Monday, January 18, 2016

Beliefs and Kundalini

"In meditation, we practice observing our thoughts, seeing them come, seeing them change, seeing them go. They are a phenomenon of the mind, empty of any permanence. We discover that we are not our thoughts. Our inner witness or observer gives testimony to this. In the same manner, we must practice observing our beliefs. They come, they change, they go. They also are a phenomenon of the mind, empty of permanence. In this manner, our inner witness can become an instrument of compassion, not of judgement, with those who do not share our particular beliefs."
 Mehru Danda ~ "Being Overly Identified With Our Beliefs"
Beliefs are like being slowly poisoned. You don't know it's happening until you're half dead, in this case brain dead.

Not all beliefs are harmful: believing that your dog has a spiritual connection with you harms no one. But believing that your religion is the one and only truth is largely the result of cultural indoctrination and social conditioning accompanied by harmful — sometimes even militant — overtones. But I'm not out to generalize; I'd rather look at my own case as honestly as possible — a survey of my beliefs over the decades, what I've done with them, how they influenced me, or not.

First, let's remove facts from the discussion; facts are not beliefs.
Beliefs are like hypotheses with emotional baggage. Instead of trying to validate a belief, like we would a hypothesis, we accept them for a variety of reasons, usually because of social or cultural pressures. When young, everyone is exposed to a variety of beliefs. If they take hold, they're hard to get rid of, even subsequently, when doubts surface. And when people construct political systems around beliefs they become doubly dangerous.
Beliefs are relative, not absolute. Relative, that is, to surrounding environmental factors. They are not an inherited byproduct. In other words, beliefs are not the result of heredity or some sort of ontological programming passed on through DNA. They are derivative.

Luckily, I was moved around so much as a child that I was mostly confused, rather than zealous or devout. Prejudice never took hold. As for religion, I admired some of the liturgy and literature of the Episcopal church, but the doctrines left me thinking: there must be something else — something that didn't involve an anthropomorphic being somewhere in the sky. Something more tangible. I didn't stop to think what it might be; that was way beyond my ken. How could there be something that bridged the seemingly unbridgeable gap between myself and some sort of God? As an entity, I felt limited. It didn't occur to me that religion had probably sprung up as a result of man's feeling just that way — small and insignificant.

Well, after many hardships I found the bridge. I won't go into the details; my books do that. They're all about my discovery and practice of kundalini meditation, which is not a belief system but a physical-to-metaphysical transformation process, one that involves the body as much as it does the spirit.

I should like, however, to point out that kundalini reinforced my inherent skepticism. It reengineered my mental essence so I would question everything I saw, heard, or felt. Does it do this to every person it touches? From what I've observed, the answer is no. Some people are so dependent on set beliefs that they keep replacing outmoded or debunked beliefs with new ones in spite of the fact that they have already discarded many sets. Is this harmful? Unless what they believe in concerns violent political or religious opinions, I can't say for sure. I just wonder why kundalini was able to wipe my psyche clean while other kundalini adepts still adhere to beliefs that are, at best, unproven hypotheses.

If kundalini can't consistently expunge unverifiable beliefs, what can? Once again, science comes to the rescue.
New research involving a psychologist from the University of York has revealed for the first time that both belief in God and prejudice towards immigrants can be reduced by directing magnetic energy into the brain.

Dr. Keise Izuma collaborated with a team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to carry out an innovative experiment using transcranial magnetic stimulation, a safe way of temporarily shutting down specific regions of the brain.

The researchers targeted the posterior medial frontal cortex, a part of the brain located near the surface and roughly a few inches up from the forehead that is associated with detecting problems and triggering responses that address them. In the study, half of the participants received a low-level "sham" procedure that did not affect their brains, and half received enough energy to lower activity in the target brain area. Next, all of the participants were first asked to think about death, and then were asked questions about their religious beliefs and their feelings about immigrants.
~ Belief in God and prejudice reduced by directing magnetic energy into the brain 
What these experiments mean to me, a layman, is that there are regions of the brain that store beliefs and certain types of energy directed at those regions may affect the severity or degree of one's attachment to said beliefs.

Of course, some people are already saying this kind of experiment is dangerous because scientists might also be able to replace one belief system with another. Nevertheless, it appears to be one more indication that beliefs are relative, not absolute.

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