Spiral dynamics and more – a bit of playfulness for the holidays

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an interesting (intuitive/speculative!) chart – playfully done; don’t take rigid categories too seriously!) – looking at psychologist Clare Grave’s developmental theory which has been popularized (unfortunately, to some extent) by Don Beck as “Spiral Dynamics.”  There’s some interesting parallels with Sri Aurobindo’s symbolic (the lowest levels), typal (mythic, early rational) conventional, individual and subjective stages – see Rod Hemsell’s essays on Spiral Dynamics at the “University of Human Unity” website for much more detail on this.

 

 

 

Spiral Dynamics Integral: Relationship between colors/stages and the brain

 

COLOR SD Category Part of brain  
Infrared Instinctive Instinctive brain  (reptilian; brain stem; )  
Magenta Magical/Animistic Emotional brain (limbic system + gut brain or enteric nervous system;
Red Power Gods Emotional brain (limbic system + heart brain)
Amber Absolutist Religious Emotional brain (limbic system with increasing influence of thinking brain or neocortex)
Orange Individualistic/Achiever Thinking brain (tends to be left brain dominant)
Green Relativistic Thinking brain (tends to be right brain dominant)
Yellow Systematic/Integrative Thinking brain (left/right integration)
Turquoise Global/Holistic Mid Pre-frontal cortex (centered in core, integration of thinking, emotional, instinctive, heart and gut brains; increasingly open to subtle and causal realms as well as Awareness beyond space and time)
       

 

 

 

 

As long as we’re not taking these categories and distinctions too seriously, here’s some more to think about: (left side: neuroscience; right side: integral yoga psychology)

 

The reptilian brain: physical mind

Limbic region: Vital mind

Cerebral cortex: thinking mind

Left hemisphere: critical reason

Right hemisphere: “Comprehensive” reason (see Sri Aurobindo, essays on education)

Mid prefrontal cortex: buddhi or intelligent will

Heart brain: higher vital;

Psychic vital: purified heart brain

Enteric nervous system: central vital

Cellular intelligence (as evidenced in studies of amoeba)- mind of the cells

Lucid dreaming, studies of parapsychology, out of body experience – subliminal

Integrated left and right hemispheres resulting in development of intuition – mixture of glimmerings from higher spiritual mind centers, inner mind, and other centers of consciousness

Near death experience studies – intimations of psychic being, mixed with much that is subliminal and subconscient

Rebirth studies – rebirth!

???? – supramental:>))))

 

 

 

 

and if you like this sort of thing, here’s another chart:

 

 

THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS OVER BILLIONS OF YEARS

 
BASIC COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS EVOLUTION OF AFFECTIVE/VOLITIONAL FUNCTIONS EVOLUTION OF COGNITIVE/VOLITIONAL FUNCTIONS ANIMALS IN WHOM THESE FUNCTIONS ARE FIRST ACTIVE EXPERIENCED WORLD ASSOCIATED WITH THIS WAY OF KNOWING
(3) and (4) Understanding and Volition More complex emotions developing in tandem with the more complex cognitive functions Enduring relationships, clearly defined social roles, complex communication, and flexible cultural traditions Most intelligent primates and all humans A “world” in the sense we think of it comes into being. This is the beginning of a ‘story’ that defines the emerging ‘self’ and ‘world’
Selective attention; associative ‘thinking’ using nonverbal concepts; complex planning and problem-solving; increased flexibility of behavior The most intelligent mammals and all primates World becomes progressively more solid, defined, and enduring
Ability to construct complex mental maps; i.e., to recall and organize many details of one’s experience and environment in the form of internal images More complex birds and mammals More complex relationships between perceived objects in the environment; the capacity to hold in mind past relationships gives greater solidity, definition, and endurance to the perceived world
Complex knowing and problem-solving; greater ability to adapt; capacity to anticipate and plan; beginnings of cultural transmission Birds and mammals
(2) Perceiving Impulse toward fight or flight, as well as the impulse for cooperation and collaboration Object awareness: recognition of more complex stimuli by comparison with internal images; association learning

