Tag Archives: ESP


This is to inform all of you that I have uploaded a new podcast on channeling. It is available in our Mind Mechanix series.

Many people think that certain mediums are able to channel the dead, allowing them to communicate with those still alive. Is this true? Or is it just a load of BS? Now, you can finally understand exactly what is going on.

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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Spiritual


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Be a Success and Develop Your Psychic Powers

I have produced two new podcasts.  One is lesson 9 in our success series and the other podcast is part 2 in the developing your ESP series in the Mind Mechanix series.

See the below video for more details as well as an exercise to center you and put you into the now.


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What I’ve Been Doing

It’s been a while since I posted and I have never shard a personal side of myself that I’m going to today.

Below is a post I just wrote for my new website, as I have joined with the Reciprocal Dynamics Institute and there will be an adjustment period as I integrate that stuff with mine.

Bear in mind if you visit that the site is very new and undeveoped, but here’s a link:

Here is today’s post, that should answer some of your questions about me.  By the way, my first name is Mark and it is my middle name that is John, and I have decided to use Mark with the institute material.

So here it is:

Hi, my name is Mark Allen, and I am going to write this post to give you more details than are contained in my bio.


I would like to welcome you to a website that I trust you will find fulfilling and uplifting and that will change your life. After all, if lives aren’t changed, then we have failed in our mission.


Let me take a moment to tell you a little bit about the strange series of events that have lead me in two short months to the place where I am today. It is a story so incredible I’m not even sure I would believe it if I was reading it, but in any event, here it is.


I have been on a spiritual journey all my life, but it has been very slow going because for 30+ of those years I was stifled by organized religion. The church I attended was better than most, and they put a lot of value on finding out the truth on matters. For example, they didn’t believe in many of the so called popular “Christian” holidays which are actually pagan in origin, and they had a lot of other things right as well, but, like all organized religion, they got steeped in their own dogma and are blind to the spiritual truth of the universe.


Just a few short years ago, I could not understand the phrase “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” but after the last two years I certainly do.


That’s when change really began for me, two years ago, when I was already in my mid fifties. Which just goes to show that yes, an old dog can learn new tricks and age is certainly not a barrier to learning. Boy, is that an understatement! This old dog has been on quite a ride these last two years, let me tell you.


Anyway, for years, I knew there was something missing from my spiritual path, and my old answer that “the Bible has all the answers” just didn’t fit reality anymore. There were too many questions it didn’t answer.


So I began to look at other things like remote viewing, astral projection, and other topics like that. I learned a lot from a lot of places, but still I wasn’t satisfied. Then, I came across Richard [not his real name; the name has been changed so I can tell you what I really think of him] and that changed in a hurry.


Suddenly, I began to get answers to many of my questions, and the world of psychic powers that I had abandoned in my young teen years began to open up to me. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material I was learning. I was growing at a very fast rate, and I was meeting some very extra ordinary people. Finally, I thought, I have found IT, that which I had been looking for all my life.


My whole world view was transformed over night. I was absorbing this new information like a greedy sponge. It was almost like every morning was Christmas morning. But then, I began to have some major disagreements with some aspects of his agenda and what he was saying.


For example, for a supposedly “enlightened being,” as he likes to style himself, there were some things he either didn’t know or was just plain lying about. His take on human history, for example, is not correct. And then, in one of his retreats, he made a big deal about going to the doctor and how great “modern medicine” is, while calling natural cures “outdated.”


He also believed that it is inevitable that “future people” would be half human, half machine, like “the Borg” on Star Trek. And he wants to make sure that this vision of the future comes about? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It seemed to me that a spiritually enlightened being, as he claimed to be, would be against this trans-humanist agenda, but no, he was for it and promoted it as “progress.”


In fact, he has organized “jump teams” of his followers to “make sure” that certain “scientific breakthroughs” occur. Further, he wants his “jump teams” to intervene in scenes of civil strife and make sure that people calm down and “return to normal.” He is vehemently opposed to “conspriacy theories,” even though the government itself has admitted that it coined that term to demonize and discredit anyone who takes an opposing view.


The bottom line is that Richard is in agreement with the globalist agenda of mass extermination and the implementation of a New World Order. But, in his twisted world view, Richard believes that if he has enough followers he can take over the whole thing and guide us into that Orwellian future.


Furthermore, it is my belief that Richard shares a lot with the Illuminati. He believes his special people are different, and that only they have souls. The rest of us who aren’t part of his “enlightened group” are an inferior breed of subhuman without souls, and that includes the majority of the population. But he and his people are smarter, more spiritually aware, able to manipulate time and space with their minds, and so, since only they are truly human, don’t you see, they have a right to rule the rest of us idiots.


