Inspiration – Kindred Media Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Mon, 28 Sep 2020 19:37:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Inspiration – Kindred Media 32 32 On Insight – By Joseph Chilton Pearce Wed, 26 Aug 2020 19:39:05 +0000 About On Insight, an original essay from Joseph Chilton Pearce (the essay is below this introduction) By Michael Mendizza To grasp the depth and critical significance of Joe’s narrative On Insight, some background is essential. As you may know, or will soon discover, Insight is a flash of perception and meaning, that emerges in realms beyond conditioned memory […]]]>

About On Insight, an original essay from Joseph Chilton Pearce (the essay is below this introduction)

By Michael Mendizza

To grasp the depth and critical significance of Joe’s narrative On Insight, some background is essential. As you may know, or will soon discover, Insight is a flash of perception and meaning, that emerges in realms beyond conditioned memory that expresses as knowledge and thought, these together being the classic and common definitions of intelligence. It is simple to see that one person’s ‘known,’ or the collective ‘know’ of a culture, is limited compared to the limitless potential implicit in the unknown. Pearce, Physicist, David Bohm, Krishnamurti and others agree, the often clever manipulation of limited conditioning is a capacity, not to be confused with the underlying ‘creative-intelligence’ that renders that cleverness possible. 

A clear way of understanding this differences is to appreciate that empathy, compassion, altruism, the capacity for wonder and insight, do not exist as experiences in the realm of abstract thought and knowledge. As concepts, yes. As direct experiences, no. Empathy, compassion, altruism, the capacity for wonder and insight, provide a foundation or context, a moral rudder or compass of appropriateness, that guide conditioning to express in ways that serve those experiences. Knowledge apart from these deeper and more fundamental experience has only itself to use as a subjective guide, a relative reference, and anything goes. 

Digging even deeper, the term Insight, implies three different experiences: conditioned memory expressing as thought, guided or not by even more fundamental experiences of relationship; fields of creation and meaning that exist outside of conditioning and thought; and Insight which, like lightening, is experienced as flash of meaning from the unknown, exploding with new meaning and possibilities, into the known. 

In today’s context, and central to all of Joe’s collected wittings, is the realization that what we call AI or Artificial Intelligence, and all the technologies involved, are not intelligence, rather a pervasive counterfeit, or CI, Counterfeit Intelligence. The same is true of conditioned memory and thought, with all its social degrees and cultural expressions. Conditioned thought – including all the conditioning imposed by compulsory schooling – on its own, and that is the key, without the guidance of empathy, compassion, altruism, the capacity for wonder and insight, is equally counterfeit, dangerous, and easily mistaken and confused by all. 

Joe’s essay, On Insight, is a tip of the Insight iceberg, but a world-class tip it is. To explore further, please see The Limitations of Thought and Knowledge and Insight with David Bohm, in Touch the Future’s Academy. h

Michael Mendizza

Visit the virtual Joseph Chilton Pearce Library at the Touch the Future Academy here.

On Insight

By Joseph Chilton Pearce

No knowledge will spontaneously self-actualize in a child, not even basic survival-maintenance instincts. Regardless of the nature of the knowledge in question, appropriate environmental stimuli must be provided, and, for optimum results, at the appropriate developmental stage. This is nature’s Model Imperative.

For humans, the primary model is the mother, father, family, society; the secondary model is the physical environment. Denied the primary models, access to the secondary is impaired. The work of pediatrician Maria Montessori, (first Italian woman medical doctor) showed, however, that an intelligently designed environment could overcome severe primary deprivations. The earliest Montessori schools were not considered schools at all, but “houses for children”: three to six year olds who had suffered massive neglect in severely impoverished slum families. While the children were treated with love and respect in these Montessori houses, discipline, quiet, and order were hallmarks of life there.

By age five most of these children could read and write with some skill, a phenomenon attracting wide attention. Montessori insisted that these children had not been taught to read, nor to write, (and they wrote before reading.) The spontaneous writing and reading was no more an intentional part of the experiment than a myriad of other capacities and intelligences the children developed as well, all without “teaching”, which was the whole point.

Montessori’s life-work attempted to show that the child’s mind was “naturally absorbent” and would spontaneously unfold if given the appropriate stimuli in an environment of love and trust. She anticipated Howard Gardner’s “multiple intelligence” theory by seventy years in her own theory of “nebulae”, various constellates of intelligence inherent in the nature of mind, which the child absorbed as and if provided the appropriate environmental stimuli.

The proposal of such “nebulae” received far less attention than her procedures that gave rise to an open- ended, rather than closed, form of stimuli. The nurturing environment must include, of course, all cumulative cultural survival experience, but it must include as well access to experience beyond such basic maintenance matters. The nature of this latter kind of stimulation could only arise from each moment of interaction with a child, to escape being but a reflection of the adult’s own limits, as found in our usual maintenance intelligence.

Mistaking information acquisition for education is a major error of contemporary thought. Knowledge, as Montessori pointed out, and David Bohm affirms, is an organic, lived process not itself necessarily translatable into “information” at all. And knowledge, what an unobstructed absorbent mind might experience and become, is open-ended. The problem lies in providing the child with a nurturing environment and open-ended, rather than closed, form of stimuli.

In the late 1970’s I received two lengthy letters from a young man in charge of five and six year olds in an Israeli kibutz. The young man had discovered that these children could do apparently impossible tasks, and with great zeal, to the extent that he, the caretaker, could suspend his ordinary beliefs about what was possible and not possible for them, and direct their actions accordingly, in whatever offered itself moment by moment.

He reported physical accomplishments completely beyond their stature and capacity, as well as intellectual achievements beyond their years. He discovered that children were constrained only by the nature of the belief patterns held by those in charge of them. On their own, they were unlimited. Without cues, suggestions, guidance and caretaking, however, they were lost. The young man expressed dismay and something akin to despair over the extent of this Catch 22 finding. (Somehow my replies and requests for more information were lost and I didn’t hear from him again.)

Bettleheim was right in saying you can’t lie to children since they pick up from you emotional (or implicate) energies as well as the physical signals sent. Children have been led into a-causal, or “nonordinary” phenomena, however, by the example set by a charlatan. In those cases, I know of, the charlatan was simply doing his thing as a magician, and was not aware of his acting as exemplar-model. The entire episode unfolded as a form of play, as with the Israeli chap and his kibutz kids.

The a-causal nature of such examples (metal bending particularly) point up physical processes beyond the norm, whereas the opening question implies moral-ethical issues of an order surely beyond our norm. The key to these higher potentials may lie within David Bohm’s concept of insight, a process discontinuous with Gardner’s multiple intelligences or Montessori’s “nebulae,” both of which refer to “morpho-genetic” fields of intelligence resulting from past human experience.

Insight implies a reservoir of potential that lies beyond all concepts held or information available. Gardner’s intelligences, or Montessori’s nebulae lie within the implicate order, the cumulative results of explicate order phenomena. Insight, I would suggest, springs from the supra-implicate order as stimulated by the implicate order in response to a need or passionate quest within the explicate realm. That is, insight is a function of pure potential, yet a response.

If we are to look to insight as source of a way out of current situations, we need to understand the function. Insight is akin to the so-called Eureka! experience, source of all bona-fide new concepts or “discoveries”, scientific, artistic, or spiritual. This has been the subject of intense study and speculation in our century. First, note that the individual concerned must be seized by a passionate quest for an unknown, and exhaust every avenue of “knowns” that are relative to the quest in any way.

Secondly, the Eureka! falls into the mind only after a “gestation” period following exhaustion of materials for an answer, and at a point of mental blankness, when the passionate quest for that answer has temporarily receded.