 

 

Amphibians and reptiles Extremely limited groups of sensations combined into objects
(1b) More Complex Sensing Simple feeling awareness of a stimulus as pleasant or unpleasant (life-enhancing or threatening) Crude recognition, simple (conditioned) learning, crude mental maps Insects Relationships between poorly defined classes of sensations
(1a) Simple sensing Barest registration of stimuli; awareness of vibration, heat, light One-celled organisms Formless vibrations

 

 

And yet another:

 

 

 

THE EVOLUTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS – OVER BILLIONS OF YEARS AND IN EACH MOMENT

           
SEEING THE PUPPY BASIC COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS EVOLUTION OF AFFECTIVE/VOLITIONAL FUNCTIONS EVOLUTION OF COGNITIVE/VOLITIONAL FUNCTIONS ANIMALS IN WHOM THESE FUNCTIONS ARE FIRST ACTIVE EXPERIENCED WORLD ASSOCIATED WITH THIS WAY OF KNOWING
“a moment of self-awareness, a kind of stepping back form the situation” (“pausing to notice both the external environment and your internal state of mind and body) (3) and (4) Understanding and Volition More complex emotions developing in tandem with the more complex cognitive functions Enduring relationships, clearly defined social roles, complex communication, and flexible cultural traditions Most intelligent primates and all humans A “world” comes into being. There is a ‘story’ defining the emerging ‘self’ and ‘world’
Selective attention; associative ‘thinking’ using nonverbal concepts; complex planning and problem-solving; increased flexibility of behavior The most intelligent mammals and all primates World becomes progressively more   defined, and enduring
“further conceptual elaboration” (the realization the puppy belongs to the little girl down the stress, she was so happy when she got it, etc.”) Ability to construct complex mental maps; i.e., to recall and organize many details of one’s experience and environment in the form of internal images More complex birds and mammals More complex relationships between perceived objects in the environment; the capacity to hold in mind past relationships gives greater solidity, definition, and endurance to the perceived world
Complex knowing and problem-solving; greater ability to adapt; capacity to anticipate and plan; beginnings of cultural transmission Birds and mammals
“A clearer nonverbal perception” (you make out a shape) (2) Perceiving Impulse toward fight or flight, as well as the impulse for cooperation and collaboration Object awareness: recognition of more complex stimuli by comparison with internal images; association learning

 

 

Amphibians and reptiles Extremely limited groups of sensations combined into objects
“Simple undefined sensation” (“a glimpse of something moving”) (1b) More Complex Sensing Simple awareness of a stimulus as pleasant or unpleasant (life-enhancing or threatening) Crude recognition, simple (conditioned) learning, crude mental maps Insects Relationships between poorly defined classes of sensations
(1a) Simple sensing Barest registration of stimuli; awareness of vibration, heat, light One-celled organisms Formless vibrations

 

8 thoughts on “Spiral dynamics and more – a bit of playfulness for the holidays

  1. All fascinating. As a personal thing I’m slightly suspicious of psychological modelling of this kind, it seems a bit too neat and tidy, but this is a preference, I wouldn’t want to argue with any of it. Funny how it always comes down to balance and the middle way.

    • Yes, I am very much that way also, which is why I referred to it as a “bit of playfulness”

      I’m working on a post related to this topic – psychological modeling – which I hope to have up soon.

      I was fascinated by the “categories” of Sri Aurobindo’s integral psychology when I first discovered it back in 1976. Not long after I found Ken Wilber’s work, which I always thought took the labeling of categories too seriously.

      I always felt that I was taking the labeling and categories of Sri A’s IP a bit too seriously in spite of my reservations, but it was only during the 6 years working on the yoga psychology book that I found a way to get beyond those labels. My sense is many who write on Indian psychology tend to get caught up in labels -the buddhi does this, the manas functions that way – and in Integral psychology – “this” is what the vital mind “is”, “that” is what the ‘physical mind’ does.