It takes a long time of listening to Richard’s material to reach these conclusions. And I have listened to Richard for hours on end. Since I have an almost photographic memory [my memory is not quite as good as David’s because he does have a photographic memory — but still, we are both way more intelligent than the average, yet I find Richard’s elitist agenda that he and his special people have the “right” to be in charge repugnant.], I am able to listen to material for days on end and put one piece together with another one, even if they are in separate courses. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, because Richard will say one thing here and another there and unless you are extra smart you won’t put them together and get the big picture. However, I have that picture clearly and have confirmed it with David, whose history with Richard goes back about 20 years.


Please understand that I am not closed minded to scientific advances like some spiritual people seem to be. In fact, there is nothing wrong with science as long as it is “real science,” unlike the fraudulent “mainstream science” of today that is about as open minded as a medieval priest.


As time went on, I came across more and more of these strange beliefs of Richard’s that didn’t seem to fit the picture of an “enlightened being,” and yet, many of his teachings were working in my own life, so I ignored them for a while, thinking maybe I didn’t understand, and that maybe it would become clear to me later on.


However, in recent days it has become clear to me that Richard is actually performing most of his miracles from an In Between state of mind [this is a very advanced technique that only a very few of Richard’s students can do and we will impart this knowledge to you at a much later time when you, as a student, have proven yourself ready for this next big step]. Further, he is able to pull most of his “knowledge” directly from the Akashic Records, which is a topic for later material as well. However, with practice and experience and careful application of your studies, you, too, can learn to pull information from this universal knowledge source as well and become close to an Enlightened Master.


OK, I’ve covered a lot of ground here, so let me back up and make it plain for you.


First, the In Between state of mind is the state that all mystics and shamans down through history have been able to slip into. Many do it with drugs such as Ayawashka. It can also be induced with hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD.


The only problem is that if you artificially induce the In Between state of mind, you might either have a “bad trip” or actually go insane. This is because you don’t have control over your “trip,” and it just pulls you along the way it wants to. What Richard teaches is a method that induces this state of mind naturally and in a controlled way, so that you don’t go crazy or lose control. However, it does induce symptoms like you are on drugs sometimes, like slurred speech, altered vision, being unable to walk, or acting like you are drunk.


This is especially difficult for beginning students, because this is a very powerful state of mind to be in. Some have a hard time coming out of it, which is why Richard gives instruction on how to come out of it as well as how to induce it. After all, it would not benefit anyone if you became “stuck” in the In Between, and people watching you might think you were crazy. This is why it is only an advanced technique which we will only teach to selected students who qualify.


However, Richard has often publicly complained that his mind works in reverse. This is a puzzle for you to figure out if you can. In the In Between state sometimes it is like you are thinking in reverse. Whereas the average person has trouble getting to this state of mind, Richards is almost “stuck” there, and he actually has to work to maintain a state of “normalcy.” Frankly, I think a lot of people who have been labeled as “crazy” are actually “just” stuck in the In Between and can’t get out. And Richard is just lucky that for some reason he can control it and bring himself in and out of it at will.


Richard has stated that it is from this state that he performs all of his miracles. He can walk through walls, open up a portal and bring through an entity, slow down, stop, or reverse time, control the weather. You name it, Richard can do it, although he says that he doesn’t normally perform miracles anymore because it just makes most people afraid of him and others just forget it after a while. Christ had this same problem. When He healed a man who was blind from birth, rather than celebrating this great sign and wonder, the Pharisees grew angry, condemned Him for “breaking the Sabbath,” and tried to kill him. I guess some things never change and that is probably another reason that Richard keeps these things at a low profile. But you can ask David, and he has personally seen Richard do some amazing things.


There are different levels of the In Between, and you need to go to deeper states to produce different miracles. Richard can also “pull” his students In Between, but, even so, most have not learned how to ge their themselves.


So, we now understand how Richard does his miracles. They are only miracles because the ordinary human has not been taught how to use these powers that are in each and every one of us. The other unusual thing about Richard is that he has a vast store of knowledge. Ask him a question about almost anything and in a short time, he will start telling you all about it. What Richard is doing here is pulling the information out of the Akashic Records, which, again is a skill that you can learn.


What this all boils down to is that Richard is only an extreme example of powers that reside in all of us. He isn’t some kind of god like figure that many of his followers think he is, and it’s also obvious that he doesn’t “know everything” either. Or, as I have told David every once in a while,” David, it’s not that Richard doesn’t KNOW about that, he knows that what you are saying is true, but he’s just lying about it.”


But why would such a remarkable man LIE about important issues. Why indeed? I will let your imagination run with that if you want.


