Spiritual Aptitude Test

You will look at experiences one-by-one. There is no overall 'score' for this test.


Answer the questions by pressing the buttons.






Do you Experience Deja vu often?


( If yes, press the button. If no, click
HERE)






Do you sometimes have a strong sense that everything is strange, dreamlike, just 'wrong', or somewhat alien.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)

















Do you often get the feeling that someone or something is in the room with you, but when you turn to look, you don't find anyone there?

-or-

Do you often get the feeling that you are 'not alone' or that you are 'being watched' when you know you are by yourself?

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)













Do you often get the feeling that your body is moving when you know its actually being still?

This one is most common while falling to sleep. Sometimes it can be a rocking, rising, falling, or spinning sensation.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)






























Do you often experience 'tingley' feelings, like pins-and needles, electric-like 'buzzes', or chills running up your spine?

(DON'T count chills due to cold or your foot falling asleep)

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)









I have seen an infinite space in my mind.

(If not, click HERE)















I write poetry.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)



























I keep a diary or journal.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)































Sometimes my emotions appear so strongly that I am shocked at their intensity.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)















































I have had a Near-Death Experience in which I experienced things I can never really describe.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)






































It seems like I can never stop thinking about sex.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)































I almost never think about sex unless something happens to make me think about it.


( If yes, press the button. If no, click
HERE)











































Although I'm glad to be alive, I sometimes look forward to death, and an end to living in the physical reality.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)



























Sometimes I think that there are rules to life that everyone understands except me.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)
































After I lose an argument, my mind keeps thinking of things I should have said.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)
































I can have a hard time stopping a conversation if I'm enjoying it.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)

































I get angry easily, but it never lasts long, and I feel terrible afterward.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)


























I have felt the presence of a spirit or power that I have prayed to.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)

































I have been visited by a spirit or a power that wanted to do me harm.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)































At least once in my life, I have left my body, and I knew it wasn't a dream.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)


























I have heard voices in my head so strongly that I wasn't sure if they were from outside or not.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)































Sometimes I smell things that aren't there.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)
































I have a spirit familiar.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)































I often think about suicide.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)


































Sometimes my vision sharpens so that I can see with incredible clarity.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)







































When I fall in love, it takes me over completely.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)








































Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with a terrible fear of dying.

( If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE)



































I often find myself with words on the tip of my tongue that I just can't get out.

If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE



































I make little altars around my house.

If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE































I was regularly physically or sexually abused as a child.

If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE






































I have anxiety attacks.

If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE









































I'm gay.

If yes, press the button. If no, click HERE
















LAST Question


Only one more to go.

Click HERE










'I have seen an infinite space in my mind'.

This experience arises out of one of the brain structures that's involved in spatial perception and visual imagination. You should find that you have some success with visualization techniques. If you can access this experience at will, you might like to try closing your eyes (it works best at night) and letting them point to a spot right in the center of your visual field, but pay attention to a spot that's just a little bit above it. Try not to strain. I have had some evidence that psychic abilities can appear in association with the 'void' because images sometimes come up when a person is in this state.

According to a classical Buddhist text, this state can be used to perform miracles. The technique is to enter the void, visualize what you want, re-enter the void, and then come back to normal consciousness.

If this 13th century author is on the right track, then the way Jesus turned water in to wine was to enter the 'void', visualize wine, return to the void, and then come back. Wine. The void state is also associated with other experiences, including the feeling that one's vision has sharply improved, and that the present is a bit disconnected from the past, making a person feel more present. All these experiences do not happen at once, though. A person who is prone to one of them might well be more likely to have the others. That's all. Some people experience the void against their will, and often with a feeling of real fear. These people should e-mail me and let me know more about what's happening to them.

NEXT QUESTION
















'I write poetry'.


There is something very spiritual about poetry, which is odd because its such a verbal, wordy art and most spiritual traditions seem to look down on trying to express spiritual things through words. Poetry tries to say things that can't be said with words. You have a linguistic sense of self on the left side of your brain and a silent one on the right. The busier your silent sense of self, the more likely it is to make itself known, in subtle ways, to your linguistic 'self'. The more that happens, the more likely you will be to feel the need to express your silent, felt, insights through that most human of all mediums, speech. When you write poetry, you are creating a way for others to get a glimpse of your inner processes, but mostly you are expressing your silent self to your verbal self in a way it can understand.

No wonder writing it can be so much work !! Words are most importantly a way of connecting with other people, so if poetry is a very important part of your spirituality, you might well have a potential for spiritual ways that bring out the "I & Thou" experience. "thou" can be your lover, your child, a spirit familiar, or even God. You might have a knack for channeling, "seeing the divine" in your beloved, or even healing work. If writing poetry is important to you, don't neglect prayer in your spiritual life.

I don't even think its important who or what you pray to. Just pray, and use words as you do so. If you don't believe in anything or anybody to pray to, just pretend. In the Native American Tradition, prayer is done by saying three things to The Creator: Thanks for what you have sent me, please help those in need, and last of all, please help me. Stretch out each of these reflections. Be as elaborate as you want and take as much time as you can. Let each days prayer become a spontaneous prayer.

I have reason to think that you might one day set pen to paper only to find that y'ou' are not really doing the writing, it will seem to flow through you from another source, as it did for so many of the great poets. It takes time of course, and nothing is guaranteed, but the more important poetry is for you, the more fulfilling prayer will be for you. And only you can know how important poetry is for you.

NEXT QUESTION














'I keep a diary'.


Keeping a diary is both personal and linguistic. You communicate to yourself using language. The language centers in the brain are in the same region (the temporal lobes) as the parts of the brain that manage states of consciousness. If you have altered states often, you are probably exercising these parts of your brain more than others. Just as a weightlifter who misses a couple days workout begins to feel a strong urge to use his or her muscles, a mind/brain that experiences altered states a lot wants to exercise its temporal lobes. Keeping a diary usually involves looking at one's feelings and putting them into words. Our brains understand our feelings, so to speak, on the right side, and our inner words on the left. Writing in a diary, more than many other activities, calls up both the left and right temporal lobes at once.

Language is on the surface of the left temporal lobe. In the same spot, on the right side of the brain, there is another area. I and some others, are coming to believe that this area is a part of a kind of 'silent self'. It's obscured from our awareness in each moment by the constant inner monologue created by our 'speaking self'. In fact, if you are wondering what I mean by 'altered states' you might think of them as any time your speaking self is quiet. Keeping a diary will tend to strengthen the connections between these two areas, both of which are involved in the sense of self. We work with this idea because so many people who have had problems come up in these parts of the brain have said that they felt the were 'no longer themselves' after their troubles began.

Altered state experiences can mean any experience where you feel you've 'come back' after its over. Even if your mind is on quite mundane things as you write, the areas of your brain that you use when you make an entry in your diary will usually include the areas that are involved in those moments when you can't think at all. Writing a diary will tend to bring out the meaning of experiences you had when you were in 'feeling mode', and make them available when you're in 'thinking mode.' In both neuroscientific and spiritual terms, keeping a diary helps -you- -feel- -whole-. So, keep doing it. If you have the feeling that your journal is a sacred object of some kind, by all means indulge the feeling. It's not of course, but wanting to pretend it is is a natural response to the brain processes involved. If the kingdom of heaven really is within, then your diary is an epistle.

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'Sometimes my emotions appear so strongly that I am shocked at their intensity'.

One of the brain structures that is most heavily involved in producing altered state of consciousness experiences is called the amygdala. No matter how else we might choose to think about the spiritual and religious moments of our lives, they are also moments of altered states of consciousness. This brain structure is also involved in giving our moment-to-moment experiences their emotional content. In simpler language, the brain-part of that gets busy for people who are involved in spirituality is also busy for people who are highly emotional.

I don't know of any way that a person can turn their emotions down, or change the way they appear. But there are ways of engaging our emotions so that they're less likely to dominate our lives. Two of these techniques come from spiritual traditions. The first is for those who believe in God, or who work with "spirits," or feel that their romantic relationship, or their relationship with their children is the most important part of their spirituality. Many Christians use a formula "give it up to God." There's a lot of wisdom in this. But not everybody believes in God. And then there are many who believe in God, but don't feel a deep relationship with him/her. A simple exercise to deal with extreme emotion, if you do believe in God, is to visualize or imagine that God or your child or your beloved is present and watching you.

Somebody makes you very angry. Ask yourself "what would Jesus do " There is a mechanism in psychology called "compartmentalization." Most people have it. It consists of the tendency to behave in certain ways in certain situations, and not to think of how we behave in other situations. So when we're in church, we act and talk one way. When we're in the middle of an argument, we act and talk another way. If we remind ourselves of how we are in situations where we are at our best, it's very hard to act our worst. If you get angry, and you pretend that your kid or lover, or God is watching you, you will suddenly find yourself thinking of a more responsible way to respond. In the moments when the strong emotion is love, perhaps for a perfect stranger, you'll see more clearly how to express it with wisdom.

Another technique that could evoke experiences for you is called the prayer of despair and elation. This consists of kneeling down in the fetal position, wrapping your arms around yourself, and praying about everything that's going wrong in your life. Allow a sense of desperation to creep in, if you can, and ask God's help for each thing. DON'T, I repeat ..... DON'T .. try to feel that your prayer has been answered, or to assume that you know how your prayers will turn out. Let your negativity run rampant (in this and only this method).

Once you really feel terrible, change your posture.

Sit up. Raise your hands above your head, and think of any and all blessings you've received, no matter how trivial. Remember sunsets, nice moments with kids, wise people you may have known. Think of presents you've received, and times when people have been grateful to you. Then say prayers of thanks. " Thanks, lord, for the ...." "Thank you, lord for the time that my ...." This time, DO, I repeat ....Do...assume that your prayers are being heard.

If you can't get a 'feel' for that, try just pretending. If your spirituality is the kind that emphasizes 'being here now', then that approach may not work so well. For these people, a better approach is to be as fully aware of what each emotion feels like, especially the intense ones. If you look carefully at yourself while you're having an extremely emotional moment, you will find that your emotions are mostly taking place in your body.

Each emotion creates a subtle "buzz" that runs throughout the entire body. There is a good reason why we speak of anger as a "hot" emotion, and calmness as being "cool." The feeling in the body during anger is similar to a feeling of heat, or perhaps heat is a good metaphor for that feeling. We often act and speak as though our emotions are actually the thoughts we have while we're being emotional.

But in fact, the neurochemical basis of emotion is present long before we are old enough to think in words. Infants display a full range of emotion but they don't have words and thoughts that use words to express their emotions. Our emotions are mostly happening in our bodies. If you find that you're overcome with a strong emotion, such as fear or anger, or even extreme joy, and you stop thinking about whatever has triggered the emotion, and pay attention to your body instead, you'll find that there is a sensation happening, and the sensation is different for each emotion. That sensation is the foundation or platform on which all or own experience of our emotions is built.

The spiritual practice I'm talking about here (for which your strong emotions give you a strong potential) is simply paying attention to your body while you're feeling emotional. The method is an application of a Buddhist meditation technique from Southeast Asia, and I hope it does you some good.

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'I have had a Near-Death Experience in which I experienced things I can never really describe.'

A near-death experience is one of the most profound things that can happen to a person, outside of death itself. As near as I can tell, how a near-death experience changes a person depends on what happens during each experience. A NDE that includes a life review (where your life passes before your eyes, or you re-live your life in a second) will effect you differently than one that doesn't. Some people become involved in doing charitable work afterwards; others became deeply introspective. Some start to do meditation practice. Others find themselves with a strong urge to surrender completely to God.

In order for me to make suggestions to you about how your near-death experience might impact on your spiritual potential, I would have to know more. If you really want to discuss this, you can send E-mail and we can begin to correspond. However, I can say that if you had a near a near-death experience, there are going to be some very subtle processes at work in you. My suggestion is to simply be who you are.

A near-death experience will change the way you think and act in all kinds of ways that no one could ever predict. You may find that your job is no longer appropriate or that your friends are no longer comfortable to be with, your romantic partner "doesn't understand." You and the people in your life might be wondering if these changes are here to stay or is just a phase you're going through.

Based on my understanding of how the brain changes in response to near-death experience, I have to say that this is probably no phase. If you've had a near-death experience, my advice to you, in order to realize your spiritual potential, is that you simply take all your inner voices, feelings, and insights quite seriously. If there are things you did before your experience that are now meaningless, stop doing them. If there are things you didn't do, or were never even interested in, but that now seem important, get involved with them.