      It takes a bit of poetry and playfulness to get beyond all that. Sorry if this is a bit enigmatic but I’ll try to spell it out in the post.

      Meanwhile, let’s see if I can say it very briefly:

      1. You can’t understand anything of the surface, ordinary, waking consciousness without taking deeper/other levels into account. So the phrase “physical mind” is not a structure or a specific “thing” but rather a way of saying that for all of us, there is a way of using our minds that is deeply influenced by the inertia of the consciousness associated with matter and the physical body. This is a very different perspective than simply defining “physical mind’ as a specific category.

      2. I don’t think it’s entirely wrong to think in terms of stages of development. THe problem is writers mostly “flatten” out development – mostly due to the habit of abstraction (by the way, a left brain habit). To give just one quick example – assuming for the moment it’s even legitimate to talk about “stages” of development through the lifespan, it’s absurd to think that the infant moving from preverbal to verbal “stages” is going through something equivalent to an adult moving from one stage to another. In fact, really, I think they are so different you shouldn’t use the same word – “stage” – for both. Possibly for infants and toddlers (though I’d prefer not to use the word “stage” at all) but definitely not for adults.

      3. When I studied the way consciousness become more complex over the course of billions of years of evolution, it completely changed my understanding of human consciousness. Take the Indian psychology notion of the “buddhi” – in modern terms, I think the essence of it is the emergence of self-awareness, which is not merely a passive cognitive thing but even more important, allows for self-regulation – in fact, it is classified in neuroscience as one of the most essential “executive functions” (which is why Sri Aurobindo translates “buddhi’ as “intelligent will”).

      When you realize that very few animals have even more than a hint of self-awareness (supposedly, chimps and dolphins have it, whales might, and almost no other animals do) and that the self-awareness that emerges in a 1 to 2 year old is dramatically different even from that in chimps and dolphins, then you realize that for the most part, humans have a functioning “buddhi” even from infancy.

      So i think what is happening in human development is not stages at all, but a progressive freeing of the buddhi – the intelligent will, or in neuroscientific terms, the mid prefrontal cortex or MPFC, from influence of the physical and vital consciousness.

      So rather than speaking of “stages” from the physical mind to the vital mind to the “thinking mind” or buddhi, the thinking mind is what is responsible for self awareness in teh infant, though in the 2 year old – and for the most part even in the adolescent – the thinking mind/buddhi is dominated by the physical and vital consciousness.

      4. During a 2 year period, from 1996 to 1998, I was studying the Life Divine quite intensely. I started to notice something Sri Aurobindo did – he would speak of one thing in terms of another. What does that mean? There’s a marvelous passage (I quoted it in an earlier post, on Science and Yoga) in which he speaks of a plant as an animal or human without certain levels of consciousness, and an animal or human as a plant with those levels.

      This all probably sounds very categorical in my clumsy way of putting it. But I tried my hand at this sort of thing. I’ll say much more about it in the post to come, but here’s a selection from our yoga psychology book, the opening of Appendix B, An Outline of Integral Psychology:

      (First, here’s the final paragraph ,which describes everything in the universe as the play of consciousness:

      All is the One Conscious-Being knowing and feeling itself in infinite ways, in infinite forms. The individual Soul is a particular focus of consciousness, the various planes of consciousness each a particular kind of interaction between Conscious-Being and Its Conscious-Force, between Soul and Nature. When Consciousness is absorbed in the play of forms, identifying with a particular part of the Field, the result is Ignorance. Over the course of evolution, there is a progressive freeing of the embodied consciousness from its exclusive identification with a small part of the Field. The essential Nature of this whole interaction between Soul and Nature, Shiva and Shakti, is infinite Joy, Ananda, Bliss.