And so, after much frustration with Richard and some of his attitudes and ideas, I began looking for answers. It didn’t take long, and I found a video that David had recorded and just uploaded to the internet about two weeks prior to that. I was intrigued, and sent David an email, not knowing what to expect, as Richard and his group called him evil.


However, I had learned through my previous church experience that just because the “leadership” of an organization condemns someone as “evil,” or of having “sold themselves to Satan,” that doesn’t make it true. In fact, many times the leaders of such cults have something to hide and don’t want their sheep to stray outside their pens.


It is also a mystery to me why someone who is otherwise open minded and forward thinking can get entangled in a cult and then lose that sense of exploration and desire to find the truth that brought them to the cult in the first place. Perhaps the son of the leader of my previous church affiliation summed it up best when he said, “My Dad always said for years that you should not believe him, you should believe the Bible and only believe it when you saw it proved there. But that’s only until you join the church, and then you should just take his word for it because he said so.”


That pretty much sums up a very big human failing. We have an open mind and are searching for truth. Then we think we’ve found it in some cult or other, and embrace that. Then, all of a sudden the mind closes like a steel trap and just simply accepts whatever it is told. Later, it puts the leader of the organization on some kind of pedestal and treats them like a god. That’s human nature I guess because our egos get involved, and the affiliation with the said organization becomes part of our personal identity, so we begin to think they and the “leadership” is right about everything, and we start to take what they say at face value just because they said so, rather than checking the facts.


This is a common human failing because we all develop egos that has an identity. Our ego has it’s own story, which we consider to be “our story,” but, in reality, it is only the story of the EGO, not the US that is underneath it. The ego pulls things into itself with which it can identify, and that is soon considered to be part of the story and therefore part of the self. The ego looks outside itself for it’s identity and looks for outside validation. Joining some cult or group is part of that identification, and people do this all the time.


They THINK they are Republicans or Democrats, Protestants or Catholics, or Muslims, or….. The ego will often identify with multiple groups at the same time, and incorporate this as part of what the ego considers to be ITS identity. This is actually at the root of our problem as a species, and arose with our adoption of the conscious mind and conclusions way of thinking.


Animals aren’t conscious and don’t think as we do. They are in the ever present now and just exist. So are plants. When a human goes In Between, we can rejoin them in that state again.


It is the conclusions mind that is the problem here. It creates the ego that we confuse with our true selves. We also confuse our physical bodies with our true selves as well. In this condition, we have a double whammy. We are actually more of a spirit essence that is just inhabiting this body and interacting with our brain, but this creates a false ego or perception of self that is based on incorrect perceptions.


This short introductory blog post is too short to go into this in any depth, but this false ego that we falsely think is us is what joins these cults and groups and identifies the group as being an extension of this self. When one ego meets another one, a battle often ensues, unless they think there is a reason to cooperate, but most egos operate from a very selfish place that sees the self as separate from and in conflict with the world. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is exactly why the human race is so mixed up. It has based it’s existence and it’s actions on false concepts and ideas that lead to conflict and strife.


Part of the reason you are here is to find out who you really are and to reunite with your true self. This is a journey of self discovery that could last a lifetime. In the end, though, it will answer all of the important questions that our egos can’t find the answer to. Questions such as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is the purpose for my life?”


No religion is going to answer these questions. Science can’t give you the answers either. But the fact that you have found this website and that you are asking these questions means that you just might be ready to find the answers.


Yes, there are answers to these questions and the purpose of this website is to help you discover your true self. And in the journey there may be a lot of surprises along the way and a lot of aha moments. It’s an interesting journey if you dare to “boldly go where no man or woman has gone before.”


So welcome, fellow traveller. David and I are not your gurus. We are only your teachers and guides. We are here to help you along your journey and we sure as hell don’t want to feed either your ego or ours. I think that makes us radically different from any other site you have ever seen. We are telling you, in David’s words, to “choose real.”


Choosing real might be scary at first, especially for your ego, because the last thing it wants if for you to truly find yourself.













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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Personal, Spiritual


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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Current Events, Spiritual


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Handbook of the Navigator

I got this book a year ago, and my life hasn’t been the same since.

This book reveals to you things that most people have never come across, even after years of looking. It is the first step on an epic journey of self discovery. You will read things in this book that will astound you and amaze you.

In fact, if I hadn’t begun that journey a year ago, I might not be here today, as I was in a steep downward spiral in every aspect of my life. But, because I took that first step, my life is improving each and every day.

It’s scale is epic in scope, beginning with why some people feel a spiritual calling, like a secret, inner instinct that leads them to the path of awakening. How the sixth sense can directly plug you into real spiritual experiences, the creation of God, what is the mystical state called Multi-Dimensional Consciousness where you can be aware of multiple dimensions in your waking state and more.

It demonstrates how paranormal phenomena, metaphysics, and spiritual discovery are all combined for true awakening. If you have ever felt there was a greater purpose or meaning to your life, if you have felt a calling but could not understand what it was – this is the Navigator.

This book helps you understand and connect to the Navigator and reveals why some human beings are destined to ultimately seek it out. It provides the missing link to your own personal revelation and awakening.


You can get more information on this book by clicking here.





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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Personal, Spiritual


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Immortality and Ascension

I am going to share a lot of valuable information with you on this blog. I hope you have found the articles and videos I have already posted to be of interest and use.

Today I an going to talk about the subject of ascension, and how you can become an ascended being.

In actual fact, many of you reading these lines are old souls, and you have agreed to come here from a long time ago, as this is a pivotal moment in human history. Our mission is to help the human race evolve to it’s next level.

Here is a short but provocative video that tells the story of most of us, or we wouldn’t be here.

A long time ago, far far away, we made an agreement to come here at this crucial moment. Our job is to bring light to this darkened planet, and prepare it for enlightenment.




First, let me tell you what I believe is the difference between ENLIGHTENMENT and ASCENSION. This is my understanding about how this works, so you probably won’t find this in any dictionary.

One who is ENLIGHTENED is a person who understands and applies the attainment of dimensional consciousness. [NOTE: throughout this article you will see many hyper links to additional material, which will open in a separate tab when clicked on. The topics I discuss are so vast that you will need to visit these links for full information on the subject being discussed. For example, the above link takes you to a special page with a free course on the subject of how you can awaken your dimensional consciousness and what it is. So don’t be afraid to click on the links we highlight, and then come back here once you have finished reading or listening to the linked material.]

Dimensional Consciousness is not widely understood, but to awaken this dimensional consciousness, you must engage in a special form of meditation. Here are two segments of a course on this subject that you can listen to for free, after which you will understand that this unique form of meditation is very much different and more effective than the regular kind.

Foundation 1

Foundation 2


I realize this is a lot to take in, but, take your time. It will all make sense as we go along.


The way I define an ASCENDED BEING is one who is not only ENLIGHTENED, but one who has transformed their physical, energy, and spiritual bodies in such a way that they can disappear and reappear at will, shape shift, and perform many other miracles. An ascended being will also be for all intents and purposes immortal.

To understand these concepts and apply them to your life, I urge you to study and absorb all the material presented here and in our links.




Now that you have a basic understanding of how things work spiritually, and how you can begin to reach your potential, it’s important that we go back and learn what humanity really is.

There is strong evidence that mankind is a race that has been genetically engineered by the mixing of primate and alien DNA to make a hybrid creature – US.

Go ahead and read some of the secret history of the earth, starting with the Chronicles of Earth. It’s an utterly fascinating read. Then, come back to this narrative when you have read enough of that page and the ones linked to it.

This is truly a fascinating story, of how the human race was created to serve their creators, why and how. This information will later explain to you much that has hitherto not made sense to you about the human condition.

At this point, let me interject that the Annunaki had a real problem on their hands. They wanted to make a being that was smart enough to do its job, but not smart enough to ever challenge their creators. They did NOT achieve this goal, because mankind has proven that it has the ability to ascend to heights that our creators never dreamed of.

However, there has been a campaign down through history to keep the masses of the people in ignorance about our incredible human potential – otherwise, we would not make good slaves at all.

One of the main ways this dumbing down is carried out today is through our educational system. Way back in about 1987, I wrote a paper for one of my education classes called The History of the Great Moral Tradition in American Education, which in 1992 I included in my book, The Restoration of Truth. While much of what I wrote in that book I no longer subscribe to, if you really want to find out WHY the educational system is so messed up, you should read the entire chapter of my book in which this paper is included. And, of course, this material is almost 20 years old now, so the situation has only gotten worse. For a real eye opener then, about what is being done to you and your children, read this chapter [the paper in question is about half way down the page if you don’t want to read the introductory material, but I feel that is important material as well.]




In reality, NONE of us are “just ordinary” people. We are, in fact, incredible beings, but, we are mostly in a state of profound SLEEP. And, as Duke Leto tells his son Paul in Dune, “The sleeper must awaken…”

But, therein lies the trick!

About 85% of our DNA and our brains lie dormant, or asleep, if you will. In fact, science has been utterly unable to figure out what all of this excess capacity does.

Well, if you really want to awaken yourself, one way is to take up Sun Gazing, as the energy from the sun will eventually activate much of the dormant DNA and reawaken parts of our minds that are dormant.

However, unless you bring to bear multidimmensional consciousness while you are sun gazing, your results will be far less than what they can be using these important techniques. By using these advanced spiritual techniques, sun gazing will work a lot better for you than it otherwise would.




Once again, I suggest you go to Halexandria and read this page. This is one of the most concise explanations I have ever seen on how to use the Law of Attraction.


Once you have read that, go to the two free lessons in the Foundation Set to discover the meditative techniques you will need to help you on your journey.


Foundation 1

Foundation 2


One of the reasons people don’t get what they want from the Law of Attraction is that they don’t understand that we have a lot of “I’s” in our minds, each with different ideas about what it likes and wants. This short video will explain this to you and tell you what you need to do about this problem.


Now, I suggest you listen to the very insightful course called “Unveiled.”


This course is the wake-up call to the discovery and acknowledgment of a False Reality (The Matrix) versus what is real. Once you begin to “see” this veil pulled over your eyes and mind, you need to maintain consciousness to see past the illusion and not be consumed by the larger collective of thought. By maintaining individualism and awareness one surfaces to a higher state of being. Click here to listen to this insightful course.


You may also want to check out a 30 volume course on the law of attraction here.






In very ancient times, the elite were given the star fire, which extended their lives and increased their mental and spiritual powers.


At some point, the star fire was no longer available, so then the ruling elite humans on earth had to make due with the ORME.


The ORME is the white powder of gold, or the philosopher’s stone. It is the mono-atomic state of gold and other precious metal elements, which means that rather than having a molecule composed many atoms held together to form the metallic form, in it’s single atom state it is a white powder. This white powder is a super conductor, which, when ingested into the human body can produce amazing results, such as longevity, healing of diseases, psychic powers, and much more. The ORME occurs naturally in many vegetables, with grapes being a very big source. Go to the theory of eating page, and start reading about half way down the page for the good parts. It is also found in sea water, and therefore in sea salt as well.

Unfortunately, the author of the Halexandria site, like almost everyone else, has not heard of the ancient practice of sun gazing, but I can see that a combination of sun gazing while ingesting ORME could have spectacular and long lasting results.




Colloidal minerals such as colloidal silver and colloidal gold have similar properties to the ORME, and, in fact there is ample documentation that colloidal silver, for instance, will kill almost any form of germ or virus. It will also extend life and help heal wounds. My dog, for instance, is a living example of the healing and regenerative effects of colloidal silver.

He had a leg operation over 5 years ago and the vet didn’t use the proper sanitation either in the operation or the implant he put into the dog. As a result, when we got him back home, he had such a massive and aggressive infection that he almost died. However, regular applications of colloidal silver both externally and internally got rid of the infection and saved his life.

He is now around 14 years old and still pretty healthy. It also appears that all of his brothers and sisters from his birth litter have long since died, as Costa Rica can be very hard on dogs for various reasons.

OK, so colloidal silver, gold, etc. can act in your system just like a super conductor similar to the action of the ORME. With the power of superconductivity added to your physical body, when you gaze at the sun, it should increase the effects much more than they otherwise would be.

I will soon be uploading a series of success lessons based on The Science of Getting Rich where I describe some of the implications in much more detail, although at that time I, like most people even today, do not understand the connection to sun gazing. When you add all of this to sun gazing, it is a powerful combination indeed.

Finally, if you have the appropriate meditation techniques that you are practicing, it will increase your overall results exponentially. See the links above to the Foundation Set and other HBI material for more details in this regard.

I have had exposure to many metaphysical systems and teachers, and I can say without reservation that the HBI material is far ahead of anything else I have ever experienced, including some very famous names that I won’t divulge here.




I would like to draw your attention in closing to another aide that seems to have properties similar to the ORME as far as increasing the power of your psychic and meditative abilities. The source is very limited, so, if you are lucky you may be able to get some.

Here are a couple of descriptive paragraphs to whet your interest:


By now there is a good chance you have heard the whispering rumors about a new, secret project we’ve been working on for the last three years. These whispers might have told you things like how it stimulates a region of your brain you aren’t using now, increasing the balance between both hemispheres using more of both, a state normally reserved for famous artists or people considered geniuses. They also may have told you, off the record of course, how it induces relaxation, relieving pain, which boosts the time you can spend in meditation by quieting the body (and the mental chatter).

But did these quiet little whispers tell you how it adapts to your body condition, relaxing you if you need to calm down, or stimulating you if you are too sluggish, thus maintaining an optimal, centered, state of mind? If only it was true, right?

———————————————- End Quote ——————–

Some have referred to this as the meditation pill, but it has many other beneficial applications as well. It is certainly a revolutionary breakthrough if I’ve ever seen one that could boost your results from what we’ve discussed above even more.

Click on this link to read more of the amazing details on the benefits of the magnetic pill.

WOW! I know that’s a lot to digest! This one post could keep you busy learning all weekend, so I’ll leave you to it until next time!










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There’s More To Your Mind Than Your Brain

There’s more to your mind than your brain – your body plays a part in everything from social savvy to mathematical ability.

TAKE a minute out of the hustle and bustle of your busy life and sit very still. Now, place your hands on the arms of the chair or the desk in front of you, and try to focus your attention on counting your heartbeats. Can you feel a throbbing drum roll, a slight murmur or nothing at all? How does your bladder feel – is it empty or will you need to dash for the bathroom within the next half hour? You may be surprised to learn that these bodily sensations are helping you think.

We tend to view the mind as an aloof, disembodied entity but it is becoming increasingly clear that the whole body is involved in the thinking process. Without input from your body, your mind would be unable to generate a sense of self or process emotions properly. Your body even plays a role in thinking about language and mathematics. And physiological sensations, such as those from your heart and bladder, influence such diverse personal attributes as the strength of your tendency to conform, your willpower and whether you are swayed by your intuitions or governed by rational thought.

In the past few years, discoveries about mind-body connections have overturned the long-held view of the body as a passive vehicle driven by the brain. Instead there is more of a partnership, with bodily experiences playing an active role in your mental life. “The brain cannot act independently of the body,” says Arthur Glenberg at Arizona State University in Tempe. Tune in to the body’s signals, and you can exploit this to improve your creativity, memory and self-control.

René Descartes must be turning in his grave at these findings. In his Meditations on First Philosophy, published in 1641, he famously argued that the mind and body are, in essence, two separate entities that could theoretically exist entirely independently of one another. The book sparked a fierce debate into the exact nature of the mind-body connection – a debate that continues to this day. At the centre of the modern discussion is the puzzling sensation of embodiment. The feeling that we own the flesh and blood that stretches from the tips of our toes to the crown of our head is the essence of our sense of self. As such, embodiment is central to consciousness, yet, until recently, we knew little about it.

The first hint of the answer came from an eerie illusion discovered in the late 1990s by Matthew Botvinick, then a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He had the idea that embodiment emerges from the brain’s need to integrate the information it is receiving from various senses. A Halloween party gave him the perfect opportunity to test this, when he discovered that someone had brought a rubber arm along as part of their costume. Placing the fake arm where he could see it on a table, while hiding his real arm from view, Botvinick asked an accomplice to stroke both rubber and real arms at equivalent places and in time with one another. As he suspected, in an attempt to reconcile the tactile and visual stimuli, he began to feel as if the stroking sensation was coming from the arm he could see (see video above). It was as if his brain had forgotten about the real arm and now felt it owned the fake one. He was suitably spooked by the sensation: “I was so unsettled I threw the arm across the room.”

Subsequent lab experiments confirmed the result wasn’t just the product of a hard night’s partying. Importantly, Botvinick also found that the illusion did not occur when brush strokes on the real and fake arm were out of sync, because then the brain was not receiving confused messages that it had to resolve (Nature, vol 391, p 756).

Soon, other groups saw the potential of the rubber-hand illusion for unlocking the secrets of embodiment. Brain scans taken as people fell for the trick showed that we have a crude body map in the brain’s right temporoparietal junction. When our senses provide information about our bodies, this is compared and integrated with the map in the premotor and parietal cortices (see diagram). Any mismatch must be resolved at this stage, leading to illusions such as the rubber hand. However, it is only when the integrated information reaches another area called the insular cortex that the feeling of embodiment pops into conscious awareness.

That’s not all. The insular cortex also processes our internal bodily signals, including the throb of our pulse and rumble of our gut. And it turns out that people vary greatly in how good they are at detecting these, an ability known as interoception. A team led by Manos Tsakiris at Royal Holloway, University of London, found that around a quarter of volunteers were able to count their own heartbeats with an accuracy of at least 80 per cent without taking their pulse, while another quarter had little conscious awareness of it, missing the actual number by 50 per cent or more. Intriguingly, the team also found that those who were particularly good at interoception were less susceptible to embodiment illusions, perhaps because these internal sensations override the contradictory information from their eyes (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol 278, p 2470). “If you have a strong sense of self from the inside, you don’t rely so much on external information like vision and touch,” says Tsakiris.

Since those pioneering experiments all kinds of related illusions have surfaced, each unveiling more about the mind-body connection and the way it moulds our thinking. Henrik Ehrsson and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, for example, recently used a set-up similar to Botvinick’s to persuade volunteers to embody plastic bodies of various sizes, including the diminutive figure of a Barbie doll. Ehrsson noticed that the subjects perceived things as being much bigger when they were under the illusion that they were just 30 centimetres tall. “When we sat next to them, they had the sense that a giant body was nearby,” he says. This suggests that our body awareness affects how we interpret the raw information hitting our eyes (PLoS One, vol 6, p 20195).

Tsakiris, meanwhile, has found that if he strokes someone’s face in sync with a random face being stroked on a screen, he can persuade them to feel as if the image is their own reflection (PLoS One, vol 3, p 4040). This illusion is particularly intriguing, since it indicates that the body’s influence might reach beyond sensory perception to determine how we relate to other people. Tsakiris believes it could explain why we warm to people who subtly copy our facial expressions and body language. He thinks that seeing a reflection of our movements in someone else may evoke a faint version of the face-swap illusion, prompting us to act towards them rather as if we are admiring ourselves in the mirror.

An experiment by Maria-Paola Paladino at the University of Trento in Italy lends some support to this idea. She asked volunteers experiencing the face-swap illusion to rate their own personality, and to guess at the personality of the person on the screen in front of them. They considered themselves to be strikingly similar to the person on the screen. In a subsequent perceptual test, they were asked to estimate the number of letters flashed on a screen, while being told how the virtual person had answered. They were more likely to chose a figure around that answer than were people who had not been subjected to the illusion (Psychological Science, vol 21, p 1202). Since people who are naturally sensitive to their internal signals are not as easily hoodwinked by body illusions, they may be less affected by this kind of social manipulation, and less empathic as a result.

If the simple feeling of the heart beating in our chest is somehow connected to our subconscious reactions to a person, how might the body’s myriad other processes be shaping our thinking? That is exactly what researchers studying “embodied cognition” would like to know. Running against Descartes’s philosophy, this school of thought maintains that many, if not all, aspects of our mental lives are inextricably linked to the experiences of our flesh and blood.

Emotional experience is perhaps the best-studied area of embodied cognition. As a simple example, you may think that you smile because you are happy, but in fact happy feelings arise in a large part from the physical sensation of smiling (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 54, p 768). Even very subtle facial expressions appear to be essential for us to process emotions. In one particularly elegant example, Glenberg’s team showed that people whose frown muscles had been frozen with botox took longer to read sad or angry sentences than they did before receiving the treatment (Psychological Science, vol 21, p 895). Emotions are also linked to physical sensations. We tend to feel colder when we feel lonely, for example, and we associate warmth with friendliness and inclusion.

Such findings suggest that people who are in tune with their bodies are more sensitive to their own feelings. The jury is out on this one, though the fact that the same brain region – the insular cortex – handles both interoception and emotional processing supports the idea (Nature Neuroscience, vol 7, p 189). There is also evidence that you can tap into this connection to improve your intuitive decision-making (see “How to follow your heart”).

Touchy-feely emotions are one thing, but embodied cognition might stretch even further to abstract thought processes. Mathematical thinking, for example, seems somehow to piggyback on our experience of movement and space. When people are asked to think of random numbers, they are more likely to come up with smaller ones if they look down and to the left, and bigger ones if they look up and to the right (New Scientist, 27 March 2010, p 8). Other studies show that language is also deeply embodied. Every time we hear a word, the brain seems to simulate the actions associated with its meaning. When someone says the word “climb”, for example, it activates the same neural regions that trigger our muscles to pull our weight up a tree. What’s more, appropriate hand gestures can help our understanding of these words (New Scientist, 8 April 2000, p 30).

The field of embodied cognition is only just beginning to blossom, though it has had a relatively long history. Many questions remain, including where these mind-body associations come from. Are they innate or learned in infancy? “When we’re cuddled up with mum, we might learn to associate warmth with feelings of social closeness,” says Glenberg. But the link could be hardwired. It also remains to be seen exactly how much our mental and physical lives intertwine. “My personal belief is that all cognition is embodied,” says Glenberg, “and the evidence is slowly inching towards this view.”

None of this detracts from the many exciting applications of mind-body research. Tsakiris is looking at the clinical uses of illusions. A version of the rubber-hand illusion might help the brain to accept a prosthetic limb, while something akin to the face illusion could ease the rehabilitation of anyone receiving a face transplant. Face-swap illusions could also be used to help us better understand empathy and prejudice. Experiments where white and black faces are interchanged, for example, could give an insight into implicit biases. On a more frivolous note, body illusion techniques could help players embody virtual avatars in immersive video games.

Education should benefit, too. Glenberg has found that young children learn much more quickly, and understand more, if they are encouraged to play-act what they are reading. Their memory of the words seems to attach itself to the sensory experiences involved, he thinks. Susan Goldin-Meadow at the University of Chicago noticed something very similar in children learning simple equations. Those encouraged to gesture tended to understand the material more quickly and remember what they had learned for longer (Language and Cognition, vol 2, p 1). The mechanism remains murky, though it is clear that the movements somehow activate an implicit understanding of the material.

