Sunday, April 29, 2018

Human by Design by Gregg Braden

With his new book, Gregg Braden had me with this line:  "Modern humans arose suddenly on earth approximately 200,000 years ago." The few traces of evidence we have suggest the ancients were no different from us. It was nice to hear this from a scientist. Equally intriguing was proof that we didn't descend from Neanderthals. This came to light in 2000 at the University of Glasgow when a 30,000 year-old Neanderthal infant yielded mitochondrial DNA.

The Human Genome Project yielded a further blow to the old Darwinian surmise that humans evolved gradually. Here's a recent finding. Shared by chimps and humans, the FOXP2 gene suddenly and rapidly mutated in humans. This gene is located on Chromosome 2 and implicated in organ development and brain growth. It's also essential for the human capacity to feel compassion.

Moreover, we are creatures of irreducible complexity, which means that a whole host of complex organs, systems and functions need to co-exist in order for our bodies to function. Increasingly, scientific evidence suggests that our species arose suddenly "with no evolutionary path leading to our appearance." Our crucial capacities for emotion, empathy and compassion connect us to one another and to other life forms in a unique way. Yet alone and separate we are not, neither from fellow-members of our species nor from other life forms. In old age, Einstein hypothesized a unified field, "an underlying order of the universe," likening this to a distant and mysterious piper's tune that causes us all to dance.

Astronomer Fred Hoyle and mathematician Chandra Wickramsinghe have calculated the likelihood of our species having evolved through accident based on the number of enzymes necessary for life and the chance of their appearing randomly. They came up with a ludicrously small number: 1 to the power of 40,000. Hoyle suggested that this is about as likely as "a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747 jetliner from scattered debris."

Our thought process is hampered, says Braden, on the one hand, by the baggage of creationist religious doctrine, and on the other, by that of scientific "zealots clinging to fundamentalist evolutionary theory," unproven and even discredited though it may be. We must open our minds to new possibilities.

The brain filters its assessments through past memories and ego considerations, but "the heart knows immediately." Many of us have experienced this in moments of critical decision-making, when we receive the sudden compelling heart guidance to make the right choice. The Heart Math Institute, HMI, has researched the mechanism for this. Deep and conscious breathing creates coherence between heartbeat and brain waves; this leads to optimum cooperation between head and heart, balancing and maximizing human powers of discernment.

Many of us seek to evolve and experience a life of purpose. According to Einstein, "our task must be to free ourselves from this prison [the illusion of separateness] by widening our circle of compassion to all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." This lofty goal, shared by mystics from ancient times, may be unattainable. Yet in striving towards it we find liberation and inner security.

Long a student, proponent and practitioner of heart math, Braden offers exercises, including the Heart Math Institute's set of five simple steps to be used by those who wish to ask questions and receive the wisdom of their own hearts. We need to become more aware, he says, that we affirm or deny our life force through the myriad choices we make daily about food, exercise, words, thoughts and beliefs.

Key to vital longevity is the health of the telomeres that protect our chromosomes. It is within our power to nurture these vital elements of life force, thus maximizing the number of times our cells can achieve the healthy division that keeps us alive.

To heal the problems we see around us today, says Braden, we must give up our basic disrespect for human life. Contemporary societies believe in scarcity and competition. Many see difference as a threat, and act on this belief. Economies too. But we must change our thinking and go another way -- the path of cooperation and collaboration. Braden considers growth in the sharing economy, exemplified by Uber and Airbnb, to be a hopeful sign that such a change is taking place.

As individuals, we all matter deeply. We can and must make positive changes, says Braden, and to change our erroneous thinking comes first. "How," he asks, "can we make room for the new world that's emerging if we are clinging to the old world of the past?"

As Einstein knew, and as spiritual practitioners from many ancient traditions have long been aware, one important answer lies in cultivating compassion, which is "both a force of nature and an emotional experience that connects us with nature and all life."

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