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5 Science-backed Steps to Getting Enlightened

5 #Science-backed Steps to Get #Enlightened

There are five broad steps to reaching enlightenment.

The above may be a bold statement, but there may be no one person more qualified to express it than Dr. Andrew Newburg. He is the director of research at Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and is considered one of the world's leading neuroresearchers.

Newburg studied thousands of descriptions of enlightenment experiences and hundreds of brain scans of people during prayer and meditation. From his studies, Newburg believes that each person and enlightenment experience is unique. Yet there is also a solid foundation of general commonalities. Observing the patterns, Newburg distilled a basic five-step approach to help people become enlightened.  

Step 1: The Desire to Change

The first step we usually talk about is the desire to make this kind of change in your life. The desire to have enlightenment. Now on one hand that may sound like a silly thing to say because why wouldn’t everybody want to have it? And to some degree that’s true. I mean if you went up to anybody on the street and say hey, would you like to have the most incredible experience you could ever have? Change your life, change the way you think about the world and you’re happy for the rest of your life. I think most people would say yeah sure, that sounds great. Sign me up. But the bottom line is that they are difficult experiences to get to. They’re certainly not impossible but they are difficult. And they are a little scary when you think about it because it’s rearranging the normal way you thought about the world up till now which for the most part has worked for you... So I think part of the whole process to start with is saying yes... I’d like to change.
Exercises to help prime the #brain for #enlightenment

Exercises to Help

Take out a piece of paper and just sit at the table or sit at your desk. Take a few deep breaths, get yourself into a nice relaxed state and what we suggest is that you write down a couple of reasons why you would like to have an enlightenment experience.

Another related exercise is to sit down and write down what you think enlightenment means to you. What is it that you are thinking about? What is it that you would ultimately like to achieve through this type of process?
5 Science-backed Steps to Getting #Enlightened

 Step 2: Preparing Your Body and Mind

The next step that we usually talk about is the idea of preparing for this experience. And what we mean by that is not only do you have to desire it but you have to start to get ready to do this kind of practice, do the kinds of practices you may need to do. Get yourself ready for this kind of an experience. Part of what we talk about in this context are relaxation techniques because as you start to go down this path sometimes it can be scary, sometimes there’s a lot of different issues that come up for a person. It can raise a lot of problems for the person. And so being prepared, being ready, thinking it through a little bit, trying to get yourself into a kind of mood that’s ready for this kind of an experience becomes very important, very helpful.
#Relaxation exercises can help you become #enlightened

EXERCISES TO HELP

Relaxation exercises - that can be as simple as just sitting there quietly and taking deep breaths over a period of several minutes to five minutes or so. There are many different kinds of mantra-based meditation practices where you can start to focus on a particular image or a phrase that you can say over and over again... Another very popular one is progressive muscle relaxation where you tense and then relax each of the muscle groups starting with the top of your head and your neck and your body and your arms, your legs and as you tighten them very intensely and then release them that starts to induce a greater and greater feeling of relaxation... Again each person has to kind of come up with the ones that work best for them, that they like, that they feel good with. And this is part of that process of what prepares them for the experience of enlightenment.
Finding a #ritual for #enlightenment

STEP 3: Finding a Ritual

Now the third step is really the critical one in many ways and the one that people really have to think about what makes it kind of most unique for them. And that has to do with a particular practice, rituals, the process itself that will lead them down that path. Now this is where it does become highly individualized because some people may like to do prayer and some people may like to walk around. Some people may take drugs. Some people may do transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain. There are many different approaches that people can take but trying to find the one or ones that work best for you that is that individualized approach that will help to lead you down that path most effectively. Sometimes you have to try different things.
Just let go and just be free #enlightenment

STEP 4: Surrender

The fourth step is ultimately this kind of feeling of letting it all go. This feeling of surrendering to the experience itself. To say that is simple. To actually let that happen in a profound way is not always the easiest thing for an individual.