All recipients of Eurekas! claim that the answer was unthought and simply arrived out of the blue, and most attribute to it some numinous quality. Thirdly, the “content” or nature of a Eureka always proves discontinuous with the sum of all knowns and/or relative materials (information, techniques, capacities, etc.) gathered by the individual in the long quest leading to the breakthrough Eureka! itself. (That the idea breaking through need bear no resemblance to any of the so-called materials or information leading to it is a key point.)

Next, only a mind that has undergone the long discipline demanded by a passion strong enough to trigger a Eurkea! is in a position to receive that answer – though the answer itself lies at a discontinuity with any discipline, capacity, or knowledge leading up to it, and in spite of the fact that the Eureka! can break into that mind only at a momentary cessation of mental action.

Fourth, only a mind so disciplined by the long quest is in a position to “translate” the answer into the common domain when it arrives – and so realize it or give it life. Eurekas! usually appear in the mind in symbolic-metaphoric fashion which would be meaningless to any mind other than the one triggering the experience.

Fifth, and a final issue, the realized answer then creates its own environment. The new idea will be true to the extent it proves functional in the common domain, but, it proves functional by changing that common domain; as needed by its own accommodation within that domain. That is, the Eureka!, being causal, is never just an answer to an explicate passion, but enters into the creative process giving rise to the explicate order itself. Thus its “realization” creates a different environment than existed before that Eureka!

The Eureka! phenomenon produces as many non-translatable as translatable experiences, however, as many misses as hits. As a function it displays no “judgmental” aspects. It simply responds to passionate quest sustained long enough. Consider Bergman’s observation that each and every problem we face today is the direct and inevitable result of yesterday’s brilliant solutions.” This must, of necessity, include Eureka’s themselves.

That is, a new “truth” is true only as it can change the environment as needed for its appearance – which appearance is then true. (A day will come when the notion of quantums and such is seen as primitive and quaint, though these postulates function for us as well as phlogiston managed to keep the home fires burning in times past.)

Thus the horns of a dilemma: The nature of a quest gives rise to the nature of the insight given, though the final insight lies beyond the problem-quest giving rise to it, and indeed may be radically removed from the grounds of such birth. Of course Kekule “see” a chemical process, Hamilton mathematical, Poincare geometric, Einstein temporal-spatial, Gould an optical-physical one etc.

The nature of insights demand, and if successfully translated, bring about, a new milieu. And the nature of that milieu may be beneficial or demonic. Hamilton’s quaternions underlie virtually all modern mathematics by which we transform our world” in catastrophic form.

Kekule’s benzene ring is the foundation on which modern chemistry is based, giving us our 9,000 new carcinogenic chemicals yearly and an annual 100 million tons of toxic chemical waste, and so on. The realm of insight is “nonjudgmental”, non-qualitative, a creative function that rains on just and unjust equally. Discrimination, evaluation, quality, is a product of the human mind that experiences the results of random creativity. That creative realm lying beyond is not just potentially a-causal but a-moral.

To Bohm’s concept of insight, then, we must add another insight of his, made years ago: that beyond explicate, implicate, or supra-implicate, lies the “realm of insight-intelligence”. Insight as itself, being causal, gives newness; beyond the structures leading to it – but without qualification. Arriving “out of the blue” we accept an insight as sacrosanct and act on it with the passionate conviction of its trueness.

Which passionate conviction-action realizes the insight, gives it translation into flesh and blood – a flesh and blood profoundly affected by the nature of the translated insight. (It may take generations to discover that the results of our divinely inspired truth is destructive.)

Beyond insight as function, then, lies intelligence, which, to distinguish it from intellect or insight, is a movement of well-being. No insight originating from intelligence can act-back against its recipients in some slow-grinding of the gods. From the realm of insight-intelligence arises newness beyond the parameters of the reality giving rise to it, but only a beneficent newness, one without side effects. The truly good.

The traditional word for the good – that which acts only beneficially for all equally – is God. Leave God out of your equation, and you are stuck with your own limits, though they eternally appear under new dress.

Since the word God has been sullied past redemption, perhaps we might use Bohm’s Insight-Intelligence, which is, after all, a rather sublime term in its own right. But get that qualifying intelligence in there. Insight alone is not enough. Insight reflects our passions and may give us what we ask for – to our rue. Intelligence reflects our needs, discriminated from our wants, desires, and tragic limitations.

To open to intelligence as well as its instrument, insight, we need only acknowledge the limits of our intellect, and then acknowledge the unknown, but open-ended possibility of a greater intelligence behind the show, which is, after all, what Bohm’s dialogue process implies.

Then we would find not so much an “answer” to today’s dilemma – which would have its limitations – as a renewable source of a “deeper knowledge” our children, and all generations need as constant referent. None of us can explicitly display such knowledge as itself, since we can neither contain it nor produce it. We can, however, acknowledge that such a realm exists, simply awaiting our opening of self to it.

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‘What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?’: Descendants Read Frederick Douglass’ Speech Fri, 03 Jul 2020 18:24:02 +0000 The U.S. celebrates this Independence Day amid nationwide protests and calls for systemic reforms. In this short film, five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which asks all of us to consider America’s long history of denying equal […]]]>

Watch the video below:

The U.S. celebrates this Independence Day amid nationwide protests and calls for systemic reforms. In this short film, five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which asks all of us to consider America’s long history of denying equal rights to Black Americans.

You can read the full text of “What To The Slave Is The Fourth of July?” here:

This video was inspired by Jennifer Crandall’s documentary project “Whitman, Alabama”. Visit


What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?

I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

There is not a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms- of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.


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Riding A Bullet Train To The Future Tue, 16 Jun 2020 18:32:14 +0000 A nightmare is a frightening dream that, while dreaming, is mistaken for reality. Thought is a virtual-reality and like a dream or nightmare, it superimposes its make-believe over something much more fundamental, our true authentic nature. Growing exponentially, and for countless centuries, the enchanting dream called thought, memory, and culture blankets human consciousness like thick […]]]>

A nightmare is a frightening dream that, while dreaming, is mistaken for reality. Thought is a virtual-reality and like a dream or nightmare, it superimposes its make-believe over something much more fundamental, our true authentic nature. Growing exponentially, and for countless centuries, the enchanting dream called thought, memory, and culture blankets human consciousness like thick black smog, rendering humanity’s natural heart and mind faint, a ghostlike shadow. So thick and deep is this enchantment that entire human capacities are forgotten, not modeled and lost in a single generation, while the dreaming mind doesn’t miss or even care about what has been lost, a dehumanizing cycle that spawns even more loss. And to this, we now must add technological virtual-reality, media, and the instantaneous dream-theater called the internet, empowered and controlled by the same enchantment that unifies and covers the earth. For all but a very rare few, this enchantment is all that most ever know. 

Obedience training and conformity was John Taylor Gotto’s description of compulsory schooling embedded in a compulsory culture. Unquestioned acceptance of the given was Jean Piaget’s description of the early child. The model given is the model grown. These two forces, absorbent-conformity, driven by the hypnotic addiction of media, a show, a virtual reality that is not living or alive, rather a dead counterfeit, best describes the dream that we have become, especially our children who desperately scream for authentic models that are not enchanted, for in their unconditioned hearts they still remember, but not for long. 

In a dream that is sadly not a dream, I slipped my bio-passport under the scanner, opening the metal gates that lead down steep steps to a waiting bullet train headed into the future. I take a seat and stare as the train begins to move. Flashes of neon-graffiti, revealing how my six-year-old daughter might live, are glowing on the dirty subway wall… No, I don’t want Carly to live in the dream I see flashing through that dirty window. 

Where instead of water 1,000 tons or more of micro-plastics rain down from the sky every year.

Where adults wear and force their children to wear, masks that hide what they think and feel.

Where people walk far apart because they are afraid to touch or to be touched.

A world where hugs and holding hands are dangerous.

Where sharing lemonade from the same cup is forbidden.

A world where everyone fears the air they breathe for, who knows, it might harbor some invisible scary something?

Where tiny machines are injected in our bodies that alter how we feel, what we think, and if we live or die, our very genetic code, by remote control.

A world where microwave radiation is beamed from space, by drones and from poles in every neighborhood that weakens the structured-water in every cell of our body allowing those robots floating in our veins to be monitored day-and-night from any place in the world.

Where people can no longer believe anyone or anything because what is real and true has been twisted inside out for just that reason.

An environment where just one, of an estimated two billion species, because of their enchantment and false identity, drives all others extinct.

A planet where the living biosphere bakes while no one notices or cares. 

A place where the thoughts people think are shaped and controlled by what they see and don’t see, on tiny screens that are addictive like heroin, instead of trusting direct experience.

A society where nobody can be trusted because they might not agree with what the screen says is true.

A community where sociopaths masquerading as politicians, medical doctors, teachers, researchers, and yes, parents, actually believe the stories they tell themselves and their children.

Where children in homes, schools, and neighborhoods are injected, by force, with toxic stuff, over and over, by people they think love them, injections that cause their delicate bodies to turn against itself (autoimmune reactions), children who, in their pain, are sold more stuff to fix what the injections cause, but never do, like a person about to be hung forced to dig his or her own grave before they die a slow death and made to pay for the privilege.

A world where a shared artificial reality displaces organic intelligence and even worse, where that authentic nature is declared taboo or superstitious, by machines that define and control most everything.

Where appropriate insight and truly intelligent action, emerging from the ground of empathy, compassion, and interdependence, is a myth told to children like fairy tales, a distant reality reserved for superheroes.

Where gene-altering sequences are slipped secretly into our bodies that in time, a few generations perhaps, reduce, even eliminate targeted groups of human beings.

A world where travel, attending school, or making a livelihood is restricted to those who obey, pay allegiance, and conform.

A planet where once robust and vital oceans, teeming with diversity, are mostly dead.

A place where nothing is wild; no elephants, no eagles, whales, frogs, butterflies, or bees.

A society and way of living where the very rich view everyone else as cattle to be managed.

Where despair fills the spaces in the human heart that hope used to live.

A global brain whose blinding ideas and beliefs about itself and others crush and make invisible the deeper, far more fundamental, qualities we share with each other and every living thing.

A psyche who, like a rapist, pushes aside hope and mystery with its hubris.

Where mothers and their unborn no longer experience the ecstasy of natural childbirth.

A model of learning that replaces the living, organic intelligence of play with obsolete data.

Where crafted, calculated, and reincarnated fear murders the capacity to experience joy.

Where humanity lives increasingly inside machines, becoming what they see, believing they are free.

A world where genetic tinkering finally puts an end to authentic human qualities.

An earth inhabited by robots or robot-like people who will never conceive or even miss what has been forgotten.

Still staring, but awakening slightly from that dream another takes its place; the image and words of J. Krishnamurti I filmed in Ojai, California, in 1985. 

“Unless I fundamentally change, the future will be what I am now. See the truth of this. The simple fact. Not that I am persuading you. Not that you’re being told or computerized. This is a simple fact. If I am vicious, cruel, brutal, today, as I have been in the past, I’ll be that way tomorrow. You can’t get away from it. If I am quarreling with my wife or husband and so on, I’ll do it tomorrow too. So the future is now. And to break this chain in which we are caught, there must be a mutation NOW.”

The dream, with its blinding enchantment, one crisis after the next, blasting simultaneously on our screens, has nearly put an end to us all, the sixth great extinction. To keep dreaming is suicidal. The mutation Krishnamurti spoke about, the only thing he ever spoke about, is waking up from the dream and discovering in that ‘other’ state that the dream is just a dream, and not who or what we are at all. And with that awakening, something fundamentally new begins, and not a moment too soon.

Shaking myself, the train, the windows, and flashing graffiti disappears leaving an insight: empathy, compassion, and interdependence, with its organic intelligence and action, is not a dream. Everything needed to stop and step-free from the nightmare we share is at hand, and in abundance, right now, but invisible when we are dreaming. 

What is left of my life is dedicated to ensuring that my daughter, and as many of her peers as possible, the future of humanity, experience directly what a true and authentic human being is; that they walk in beauty, hope and wonder as they resist the tyranny of machines and machine-like people who don’t understand, know, or experience what empathy feels like. Then the real challenge, the real insight flashes; to help Carly and her playmates discover, retain and honor that, I must live it myself, and not tomorrow.

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Become More Peaceful, No Matter the Circumstances Wed, 10 Jun 2020 21:54:23 +0000 Understand and satisfy your basic needs. There are numerous ways to categorize or describe a human’s basic needs (Narvaez, 2018). Here is a compilation and brief descriptions of basic needs that have been identified by researchers. Although Maslow (1970) listed his set of basic needs as a hierarchy, empirical evidence undermines that claim. So see […]]]>

Understand and satisfy your basic needs.

There are numerous ways to categorize or describe a human’s basic needs (Narvaez, 2018). Here is a compilation and brief descriptions of basic needs that have been identified by researchers. Although Maslow (1970) listed his set of basic needs as a hierarchy, empirical evidence undermines that claim. So see what needs of yours need to be met and seek remedies.

Physiological needs like food, shelter, sleep (Maslow, 1970), and bodily integrity (Nussbaum, 2003)

It is amazing to learn that our cousins, small-band hunter-gatherers (who live like humanity did in prehistory), don’t eat that much (are used to feast and famine); sleep comfortably outdoors in homemade shelters, sometimes sleeping off and on day and night (Lee and Daly, 2005). So it matters what your body is capable of (they are stronger) and what you get used to (Wells, 2010). Long fasts seem to be a good thing (e.g., 12 hours or more between dinner and breakfast). Eating fewer calories may also be related to better health. Sleeping in chunks too is normal (Reiss, 2017).

Perhaps one of the most underestimated physiological needs is positive touch. James Prescott (1996), formerly of NIH, emphasized the importance of affectionate touch for proper development. Pets can be a way for some people to get their touch needs met (and the needs of the pet).

Babies especially need nearly constant positive touch (Sunderland, 2006). My lab’s work finds positive touch in childhood to be related to health and social capacities, and negative touch to be related to less self-control and other forms of psychopathology.

Bodily integrity (Nussbaum, 2013) is violated by sexual abuse but also corporal punishment. The detrimental effects of corporal punishment are well documented and linked to greater aggression (Gershoff, 2013).

Safety (Maslow, 1970)

When in a war zone, a sense of safety is hard to come by and occurs only in moments. But most of the time elsewhere, a sense of safety is more about our psychological than our physical environment. That is, we can scare ourselves by how we think. Sometimes early life experience makes us threat sensitive where our stress response is easily triggered even when there is no real danger to our well-being (Lanius et al, 2010). For people who are threat sensitive, self-calming techniques like belly breathing, meditation, and vagal nerve stimulation may be helpful (more below).

Family members need to ensure that one another feels safe when together, as a matter of basic human rights (Nussbaum, 2013). Get help if this is not the case.

Autonomy (Deci and Ryan, 1985)

No animal appreciates being tied down (Panksepp, 1998). Humans, too, expect the freedom to choose actions. As Deci and Ryan have documented, in US classroom settings, children do better when they feel they have choices. The same is true for adults in workplaces. People like to feel like they have some say in what they do. Find ways to make satisfying choices (preferably healthy ones!).

