A recent study published in Nature Communications suggests the brains of close friends respond in remarkably similar ways. The study was conducted by having two groups of people—some friends and others not friends—view a series of short videos. While viewing the videos, and at the same time having their brains scanned, the results of the friend groups were startling. It turns out they shared the same ebbs and swells of attention and distraction, the same peaks of reward processing at certain parts of the videos, and the same levels of boredom in response to others. The neural response patterns evoked amongst friends proved so similar (versus the patterns witnessed among people who were not friends) that over time, the researchers could predict the strength of two people’s social bond based on their brain scans alone.
“For those people pursuing a goal, life should be treated as a lab.”
Will Gompertz, Think Like an Artist
In the mid-to-late 19th century, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and many of the Impressionist painters of the day faced harsh opposition from the traditional art community in France. This did not stop them, however, from holding onto a vision and a set of beliefs that were independent of what was conventionally acceptable for the day. They did not wait for an endorsement, a degree, or a professional qualification to decide that color was as important of a subject matter as the subject itself. In doing so, they brought vibrant hues and ecstatic forms to canvases, creating one of the most important art movements of the 19th century. Their initiation was their life, their canvas their symphony—odes to the love they discovered in being, doing, experimenting, expressing, and evolving as artists.
As the new year begins, I think it is an important lesson for all of us. When we finally realize that life is an initiation, we see there are no victims—just students. There are no schools of ancient wisdom to attend and there’s no rush to go or be anywhere. Instead, life is our playground—an alchemical laboratory where we’re given free rein to tinker, toy, experiment, learn, and create.
If we’re not intentionally creating our life, however, we are victims to it, and as victims we react in very predictable ways. Being a victim means that someone or something in our external environment is controlling us, thus we believe we are powerless in changing how we act and react to those circumstances. Why does this occur? Because our brains have become neurological records of the past and our bodies emotionally and chemically conditioned to the past. Then we wind up wondering why our lives stay the same, when the truth of the matter is it’s because there’s an exact match between the biology of our inner world of thoughts and feelings and our outer world of reality.
When you start to view your life as a test or an initiation—when you stop thinking the same way, unconsciously demonstrating the same behaviors or habits, and emotionally reacting in the same manner to people, things, or circumstances, and instead hold on to a vision independent of the circumstances in your life—something interesting happens. As you do things you might not feel like doing, yet things that are consistent with your vision, your mindset begins to change and you no longer believe you are a victim with no choices. As a result, you meet the challenges of your life from a greater level of mind. Then all the sudden life starts to seem more like a game and less like a do-or-die situation in which we are helpless, hapless victims.
From Victim to Victor
So how do you create the internal states of mind and body that enable you to overcome the external conditions in your life? Clearly someone in history has faced problems or challenges similar to yours. This means either they or someone else has written about it. Your job is to study their life to discover what pieces of knowledge, philosophy, truth, information, and understanding these individuals uncovered to overcome themselves and the challenging circumstances in their lives. Then when you apply it to your situation—and thus make different choices, modify your behaviors, create new experiences, react and feel differently—you will see you can produce a different outcome. That’s how you meet your challenges with a greater level of mind. The more you learn through knowledge of what’s possible, and then initiate that information into action, the more you’ll master yourself and change your reality.
What you’re bound to discover is that the very act of moving in a new direction and making different choices will bring new things into your life. As you undertake this journey, keep your eyes open and stay alive to possibility—that unpredictable prompt that sends you in new directions and opens you up to novel ideas, learnings, people, and opportunities. It is in this process we are initiated into greater degrees of awareness, energy, love, gratitude, and wholeness. This is called evolution and it’s what we’re doing here on earth.
Eventually, with the awakened eyes your new level of mind provides you, you’re going to find a thread that connects events in your life, and you’ll see that everything you’ve done has fed into everything you’re doing. As you meet your life from this greater level of mind, you become more skilled at distinguishing between the elements that work for you and the ones you need to leave by the roadside. The side effect, of course, is a greater degree of self-love, and it’s this wholeness that brings us closer to our divine nature.