      And now, the opening of Appendix B: An Outline of Integral Psychology

      Prelude – The Dance of Consciousness

      Consciousness is… the fundamental thing in existence – it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it.
      Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga

      The Divine is a radiant and joyful Reality, ecstatically bringing forth the universe from its own Being, within its own Consciousness, at every moment; playing out the infinite possibilities of its infinite Being, simultaneously in the eternal Now. It is the shift of Its attention that creates the sense of sequence in time, and the shift of its attention that creates the sense of movement through space. As the One Infinite Consciousness gazes in one way, the universe is birthed. As that gaze shifts, the stars are “born,” planets and solar systems take shape, the adventure of evolution unfolds. Beyond time and space altogether, the supreme, infinite Conscious-Being sees within Itself its myriad, infinite possibilities, and in that very seeing joyfully, blissfully, manifests the all that we see around us.

      All is the play of Conscious-Being and Conscious-Energy, Shiva and Shakti, Soul and Nature. In any act of “conscious-ing,” that which is known (the “object”) is a movement of Conscious-Energy. The movement is itself an act of will – a shift of attention of the Divine Conscious-Being (the “subject”). This movement (the “object” created by the shift of attention) is known as it is willed into being. Thus, the object is inseparable from the act of knowing it. The myriad objects of our universe – apparently separate but always one with the Infinite – are nothing more than infinite acts of shifting attention of the One Divine Being. These acts of knowing-and-willing – which manifest as the universe – exist inseparably within the Delight of the Divine Being. It is the movement of apparent separation and reunion that is experienced by different creatures as attraction and repulsion, pleasure and pain, love and hate, and ultimately as unbroken Delight by the fully awakened seer.

      All is the One Conscious-Being knowing and feeling itself in infinite ways, in infinite forms. The individual Soul is a particular focus of consciousness, the various planes of consciousness each a particular kind of interaction between Conscious-Being and Its Conscious-Force, between Soul and Nature. When Consciousness is absorbed in the play of forms, identifying with a particular part of the Field, the result is Ignorance. Over the course of evolution, there is a progressive freeing of the embodied consciousness from its exclusive identification with a small part of the Field. The essential Nature of this whole interaction between Soul and Nature, Shiva and Shakti, is infinite Joy, Ananda, Bliss.

  2. Nice point about neural pathways and how we weaken and strengthen them by our habits and attitudes. I am something of an expert at building unhelpful connections. Spiral Dynamics? Is this a serious idea? I came across spiral dynamics many years ago in a business context and assumed it was another gimmicky money-spinner for management consultants. Was I was too quick off the mark?

  3. something that may get lost here – when I suggest that neuroplasticity and karma are related, I should make a clarification –

    (at least, this is the way it seems to me – or to put it another way, IMHO):

    Neuroplasticity, in fact, the entire range of contemporary cognitive science, postmodern philosophy, linguistics, philosophy of mind, etc etc is like a tiny infinitesimal triviality, compared to the least opening in the surface consciousness to the outermost edge of the subliminal or inner consciousness. I don’t want to make it seem – as is so often the case with contemporary thought – that somehow those ancient Indian sages caught glimpses of what modern thought knows and put it in lovely symbolic language but now we know what it’s all about.

    I would say it’s actually the opposite but that hardly begins to capture the difference. Krishna Prem put it very well in comparing the spiritual wisdom of the ancient Greeks compared to modern intellectual thought:

    “It is simply not true that Osiris is a vegetation, or Apollo a solar myth. Rather, if we must talk like this, we should say that vegetation is an Osiris myth and the sun a myth of Apollog, since Apollog and Osiris and all such names refer to facts of a higher order than those with which physical scientists deal.”

    or, in my favorite passage on this matter, here is a letter that Sri Aurobindo wrote to his disciple, Dilip Kumar Roy. Dilip had sent Sri Aurobindo a letter from Krishna Prem (a British man who was the first westerner ever accepted into the Vaishnava order in India – the letter was written, I believe, in the 1930s). Sri Aurobindo was deeply impressed with the wisdom in the letter (Ramana Maharshi was very impressed with Krishna Prem as well, referring to him as “a rare combination of bhakta and gnani”).