Control (Fiske, 2003)

Avoid the relationships and situations that stress you and deepen your inner calmness. Learn ways to stay calm, no matter what happens. It doesn’t mean you are not mobilized to act but that you are calm enough not to get so distressed you can’t act or think. Various practices that support self-calming include belly breathing (takes some effort to learn but changes metabolism; Kabat-Zinn, 2013).

Learn to switch attention. Just as with a child obsessed with something impossible to achieve, redirect your attention. You could immerse yourself in beauty. Watch and get absorbed into a specific aspect of the natural world—tree, leaves, clouds, sun play, rain, waves, or ripples. Or immerse yourself in feelings of gratitude—count your blessings (Emmons, 2013).

The human capabilities approach includes as a basic need control over one’s environment in political and material ways, factors that are more common in democratically run institutions and societies (Nussbaum, 2009).

Competence (Deci and Ryan, 1985)

Most adults feel competent at work and when laid off or retired, have lost a sense of competence. Self-efficacy is a cherished skill is a protective factor for adolescents (keeping them from risky behavior). That is, having a talent admired by the community can keep you out of trouble.

Self-esteem often runs alongside expectations for what you should have or be. If you have lost your usual ways of feeling competent and your self-esteem is low, change your expectations. Life is often a series of letting go of dreams that won’t work out. Focus on developing your unique gifts, perhaps gifts you did not know you had. Pay attention to your envy. Maybe you feel envious of someone’s accomplishments or fame. Consider envy a signal of work you have yet to do to hone your own skills in that direction.

Self-Actualization (Maslow, 1970)

According to Maslow’s analysis, few people were self-actualizers and they were not being studied. But he developed a set of guidelines for those who want to self-actualize, which I have discussed in other posts—see here and here.

Belonging, Love, Affiliation (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Maslow, 1970, Nussbaum, 2013)

As social creatures, love needs are central to our becoming. Our relationships form us, nurture us, and guide us. Psychological disorders can stem from a breakdown in loving care in childhood. Our brains malfunction in isolation because they need others to regulate limbic and other systems (Lewis et al., 2004). Thus, it is important to learn to form and maintain friendships. Here is one set of suggestions.

Understanding (Fiske, 2003)

Why? is a favorite question of children learning to understand their world. Sometimes it is hard for adults to know why something happened. But one of my favorite aphorisms for living came from Clint Eastwood as a marine in the movie Heartbreak Ridge: “Adapt and overcome.” This means accepting what happens and moving your way through it. Take challenging experiences as opportunities for learning and growing.

Trust (Erikson, 1950)

Erik Erikson identified trust vs. distrust as a basic stage in the first year of life. One emerges with an inner state of trusting or distrusting the world based on the quality of care received (our species’ expected care is the evolved nest). If seeds of distrust have been planted in early life, it takes some effort to revamp them into basic trust towards the world. Extensive therapeutic or friendship relationships are helpful as is guided immersion in wild nature (Plotkin, 2003).

Purpose and Life Meaning (Staub, 2003)

We all need a sense of purpose, and in fact, those who have one tend to be healthier. In fact, young people who are missing role models and guidance from broader narratives can be susceptible to hate groups (see Picciolini, 2017, for a recent example). If you haven’t yet found your purpose, here is a set of questions to help you find it. A great form of purpose is to help others get their basic needs met.

Play (Burghardt, 2005; Nussbaum, 2013)

One of the best ways to meet many basic needs is through creative physical social play (e.g., chase/tag, spontaneous dancing, or dramatic role-play). These build social joy and flexibility. In young children, the “joy juice” of social play shapes a happy personality (Sunderland, 2006).

Nature Connection and relation to other species (Louv, 2016; Nussbaum, 2013)

Humans are earth creatures and resonate with natural systems. There are healthful effects of attending to nature in small ways, dailyFirst Nation traditions emphasize respect for “all our relations” with animals, plants, and other earth entities as part of living a good life.


Burghardt, G.M. (2005). The genesis of animal play: Testing the limits. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deci, E., and Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Academic Press.

Emmons, R.A. (1999). The psychology of ultimate concerns: Motivation and spirituality in personality. New York: Guilford Press.

Emmons, R.A. (2013). Gratitude works! A 21-day program for creating emotional prosperity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Erikson, E.H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Fiske, S. (2003). Social beings. New York: Wiley.

Gershoff, E.T. (2013) Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7 (3), 133-137.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness, rev. ed. New York: Bantam.

Lanius, R.A., Vermetten, E., and Pain, C. (2010). The impact of early life trauma on health and disease: The hidden epidemic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, R.B., and Daly, R. (Eds.) (2005). The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lewis, T., Amini, F., and Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of love. New York: Vintage.

Louv, R. (2016). Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health and Happiness.Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.

Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality, 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row.

Narvaez, D. (Ed.)  (2018). Basic needs, wellbeing and morality: Fulfilling human potential. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan.

Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective neuroscience: The foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Picciolini, C. (2017). White American youth: My descent into America’s most violent hate movement—and how I got out. New York: Hachette.

Plotkin, B. (2003). Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche.  New York: New World Library.

Prescott J.W. (1996). The origins of human love and violence. Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 10 (3), 143-188.

Reiss, B. (2017). Wild nights: How taming sleep created our restless world. New York: Basic Books.

Staub, E. (2003). The psychology of good and evil: Why children, adults, and groups help and harm others. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sunderland, M. (2006). The science of parenting. DK Press.

Wells, S. (2010). Pandora’s seed: The unforeseen cost of civilization. New York: Random House.

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Give The Police Departments to the Grandmothers: A Poem Tue, 09 Jun 2020 17:40:12 +0000 Junauda Petrus-Nasah is a creative activist, writer, playwright, and multi-dimensional performance artist who is born on Dakota land, West-Indian descended, and African-sourced. Her work centers around Black wildness, -futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, spectacle and shimmer.  Petrus-Nasah has written works for the stage, screen and page, employing poetics and experiences re-membered via ancestral dreaming and research […]]]>

Junauda Petrus-Nasah is a creative activist, writer, playwright, and multi-dimensional performance artist who is born on Dakota land, West-Indian descended, and African-sourced. Her work centers around Black wildness, -futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, spectacle and shimmer. 

Petrus-Nasah has written works for the stage, screen and page, employing poetics and experiences re-membered via ancestral dreaming and research of their lost stories. She is  inspired by her parents and ancestors who immigrated from the Caribbean bringing their magic and trauma with them, and her art ripples with their legacy. She is influenced by the Middle passage and diaspora, Black folks in Minneapolis, ancestral magic, and stories of queerness and womanhood within these contexts. Speculative fiction and magical realist elements are central to her work.

In 2009 she began studying aerial circus arts in Brooklyn, New York with Kiebpoli Calnek, focusing on the corde lisse, (a hanging smooth rope) and explored through performance themes of Blackness, queerness and womanhood reclaimed and imagined in the vertical space, complicating the legacy of violence and lynching that we associate with hanging Black bodies.

In 2012, she co-founded with Erin Sharkey,  Free Black Dirt, an experimental artist collective based in Minneapolis, creating original theatre and performance, hosting innovative events, organizing local artists, and promoting and supporting the emerging artists’ community in the Twin Cities. 

In 2014 she received a Travel and Study grant from the Jerome Foundation to study West African and Afro-Caribbean dance and aerial/circus arts. Also in 2014, she was recipient of the  Many Voices Mentorship from the Playwright’s Center to study playwriting. Her play, There Are Other Worlds, used aerial arts and a cast of all Black women to tell the story of a mother and activist who has spent the majority of her two teenage daughter’s lives incarcerated. 

