Interview with Dr. Norman Rosenthal
At a time when people everywhere are embracing yoga, meditation and self-development, Dr. Norman Rosenthal's new book, "Super Mind," comes as a welcome guide--not only for the seeker but anyone wishing to achieve peak performance. Dr. Rosenthal, a former 20-year senior researcher at the National Institutes of Health, professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and acclaimed author, may be the most highly credentialed scientist of our time to elucidate higher stages of human development. The study of consciousness and its true nature--once taboo in psychiatric training--is now wide open for scientific exploration, and Dr. Rosenthal is a leading pioneer.
Drawing on a survey of over 600 people, he identifies primary characteristics of heightened awareness that develop through meditation, and maps the growth of human consciousness--how people begin to feel an inner silence during daily activities, greater resilience to stress, increased empathy and compassion, sharper sensory perception and sustained inner happiness. "Super Mind" is both a window into the future of consciousness research and a companion for the evolving meditator.
What led you to the discovery of the Super Mind?
I would hesitate to say I "discovered" the Super Mind, except in the sense that we "discover" things for ourselves all the time--a shortcut, a new restaurant, a better way to treat an ache or pain. And so it was that I discovered the Super Mind in my patients and myself as we continued to practice Transcendental Meditation over time--distinct changes in consciousness that were accompanied by benefits in daily life.
Does Super Mind relate to being super human?
No, I believe we are all just human. Developing a Super Mind means not only expanding consciousness, but also developing one's creativity, effectiveness, and joy in living to a higher level.
You say that people who are "super performers" display characteristics of Super Mind. What are these qualities?
Super performers realize what's most important to them, and focus on accomplishing that. One benefit I've noticed in my practice of TM, and in other's who practice it, is that TM helps you prioritize activities. Often you will sit down to meditate with your mind cluttered, and emerge with a sense of clarity and purpose--things somehow seem to sort themselves out during meditation. Resilience, more skillful dealings and greater creativity--all gifts of the Super Mind--are all important to super performers as indeed they are to us all.
Can Super Mind help a person create wealth?
When I asked one highly successful wealth manager this question, he responded that the Super Mind can help you do anything better--so acquiring wealth is just one such thing. Besides the traits mentioned above, all of which could be conducive to becoming rich, the Super Mind involves learning to listen more carefully and thoughtfully and to inhibit impulsive decisions, which can be very costly--further traits that benefit someone who wants to become rich.
Are there records of people attaining Super Mind throughout history, or do you see this as the next natural stage of human evolution?
There is a wonderful book by Craig Pearson called "The Supreme Awakening," which details people who throughout the ages demonstrated signs of advanced consciousness. I see the development of consciousness--if it occurs on a large scale--as an important stage in the world becoming a safer and more collaborative place.
Why do you recommend meditation as a passageway to Super Mind?
Simply because meditation is the one way that I have discovered both for myself and my patients that leads you to the Super Mind. Regular TM practice has been found to create a unique neurophysiological state where the mind becomes more alert and the body is deeply relaxed. This style of functioning carries over into the day and can change the way we view the world and handle challenges. Meditation can allow access to our inner reserves of intelligence, creativity and energy.
Is there one key experience--such as what you call "transcendence"--that unlocks Super Mind?
In general, people attain the Super Mind through a series of almost imperceptible minor shifts. Some people have compared this to turning on a light very gradually in a darkened room where, all of a sudden, many things become visible all at once. In some people, however, dramatic personal experiences that might arise out of the blue can propel individuals into the Super Mind. I have called these "transcendent surprises," and have devoted a full chapter to them in Super Mind, where I describe several well-documented examples.
Can Super Mind be achieved through any form of meditation?
Some types of meditation, such as mindfulness, make no claim for expansion of consciousness either as a goal of the practice or a prevalent outcome. In another form of Buddhist meditation, known as the Jhanas, expanded consciousness is a goal and desired outcome. My guess is that growth of consciousness and the Super Mind may arise from any meditative practice that allows the mind to access that deepest, transcendent level of awareness. The subject is ripe for investigation.
How do you measure Super Mind?
In the past, brain researcher Fred Travis and colleagues created The Peak Experiences Questionnaire, which contained only a few items pertaining to transcendent experiences occurring during the day or at night. Besides that, I know of no systematic attempt undertaken to date to measure the growth of consciousness or other aspects of the Super Mind--until now. In creating the Consciousness Integration Questionnaire, my colleagues and I sought to create an instrument which could probe many more aspects of consciousness and its impact on function and well-being. We regard this as an early step in the measurement of the Super Mind. We used this questionnaire to survey over 600 TM practitioners, and both the questionnaire and the survey are published for the first time in Super Mind.