You might be able to make use of these discoveries in your own life. Whether you want to increase your willpower, creativity or memory, there are numerous ways to exploit the mind-body connection for your own benefit (see “Creative posturing” and “Flexing your willpower”). The effects may be moderate, but sometimes that’s all you need. With your body helping you to think more effectively, you never know what you might achieve.
Creative posturing

Truman Capote once described himself as a “horizontal author”, saying “I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy.” Vladimir Nabokov was a similarly supine writer.

They might have had a point. Darren Lipnicki and Don Byrne at the Australian National University in Canberra have found that people solved anagrams in about 10 per cent less time when lying down compared with standing (Cognitive Brain Research, vol 24, p 719). The mechanism is fairly simple. Stress is well known to be the enemy of creativity, and we feel more relaxed on our backs than on our feet.

If you can’t persuade your boss to buy you a chaise longue for the office, there are some more discreet ways to get those creative juices flowing. For instance, Joël Cretenet and Vincent Dru from Paris West University Nanterre La Défense suggest that you extend your left arm out in front of you or bend your right arm at the elbow, so you resemble Auguste Rodin’s iconic statue The Thinker. Volunteers who made these moves performed much better on a creative thinking task, in which they had to find innovative uses for an everyday object, such as a brick (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, vol 138, p 201). The explanation is complicated, but it seems the movements are tied to our instincts to approach or distance ourselves from a situation. This helps broaden our outlook on the problem, which is known to be crucial for flexible thinking.

Even simple eye movements left and right across your field of vision can help you to think more laterally. It is thought that this temporarily encourages communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which boosts creativity (Brain and Cognition, vol 71, p 204).
Flexing your willpower

Before you make your next important decision, try to hold off from visiting the bathroom for a few hours, says Mirjam Tuk at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. “It could give you a little more self-control.” She’s not joking.

Tuk’s discovery came after she read that just one neural circuit determines our self-control in lots of different areas. She wondered whether flexing willpower in one domain might therefore bolster resolve in another. Just then, nature started to call, suggesting the perfect way to test her idea. In her subsequent experiment, Tuk asked half of her volunteers to drink a few glasses of flavoured water, under the ruse that they were taking a taste test; the rest just took a sip of each sample. They waited a while before trying numerous tasks, including a classic test of self-control – considering whether they would prefer to receive a small amount of money now, or a larger sum at a later date. The subjects who had downed the drinks were more likely to choose to wait (Psychological Science, in press, DOI: 10.1177/0956797611404901).

Fortunately, a bursting bladder is not the only way your body can help to increase your willpower. Walking backwards, or tensing your muscles, can strengthen your resolve, too. Folding your arms, meanwhile, seems to make you more persistent at a task in hand (European Journal of Social Psychology, vol 38, p 449).
How to follow your heart

We often use metaphors involving the body to describe the process of intuition – we talk about going with our “gut instincts” or “following our hearts”. Perhaps we should take these phrases more literally. Barnaby Dunn at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues have found that people who take notice of subtle physiological changes tend to be more intuitive.

The team first asked volunteers to sit quietly and try to count out their heartbeats without feeling for their pulse. All the while, an ECG machine took an accurate measurement. Comparing these two results gives a good indication of a person’s “interoception”, their ability to read their body’s internal signals. Then, to test their intuition, the participants played a simple computer game. The computer offered them four decks of cards and on each round they had to guess which deck would present a card of a certain colour. Unbeknownst to the players, the set-up was rigged – two of the decks were always slightly more likely to have the winning cards than the other two. The results were surprising. Those with the best interoception tended to be either the best, or the worst, at this card game. Those who were bad at reading their body’s signals came right in the middle (Psychological Science, vol 21, p 1835).

Why could this be? Dunn suspects it is down to the way we process our emotions. In another experiment, he asked the same subjects to rate their emotional reactions as they looked at a series of emotive pictures. The better they were at interoception, the more these ratings correlated with physiological change, such as a shift in heart rate. Dunn suggests that having a hunch might create a flicker of excitement or interest that is reflected in subtle changes in physiology. Since people with good interoception are more sensitive to these signals, their perception of the hunch is stronger, making it more likely that they will act on it. “Their bodies are driving what they decide,” he says. That doesn’t mean the hunch is right, though – which would explain why these people did the best, and worst, of the group.

If you would like to tap into the signals that your subconscious mind is sending your body, you might want to take up meditation. Jocelyn Sze and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that meditating improves bodily awareness and results in the same kind of link between physiological and emotional reactions that Dunn found to be crucial for intuition (Emotion, vol 10, p 803).

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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in True Science


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