An insider exploration of Yoga and Nonduality, and the intersection of spirituality and experiences labeled psychosis or prodromal. Mental health integrates evidence from all disciplines and does not ignore inconvenient truth. Look within and find the direct path to your own truth.
I have really appreciated the MIT trained cognitive psychologist and University of California professor Donald Hoffman since hearing him speak a couple of times at conferences. I recently read a book review and interview with him in Psychology Today available here.
The article discusses how Hoffman helped develop a mathematical argument that our perceptions most likely do not reflect reality.
He expresses how in a sense all we see is a hallucination, generated by our mind, that does not resemble reality. It may be useful like icons to click on the computer screen, but reality is something much different in the hardware and processes behind it.
He came to the perspective exploring mathematical models for perception about 8 years before I started seeing reality in this way as well. I was in a sensation and perception class at the time digesting these concepts along with integrating the information with what I had recently learned in organic chemistry about the building blocks of physical matter. Mind blowing!
I returned to the Science and Nonduality Conference last weekend to continue to learn different language and concepts being applied to the nondual experience. It was a good mix of scientists, spiritual teachers, and students exploring the new paradigm understanding of what it means to be human. A welcome relief from the conservative mental health system I am studying in graduate school that still operates on 19th century science and neglects to include quantum physics, cognitive psychology insights regarding perception, and much other data that indicate the idea consciousness is a product of neurons is not a sustainable concept. The integrated understanding is that consciousness comes first before neurons.
Nondual teacher Francis Lucille at the conference indicated it was just semantics and that God, Consciousness, and Reality are equivalent terms. It is very clear from my personal experience and many at the conference concur that there is no physical objective reality independent of conscious observers and their beliefs.
On another note, I attended a meeting of the Association for Spiritual Integrity at the conference. There is growing consensus that spiritual awakening and psychological health are two independent areas of human development. Spiritual awakening does not heal psychological concerns, though it often offers a temporary escape sometimes called spiritual bypassing. It is a mistake to believe that an awakened nondual or yoga teacher will not be abusive and use the teacher position for sex, power, or inappropriate sums of money.
Later in the conference Mariana Caplan who worked as a psychotherapist and consultant with individuals, teachers, and communities after scandals had some good suggestions for students. First was that doing at least a year of psychological and trauma work with a body centered approach can offer some protection from getting taken advantage of by a teacher. Another suggestion because most sexual abuses are by male teachers is that female students on the spiritual path with a male teacher should be prepared for how they will respond to a come on.
I was graced with the opportunity to attend a three-day Hearing Voices Network Facilitators’ Training this month conducted by Western Mass Recovery Learning Community trainers. Within the Hearing Voices Network all possible explanations for experiences that would typically be labeled psychosis in a clinical setting are welcomed and allowed along with the additional perspective that the experiences are just a normal variation of human experience. It was stated that one in 10 people hear voices at some point in life and two thirds of them never seek psychiatric services. The Hearing Voices Network is composed of self-help groups throughout the world where people come together to talk about their voices, visions, and unusual experiences in a non-clinical environment with no assumption of an underlying illness to their experiences and no requirement to have any exposure to the mental health system to attend groups. Each individual is allowed the freedom to interpret their experiences in any way and the group accepts that voices and visions are real experiences. The Hearing Voices Network can be considered a civil rights movement that started when a patient confronted the psychiatrist Marius Romme in the 1980’s about limitations of the psychiatric care being provided. Regarding psychiatry’s attempts to stop voices with treatment, Romme eventually compared “eradicating people’s voices to forcing homosexuals to become heterosexual” (Sapey & Bullimore, 2013, p. 4). The groups started in the United Kingdom and are in at least 32 countries around the world now. In the United States there are at least 94 registered groups. The State of Maine Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services has been funding trainings to facilitate the growth of Hearing Voices Network groups. Though not all Maine groups are listed yet, http://www.hearingvoicesusa.org/ does have a listing of some Maine groups including one in Portland. There are additional meetings in Maine forming at peer drop in centers.
Sapey, B., & Bullimore, P. (2013). Listening to voice hearers. Journal of Social Work,
I am now back at the Science and Nonduality Conference. Last year at the conference, I was blown away in tears to listen to a scientist come as close as I have found to how I experience the nature of human existence.
I believe that many who get labeled psychotic have at least begun to experience some of the implications of time not existing separate from an observer and the complete referential nature of everything that can be experienced when the illusion of separateness is pierced.
In time I hope those once in the position of giving the psychotic label for experience will become able to integrate the information from the different sciences enough to instead give some scientific validation for the same experience.
Robert Lanza made a valiant effort last year at the conference in this talk to light the path.
In a 2013 United Nations report on “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” it was stated that:
“…medical treatments of an intrusive and irreversible nature, when lacking a therapeutic purpose or when aimed at correcting or alleviating a disability, may constitute torture or ill treatment when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned.”
Saddened by the increase in forced treatment in America, I submitted a related abbreviated personal story to Mad In America: