July 2011 Newsletter

July 2011 Events

In the coming weeks we are hosting the following events - (click on the green wording for more detailed information on related website pages.)

Seminar on "The Issue of Bullying” Monday July 25
Process Group starting Wednesday July 27
Mens Group starting Tuesday August 2
Free Introductory Talk Monday August 15

Please feel free to contact us if you wish to enquire or book in for any of the above events.

The Scientific Basis for the Spiritual Concept of the Third Eye

Eastern spiritual paths and certain occult traditions have emphasised the concept of the “Third Eye”. This psycho-physical feature was correlated in diagrams, artwork and explanations as being situated approximately above the physical eyes, in the middle of the forehead, and just above the central line of the nose.

The “Third Eye” was described as the seat of intuitive wisdom, of clairvoyance, of subtle information and spiritual or occult power. The famous French philosopher Rene Descarte believed that the Third Eye was the point where the mind and body met and so he coined it the “seat of the soul”.

The Third eye is a significant point in both Bodymind science as well as neuroscience, and these two disciplines may shed light on why this point in the body has such significant reality for the processes of consciousness as well as for our wellness and overall reality.

If one looks anatomically at this point on the skull then one finds that just behind the skull in this central point lies the Pineal Gland. The Pineal Gland is a small but critical hormonal gland in our body. The Pineal Gland is considered a regulating or master gland inasmuch as it regulates the cycles within our bodies, and stimulates the production of many of the other hormones and glands in the body.

The critical cycle in all this is the light and dark cycle which is how the Pineal Gland responds to the cycle of sunlight and darkness in our environment. This is known as the Circadian Rhythm or cycle. This is critically important for human mental and physical health and is primarily dictated by stable cycles or patterns of rest and waking which are assisted by the timely production of hormones that facilitate these night and day states.

Many people are familiar with Melatonin as its the pill you are often prescribed when travelling in different time zones, or for sleep disorders, or when suffering Jet Lag. Melatonin is the key hormone that is produced by the Pineal Gland. Melatonin is activated and produced based on whether this light sensitive Pineal gland detects natural light external to the body.

Melatonin production is critically important for humans as it has been linked to our survival, sexuality and psychological senses due to its subsequent triggering of other critical hormonal and organ processes in each of us. Melatonin is produced by the Pineal Gland modifying the feel-good hormone Serotonin found in the brain.

Serotonin is also a critical hormone found in the body, and is found in only very small amounts in the brain. Overall low Serotonin levels are a classic symptom and outcome of Depression. One of the problems with Depression is the resulting depletion of Serotonin also can rob the brain of its already low amounts of this critical chemical.

If the Pineal Gland then cannot source enough Serotonin and so produce enough Melatonin in that depressed person, sleep disorders can arise(which is a common symptom of Depression Sufferers).  What is worse is that the Pineal Gland can then in turn also have a disruptive effect on other cycles or the Circadian Rhythm of the body, and so other problems and negative effects can arise for that person.

Likewise the absence of the triggering or stimulating effect of natural sunlight and its Ultra-violet component will also create a similar disruptive effect. In climates of the earth where sunlight is weak, clouded or periodically restricted, we find a related condition called Seasonal Adjustment Disorder(SAD). SAD looks and feels just like depression because of the similar effects that arise from the interrupted action of the Pineal Gland and how that influences the bodymind outcome of that person.

A contrast to this is the effect of exposing oneself in a relaxed way in the sun(sunburn excluded). The positive effect of being out in the natural sunshine and getting a good dose of sunlight is increased Pineal Gland production of Melatonin and also of Serotonin due to related but separate processes of the body, brain and Autonomic Nervous System(ANS). I always recommend depression sufferers to get out of their cold dark bedrooms and into the sun and into their bodies so they can let their natural healing responses of the Pineal gland and other Bodymind processes do their positive work.

Interestingly Schizophrenics and Bi-Polar disorder sufferers have been found to either have low Serotonin or fluctuating levels of the same hormone in their body over time. Our psychological health is very much influenced by these critical hormones and glands in our body.

Serotonin and Melatonin have spiritual links to human consciousness as each is needed and involved in how the brain executes higher orders of consciousness. This is probably why in Hindu and Buddhist literature we see the Third Eye as being the Bodymind point of higher consciousness or the spiritual centre in man.

Neuroscience also informs us of this reality. Brain scans done with PET imaging equipment show that when a person meditates there is a lot of activity triggered in the medial prefrontal cortex. The medial prefrontal cortex lies in the same general area of the “third eye” of occult and eastern spiritual literature. Brain research informs us that people who regularly meditate actually physically evolve their brain structures with neural changes that promote higher consciousness.

Firstly, the medial pre-frontal cortex is thought by Neuroscientists to be part of the cognitive(mental) processing system of humans and appears to play a inhibitory calming or influencing role over the emotional or limbic part of the brain.  This part of the brain also has been found to mediate and down-regulate the production of the stress hormone known as cortisol that is produced via the Hypothalamic-Pituitary gland-Adrenal gland axis (HPA axis) when a person is stressed.

The signalling by the medial prefrontal cortex appears to regulate the generalization of fear and can dampen an overall increase in escalation of fear mediated by the Amygdala, which is the part of the brain that evokes a “fight or flight” response in us all. This is believed to be partly why meditation and mindfulness practices can assist anxiety and trauma sufferers to “dampen” down arousal symptoms in their nervous system and brain function.

Neuroimaging or brain scans have confirmed that meditators actually shrink their Amygdala over time. This is important as it reduces a person reactive “fight or flight” triggers and increases the tolerance of arousal that a person can take on until they activate that emotional “fight or flight” state of being. Such a person becomes able to be emotionally stable and in present time as a result of such changes. This equates to an aspect of the Buddhist concept mindfulness.

Secondly and more specifically, a part of the brain known as the Orbitofrontal Cortex lies just above the orbit of the eyes and forms part of the frontal lobe in the area that correlates to the “third eye”. This piece of brain facilitates direct inputs from many other cortical and sub-cortical areas of the brain. It also sends or signals outwards other forms of information and signals to the same and different cortical and subcortical regions of the brain.

The wealth of incoming information provides a snapshot of what is happening in the external environment as well as what reactions and plans are being organised by other parts of the brain. Critically its output communication affect a variety of behaviours and physiological responses, including emotional and ANS responses organised by the Amygdala part of the brain.

It is this mediating function that apparently helps us integrate external experience with internal states, and also allows us to influence states of being in the body and to raise our window of tolerance of arousal from internal and external sources of discomfort. This is speculated as being the vehicle by which Siddhis and spiritual people can alter their own bodily functions such as heart rate, blood flow, pain thresholds etc when you see them demonstrating unusual “tricks” that appear painful or which would signal injury or death in the rest of us.

The Orbitofrontal Cortex is also an area of brain that “lights up” in brain scans when meditation and  visualisation occurs. If one notices that the “outputs” go to mental centres, emotional centres, physiological processes, and memory areas of the brain then an interesting correlation should be noted. In meditation it is stressed that one should develop the correct logical thoughts or reasoning(mental), develop a strong feeling(emotional), create a stable visualisation(memory), and have correct meditative posture(physiological posture) when doing so.

In effect it is speculation but perhaps this is the critical reason why advancing one’s spiritual realisations require the alignment of each of these key areas. The implication is that the Orbitofrontal Cortex may “update” our Bodymind reality across these different cortical and subcortical areas of brain function. A comprehensive set of new information may in turn shape our operative reality, which is the basis for the creation of “realisation” in humans as a deep personal experience, as against just a mental conceptual knowledge of the same object.

Neuroimaging not only shows that meditators shrunk their Amgdala over time, but also that their Hippocampus increases over time. The Hippocampus is commonly associated with memory function, and is part of the temporal lobe of the brain. It appears that the Hippocampus plays a key part in consciousness by shaping conscious or declarative thinking and also mediating learnt responses from past associations with incoming sensory data.

It is known that trauma and continued stress can damage Hippocampus cells via the action of the stress hormone Cortisol which creates cell damage and shrinkage of the Hippocampus. Apparently meditation can reverse or repair some of this damage and facilitates growth of the Hippocampus area of the brain. Meditation has been shown to have a calming effect on the Bodymind system and promotes a relaxed feel-good, parasympathetic state of the ANS outcome. Immune system repair of the body needs such a state to exist for healing to occur and be sustained.

In conclusion it can be seen that there is now more evidence emerging that the point in the body known as the “third eye” correlates to the same physical location of brain and gland functions which have direct impacts on our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual states of being, as well as states of consciousness.

The set of processes and outcomes that the Pineal Gland, the Medial Prefrontal Cortex, and Orbitofrontal Cortex shape and influence, could be realistically summarised and spoken of in spiritual and occultic terminology that we read from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as the more hidden arcane schools of occult tradition.

It may be that over time science will validate many of these spiritual truths and statements as being based in scientific and medical fact. Only time and further advances in Neuroscience, Neuropsychology, and Human Biology will tell.  (Click this link for the online version of this article titled The Scientific Basis for the Spiritual Concept of the Third Eye.)

The Issue of Bullying

Bullying is an increasing problem in society today. Bullying occurs by and against children, by and against adults, and now remotely via electronic mediums such as the internet, mobile phone, social media and text messaging. Being a bully and being bullied have now been firmly linked in studies to a variety of detrimental mental health conditions for both parties.

Children who bully others in childhood are known to go on and develop other more serious anti-social behaviours in teenage and adult life. The bully does not learn boundaries, containment of emotions and impulses, and typically suffers low self esteem, and may go on to be involved in violent crimes, adult bullying and low socio-economic outcomes. Children who are bullied in school years have been shown to create permanent damage that can include low self esteem, ill health, anxiety and depression, falling grades at school, absenteeism, later trust issues as an adult, as well as withdrawal from socializing and relationships.

An Australian study found that a quarter of Australian students reported being bullied “every few weeks or more”.  A secret hidden camera at a series of Canadian schools recorded a bullying incident every 7 minutes which lasted on average 38 seconds. Half of the incidents were verbal aggression and intimidation, a third was physical aggression, and the remainder were a combination of both verbal and physical aggression.

In only 4 per cent of incidents was there an adult intervention and in only 11 per cent of cases did other school students intervene. Bullying at this physical and verbal level represents the basic limited ability to overtly control another at the physical level. As soon as the bullying stops the victim regains most of their control even if they are traumatized.

One of the problems with bullying has been that under previous Australian legislation no person under the age of 16 can use sexual harassment laws to pursue their tormentors, and there were no other adequate provisions for legal redress. Many cases of both school and cyber-bullying occur with victims under the age of 16. In 2011 the Australian Government announced it will introduce into Parliament new anti-harassment laws that will give legal protection to young victims of cyber and classroom bullying.

As the bully becomes older they tend to become more sophisticated, unless they are of below par intelligence, or have some mental health issue. In teenage years the bully tends to use more covert and social types of bullying, playing on the insecurities and sensitivities that arise in teenagers as they build their independence and identity.

Apart from the continued verbal and physical bullying, teenage aggression usually involves the intentional disrupting and damaging of the victims social status and self esteem, breaking up their friendships and other social and intimate relationships. Common means to do this is character assassination, gossip, lying, rumours, Facebook and graffiti.

Cyber-Bullying often starts in teenage years and includes the use of the internet, mobile phone photo and texting, internet vandalism and defamation on Facebook and other social media sites. There is evidence emerging now that peer group pressure and teenage relationships are also causing teenagers to indulge in “sexting”, where the person photographs themselves naked or in sexual poses, and text them onto peers.

These images are becoming a later tool for humiliation, blackmail, and bullying, plus possibly being traded or posted onto the internet forever. Cyber-bullying has also become more popular as students are less liable to come under school sanction, and parents are often ignorant of internet technologies or their children’s use of computers and mobile phones, and so cyber-bullying can continue undetected for considerable time.

All forms of bullying are often under-reported by children and teenage victims. This is often the felt sense of shame in many cases, and young victims report that their stories are often not believed, or are minimized, or dismissed by parents as being “part of the school or growing up process”. Teenagers report they fear having their mobile phone or internet access restricted, monitored or removed, feel embarrassed or already alienated from their parents. Teenage suicides are on the rise as a result of bullying and cyber-bullying and so parents and teachers need to take bullying seriously.

Adult bullies were often childhood or teenage bullies. Children raised in families where one or both parents, or an older sibling were bullies, are more likely to have developed a belief system that normalized bullying as an acceptable means of interaction with others. Adult bullying is more likely to take place in workplaces, sporting and social clubs, but awareness of rights, intolerance by other adults, and access to legal sanction reduce the incidence of bullying to more isolated situations.

There have also been other types of bullying such as a teenage student employing cyber-bullying against their teachers and schools via the same techniques already mentioned. Bullying exists also in parliament as a political tactic as well as in sporting settings as tactics to upset opposition players.

