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Is the Brain the Source of Consciousness?

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Q: Am I not just the brain? Is the brain not the source of consciousness and awareness? If not, how can we know this? But if we are the brain, then we are mortal, we will die, and we are not an Eternal Self. Is the experience of awareness simply another state of brain activity?

A: These are very thoughtful questions, and yet they are based on a faulty assumption that is also at the core of most scientific reasoning. Once that faulty assumption is accepted, the logic that proceeds from it is faulty. It’s like leaving on a trip and believing you are starting in Kansas when you really are in Montana. When the initial assumption is so mistaken, there’s little chance you will arrive at your intended destination even if your navigation skills are very good.

The mistaken assumption is the idea that things are separate. If things are separate from one another, then your questions about the brain are very relevant. The brain is a truly amazing expression of this thing called awareness, or consciousness. So it is natural we’ve come to assume that the brain is the source of the consciousness that we observe operating through the brain and, really, through the whole body, since the nervous and endocrine systems actually use the entire organism to think and perceive. But what if this assumption of separateness is mistaken? What would that mean about the body/brain organism and its functioning if it isn’t separate from anything else? What if there is really just one thing here? Then what would be the source of the awareness?

Just as scientists can no longer think about the brain and its functioning as separate from the body because thoughts are actually happening in the entire body, we can’t accurately consider thought as something that happens in one body. Every movement of consciousness that we recognize as thought or awareness is happening in the entire field of awareness that our bodies and brains appear in.

I read recently about an experiment based on the unique brain wave patterns one observes when a bright light is directed into just one eye. Scientists chose two complete strangers and introduced them to each other for a short conversation, then separated them into two rooms that were electrically shielded from each other. Scientists found that if they directed a bright light into one person’s eye, the person in the other room would exhibit the same brain wave activity as the one whose eye was being illuminated.

While this seems impossible if we believe that the brain is a separate object, existing apart from all other objects, this result becomes quite possible (although no less amazing) if we assume that the two brains in this experiment are part of one thing called consciousness and if this miracle we call awareness is actually arising in the space, or field, where the two brains are both appearing.

The idea that objects (including brains) are separate and unconnected explains much of what we observe, but it doesn’t explain the results of that experiment or many other aspects of our experience, including insights, intuitions, psychic abilities, and mystical experiences.

In contrast, the idea that one consciousness is expressing through every brain and every thing doesn’t contradict any of our experiences, including those that seem to suggest that we are separate beings. For example, your left hand can be scratching your ear while your right hand is writing a letter without contradicting the underlying reality that your hands are both part of one being. And so, your brain can be discussing something with or even arguing with my brain, even if we are ultimately one thing.

So the idea that everything is one thing fits with and explains more of our experience than the idea that we are separate entities. This suggests that the idea that everything is one is a truer idea than the idea that everything is separate.

Manifesting, Desire and Happiness

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Q: Being in the now is a tool to stop thoughts and come in contact with the inner being and higher self. I have been there but find that something is missing in that reality. I have been studying thoughts, feelings, and emotions and what creates in the universe for some time.

"Give up the ‘me’ and all thoughts about ‘me’ and just be here, without your stories, beliefs, opinions, judgments, dreams, fantasies, memories, self-images, and feeling and just experience. You are that which experiences this life."

I agree with most of this... but just simply being in the now without any desire at all doesn’t bring anything into creation. We are creating our reality, and to create anything you have to see it, feel it, and be it.

A: You are correct in discovering that the pointing to the inner truth is also just part of the truth. My sense is that spiritual teachers tend to emphasize the part of the truth that is being overlooked, and so in most cases we point to our true nature, since people generally already have a lot of contact with their desires and feelings.

Desires and feelings are as natural as flowers and grass. They arise naturally out of the exuberant joy and fullness of our Being, and they can be a part of how Being creates. The one thing I might add is that fulfilling a desire by manifesting something doesn’t really make us happy. It is just that when we successfully manifest something, for a moment our desire subsides, and the inner joy behind desire itself rises to the surface. This is a subtle distinction, but it can be freeing to discover that desire and happiness both flow from the same source. Both are expressions of our essential joy. Seeing this can actually free you to desire even more, because it is equally rich to want something as to get it! And yet you can also hold all of your desires lightly, because what matters more is the source of the desire, not the object.

Passion for the Truth

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Someone else wrote the following:

What to do about this impatience to wake up now. Everytime there is a sense that all is just happening, all just is... there is this ownership that immediately overlays it and this intellectualizing starts. " Oh now I get it. Its blah blah blah blah blah" There is still a residual hope/thought that I will get enlightened and enjoy the wonderful experience. What to do? (I'm guessing nothing, just be with the noticing of the alive presence that is there, and wait for grace... OK....I'm not supposed to wait for something to happen... its already what it is).

And here is my response:

I would simply suggest that you apply all the energy of your impatience and hope and passion to awaken to the experience you are having right now. If the mind is jumping in and taking ownership, then give this passionate curiosity to the experience of the mind. How do you know what you are thinking? What is thought really? When we "own" an understanding that arises, what is that like? Can you really "own" a thought, or do they all dissolve--even the most enlightened thoughts?

When you are just being with the experience, then notice what that is like. How do you know that you are just being with something? What is the quality of that dimension of experience? How does it compare to the moments when you are efforting or hoping? And what about the moments when you are efforting to just be?

There are no right answers to any of these questions, and in fact your experience of them will naturally be different every time you ask them. You may not be able to do anything to satisfy your passion to awaken, but you can still express all of that passion to awaken in this exploration of your moment to moment experience. The point isn't where the exploration takes you, but the joy of the exploration itself. All of the joy and wonder and beauty of your true nature is right here in your impatience and passion and frustration. What a great place to "hide" it!

We can never mentally capture or own our true nature, but we can freely express it when it moves so strongly within us as a deep love for the Truth.