Sometimes it has to be that you kind of keep challenging and revving and revving up the brain to such an extent that when you finally do say, ‘You know what? Okay, I’m just going to let this happen now.’ That’s what really just kind of pulls the rug out from under the whole process and that very sudden change in the way your brain goes through the whole process. That feeling of surrender radically changes the way your brain works at that particular moment. One of the areas of our brain that seems to be particularly involved in this whole process of the rituals and the feeling of surrender is our frontal lobe located behind the forehead. And what we found is that during practices like meditation or prayer that frontal lobe activity gets ramped up to a very, very high level. But then when you have this feeling of surrender it drops down to a very low level. In fact since the frontal lobe is involved in helping us do purposeful things when we ultimately give our purposefulness over to the process that frontal lobe activity starts to decrease very substantially. And part of what we’re determining here is that it’s not just being high and being low. It’s the difference itself. It’s the change from that peak to that very low level that really rearranges the way the brain works and sets up that very powerful experience. If you think about flying in an airplane when you’re on the ground you don’t feel very much and when you’re up in the air you don’t feel very much even though you’re going 400 or 500 miles an hour. But it’s the takeoff or the landing where you really feel the change occurring. And that’s kind of what’s going on in the brain.
It's not enough to just experience #enlightenment.

STEP 5: Reflection

The last step is really what we talk about as reflecting on what this experience is for you. And what that really means is that it’s not just enough to have the experience but how you then incorporate it back into your thought processes, your beliefs, your experiences in the world, the ways in which you think about the world. And being able to come back and reflect on that whether it’s just through thought processes or a practice like meditation this is a critical element because it’s what ultimately brings that experience into your life and makes it real for you and makes it something that changes the way you think about the world for the rest of your life.
The Effects of #Enlightenment

The Effects Enlightenment Had on People

The experience was overwhelmingly reported as positive.

Ninety-five percent of people basically had something causative to say about this experience. And it inundated almost every aspect of their life.

Those that have experienced enlightenment say their relationships have improved.

They said yes [Enlightenment] did [improve their relationships] because they felt more compassionate, more love, more open with the people that they were interacting with.
#Enlightenment gives you a greater sense of #meaning and #purpose

Enlightenment-experiencers felt a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

When we asked them about their sense of meaning and purpose in life they all said yes, we have more, a great sense of meaning and purpose in life. I know what I need to do. I know why we’re here. I understand it. I get it, you know. And now I know what I need to do in my life. And it puts their job in perspective. It puts all the things that they, you know, how they interact with their family in perspective. So those are changes that are very, very important.

People report feeling better, healthier after enlightenment.

They felt reductions in the stresses that they faced in their everyday life. They don’t think about stress the same way. They don’t think about all the things that they were worried about that stressed them out in the same way, you know. Obviously if you go down the path towards the Buddhist perspective of enlightenment the whole point of enlightenment is to end suffering. And to a large extent that’s borne out in the way people describe what these experiences do for them. It reduces their sense of distress, their sense of anxiety, their sense of depression. It helps to improve all of those issues that people deal with and even their physical health they felt better overall.
5 Science-backed Steps to Getting #Enlightened

After enlightenment, people no longer feared death the same way.

When we asked people about their fear of death people no longer feared death in the same way that we typically do.

Via Big Think

Mark Waldman recently co-authored How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain: The New Science of Transformation with Andrew Newburg. Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.


The above post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren, Founder of MindFullyAlive.

How to Improve Your Consciousness

How to Improve Your #Consciousness

The written content of the post was principally authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.


"Consciousness" is a term that is often thrown around in discussion. Yet there are dozens of definitions of what that word means. The most useful one for neuroscience researchers is this: our awareness of our inner experiences

This definition includes a method of self-transformation. If we tune into our inner experiences, we build our awareness. Building our awareness increases our consciousness.

To prime us for this method, we can first note qualities of our inner experiences.

How to Improve Your #Consciousness

Here are the 5 most common features of our inner experiences:

  1. Inner speech (the chatter that always goes on in your frontal lobes
  2. Inner seeing (visualizing objects – frontal and visual cortex)
  3. Feelings and emotions (midbrain areas
  4. Sensory awareness (body sensations, breathing, sounds, smells, etc.)
  5. Awareness of consciousness itself (unsymbolized thinking, a function that appears to be rather global!)