In 2016, she co-wrote with Erik Ehn, Queen, a play and puppet show about a Black grandmother journeying through her grief after the police shooting her grandson, starring the late and iconic, Laurie Carlos. From 2015-2017, she was lead artist with the Heart of the Beast’s Theatre’s May Day parade, where she engaged community in building and walking in a social justice themed puppet parade. In 2016 she was awarded, City Page’s Artist of the Year. Last year, she was awarded another Jerome Travel and Study grant in literature to research queerness and African-inspired spiritualities in Trinidad and Tobago for writing this book. 

In 2017, she  began writing and directing, Sweetness of Wild, an episodic-poetic-film-series that centers an inter-generational cast of Black folks, navigating themes of Black Lives Matter, life after Prince, first-love and bike culture against the backdrop of Minneapolis. Her first book, the young adult novel, The Stars and The Blackness Between Them, received the 2020 Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award.


What Is Equity?

Equity has three interwoven components: a lens, a mirror, and an outcome. 

  • It is a lens through which we view the world to inform and guide the design of our strategies and activities to build a “landscape of breastfeeding support.” 
  • It is also a mirror through which we view ourselves and our organizations, examining our internal structures, culture, and policies and their impact on how the lens is applied and the outcome achieved. 
  • Lastly, it is the outcome we seek to achieve, i.e., equity is realized when life outcomes are equal, in a statistical sense, regardless of one’s identities. 

Equity work can take the form of actions designed to address historic burdens as well as to remove present-day barriers to equal opportunities. It can be accomplished by identifying and eliminating systemic discriminatory policies and practices, but also by transforming structures towards access, justice, self-determination, redistribution, and sharing of power and resources. Above all, it requires an inclusive approach that maximizes engagement of the communities impacted. 

Allegories on race and racism, by Camara Jones, A TEDx Talk

How Racism Makes Us Sick, by David Williams, PhD

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Dr. Joy DeGruy

Find Kindred’s Black Mothers and Fathers Resources page.

Subscribe to Kindred’s newsletter to make sure you don’t miss our upcoming series, Black Men, Breastfeeding, and Social Justice Series

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Why Fear Is A Sacred Doorway: 11 Things Fear Teaches Us So We Can Have The Life We Want Sat, 30 May 2020 17:10:56 +0000 Aedín is a small black six-year-old quarter horse mare who was saved from the kill pens last year. When she arrived three months ago to live at our ranch she had not been trained or ridden. In horsemanship terms, you would say she hadn’t been ‘broken’. Broken––such an incisively appropriate term for what we do […]]]>

Aedín is a small black six-year-old quarter horse mare who was saved from the kill pens last year. When she arrived three months ago to live at our ranch she had not been trained or ridden. In horsemanship terms, you would say she hadn’t been ‘broken’. Broken––such an incisively appropriate term for what we do to horses (and people I would add). In order to feel safe on the back of one thousand pounds of wild horse muscle, trainers notoriously intimidate, bully and manipulate their four-legged companions into submission, rendering them emotionally numb and spiritually bereft. Cowboys call these horses proudly ‘yes ma’am-ers’. I call them a tragedy.

How did Aedín, a gorgeous pedigree elite athlete, slip through the cracks and end up at a kill pen? I suspect, based on what I’ve learned about her so far, because she is not the kind of horse easily broken. She didn’t play by the cowboy rules. That’s why we changed her name from Sierra once we got to know her. Aedín is Gaelic for ‘little fire’, derived from the name of a figure in one of the oldest and richest stories of the Mythological Cycle, a great queen who is a guide through the darkest of battles. 

Aedín is indeed a little fire. She’s a combustion engine of energy that’s released when she flies across the paddock, or when she stomps her fury in frustration. Which is why training her and inspiring her to ultimately be my mountain trail riding companion has been one of the scariest things I’ve done. Recently my big project has been to earn her trust, learn her language, teach her mine, create our shared language, and ultimately swing my leg over her back and ride her. We call this ‘starting’ a horse, rather than breaking them.

During these weeks I’ve intimately acquainted myself with fear––the cold-sweat kind, the body-shaking kind, the real ‘I’m going to throw up’ kind. And while I’ve been learning a lot about Aedín, I’ve been learning even more about fear. Whether you are starting a horse, or starting a business, or a new life…starting is scary. So scary in fact that few will dare to do it. Yet, to create the lives we really want to create, we inevitably must face and work with fear.

Starting horses under saddle is not a new thing for me. Back in my twenties and thirties as a professional trainer, I started several young horses, all without much drama and only the odd tumble. I prided myself on being fearless. But now in my mid-fifties, I’m far timider. Perhaps it’s my seasoned sense of my mortality, or that I am more aware of the personal and professional consequences of a wreck (i.e., a horse moment gone very bad), or that I am wiser to exactly how dangerous horses can be. Either way, when––after a mere four weeks of foundational training on the ground––I first put my toe into the stirrup, I thought I was going to pass out with anxiety.     

I’m not going to do it first,” I previously whined to my mentor Keith Meriweather, who is helping me train Aedín. “You go first. You’re the one who knows how to hit the ground.” Keith is a professional stunt rider whose riding lineage goes back to The Spanish Riding Schoolin Vienna. On the outside, Keith is all cowboy. But on the inside, he is an equine Zen master, a true horse whisperer, who humbly conceals his virtuosity. But the horses know. My horses know and will do anything for him because he does not break horses. He inspires them.

“Don’t think of what could happen,” he said in response. “Think about what is happening.” I looked doubtfully over at Aedín who was standing quietly with her eyes half-closed, awaiting me patiently at the mounting block. I took a deep exhale, stood on the mounting block, and feeling as if I was launching off a bridge by a bungee cord, swung into the saddle.

I’m three weeks into riding Aedín now, and here’s what I’ve learned about fear (so far): 

  • Fearlessness is not necessarily wise or cool – back in the day when I thought I was so great because I was fearless, I was actually careless and naïve. I took risks that not only could have impacted me very negatively but others too. There’s really no badge of honor to be won by aspiring to be fearless.
  • Brave is not fearless – it means feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Brave people feel fear and do not let it shut them down. That’s what makes them brave. I’d rather be brave than fearless.
  • Fear has important things to say – fear takes very good care of me. It tells me that I need to be alert, keenly aware, and present. It tells me I’m reaching outside of my comfort zone. It tells me to tread mindfully because I am in unknown territory.
  • The only thing to fear is fear itself – is a lie, and just really bad logic. Don’t fear fear–– that’s ridiculous. Instead, when it shows up welcome it. Don’t resist it. Fear is a catalyst, a wake-up device to catch your attention. Your job is decoding just what you need to pay attention to and how you want to organize yourself around it.
  • Don’t try to manage your fear – a trick I’ve learned with Aedín is to regulate her fear and tension, instead of trying to manage mine. When I do that, the whole system relaxes. How does this translate into our lives? In scary scenarios that involve an ‘other’ (friend, partner, team), if I assist the other(s) to feel regulated and safe, it naturally assists me to be regulated too.
  • A stitch in time – be present with your fear (and the other’s) early and often so you are not whipped around by it or reactive to it. The more present you are, the more attuned you are to how to respond to it and can attend to the fear when it is still manageable rather than wait until it gets more inflamed.
  • Fear is often future based – we are forecasting failure or demise. As Keith instructed, don’t think about what could happen, think about what is happening. In other words, get present.
  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with fear – we are culturally influenced against fear. We are told not to be afraid. We are told fear is bad. The trouble is not with fear, it’s because we haven’t been taught how to be with fear and navigate it. As a result of our inability to be with fear, we have panicked reactions. Mistakenly we point to fear as the culprit, instead of our unskillfulness as the cause of drama.
  • Fear is a seasoned response – we become more fearful or timid as we get older, not because we are weaker or more frail versions of our younger selves, but because we are now far wiser . Quit letting ageism inform your narrative about fear, and quit beating yourself up about it.
  • Fear requires that we feel unpleasant sensations – We seek to be fearless because it feels better not because it is necessarily a better state. Instead, cultivate bravery by being willing to feel, and be totally present with, the utter discomfort of fear.
  • Fear is a sacred doorway – Do what scares you. On the other side of fear is the exceptional life beyond your comfort zone, the life of your dreams: you starting that crazy-idea business, you ending that toxic relationship, you living abroad for a year, you sailing around the world, you living in that tiny home in the forest, you starting that book… 

… or me galloping fiery little Aedín far into the backcountry on long adventures that I will remember for a lifetime.

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Pandemic Inspired Music: Our Quarantune Collection For You! Tue, 14 Apr 2020 20:35:58 +0000 Our Favorite Quarantunes Collection]]>

Enjoy Kindred’s collection of pandemic quarantine-inspired music. Some you may recognize, and some just written for our times. Post your suggestions below and we’ll keep the collection going!

Don’t Stand So Close To Me

Sting joins Jimmy Fallon and The Roots to perform a social distancing remix of The Police’s hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” with instruments found at home while in quarantine.

Mad World performed by Curt Smith of Tears For Fears

Curt Smith of Tears For Fears Youtube with his daughter Diva recorded for us from their quarantine life in Los Angeles.

Turn Off The News And Build a Garden

Willie Nelson and his sons perform Turn Off the News and Build a Garden with me

Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson & Micah Nelson – Lukas Nelson and POTR’s Turn Off The News And Build a Garden (Quarantunes Evening Session)


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The Biology Of Transcendence Mon, 23 Mar 2020 21:59:03 +0000 Editor’s Note: It was Joseph Chilton Pearce’s seminal work that helped lay the foundation of the Conscious Parenting Movement in the United States and around the world, beginning with The Magical Child. Pearce pointed to the Bio-Cultural Conflict the human family found itself facing, especially those attempting to nurture the bodies, hearts and brains of […]]]>

Editor’s Note: It was Joseph Chilton Pearce’s seminal work that helped lay the foundation of the Conscious Parenting Movement in the United States and around the world, beginning with The Magical Child. Pearce pointed to the Bio-Cultural Conflict the human family found itself facing, especially those attempting to nurture the bodies, hearts and brains of the next generation in a culture that did not support nurturing of life, much less human life. Enjoy the introduction to his book, The Biology of Transcendence, here and marvel, as we do, that we still have the guidance of Pearce’s compassion and wisdom for humanity to guide us.

See Kindred’s New Story Glossary of Terms for more insights into Biological Imperatives, Cultural Imperatives, and the Bio-Cultural Conflict. Kindred’s contributors’ insights, and our mission as a nonprofit since 1996, has been to redress this conflict and move us beyond “self-limiting beliefs” toward the sustainable wisdom, innate intelligence, and as Pearce called our biological potential, our “astonishing capacities.” We’re honored to share his work with you here.

This introduction is being shared in preparation for the forthcoming anthology of Joseph Chilton Pearce’s work. It is copyrighted material, so please only share this page.

The Introduction to the Book by Joseph Chilton Pearce

“The ability to rise and go beyond” is the definition of transcendence and the subject explored in the following pages.  While this force constitutes our nature and fires our spirit, an honest exploration of it must contend with this counter question: Why, with a history so rich in noble ideals and lofty philosophies that reach for the transcendent, do we exhibit such abominable behaviors?  Our violence toward ourselves and the planet is an issue that overshadows and makes a mockery of all our high aspirations.

Sat Prem, a French writer transplanted to India following World War II, recently asked this question: “Why, after thousands of years and meditation, has human nature not changed one iota?”  In the same vein, this book asks why, after two thousand years of Bible quoting, proselytizing, praying, hymn singing, cathedral building, witch burning, and missionizing has civilization grown more violent and efficient in mass murder?  In exploring the issue of transcendence, we explore by default the issue of our violence.  The two are intertwined.  

Neither our violence nor our transcendence is a moral or ethical matter of religion, but rather an issue of biology.  We actually contain a built-in ability to rise above restriction, incapacity, or limitation and, as a result of this ability, possess a vital adaptive spirit that we have not yet fully accessed.  While this ability can lead us to transcendence, paradoxically it can lead also to violence; our longing for transcendence arises from our intuitive sensing of this adaptive potential and our violence arises from our failure to develop it.

Perennially our pleas to cloud nine go unheeded, our struggles against principalities and powers are in vain, and we wander in a self-made hall of mirrors, overwhelmed by inaccessible reflections of our own mind. Handed down through millennia, our mythical and religious projections take on a life of their own as cultural counterfeits of transcendence. 

“We actually contain a built-in ability to rise above restriction, incapacity, or limitation and, as a result of this ability, possess a vital adaptive spirit that we have not yet fully accessed. While this ability can lead us to transcendence, paradoxically it can lead also to violence; our longing for transcendence arises from our intuitive sensing of this adaptive potential and our violence arises from our failure to develop it.”

The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit, 2004

Culture has been defined by anthropologists as a collection of learned survival strategies passed on to our young through teaching and modeling. The following chapters will explore how culture as a body of learned survival strategies shapes our biology and how biology in turn shapes culture. Religious institutions, cloaked as survival strategies for our minds or soul, are the pseudo-sacred handmaidens of culture brought about through our projections of the transcendent aspects of our nature. Thus this trinity of myth, religion, and culture is both the cause and source of our projections.  Each element of the trinity brings the other into being and all three inter-locking phenomena—myth, religion, and culture—are sustained by the violence they generate within us.

That we are shaped by the culture we create makes it difficult to see that our culture is what must be transcended, which means we must rise above our notions and techniques of survival itself, if we are to survive.  Thus the paradox that only as we lose our life do we find it.

A new breed of biologists and neuroscientists have revealed why we behave in so paradoxical a manner that we continually say one thing, feel something else, and act from an impulse different from either of these.

A major clue to our conflict is the discovery by these new scientists that we have five different neural structures, or brains, within us.  These five systems, four of them housed in our head, represent the whole evolution of life preceding us: reptilian, old mammalian, and human.

“That we are shaped by the culture we create makes it difficult to see that our culture is what must be transcended, which means we must rise above our notions and techniques of survival itself, if we are to survive.  Thus the paradox that only as we lose our life do we find it.”

– Joseph Chilton Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence, 2014.

As long intuited by poet and saint, the fifth brain in our system lies not in our head, but in our heart, a hard biological fact (to give the devil of science his due) that was unavailable to the pre-scientific world.  Neurocardiology, a new field of medical research, has discovered in our heart a major brain center that functions in dynamic with the fourfold brain in our head.  Outside our conscious awareness, this heart-head dynamic reflects, determines and affects the very nature of our resulting awareness even as it is, in turn, profoundly affected.

From this background I make two proposals here that are necessarily hypothetical:  First, the crux of our ever-present crisis hinges on failure to develop and employ both the fourth and newest brain in our head (one added quite recently in evolutionary history) and its dynamic interactions with our heart brain.  Second, the great saints and spiritual giants of history (even though overlaid with myth and fantasy by cultural counterfeits) point toward, represent, or manifest for us our next evolutionary step, a transcendent event that nature has been trying to unfold for millennia.

From the beginning of our life, the characteristics of each new possibility must be demonstrated for us by someone, some thing, or an event in our immediate environment—but the same chicken-egg paradox will always emerge if we try to determine or bring closure to the riddle of an origin.

