The Grand Illusion of Self

Second, we see our self as the unifier that brings it all together. The world presents itself to us as a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, mental images, recollections and so forth. In the self, these are all integrated and an image of a single, unified world emerges.

Finally, the self is an agent. It is the thinker of our thoughts and the doer of our deeds. It is where the representation of the world, unified into one coherent whole, is used so we can act on this world.

All of these beliefs appear to be blindingly obvious and as certain as can be. But as we look at them more closely, they become less and less self-evident.

It would seem obvious that we exist continuously from our first moments in our mother’s womb up to our death. Yet during the time that our self exists, it undergoes substantial changes in beliefs, abilities, desires and moods. The happy self of yesterday cannot be exactly the same as the grief-stricken self of today, for example. But we surely still have the same self today that we had yesterday.

There us core belief is that the self is the locus of control. Yet cognitive science has shown in numerous cases that our mind can conjure, post hoc, an intention for an action that was not brought about by us. Our DNA itself holds this programming yet scientists cannot quite figure out the exact mechanisms we operate under.

So, many of our core beliefs about ourselves do not withstand scrutiny. This presents a tremendous challenge for our everyday view of ourselves, as it suggests that in a very fundamental sense we are not real. Instead, our self is comparable to an illusion — but without anybody there that experiences the illusion.

Yet we may have no choice but to endorse these mistaken beliefs. Our whole way of living relies on the notion that we are pieces of DNA which make us unchanging, coherent and autonomous individuals. All we have is the present moment and although the self is an useful illusion, it may also be a necessary one so that we learn to learn more in the now.
[divider]

Being Present And Ageless DNA

Scientific studies have suggested that a mind that is present and in the moment indicates well-being, whereas shifting our energy to the past or future can lead to unhappiness. A recent UCSF study showed a link between being present and aging, by looking at a biological measure of longevity within our DNA.

In the study, telomere length, an emerging biomarker for cellular and general bodily aging, was assessed in association with the tendency to be present in the moment versus the tendency to mind wander, in research on 239 healthy, midlife women ranging in age from 50 to 65 years.

Being present in the moment was defined as an inclination to be focused on current tasks, while mind wandering was defined as the inclination to have thoughts about things other than the present or being elsewhere.

Many practitioners of spiritual health tell us not to deny the problems we are facing, but to also not get lost in them either. Psychological sciences have shown us that being present brings us greater alertness and inner security, allowing us to face challenges more objectively and with greater calm.

According to the findings, published online in the new Association for Psychological Science journal Clinical Psychological Science, those who reported more mind wandering had shorter telomeres, while those who reported more presence in the moment, or having a greater focus and engagement with their current activities, had longer telomeres, even after adjusting for current stress.

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but it turns out that so-called junk DNA plays critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health and consciousness because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

Mindful meditation interventions, which promote attention on the present with a compassionate attitude of acceptance, lead to increases in some aspects of health. Being present and observant in purity without judgment also means that we have no emotionality surrounding our observations. Our emotional well being is not placed in the outcomes of our life’s circumstances, but rather our wellbeing is placed inwardly and determined by a choice we make to remain calm, focused and expansive surrounding the multiple possibilities of the occurrences we are a witness to.

“We now have evidence for a new type of healing in which DNA can be influenced and reprogrammed by the way we think without physically modifying a single gene,” said Professor and geneticist Karina Mika.

“Over many millennia our minds and physical being have become time machines programmed to grow old and expire, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Mika. “Being ageless could be as simple as changing our emotional state and thinking differently,” she concluded.

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