This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend "Sages and Scientists: The Merging of a New Future" Symposium 2010 at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA. The event proved to inspire, humble, and if I'm honest, even overwhelm me with implications for our future. Consider this my highlight reel, the key concepts that I, as a dietitian, environmentally concerned citizen and science-enthusiast, found most compelling.
I wasn't sure what to expect from a session titled "Eternal Life" but it surely did wow me. Dr. Larry Dossey's presentation offered "a panoramic insight into the nature and future of medicine." However, I found his insights to actually be very focused and instructive to any healthcare practitioner. Mixing scientific studies with anecdotal information, Dossey addressed the concept of premonitions. "Could premonitions be considered preventive medicine?" He notes that people have reported dreams of future health issues which motivated them to change their behavior -- something, incidentally, that I too have heard from patients. He cites the Hawaiian study which clearly showed how empathy, compassion, and unconditional love play a definable role in healing. Dossey's words leave me wondering: as we learn about epigenetics ('epi' means 'beyond'), do practices such as meditation, radical forgiveness, and journaling offer us the means to turn off (or not activate) genes for certain diseases and syndromes just like choosing to eat organic foods limits our exposure to toxins which can activate these same genes? I can't wait to read his book The Power of Premonitions.
Jim Tucker, M.D. showed us photos matched with reports of statements about past lives, which further challenged me to think of reincarnation as real and validated. What if children today actually do house the spirits of people who died near the time of their birth? So suggests the photos and reports he and his colleagues collected. Hmmmm, really? asked my science brain. For me, I've come 140 degrees on reincarnation in the last few years, but is this enough to take me to 180? Ten years ago when I first saw an evolutionary astrologist (www.kristinfontana.com), I started off saying to her, "I'm sold on astrology because I understand everything from the macro level of the universe to the micro level of the cells is dynamic and thus the movement of the universe must inspire different changes in each of us. However, don't start in on that past life stuff or I'm out of here!"
Since then, my own spiritual practice, personal and professional experiences have opened me to the idea that perhaps our spirit does choose our next body as a means to fulfill certain growth needs. When I heard Jim talk about validated cases of kids born with birth marks that matched the insults to their potential "prior body," I felt more certainty come forth. It was so compelling to see the large scalp (ear to ear) birth mark of a child born who communicated substantiated personal details about "who she was" including that she had "died" after having brain surgery -- leaving the same scar as her birth mark. Or what about the child who claims he was a pilot in World War II and is able to provide information (including names) about his friend that flew with him? This wasn't a relative, nor was the story one from his town or that his parents knew of at all. So what does one do if we believe in reincarnation -- even a little bit? It has me thinking that we pay attention to the stories of our children, and that we spend time with those that we can who may be dying "before their time," to help them express themselves fully, so they leave feeling more resolved.
And what of water? An entire session was dedicated to water -- not as we know it today, but as we've never known it. From Dr Rustum Roy, I learned that water may provide us the best example of polymorphism in a liquid. And as such we can understand that the type of water we consume may readily affect our health -- physical and spiritual. Dr Juliana Brooks Mortenson reminded me that I need to go back to my physics books and study up on energy, but she also explained the extremely powerful concept of resonant energy. That concept may hold the key to fuel issues in the near future, to the growth of plants and animals in the absence of pesticides and hormones, and to reducing climate issues, as resonant energy may outperform thermal energy or make it irrelevant (if I understood her lecture correctly).
And finally, one of my favorite pieces of knowledge from the event was not told to me but rather experienced. Dr Marilyn Schlitz had us point our finger to the sky and rotate it clockwise, bring our finger down to the front of our heart and look at it -- counterclockwise. What happened here? One's perspective changed. Thus, she taught, whether we look at water, or interpret science, as we learn about new concepts, we need to open ourselves to the possibility that our perspective needs to change. And, as Schlitz supported with science, this will be a struggle for all -- for scientists and sages alike -- as studies of the brain have shown that when we "know" something and it's presented to us our brains light up in the learning section. But it is the "warning" section that lights up when we get new information that contradicts that piece of information. Indeed, our first response to new information may be to "warn" ourselves about that information. Schlitz's tips to overcome this: 1) recognize that we have biases/assumptions, 2) work to cultivate healthy skepticism (even as we "prove" our own theories), 3) recognize that consciousness "matters," but that it isn't "matter."
And finally, on my highlight list, all things Dean Ornish, M.D. Whether it was the simple notion: pointing out the 'I' in "illness' and the "We" in "wellness," or the how to translate what we know (smoking is bad for us) to messages that will actually create behavior change (how about a Marlboro ad with a cowboy who has a dangling cigarette coming from his mouth and the word 'IMPOTENT' above his head). Yes we might care if smoking dirties our lungs but would the risk of impotence cause men -- young to older -- to kick the habit for the sake of their sex lives and wanting to father children? And further, what about focusing on "what to include" as opposed to exclude from a dietary standpoint? The idea that foods, beverages, meditation and exercise can actually grown brain cells -- now there's a new twist on how to eat right for healthy aging.
There are so many more things I heard that I have yet to digest into understandable, actionable concepts but that too was, I suppose, the purpose of Sages and Scientists: to keep our full beings alive we need to be stimulated to think, rethink, and of course, stop thinking and take time to let the air we breathe, the water we drink energize us fully.