This need for a model is acutely the case with a new and unknown form of intelligence such as that offered by our fourth brain and heart brain.  The striking contrast between our ordinary human behavior and the actions of the great beings of our history (Jesus, Krishna, Lao-tzu, Buddha, Eckhart, George Fox, Peace Pilgrim, and a long line of like geniuses) is what makes these figures stand out in time even as shifting or warping history itself.

In every case, however, rather than developing the capacities these great models of history have demonstrated, humankind has projected both the capacities and the image of the models demonstrating them.  That is, we invariably build religions around our spiritual giants or use them to support a religion in order to avoid the radical shift of mind and disruption of culture these rare people bring about, shifts we interpret, ironically, as threats to our survival and thus instinctively reject.  Bio-culture effects, once initiated, tend to self-generate.  Projected by us, we perceive the behaviors demonstrated by our great models as powers out there to which we are subject, rather than as potentials within ourselves to be lived.

As model of a new evolutionary intelligence, Jesus met and continually meets a grim fate at the hands of this cultural effect.  But the cross, the instrument of his execution, symbolizes both death and transcendence for us—our death to culture and our transcendence beyond it.  If we lift the symbol of the cross from its mythical shroud of state-religion and biblical fairy tale—which is to say, if we can rescue Jesus from the Christians—then the cross proves to be the ‘crack” in our cultural cosmic egg.

It is toward this crack that this book points, as did my first book half a century ago.  May this new one throw more light and help us to open ourselves to nature’s new mind, wherein lies our true survival.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material.

About the Book

The Biology of Transcendence uses new research about the brain to explore how we can transcend our current physical and cultural limitations 

• Reveals that transcendence of current modes of existence requires the dynamic interaction of our fourth and fifth brains (intellect and intelligence) 

• Explores the idea that Jesus, Lao-tzu, and other great beings in history are models of nature’s possibility and our ability to achieve transcendence 

• 17,000 sold in hardcover since April 2002 

Why do we seem stuck in a culture of violence and injustice? How is it that we can recognize the transcendent ideal represented by figures such as Jesus, Lao-tzu, and many others who have walked among us and yet not seem to reach the same state? 

In The Biology of Transcendence Joseph Chilton Pearce examines the current biological understanding of our neural organization to address how we can go beyond the limitations and constraints of our current capacities of body and mind–how we can transcend. Recent research in the neurosciences and neurocardiology identifies the four neural centers of our brain and indicates that a fifth such center is located in the heart. This research reveals that the evolutionary structure of our brain and its dynamic interactions with our heart are designed by nature to reach beyond our current evolutionary capacities. We are quite literally, made to transcend. 

Pearce explores how this “biological imperative” drives our life into ever-greater realms of being–even as the “cultural imperative” of social conformity and behavior counters this genetic heritage, blocks our transcendent capacities, and breeds violence in all its forms. The conflict between religion and spirit is an important part of this struggle. But each of us may overthrow these cultural imperatives to reach “unconflicted behavior,” wherein heart and mind-brain resonate in synchronicity, opening us to levels of possibility beyond the ordinary.


Visit the Joseph Chilton Pearce Library at Touch the Future

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Religion’s Roots: Self-Transform To Increase Compassion Tue, 17 Mar 2020 02:11:06 +0000 Compassion development used to be the primary goal of major religions. 1). Lose the ego. According to the foundational goal of all major world religions and philosophies, self-transformation is an ongoing expectation as a member of the religion (Armstrong, 2006; Ivanhoe, 2017; Rohr, 2015). What is supposed to change in a person who practices a […]]]>

Compassion development used to be the primary goal of major religions.

1). Lose the ego.

According to the foundational goal of all major world religions and philosophies, self-transformation is an ongoing expectation as a member of the religion (Armstrong, 2006; Ivanhoe, 2017; Rohr, 2015). What is supposed to change in a person who practices a religion? Here are two aspects that are interrelated:

The ego is a manufactured self, a protective mechanism against feelings of insecurity. Whatever defines one’s identity and one’s power is a form of ego. The ego perceives itself to be superior, to be in control, with a rigid self-image of goodness, stability, and status. According to the major religions of the world, the ego is the source of cruelty, pettiness, and destruction. It judges and sorts others in potentially dangerous ways. The ego is a false self. Its form differs by culture and era but it is a form of narcissism.

Losing self-importance is hard. Anything that undermines the ego’s view of superiority and status is rejected. Although it may serve as a useful defensive mechanism for the first part of life, the ego becomes a millstone around the individual’s psyche in the second half of life, when a person’s shadow makes itself more apparent. The shadow side includes the parts of ourselves that were not acceptable or nourished, the parts we suppressed. The ego’s strength prevents self-awareness and connection to others; we can get stuck grasping the ego to avoid the pain of growth which requires letting go of one’s ego.

Losing the ego means letting go of judgments, attachments to particular self-images, to outcomes, and to clutching things tightly. It’s like cleaning out your house after hoarding for years. Even though you don’t use the stuff, somehow all the clutter and distraction are reassuring.

The Axial sages (in the Middle East, China, India) emphasized the need to let go of the ego in order that life’s energy (qi in Chinese thought) could flow freely in us and in our relationships. Going with the flow of life energy is a process of being, rather than doing or thinking, a process of letting one’s true self emerge. Instead of dogma or logical formulations, conclusions, or ideas, life is an interpersonal dance moment by moment of self-in-relation.

The ego resists its death, rising up over and over. Axial sages were aware of its stubborn presence and advocated various forms of ego dissolution. Each tradition invented one or more techniques for shifting away from egoic mindsets. Still today, Eastern religious and philosophical traditions continue to emphasize one’s responsibility to develop virtue as a lifelong endeavor.

2). Grow compassion.

Ego dissolution is the “negative” goal. Compassion is the positive goal. Across mainstream religions, compassion is a shared tenet, an ideal mode of living and being. Many major religions have established practices both to dissolve the ego and to grow in compassion.

Sample Self-Development Techniques

1). Boat passengers. One of the common practices in contemplative science is to consider one’s feelings, thoughts, and reactions as passengers on boats going by. Learning to watch them come and go, part of moral wisdom, enables the separation of true self from the false self that is the ego. When we jump onto a boat—fuel a particular feeling or thought—we enable its power over us.  At the neurobiological level, we feed it energy, activate associations, and it becomes enlivened and much harder to extinguish.

2). Mindfulness. Focus on “presence in the moment.” Focusing on the present, rather than on the past or future, leads to greater happiness (Langer, 1999). “Mindfulness” can be practiced alone or with others and involves deep breathing and attention to sensory and perceptual input. It means pulling oneself out of automatic responses to familiar contexts and paying attention to the newness in the situation (Langer, 1989), which triggers the holistic processing of the right brain.

3). Positive Emotions. Increase positive emotions and attitudes towards others, especially those who are different from you. Positive social emotions such as gratitude, sympathy, and compassion provide fertile ground for mindful (inclusive) morality. Compassion-building exercises like loving-kindness exercises (Salzburg, 1995), alleviate stress, re-balance the body, and increase empathy and positive action towards others (Fredrickson & Losada, 2006). The individual imagines gently sending the feeling of love or appreciation to self and others.

4). Rituals performed mindfully in the family. It’s not enough to get your own self in order, virtue is about fostering flourishing in others. In fact, Confucius believed that individuals need other people to elicit a person’s full humanity (Armstrong, 2006). Self-cultivation of virtue occurred in relationship is a reciprocal process. Confucius emphasized rituals performed in a spirit of yielding, of humility (not egoic pride or self-aggrandizement). Those who have the opportunity to care for needy others, like children or ailing elderly, have the benefit of being able to practice this form of compassion.