As we start the new year, face new challenges, and experience new dimensions of love and joy, remember that life is the initiation. We are here in this dimension because this is a staging ground to demonstrate what we believe to be true, and to prove to ourselves that we can evolve to greater degrees of wholeness. All of us have negotiated the very conditions in our personal lives, as well as our bodies and genetics, to create our best chances of spiritual evolution. We are here as souls on a plane of demonstration to demonstrate greatness—to demonstrate god-like qualities and to evolve. Once we embrace this concept as the truth, then it becomes less about getting things in our lives and more about who we’ve become.
There are no victims on this playground, just volunteers. So why not make 2017 your year to meet life with a new attitude and evolve from philosopher, to initiate, to master?
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*Project Coherence: On another note, it’s been scientifically proven and validated across 23 studies that peace gathering projects have been known to lower violence, terrorism, war, crime, car accidents, fires, and increase economic growth. That’s why I want to invite you to please join us live from Lake Garda, Italy next Sunday, January 15, 2017 for the first global meditation event of the year. Our focus is world peace.
Project Coherence is free and we hope to make scientific history by amassing a world-wide community of people with the intention of changing the world. Last year more than 45,000 people viewed Project Coherence, 38,000 more people than the previous event. We’re hoping to improve those numbers yet again. Here is the info:
Date: Sunday January 15th, 2017
Milan Time – 2:30pm
London time – 1:30pm
Eastern Standard Time (U.S.) – 8:30am
Pacific Standard Time (U.S.) – 5:30am
Sydney, (Australia) – January 16th 6:30am
**Finally, we will also be live streaming the opening session of the Advanced Workshop from Lake Garda, Italy on January 11th, 2017 from 7:30pm – 9:30pm Milan time.
It’s no great secret that thinking about motivation doesn’t actually produce motivation. This was recently illustrated in a study published in the journal Neuron. In the study, researchers placed 73 people into an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagery). Unlike older EEG technology (electroencephalography) used to detect electrical activity, fMRIs can actually pinpoint parts of the brain that are activated in specific tasks; in this case they focused on the ventral tegmental area—the part of the brain responsible for motivation.
People often tell me they can’t get clear on what they want. What I tell them is that they’re making it too hard. The process of creating a new vision of the future is something each of us does all the time. How? Because we live in a world of polarities and dualities, when we experience lack, stress, or traumatic situations, naturally we begin to dream about what we want based on what we don’t have. As an example, if you have a job you dislike, you observe what you don't like (past) about your current and previous jobs and imagine what you would like (future) in your next one. This is an evolutionary process and how people begin to change and evolve over time.
(To read Part I, A New Year and a New You: An Inspiring and Expiring View of Our Environments, click here.)
(To read Part II, Aligning Your Environments To Tomorrow’s You, click here.)
As fall surrenders to winter, if you're a certain degree of latitude north of the equator, you may be wearing a scarf or gloves and cinching your jacket a bit tighter. You may also notice a nostalgic chill accompanying the late December air. Combine that with decreased sunlight and multiply it by the holidays and family, and chances are you’re destined for a state of introspection.
In recent weeks a number of people have contacted my office with concerns about the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe. Millions have fled their homes in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These people are leaving behind countries torn apart by war and economic hardship in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere.
The question many ask is: what can I do? More than seven billion people live on Earth. This is an intimidating number, one that makes any attempt by an individual to solve a problem seem fruitless. After all, what happens if you do something to help? There’s no guarantee others will follow your lead and you may not know for sure if your efforts made a difference.
Let’s take a second to reframe this issue in the context of our own lives. Think about some problem in your life, maybe you’re falling behind on bills or maybe you’re having relationship issues. Whatever the concern, it can seem insurmountable. However, we know this isn’t true because we’ve seen people make incredible life changes by investing a little time and energy into themselves.
We know what it takes to create change in our lives. The process involves combining a clear intention with an elevated emotion. Through mental rehearsal we can populate a future outcome with such detail that our brain and body biologically look like it has already happened. If done properly, in this state we are more caring, grateful and selfless, which opens the door to possibility.
Coming back to the situation in Europe, what if we were able to harness that skill needed to produce individual change and apply it globally? Is this even possible? When it comes to the research the answer seems to be yes.
In 1993 a group of 2,000 practitioners of transcendental meditation took part in a unique two month study. Researchers wanted to see if this group could raise the level of coherent energy by focusing on peace and reduce the stress level in Washington DC and thus lower the rate of violent crime.