By now you’ve probably noticed that Thom and I like to do as much traveling as possible during the heat of our intense summers here in the desert. However, even though the majority of our travel is to both scenic and temperate locations, this last week we traveled homeward to attend a conference. That’s because even though we love to travel, oftentimes travel and exploration of the furthest frontiers of inner-space can be the most stimulating of all. As Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” And I happen to believe that the only way to get those “new eyes” is to stay curious, open and search out and discover new ideas.
The conference we attended was the 15th International IONS Conference held in Indian Wells, CA. IONS stands for Institute of Noetic Sciences now celebrating their 40th year. IONS was originally founded by U.S. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to ever walk on the moon. Mitchell was so transformed by his experience of that voyage that he returned and founded IONS. Thom and I joined IONS in the late 1990s after hearing its mission to blend cutting-edge science with consciousness, spirituality and transformation. This, our sixth IONS Conference was just like every previous experience—we are no longer the same people now that it’s over. Or, as Oliver Wendell Holmes says, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
One of the new insights that we explored was the story of author Dr. Eben Alexander who shared his near death experience as told in his book, Proof of Heaven. As a longtime neurosurgeon at Harvard and a self-proclaimed atheist, Alexander is now convinced beyond any doubt that life is eternal and that some form of “heaven” exists. Several more radical ideas came from author and doctor Manjir Samata-Laughton who explores what she calls “Punk Science.” Punk Science is a rebellious exploration of dogmatic scientific theories that many of us take for granted like the Big Bang, Black Holes, the Speed of Light and the nature of the Universe.
Another standout was Dr. Bruce Lipton who after leaving Stanford University as teacher and research scientist in 1982, stepped out and started doing avant-garde exploration of cell and gene biology. That study has led him to new revelations in what is now called epigenetics. Not only does he believe that consciousness and our beliefs can change the cells of our bodies, he now demonstrates how those factors can also alter the way our genes (DNA) are expressed thereby influencing our health. Put bluntly, he doesn’t believe we are slaves to our genes. Meanwhile, IONS Senior Scientist Dean Radin, Ph.D., explained current research (some done at IONS) verifying that such anomalies as precognition, telepathy and even telekinesis are real human potentials as described by the ancient Yoga Sutras. Remember, these are rigorous scientific studies using scientific method—not antidotes or opinion.
Of course not all of the speakers focused specifically on science alone. The new CEO Cassandra Vieten, PhD and co-teacher Richard Miller, Ph.D. spoke about the mindfulness of nondual reality. And while that might sound very woo-woo, the practical application of such awareness is being taught to members of the U.S. military by Dr. Miller as well as Veterans and the homeless suffering from PTSD in order to reduce stress and increase wellbeing. In addition, Master Mington Gu and founder of The Chi Center shared how he believes that the ancient teachings of Wisdom Healing Qigong and science are complementary to consciousness and an evolving Universe.
Plus, there were a number of musicians including hip-hop artist, def-poet, J Ivy who talked about the expression of poetry and writing as a path to greater awareness and connection. The passionate words to his poem, “I must write” was both encouragement and inspiration for anyone who spends time putting words to paper. There was also drumming, Native American flute playing, and chanting by West African Diaspora Luisah Teish.
One of the most inspiring aspects of each and every IONS Conference is the Temple Award for Creative Altruism. This annual award is given to outstanding altruists whose lives and work embody the inspirational light of unselfish service. The 2013 award winner is a young man named Evan Strong. An up-and-coming world-class skateboarder, he lost a large portion of one leg at age 17 in a deadly motorcycle accident. After a remarkable recovery, Evan started competing in Challenged Athletes Foundation events, and has dedicated his life to working with and mentoring other amputees. Evan is now, as he says, “more able than ever before,” traveling around the world competing as an exceptional snowboard and skateboard athlete and training for the 2014 Winter Olympics. His story of recognizing how he is so much more than his disability, his deep connection to Source due to his meditation practice, and his insistence that his accident increased the quality of his life, all make for an amazing, encouraging and touching story.
Obviously, I am only giving you tiny pieces of some of the ideas and experiences we were exposed to at this conference. You can be fairly certain you’ll be hearing more about some of these amazing people in future blog posts. But what I really hoped to communicate is some of the excitement, pleasure and stimulation that can come from hearing intriguing new ideas in a new way. Like I said, I love to travel but this type of “travel” can be done by us all, and in many ways is easier to do by those wanting to live a simple or minimal lifestyle.
In case you’ve forgotten, estimates say that people think 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day and that most of us think the same 55,000 thoughts day after day after day. To make matters worse, most of the time the remaining 10,000 thoughts are extremely similar to the other 55,000—and then we wonder why our lives seem to roll one day into the next with routine and monotony. Just like fresh food and water, we need new ideas to increase the synapses’ in our brains if we want to keep thinking creatively and clearly far into the future. In other words, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Unfortunately, we all know a few people who haven’t thought about something new, or used their mind on a new thought, in years. As John Medina, author of the book Brain Rules says, “The greatest brain rule of all is…the importance of curiosity.” Our challenge then, is to be open and willing to hear and possibly explore ideas that push our buttons or are beyond anything we ever thought before.
Besides keeping your thinking healthy far into the future I’m convinced that anyone who remains curious and open to new ideas is not only the most healthy and happy, they also have the best relationships with other people. Think about it, who do you want to spend time with? People who talk endlessly about the same subject over and over no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen them? Or do you look forward to spending time with those with endless curiosity and who always have stories to tell about their new discoveries?
Medina also says that “We are designed to never stop learning and exploring.” You might not be interested in attending the same kind of conferences that interest me—but do find some topic or exploration you find intriguing and follow where it leads. As Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” In fact, inner space might be the most amazing frontier we could ever explore.
For more information about IONS go to: http://noetic.org/