Strategies to cope with childhood and teenage bullying of all forms needs to be enacted at the personal, school peer, family, school  and internet levels for an effective system of minimizing bullies and bullying. The key ideas as outlined by various advocates are:

  • Personal level – Victims need to be taught to report all incidents of bullying without fear of ridicule or disbelief.  Learning self-discipline and self-confidence via a martial art or an embodied discipline can resolve victimisation tendencies in the bullied person. Bullies need to be made accountable to the victim and peers when caught bullying, and then counselled for reasons they feel they can act out this way.
  • School Peer – Peers need to step in and support the victim and rather than confront the bully, instead refuse to collude with them by passing on the rumours, teasing, or emails.  Experience has taught that the refusal to co-operate with bullies and instead showing empathy with the victim, emailing them or giving them face-to-face support, isolates the bully and robs them of their pay-off, and creates a negative outcome they were not anticipating. A school based program to create this school yard culture would be required for this strategy to be enacted.
  • Family – Family contracts on responsible behaviour and appropriate internet use can be drawn up and enforced. Families need to respond to incidents of bullying with priority and support for victims. The family of the bully need to take responsibility, priority, accountability and obtain counselling for the bully. Families need to see the bullying behaviour as a cry for help and as a possible sign of possible deeper parental or family dysfunction.
  • School – Schools have a duty of care to all students and so need to enact an effective anti-bullying policy which includes education of students, and buy-in from teachers who are the first level of support for victims of bullying.
  • Internet – Governments are being asked to consider an internet equivalent of “triple zero” crisis call, where a cyber-bullying victim can easily hit a panic button which takes them to  police or counselling groups qualified to intervene and assist victims online and offline.

Parents often struggle with understanding their children’s use of internet and mobile phone technologies. Here are 10 tips from the Australian Government which are useful guidelines in dealing with children’s technology use in the home and school:

  1. Keep computers in a central place at home and have clear rules about how much time your children can spend online. Do not let children keep computers in their bedroom.
  2. Play an active part in your child’s life and know your children’s friends, not just their closest friend. Ask about “virtual” friends on the internet.
  3. Look for signs of bullying such as sudden loss of interest in going to school, not wanting to spend time with friends, feeling miserable, difficulty sleeping or a general drop in school performance.
  4. Learn how to access the internet on the computer and sign up for a course if you are not familiar with computers.
  5. Talk with your children regularly about what  they are doing on-line and shoulder surf to watch and monitor  their behaviour.
  6. Learn the privacy settings and parental controls on your home computer.
  7. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour online, Google their name to see where it might be mentioned or setup a Google alert to notify you when anything about your child is posted online.
  8. If your child is being cyber-bullied then inform the Internet Service Provider(ISP) about the abuse.
  9. Talk with your children about keeping their passwords private and their mobile phone safe so that no one can steal your child’s identity to bully others.
  10. Work closely with the school if your child is being bullied or cyber-bullied.

Other additional tips include:

  • Establish family guidelines for use of the internet and mobile phones.
  • Lead by example. Children mirror and adopt adult behaviour so be aware what they see as “normal”.
  • Become involved in children’s online activities.
  • Internet usage and computer games excite the brain and so will prevent children being able to sleep. Do not let children use computers just before bedtime.
  • Do not let children access adult social networking sites using an adult account.
  • Check the school internet usage policy and explain it to your children so they understand what it means.
  • Keep your computer up to date with patches, updates and security software and firewalls.

Whether you or someone you know has suffered bullying or cyber-bullying as an adult or as a child, or you are a bully or cyber-bully, help is now available from us.  (Click this link for the online version of this article titled Bullying.)

We will be running an anti-bullying programme commencing in August 2011. We are running a seminar on The Issue of Bullying on Monday July 25, commencing at 6.30pm, where we will cover key bullying issues and announce our plans for our “Standing Tall” anti-bullying programme which starts in August, in conjunction with Lance Johnson, Director of Defensive Arts Academy.

New Process Group and Mens Group

In our June 2011 newsletter I mentioned that I will be starting a new monthly Mens Group.  This will begin Tuesday August 2 and will take place the first Tuesday of every month.  This will be open to teenage boys and adult men.  It will provide an opportunity for men to come together and discuss and share what it is to be a man, and to support each other, and the younger boys and men in their rite of passage.  Every man and women should reflect on the boys and men in their life and ask if they have healthy role models, committed support, and adequate mirroring and guidance in their passage through life as men.

This month I will also be starting a new Autumn/Winter 2011 Process Group.  This will run fortnightly from July 27 to December 21, every second Wednesday night, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.  In the group, you will get an opportunity to see your distortions, receive and give support, feel your own blocks to loving, take risks and learn new ways of connecting and relating.  You could also expect to feel improved vitality, energy and deeper capacity for intimacy and commitment.  In the secure environment of a process group, old patterns of negativity that limit consciousness will be challenged, enabling you to live an authentic life of fulfilment, meaning and connection.

Feel free to contact us if you need support or make enquiries about any of our events.

Enjoy your month!

Richard Boyd

Director, Energetics Institute

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