their understanding of the world in light of a significant personal experience. In short, they are all explorers of noetic science.

So, what is noetic science? According to one definition, it is “a multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experience.”

In 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, causing her to re-think her entire approach to brain research, while also opening her mind up to the possibility of other types of existence. She has written a book documenting her experience called My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, in 2008 was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and has also appeared on Oprah. From an interview with http://www.vision.org, she discussed what happened to her sense of reality when the stroke occurred:

I lost the cells that defined the boundaries of my body, where I began and where I ended. In the absence of that information I had the perception that I was at one with all that is: I am blended with all of the atoms and mind, because the brain chatter was gone, so there was this absolute silence … We have a group of cells inside our brain that tell use we are solid. Okay, I’m a solid. But for eight years I did not exist as a solid; I existed as a fluid entity in a fluid environment. This was a marvelous experience-to be that enormous in the absence of the distraction of language that has to label everything in my world. Its absence put me in a position to simply experience the energy dynamic of all particles around me, and it was a beautiful experience.

The full interview can be read here, and below is an excerpt from one of her interviews with Oprah.

With Edgar Mitchell, it was an otherworldly experience in space that led to his questioning of the nature of reality and resulted in a decision to start The Institute of Noetic Sciences, a nonprofit research, education, and membership organization whose mission is advancing the science of consciousness and human experience to serve individual and collective transformation.  From the biography on his web site:

Trained as an engineer and scientist, Captain Mitchell was most comfortable in the world of rationality and physical precision. Yet the understanding that came to him as he journeyed back from space felt just as trustworthy—it represented another way of knowing. This experience radically altered his worldview: Despite science’s superb technological achievements, he realized that we had barely begun to probe the deepest mystery of the universe—the fact of consciousness itself.

In his own words, below is a summary of Edgar Mitchell’s personal experience in space.

As for Deepak Chopra, an endocrinologist and former Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, it was a general unhappiness with Western medicine that prompted him to change his approach from pill-prescribing to mind-body healing. To date, he has written 56 books ranging from alternative healing practices to topics on consciousness. He is currently the Medical Director of the Sharp Institute for Human Potential and Mind-Body Medicine in La Jolla, California, and lectures and teaches worldwide.

Throughout his research, Chopra has been led to believe that consciousness is more than just a byproduct of one’s brain but rather something more fundamental, non-local, and independent of space and time. See the below video for more details.

Despite coming from different scientific backgrounds, it’s interesting to see how the three above-mentioned individuals have all reached similar conclusions after having traveled three very different paths to obtaining such knowledge. For more information on noetic science, please visit Dr. Mitchell’s web site, www.noetic.org.

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