Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness by Eben Alexander and Karen Newell, describes an emerging paradigm — indeed a cosmology! — that places consciousness at the heart of reality. Our culture is moving farther and farther away from the old materialism that claims that there is nothing but matter, without any possibility of spiritual realities, and into a new science of consciousness.
Eben’s journey exploded into popular consciousness through his bestselling book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, which describes a profound near death experience after his brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. Despite the medical fact that the parts of his brain which control thought, emotion, and makes us human, were completely shut down, Eben experienced an otherworldly and mystical journey of spiritual realization. While his body remained in a coma, Eben’s consciousness was guided by an angelic being to meet “the Divine source of the universe itself.” This experience—and his miraculous and complete recovery—challenged Eben’s secular worldview as a neuroscientist. He was forced to consider the non-material origins of consciousness, the soul, and reality.
Living in a Mindful Universe takes the lessons learned during, and after, Eben’s profound NDE (Near-Death Experience) to both introduce and guide readers into a new spiritual paradigm. It is part guidebook, part spiritual way-station, sharing heart opening stories from Eben, Karen, and many others along way, while passing on powerful techniques and spiritual practices that have furthered their own spiritual evolution. It will hopefully be of help to yours.
Of particular interest to Eben, naturally, was how to reconnect with the spiritual realities he encountered during his coma. This book is a spiritual odyssey we can all relate to in our search for methods and practices that link us back to the divine life in ourselves.
This all starts, you might say, with the realization that we are living in a mindful universe!
I spoke with Eben and Karen about their wonderful new book in the hope that they could answer some of the most pressing questions I had about the nature of consciousness and reality.
“Challenges Are the Engines of Our Soul Growth” – An Interview with Eben Alexander and Karen Newell
Thank you both for such a profound read! In your book, you described the “higher soul” or “higher self” as the eternal part of ourselves that chooses to incarnate to work through challenges and spiritually evolve. I think many readers, myself included, resonate with this deeply. How do we connect with our higher soul and learn to listen to its wisdom?
To connect with our higher soul we need to minimize any constant distracting thoughts (which are not our consciousness) through some sort of meditative practice. Identifying the observer behind those thoughts, conscious awareness itself, is a necessary first step in gaining awareness of the expanded part of us beyond the physical body. This observer is calm and neutral, it is the part of you that notices your thoughts. By practicing a neutral state with no judgment from this perspective, we become more open to connecting with information and knowledge beyond the here and now. Some people find guided hypnosis to be useful, but with enough practice, the universal source of wisdom is available to us all at any time we wish through a practice of going within.
Why is heart consciousness so important?
The torus-shaped electromagnetic field of the heart expands and contracts depending on our thoughts and emotions. Studies show that one’s heart energy can affect the brain and heart fields of people around them. This field constantly moves and gathers information from the surrounding environment – the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Moving awareness to the heart takes us out of the linguistic brain and away from distracting thoughts. Opening awareness to our hearts’ consciousness allows for greater intuitive understanding of our place in the world. Ultimately, the heart is where we can access unconditional love. Starting with generating a feeling of gratitude in the heart, we are able to tap into that love. By intending for that love to grow from within, we actually become the love and it naturally radiates to others around us. Maintaining beneficial thoughts and emotions becomes a beautiful expression of the golden rule – treat others as you would treat yourself. Knowing of this powerful ability we all inherently share, it is imperative for each of us to become more heart conscious.
In the chapter, “Riding the Wave of Consciousness,” you describe a fascinating series of inward journeys amplified through meditation technologies that Karen Newell and her friend and colleague Kevin Kossi, pioneered (available from Sacred Acoustics). These technologies use differential-frequency sound as their focal point—especially binaural beats—to induce detailed, sometimes even shared visionary and heart-opening, revelatory experiences.
How can sound be used as a powerful tool for meditation?