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'It seems like I can never stop thinking about sex'.

So, how does a person who is always thinking about sex realize their potential for spirituality In part, the answer depends on whether or not you have a partner. If you have a partner, then my suggestion to you is that you take on one of two tantric techniques. Tantra is the name given to a group of Spiritual techniques that work with sexuality.

Originally, the word meant something quite different, but let's never mind that for now.

If you have a partner, and your spirituality includes Prayer, then I suggest you imagine that your partner is some kind of noble spirit, or God's finest creation on this earth. In either case, the idea is to deliberately and consciously project a spiritual presence onto your partner.

If your spirituality is of the "be here now" type, then you would do well to try and experience your own sexual feelings as directly as possible. When you are making love, this means making the physical sensations you feel a kind of meditation object. Stop fantasizing. Stop thinking about other things. Let your attention settle in your body. You will notice something. There is a subtle sensation distributed throughout your whole body that is only there when you are having sex. A few people have commented to me that good sex creates sensations that they also felt while they were under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.

I'm not talking about sensations in the genitals, or any other erogenous zone. It's happening throughout your entire body. You'll have to look for it in order to find it. Our minds are constructed so that every feeling inspires thoughts. When we give these thoughts a portion of our attention, we make it very difficult to perceive the more subtle processes that happen in our bodies with each feeling.

If you don't have a partner, you can still do this, although I will be the first to admit, it's nowhere near as much fun. If you're thinking about sex all the time but you don't have someone to have sex with, then you are probably experiencing sexual frustration quite often. Sexual frustration also has an accompanying sensation, spread throughout the body. Frustration also inspires thoughts. Frustration is also not confined to our sexual organs. Again, here, disconnect from your thoughts, and pay attention to what's happening in your body. Eventually, you will feel the sensations. The next thing after that is to notice that there is a different sensation present for each thing you feel. All the time. Once you have seen that, a completely new relationship to your emotions will open up for you. You will come to understand that your emotions are not expressions of your "true self."

If you don't have a partner, and your sense of spirituality leads you towards Prayer, then I suggest that you use Prayer as a means of coping with sexual frustration. There are many ways to pray, and most religions are very quiet when it comes to praying about sex. Most people who teach others how to pray don't have very clear attitudes about sexuality, but I have encountered some worthwhile teachings. First there is the Prayer of gratitude. Pray for the well-being of those you have been in love with in the past. Remember times you have made love in the past, and reflect on what a good thing it is that you enjoy health so that you were able to.

When you see people that you are sexually attracted to, find a positive thoughts or some kind of "blessings" you can give that person in your mind. It will make it easier to approach them, too. The crucial thing is to let go of feeling bad because you don't have a partner. Not only does it give your mind the habit of feeling bad, but it also puts you in a better position to find a partner, because happy people are always more attractive.

A fat woman who smiles all the time and whose eyes twinkle is going to be much more attractive than a woman of medium build whose moods are only so-so. A beautiful woman who is foul-tempered might find it easy to find partners, but she will find it very difficult to keep them. Introducing prayer into your sense of sexuality can prevent the kind of negativity that makes it difficult to find partners.

Whether or not your own sense of morality allows you to have sex tomorrow is one thing, but it should not interfere with your thinking positive thoughts toward whomever you had sex with yesterday, or even 20 years ago. Do not try to stop your sexual thoughts. Instead, add loving and gentle thoughts to them.

The simplest way to do this is to pray for the well-being of those you want to have sex with. It that difficult to do, then simply wish them well. That body you were attracted to needs to be healthy in order to maintain its attractiveness, for you or anybody else. So, if you see somebody you want to shag raw on the carpet, silently send out the prayer "Lord, grant them good health." Then, go talk to them. Sexual frustration is very, very hard to process in a positive way. Doing so may well be the largest spiritual challenge you will ever face, but it can also bring out more of your spiritual potential than most of life's easier challenges.

NEXT QUESTION














'I almost never think about sex unless something happens to make me think about it'.