According to Confucius, family life is the theater of enlightenment, a place where one learned to live for others—enlarging them. Everyone has the potential to be a good person or true gentleman (junzi; the focus was on males). The way to learn to be good was through rituals of respect. “The lessons he had learned by caring for his parents, spouse, and siblings made his heart larger so that he felt empathy with more and more people: first with his immediate community, then with the state in which he lived, and finally with the entire world.” (Armstrong, 2006, p. 207) (Of course, we must point out that babies and children must be respected first, through meeting their basic needs. This will foster a healthy child who is ready to yield to others because his basic needs were first yielded to.)

5). Compassionate Lifestyle. Build a compassionate moral habitat for yourself. Instead of watching shows or participating in activities that make you feel angry, afraid, superior, or inferior, find activities that build compassion for others. Expand your perspective on and empathy for the lives of others by reading good books (e.g., Celestial Bodies) or watching appropriate films (e.g., A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). Make friends with people from different backgrounds. Find people who are working on compassion, too, and develop your own group rituals or practices, like serving at a soup kitchen, taking action to establish more compassionate social policies.

We can grow out of ego and into compassion by choosing our moral habitats.

Related Posts

Self-Transformation, Step 1: Building the Ego

Self-Transformation 2: Ego-Dissolution

Is Religion About Belief or Behavior?


Armstrong, K. (2007). The great transformation. New York: Anchor Books.

Fredrickson, B.L., & Losada, M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678-686.

Ivanhoe, P.J. (2017). Oneness: East Asian conceptions of virtue, happiness, and how we are all connected. New York: Oxford University Press.

Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

Rohr, R. (2015). What the mystics know: Seven pathways to your deeper self. New York: Crossroads.

Salzberg, S. (1995). Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary art of happiness. Boston: Shambhala.

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Disappoint Someone Fri, 31 Jan 2020 00:44:38 +0000 Ending the Addiction to Please I can’t help it. The new year rolls around and I already have a list a mile long about all the ways I want to do better, be better, work better and be a better friend. On top of that, in the aftermath of a soul-shredding election season, we are […]]]>

Ending the Addiction to Please

I can’t help it. The new year rolls around and I already have a list a mile long about all the ways I want to do better, be better, work better and be a better friend.

On top of that, in the aftermath of a soul-shredding election season, we are told this is our year to rise up. To show up. To be the change, because every human right, every civil right, and every acre of wilderness, we’ve fought for is at risk.

I believe now is our time to really show up in the world. And it will require our entire capacity—nothing half-hearted. We have too much to lose. But recently I noticed a deep exhaustion creeping into the edges of my resolve—and it’s only mid January.

When I traced the exhaustion back to its source, I discovered that a habit to please still pervades many of my good intentions. Yep, I’ll just come right out and say it:  I’m a pleaser. It stings a little to confess. But it’s time the pleaser in me saw the light of day, because pleasers cannot be warriors.

The ‘Disease to Please’, as author Dr. Harriet Braiker coined in 2002, sounds like a kitten amongst the other pathologies. But make no mistake, underneath that fluffy exterior is a saber-toothed tiger that shreds relationships, and leaves behind veritable battlefields of collateral damage.

And if this is the year to rise up and show up, then my habit to please cannot come along. Not even a tiny bit. Pleasing creates an oxymoron of just about every virtue. It cancels out courage. It eradicates authenticity. It neutralizes strength.

After three whole decades of wrestling with my habit to ‘please first, and ask questions later’ (I’m a slow, yet thorough, learner), what I finally saw was not the ‘nice’ part of the pleaser facade, but a woman terrified of conflict. Now that was something I could sink my teeth into!

So instead of wrestling with the pleasing part of me, like I’ve done for so many years (with stellar lack of success) I’m confronting my fear of conflict. Specifically, I’m confronting my fear of all those uncomfortable sensations associated with conflict—anxiety, worry, hurt, fear and betrayal. I’m confronting my fear of anger, of being a disappointment, and of accusations. I’m facing my terror of being abandoned or cast aside. I’m walking straight into my fear of being judged as lazy or selfish.

And guess what, pleasing everyone never prevented any of that stuff anyway.

So my resolutions are taking on a whole new flavor this year. Instead of all the ways I can be ‘better’, I’m going to take an altogether different approach. I’m going to risk the unthinkable:  I’m going to be ok with disappointing someone.

With luck, I’ll disappoint a lot of people.

These times are calling for the end of pleasing. Instead, we need to challenge. We need to confront. We need to call out the difficult dynamic. We need to risk unrest and opposition. We need to send back the proverbial cold pasta.

As people pleasers, we run around doing things that on the surface seem compassionate or caring, even noble. Upon reflection, I’ve seen that some of my softer attributes were actually just cowardice cloaked in spiritual clothing.

If you find that you do a lot of the following, perhaps your pleaser factor requires attention:  understanding, compromising, letting go, not attaching, ameliorating, subjugating, apologizing, tending, being flexible, bending, attending, appeasing, charming, entertaining, placating, pacifying, rescuing, fixing, complying, and obliging.

Love—real love—is part support and part challenge. When you compare those two parts in your life, which side is more weighted?

So how to change? Like all good brain rewiring, start with small actions, as many times in a day as possible. Think of it like brain weight-training. Start with ‘light weights’, and as many reps as possible. Before you know it, you’ll be creating resilient neural pathways that can face conflict with more confidence and courage.

Coach and mentor, Dr. Adrienne Partridge writes in the Huffington Post that a Google executive told her that when she was trying to stop being a people pleaser, she started making a point to disappoint someone every day. “Go out and disappoint someone today, “ she writes. “Tell your waiter how you really feel about the food, tell your family you are not coming home for the holidays, or say ‘no’ to a project at work because it takes too much time away from your children.”

Ending the addiction to please is a practice that requires presence and mindfulness. As you tell the waiter you are disappointed with their service, slow yourself down and breathe through his or her reaction, and your subsequent feeling-response to their reaction. Watch their facial gestures. Feel your uncomfortable feelings. Just stay really present and breathe through that really hard moment. You are literally building new neural pathways.

Recognize that pleasing actually does a disservice to the other. It assumes the other person cannot handle disappointment. It holds them small. It refuses a growth opportunity to the other, and keeps them mired in a limited environment.

Another great exercise is to make a list of what you love, and what you love to do. Make it exhaustive…. hiking, dancing, drawing, playing with the dog. Think of things you used to love a long time ago, add them too if that feels right. Then go over it very carefully and see if pleasing has robbed you of any of those things. No more playing your guitar because you are too busy taking care of a project you never really liked in the first place? What about that yoga class you’ve been meaning to take, but you just can’t get away from the kids?

Slow down and take a moment before responding to requests. Get in the habit of saying things like the following:

“I’m not sure, can I get back to you about that?”
“I am willing to do that, but only for an hour.”
“I need some time to think about that before I commit.”
“I can only see you between 10 and 11.”

And lastly, start to build your capacity for uncomfortable feelings. Expect that as you practice saying ‘no’, you will feel anxious, conflicted, guilty, worried and scared. That’s ok. Good things sometimes require feeling hard feelings. Don’t interpret their presence as an indication that you’ve done something wrong.

I can tell you that as you break with your habit to please, life can get a lot harder before it gets better. People who rely on your bending yourself into a pretzel might get really angry with you at first. You are changing the game plan. That’s ok. Take the pushback you are receiving as a sign that you are growing.  Inwardly thank those that give you a hard time. Imagine their resistance working like inner weights in the gym of your growth.

Over time, you’ll discover that relationships (the ones that survive) become more alive and vibrant. And you have more energy, joy and levity. Relationships that do not survive your shift were probably too small for you anyway. Bless them and send them on their way.

We need warriors. We need you. Start by disappointing someone today.

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