Sounds such as chanting, crystal bowls, didgeridoo, conch shells, tuning forks and gongs have been used for millennia as tools for meditation and healing. With modern technology, we are able to create harmonically precise frequencies to achieve specific results. The sounds created by Sacred Acoustics offer support for lessening the distracting thoughts in the brain by affecting the lower brain stem, the most primitive part of the brain, to liberate conscious awareness at a primordial level in the generation of consciousness. By feeding delta, theta and alpha signals to the brain, it becomes easier to achieve meditative states than with silence alone. These sound recordings often induce a hypnagogic state, during which the physical body is profoundly relaxed while the listener’s awareness is alert and attentive. Everyone is unique but results from listening include enhanced intuition, creative inspiration, a calmer mind, emotional release, connecting with departed loved ones, improved health and more.
Can you explain what you mean when you write, “it’s all about consciousness – literally, truly, all of it”?
Conventional materialist science theorizes that the physical is all that exists and consciousness arises from it (i.e., brain creates mind), but this is not a proven fact, it is an assumption. Increasingly refined experiments in quantum physics insist that there is no objective physical reality independent of the mind of the observer, but that all of what any human experiences is a direct result of their interactions with the universe as a sentient being. No human being has ever known anything other than the inside of his or her own consciousness. The mind-body debate can be described as a linear spectrum with materialism at one pole. Various theories of dualism, where the mind and brain can be thought of as existing separately but somehow interacting, take us further along the spectrum towards the other pole of Metaphysical Idealism. This theory is the opposite of materialism – consciousness is fundamental and all of physical matter arises from it. We argue that this position best explains a wide variety of human experiences of non-local consciousness, and contributes towards deeper understanding of the measurement paradox in quantum physics, one of the deepest mysteries of the most proven theory in the history of science. A world view where consciousness is fundamental brings much more meaning and purpose to our lives. As each of us expands our awareness of individual consciousness, we realize firsthand the vital roles we contribute to the whole.
Your book describes a number of stories where individuals contacted deceased loved ones through deep meditative journeys and other intuitive states. What aspect of ourselves survives bodily death? How does this change the way we choose to live?
Based on the reports of countless near-death experiencers, past life memories in children best explained through reincarnation, and convincing mediumship research, our conscious awareness and some part of our personality seems to survive the death of the physical body. The research of past life memories in children indicates that we return to a physical body in cycles through reincarnation. Each lifetime is an opportunity to create new experiences in order to learn important lessons. Knowing that each life is but a part of a larger existence creates a need to understand what purpose we came here to achieve. A meditative practice that connects us to our higher soul allows for greater understanding of a much broader picture. How we choose to react in different situations is greatly influenced by the concept that our soul is eternal. We must learn to resolve certain lessons in a given lifetime in order to succeed and move on to greater lessons.
In a few words, what is your “consciousness elevator” pitch? What’s your big picture?
The evolution of consciousness itself is the purpose of our existence. As we come to “know ourselves” as individuals, the larger Collective Mind continues to learn and grow. The deepest lessons concerning the metaphysics of reality and the most fundamental aspects of the mind-brain relationship support the notion of a mental universe, i.e. that the major causal forces in human lives originate in a top-down fashion, originating from the highest intelligence of the universe. Our conventional scientific view of a bottom-up view of causality (i.e. that the principles underlying the interactions of subatomic particles, atoms and molecules ultimately define the events in human lives), with its inherent meaninglessness and irrelevance to our human existence, is false. We must recognize our role in influencing our unfolding reality and learn how to effectively manage it.
More and more people are coming to connect with a higher spiritual reality, but in our troubled times, staying connected can be difficult. What can we do to navigate the planetary crisis and view our collective challenges from the point-of-view of our higher soul?
Challenges and difficulties are the engines of our soul growth. Looking back at one’s life, we often see where certain hardships (such as addiction, loss of a loved one, disease, financial issues, etc.) provided a setting for profound growth and understanding. Together, we are facing what might be labeled a “collective gift of desperation,” similar to the challenges faced by those suffering from addiction or alcoholism. It is through recovering a love and respect for ourselves and each other, realizing the oneness of our connection with all life and the entire universe, that we can grow into a much richer and more complete view of ourselves and our purpose in existing. We are all in this together, learning and teaching as we grow – no soul left behind!
Thank you, Eben and Karen.