If you are a senior citizen, you might want to scroll past some of this. I'm mostly thinking about younger people who aren't very interested in sex here. The same applies to many teenagers. If disinterest in sex is appropriate to your age group, just move on to the NEXT QUESTION.

There is a pattern that appears when we look at altered states of consciousness and sexual interest. It seems that those people who don't have very many spontaneous Altered-state experiences ( like deja vu ) have fairly normal, or average, levels of sexual interest. Those people who have altered state experiences often, tend to be more interested in sex than others. Those people who are almost constantly in altered states of consciousness can find themselves almost completely disinterested in sex. These altered state experiences don't have to be particularly spiritual in order to have this effect. They just have to be happening pretty often. They don't even have to be spontaneous. They can even happen because of something you're doing. For example both Isaac Newton and Immanuel Kant are both said to have died virgins. Neither one of them, apparently, was even interested in sex in the first place.

Their non-normal states were not spiritual in any way, instead, they were intensely intellectual. History is full of individuals who seem, in retrospect, to have been little enough interested in sex that they could keep a set of monastic rules, and make it seem natural. Perhaps their ongoing spiritual practices kept them just far enough into altered states at all times that sexual arousal just never got its chance. Anxiety and fear can kill sexual interest dead. If a person has a disorder so that they are in a state of anxiety all the time, its going to be impossible for them to be very interested in sex. How I respond to this comment, "I almost never think about sex unless something happens to make me think about it," depends a lot on what the person's usual state is.

If your spirituality is very important to you, and I don't just mean your beliefs, and you find that you are not very interested in sex, then my suggestion for you is that you should stop worrying if anything is wrong with you. Sexual arousal is an altered state of consciousness. If your consciousness is constantly busy being in different states, then there won't be much room leftover for sex. That's the way it's supposed to be. My own opinion is that evolution favors diversity within human groups. Some people should be horny all the time, most people should be in the middle, and a few people should be totally disinterested in sex. This kind of "spread" across the human population is probably one of the things that allow us to develop the way we did as a species.

So, don't judge yourself and don't be concerned with whether or not you are in step with the rest of the world. The rest of the world does not march to any one, single step. So, you can never really be wrong. The only time you might go wrong, is if you find yourself in relationships where other people's sexual well-being relies on your participation. If you're really not interested in sex, and you have a partner, you should acknowledge that their sexual needs are, in fact, needs, even though you don't share them. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because it isn't important you that it's not a matter of importance, even life and death importance, for some people. My advice is don't get involved with people like that. Instead, simply be what you are, without being concerned with things like being chic, attractive, and so forth.

In other times, people who were naturally disinterested in sex might often find themselves invited to become monks, nuns, or priests. Those days are pretty much over. Still, the people who like that kind of life don't just like it; they absolutely love it. If a person was not well suited for normal sexual relationships, and joined a monastery or a convent, they would then be members of a social group would take care of them when they were old or sick and with whom they could socialize, just like a family. If you're not very interested in sex, and you don't have a partner then I would suggest you look at whether your social needs are met. Just because you're not so interested in sex doesn't mean you don't need any less time with other human beings than anybody else.

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'I often think about suicide'.

There are two points where thinking about suicide connects with spirituality. The first is where the experience of being in higher states during our lives seem to suggest something about the states that we will experience after death. Normal consciousness stops with death, and because we tend to attribute things that happen in our consciousness to the world we live in, instead of ourselves, it's easy to get the sense that we'll escape our difficulties by leaving the world. The deeper your sense of spirituality, the more likely you are to feel that there's a higher reality. The stronger your faith in that idea is, the more likely will want to leave this one.

The second place where thinking about suicide meets spirituality has to do with the fact that the more spiritual someone is, the more time they will spend in altered states of consciousness. Many of the experiences that people have while in these states are very difficult to express in words. To understand how this relates you need to understand something about the human sense of self. Or, perhaps I should say senses of self. Actually, we have two of them. One on each side of the brain. They are both busy doing something almost all the time. However, normally, the one on the left side where language is located, tends to dominate our experience of ourselves.