    Unfortunately, Prem’s letter is not reproduced in “Letters on Yoga”, but the gist of it was a brilliant explanation as to why science, as practiced nowadays, will never understand spirituality. Science moves on a particular plane of “Prakriti”, and like the serpent chasing its tail, can go to the end of the universe but will never get one step closer to understanding yogic wisdom unless it goes in “another direction”. As Prem put it, at “right angles” to the material or physical plane, is the plane of causation. It is only by going “within” (and don’t take “within” as having anything to do with a geographical direction) that one can begin to understand what “matter” really is (and “mind” and “heart” and everything else, for that matter).

    He wrote back to Dilip, after reading Prem’s letter:

    A distinction, the distinction very keenly made here, between the plane of phenomenal process, of externalised Prakriti, and the plane of Divine Reality ranks among the first words of the inner wisdom. The turn given to it in these pages is not merely an ingenious explanation; it expresses very soundly one of the clear certainties you meet when you step across the border and look at the outer world from the standing-ground of the inner spiritual experience. The more you go inward or upward, the more the view of things changes and the outer knowledge Science organises takes its real and very limited place. Science, like most mental and external knowledge, gives you only truth of process. I would add that it cannot give you even the whole truth of process; for you seize some of the ponderables, but miss the all-important imponderables; you get, hardly even the how, but the conditions under which things happen in Nature. After all the triumphs and marvels of Science the explaining principle, the rationale, the significance of the whole is left as dark, as mysterious and even more mysterious than ever. The scheme it has built up of the evolution not only of this rich and vast and variegated material world, but of life and consciousness and mind and their workings out of a brute mass of electrons, identical and varied only in arrangement and number, is an irrational magic more baffling than any the most mystic imagination could conceive. Science in the end lands us in a paradox effectuated, an organised and rigidly determined accident, an impossibility that has somehow happened, – it has shown us a new, a material Maya, aghaṭana-ghaṭana-paṭīyasī, very clever at bringing about the impossible, a miracle that cannot logically be and yet somehow is there actual, irresistibly organised, but still irrational and inexplicable. And this is evidently because Science has missed something essential; it has seen and scrutinised what has happened and in a way how it has happened, but it has shut its eyes to something that made this impossible possible, something it is there to express. There is no fundamental significance in things if you miss the Divine Reality; for you remain embedded in a huge surface crust of manageable and utilisable appearance. It is the magic of the Magician you are trying to analyse, but only when you enter into the consciousness of the Magician himself can you begin to experience the true origination, significance and circles of the Lila. I say “begin” because the Divine Reality is not so simple that at the first touch you can know all of it or put it into a single formula; it is the Infinite and opens before you an infinite knowledge to which all Science put together is a bagatelle. But still you do touch the essential, the eternal behind things and in the light of That all begins to be profoundly luminous, intimately intelligible.

  4. and some parallels with the yoga sutras:

    The Wheel of Awareness

    Siegel developed an exercise he calls “The Wheel of Awareness” to help his students and patients understand the integrative function of the mid-prefrontal cortex (or MPFC). The role of the MPFC is to be the “captain” of the mind-body ship – it is the executive (or as George W. used to say, the “Decider”). We think it’s at least partially the physical correlate of the buddhi.

    At the hub or center of the wheel, is awareness – simple, pure awareness (if you prefer the word “consciousness” that’s fine; cognitive scientists generally take “consciousness” to be the same as self-consciousness, correlated with the cortex or “thinking mind”, making infants and animals essentially unconscious; hence, Siegel uses “awareness” as a broader term).

    Around the rim of the wheel are the contents of awareness. Siegel divides these into 4 categories – (1) the objects of the 5 senses; (2) the internal body sense; (3) the contents of the mind (thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, images, etc) and (4) the “sense” or awareness of our relationships – to individuals, groups, to the world, to all living beings. The MPFC, seated at the “hub” of the Wheel, sends out “spokes” to the various contents on the rim.

    Siegel has gathered from a wide body of research a number of descriptors of the “hub” – that is, of the experience of resting in pure awareness. It still amazes me this is acceptable in mainstream science (we refer to it alternately as the “hub” or simply the “core”):

    The hub/core is tranquil, serene, it is wise, spacious, receptive, it is a tranquil place, a place of tranquility, openness, safety, curiosity. From the core/hub, you can see with equanimity, energy and concentration, you have connection to yourself and others, compassion for others.. you are open to the beauty and wonder of what is.