When we relax, we have a great opportunity to tune in to our inner experiences. (Read about one of our favorite methods to do this here)

The 3 most common inner experiences when in a relaxed resting state:

  1. Visualization (inner seeing)
  2. Inner speech
  3. Sensory awareness (to a lesser extent) 

We can deepen our awareness by recognizing and working with these inner experiences.

Different people can be more oriented toward one form of inner experience over another. Have trouble visualizing? Try listening to your inner voices and dialogues (inner speech), or just become more aware of your body’s sensations (sensory awareness). This approach to mindful self-awareness is one of the few proven ways that you can gain better control over your cognitive and emotional states. 

You also develop a more accurate perception of your inner state of being. The social awareness centers of the brain (insula and anterior cingulate) get stimulated by any form of contemplative meditation. 

The result: greater empathy, compassion, and inner peacefulness.

How to Improve Your #Consciousness

Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

The Neuroscience of Prejudice

Eliminating #Prejudice is Good For Your #Brain

Excerpted and adapted from Born to Believe by Newberg and Waldman:

Prejudice is rooted in human nature. The human brain has a propensity to reject any belief that is not in accord with its own view. The brain’s natural functioning is to divide objects, people, and ideals into groups. The brain will tend to express a preference for one and a dislike for the other. In other words, the brain is naturally biased to reject others who do not embrace our beliefs.

Unfortunately, such biases are not limited to politics and sports. We assign such preferences and dislikes to people from different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Hundreds of studies have confirmed the “in” group will always orchestrate scenarios—pass laws, distribute benefits, etc.—that are less than favorable for the “out” group.

This “us-versus-them” mentality exists even when the division is arbitrarily assigned. Systematic research by Henri Tajfel, showed that when individuals were randomly placed into different groups, they felt stronger about their own group  and tended to feel negatively about other groups, even when issues of religion, sexual identity, and culture were factored out.

Thus, simply being a part of a group results in feelings of ill will towards other groups. The human origins for such beliefs most likely evolved from the defensive and aggressive behaviors we see when different groups of animals compete for control over territory, food, and mates. Thus we are biologically prone to divide people into groups, to categorize and stereotype them, and then evaluate them in preferential and prejudicial ways.

Eliminating #Prejudice is Good For Your #Brain

The “us-versus-them” mentality can be easily converted into racism. This was dramatically demonstrated in a well-known experiment conducted by an elementary school teacher named Jane Elliott. One day, she told her students that blue-eyed children were smarter, nicer, and neater than those with brown eyes. She praised the blue-eyed children and gave them special privileges while ridiculing the others. Within hours, the blue-eyed children began to torment those with brown eyes. The next day, the teacher reversed the roles, praising the brown-eyed children and demeaning the others. In both situations, academic performance declined in the group that was being discriminated against.

This topic becomes more complicated when people try to associate racism, which is a hostile form of discrimination, with biological and genetic tendencies. Brain scan studies have shown that the amygdala—the neural part of our emotional system that registers fear—does react when we first observe a person from a different ethnic background. But we can develop the ability to temper hostile reactions. Thus, we can teach our children not to automatically reject others based upon their race, sex, or economic position. One technique that is used in schools to interrupt oppositional beliefs is called the jigsaw classroom experience: when children are placed in groups with other minorities, and given a project that requires everyone’s assistance, prejudices fall away, hostility fades, and group cooperation flourishes.

When faced with any belief that conflicts with our own, it takes additional effort and time to override these biologically-based cognitive biases. By doing so, we can become more open-minded to those with different beliefs. We can even reach a point where we realize that notions such as good and evil are largely arbitrary and relative to many conditions of which we are often unaware. History, of course, reminds us how hard it is to maintain open-minded beliefs.

Eliminating #Prejudice is Good For Your #Brain

NeuroTip: 

Eliminating bias is healthy for your brain, and most forms of spiritual practice and mindfulness will stimulate the circuits involved in empathy, compassion, and fairness. Try applying this lovingkindness meditation toward someone who currently irritates you or violates your moral beliefs: "May you be filled with love and peace."


Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.