Earlier this month, Cassandra Vieten, Helané Wahbeh, Jonathan Schooler, and myself made presentations at the Symposium on Human Consciousness at the Vivenanda Ashram on paradise island near Nassau in the Bahamas. More than 200 participants from the ashram attended our sessions. Ashram participants are college graduates from all around the world interested in yoga and eastern philosophy. They are not necessarily devotees, although a core group of about 15 staff members are devotees themselves. It was therefore an enthusiastic and receptive audience to present our ideas and research.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by CBS News recently and asked to be interviewed for a Sunday Morning segment on extraordinary aspects of the mind and brain, including ESP. Having spent decades studying these phenomena as a scientist, I’m always willing to talk about the state of the research, and the CBS Sunday Morning program offered the unusual opportunity to speak to millions. However, I also knew that TV segments specialize in sound-bites and there’s never enough time to go into any one topic in depth.
In modern times, magic is primarily associated with fiction and entertainment—from Harry Houdini to Harry Potter. But is there more to magic than fantasy? For millennia, the esoteric traditions have taught that some aspects of magic are quite real, and today both experimental and theoretical science is beginning to provide support for some of the core principles of magic.
Through my research on meditation and contemplative practices, I always noticed that what seemed like a very similar transcendent state was given different names like samadhi, oneness, non-dual, conscious awareness, etc. I also learned that transcendent states achieved through meditative practices have been reported across cultures and throughout history. The exact practices people used to achieve the transcendent states vary quite a bit from transcendental meditation to yoga to contemplative prayer, to other various forms of sitting meditation.
Consciousness can be described as your internal reality and self-awareness. It includes your relationships to your environment and the people in your life, as well as your worldview — your model of reality. Simply put, your consciousness determines how you experience the world.
So what if we want to make changes in our experience? How does transformation begin? How can we seek out transformation that expresses itself deeply and sustainably in our lives and the world-at-large?