    The Qualities of the Core, the Yamas and Niyamas

    I don’t need to say much here for someone familiar with the sutras – Siegel even has one of the Niyamas (contentment) listed as a core quality. It would be really cool to do a whole workshop on how developing the MPFC as a tool of integrating the various “brains” (cortex, mammalian brain, reptilian brain, autonomic system, etc) fosters the development of each of the yamas and niyamas.

    The Wheel of Awareness and the opening of the yoga sutras

    It’s easy enough to connect this with the opening 4 verses of the sutras. When our attention is caught up in the activity of the rim (the vrittis, the fluctuations of the mind), we lose touch with the hub – the seer, purusha, pure awareness. When the fluctuations are calmed, it is easier to contact and remain centered in the hub. When the vrittis resume their activity, we tend to be caught up in them and once again forget the hub.

    The Wheel of Awareness and the Kleshas

    It’s also really easy to use the wheel to teach the Kleshas:

    1. Ignorance: We are totally caught up in the activity of the rim, forgetting pure awareness
    2. Egoism: We identify with a particular configuration (actually, numerous mini-configurations or “subpersonalities”, hopefully, if we’re not too out of it, subsumed under one larger configuration) on the rim.
    3. Attachment and Aversion: Having identified with this configuration and lost touch with pure awareness, we are attached to whatever supports this false self and averse to what threatens it – hence, we are ruled by pleasure and pain
    4. Clinging: We naturally cling to this formation, because – fueled by the energy of Awareness (of course, Siegel wouldn’t capitalize it:>)) – it feels like our reality.

    Neuroplasticity and Karma

    This is not particularly Siegel’s idea, but it’s a great way to use brain science to explain what happens when we practice yoga, meditation, etc. Every time we think, feel or engage in any other mental/emotional activity, we are creating neural pathways. And every thought, feeling, etc that is similar to a previous one strengthens that neural pathway. Those pathways are strengthened or weakened depending on the way we pay attention to them.

    For example, if we like eating fatty foods, every time we even think about eating full fat ice cream (if that’s our thing) the neural pathway associated with that desire is strengthened. If as the desire comes to awareness, our attention is heavily focused on it, and the attention is supported by intense desire, the pathway is further strengthened. This makes it harder to resist the desire in the future. In other words, we have just strengthened our negative karma. On the other hand, if when the desire arises, we view it with calm detachment, that weakens the neural pathway – or, in other words, weakens the negative karma.

    On the positive side, every time we act to help someone, to speak in a caring, compassionate way, we lay down neural pathways associated with that behavior and attitude, thus strengthening our “good” karma. The more we invest those caring, compassionate thoughts and actions with strong intention and strong desire to give of ourselves, the stronger those pathways become and the more likely we will act and think in similar ways in the future.

    Complexity Theory and the Gunas

    As I mentioned above, Siegel makes use of complexity theory in his formulation of interpersonal neurobiology. To put it very simply, borrowing a great deal from neuroscientist Walter Freeman, who has studied the brain in light of chaos and complexity theory for many years – the brain is a complex, self-organizing system (just as the earth, and in fact, the whole universe is). As a system, it is nonlinear – that is, very small changes can make a big difference (Gita, II 41: No effort is lost on this path; even a small effort will deliver you from great fear). This is like the flapping of the wings of the butterfly over the Pacific ocean that is connected to huge weather changes thousands of miles away.

    Complex systems have a natural tendency toward greater levels of integration. What, in complexity theory, is meant by “integration”? An integrated system is one in which there is strong linkage between the various parts, and each part is highly differentiated. So an integrated system is a “differentiated unity.” If there is too much differentiation, there is chaos; too much linkage and there is rigidity. When there is integration, there’s a balance of chaos and rigidity.

    Sound familiar?

    Rigidity = tamas
    Chaos = rajas
    Balance = sattva

    Siegel is putting together a study of the DSM-IV – the “Bible” of psychiatric disorders. He has found that virtually every psychiatric disease can be understood as a combination of chaos and rigidity. Perhaps the archetypal example is bipolar disorder: from mania (chaos/rajas) to depression (rigidity/tamas). I’m sure that the same understanding could be applied to physical disease as well.

    But it is also relevant to every aspect of our lives, and Siegels’ books provide great detail of how virtually all our thinking patterns, emotions and behaviors can be understood in terms of rigidity, chaos and balance.

    **********

    Well, there’s tons more, obviously. I don’t have time now, but just a few hints:

    • There’s an interesting polarity in most parts of the nervous system.
    o The ANS has “two” parts, sometimes referred to as the “gas” and “brakes” of the body – the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which activates (rajas again!) the body, pumping out adrenaline, raising the heart rate and blood pressure, preparing it to deal with challenges; and the parasympathetic nervous system (ANS) which deactivates (tamas!) the body, slowing the heart and lowering blood pressure.
    o The instinctive brain (brain stem, reptilian brain) tends to “fight” or “flee” (rajas and tamas again)
    o The emotional brain (mammalian, limbic and diencephalon) alternates between attachment and aversion;
    o The “thinking brain” (cortex, neo-mammalian) is divided into left (analytic, linear, dualistic-either/or) and right (holistic, non linear, both/and). Interestingly , the right may “sound” holistic in this description, but if imbalanced, it tends toward a more primitive, undifferentiated style, easily taken over by emotions and instincts. When integrated by the MPFC, the role of the right is to be “master” – providing the larger context, while the left would be “servant”, filling in the details. Iain McGilchrist, in his book “The Master and His Emissary”, makes what we think is a great case that overreliance on the left hemisphere since the Renaissance is the root cause of materialism and the resulting imbalance of our world financial system as well as the cause of worldwide ecological breakdown. This fits in beautifully with Tolle’s call for a new consciousness (not imbalanced toward the left but rather rooted in pure awareness) as the ultimate (and only!) solution for our problems.
    o On the contrary, the MPFC is “one” (“let thine eye be single”). Centered in the hub of the wheel of awareness (mediated by the MPFC), this open, nondualistic, awareness, when “viewing” the activity of the thinking, emotional and instinctive brains as well as the ANS – when it is not judging, impartial, seeing all evenly and openly – has an innate capacity to balance and integrate the different
    • If you subsume the last 4 steps of the “8-fold path” into the category of “attention training” (from pratyahara through Samadhi), there’s a whole world of interesting brain information about different attentional styles. Just to mention one study, they examined narrow focused attention (a left hemisphere style) and wide open, receptive attention (right hemisphere style) and compared it to effortful dharana and effortless dhyana. Psychologist Les Fehmi, who trained in Zen at the start of his career, has spent decades teaching people different attention styles – his training, I think would be immensely helpful to people having trouble understanding how to meditate.
    • Then there’s a whole world of connection between the brain and body from the neuroscience view and the chakras. I was astonished to learn, just a few weeks ago, that Siegel has, for the past 5 years, been working on a personality theory based on the ancient Sufi/yogic theory now known as the Enneagram (literally, 9 pointed figure). It includes the idea that humans have 3 major centers – the “moving”, “heart” and “head” centers (roughly correlated with the 3rd, 4th and 6th chakras). It is, I think, an amazing bridge between neuroscience and yoga. The best and most reliable figure I’ve found on the net is Stanford psychiatric researchers David Daniels (who is one of Siegel’s colleagues in the development of this theory). If you’re interested, Daniels has developed the only “psychometrically valid” personality test for determining your Enneagram type (rough translation of “psychometrically valid” – acceptable to mainstream, academic psychologists). Daniels includes this test for free in his very brief book, “The Essential Enneagram”.

  5. sorry, i’ll try to fix the charts soon. meanwhile, you can go to integral world – http://www.integralworld.net/salmon10.html to see it all beautifully laid out.

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