This goes on because of our constant inner dialogue. We are constantly trying to tell ourselves what we are experiencing, and we use words to do it. When we have an experience that goes beyond words, one of the things that's happening is that for a brief time, our silent sense of self, out of the right side of the brain, is the one that's on top of our consciousness. Our normal sense of self has to give way. In crude terms, our normal sense of self feels under attack. The things it's learned, it's defense mechanisms, it's tastes and habits, slowly become irrelevant as we have more altered state experiences. Also, a great deal of our identities comes from the thoughts we have had about ourselves. In many ways, we think ourselves into being who we are, or rather who we are unconsciously pretending we are. When our silent sense of self is given the chance to emerge, it shows us that we are not what we think we are.

Because we are a social species, and each person requires an identity in the eyes of those around us, our feelings of being safe in human company depends on our identifying with a role. Normally our sense of our own identity is very important to us when the silent sense of self keeps emerging until our awareness tends to shatter that feeling of knowing who we are. The sense of self that appears in normal states of consciousness, the one that thinks in words and relates to others, is the self that suicide seems to destroy. The more your silent self emerges the more useless your linguistic self will feel, and you can end up with a very severe case of low self-esteem.

If your thoughts about suicide have to do with a feeling of worthlessness, then you should be paying attention now. It's not at all popular to find anything good in thinking of killing yourself, but I would like to point out to you that it does give you a certain spiritual potential. That is, of course, if you can stay alive long enough to make use of it. If you believe in God, it means that you are motivated to give your "self" up, and this has been one of the prerequisites for union with God in many mystic traditions. When you get rid of your identity, you create a vacuum into which God can step, or at least this has been the formula. It's said to require a state of real desperation in order to happen, and it's also said that one prepares for it by constantly praying to God and trying to induce a feeling of his presence at all times. "Pray without ceasing" says one mystic tradition.

If your thoughts about suicide are motivated by failed relationships and romantic disappointments, where the source of your pain seems to be an "other," then you should really look at this, because it allows you to use God, quite a different "other," to resolve the issue or at least start to. If your spirituality leans more toward the Buddhist ideal of being fully aware, or you feel that "being here now," or just being fully present is for you, then the fact that you think about suicide suggests that you might be able to give up the self which Buddhism says is the source of all delusion.

The Buddha said that only one who is as desperate for enlightenment as a man whose hair is on fire is desperate to find water in which to put out the flames, can come to enlightenment. If you are thinking about suicide, you might actually be that desperate, and so, you might have a chance. So, here's my suggestion: look inward, and try to find that "self." Then, have a good look at it before you kill it. Try to know who you are by looking for your self firsthand. Once you've seen it, you might find better things to do with it than destroying it. The way to start is through meditation.

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'Sometimes I think that there are rules to life that everyone understands except me'.

People who feel this way aren't talking about getting up, and going to sleep, eating, and how to put on their clothes. They're talking about relating to other people. It can happen when the parts of the brain that work with long- term memories aren't so well connected to the parts that work with present experience. Whenever a person seems to just "know" how to act in social situations, it's because they can access memories of having been in similar situations before. They know how act with their boss, in part, because they once had a similar relationship with their school teachers.

To an extent, it applies the unspoken rules for teachers to their bosses, and, doing pretty well. In this sense, having social skills is partly a matter of being able to work with long-term memories. It requires the subconscious assumption that the present is usually like something in the past. There are several kinds of Meditation practices, including Zen, they're designed to break this assumption, and to stop us from referring to the past in order to interpret the present. These practices all encourage a person to simply "be present," and not to refer to memories or expectations in any way. In fact, one of the names for the Buddha means "the one who resides in suchness." For a Buddha, things are always such as they are. No present no future, and all that.

If you are not a Buddha, then always being in the present will mean that you're never quite sure how to act, or what to say when your relating to other people. You'll be just a bit out-of-place. Its a bit like an ongoing version of an experience called jamais vu. This is a sort of opposite to deja vu.. In deja vu., the present feels like the past. In jamais vu, the presence seems to have no relationship to the past whatever. The present moment feels alien.

Your answer to this item suggests that you could be fairly successful with Meditation practices and spiritual techniques that focus on "being here now" or "Being present." For most people, being in the 'here and now' is a goal they have to attain. You, it seems, already have this. What you might need to learn, to be just a little bit more at home with this, isn't how to stop feeling that things are strange, but to come to a place where there's nothing wrong with it. Let the rest of the world live by rules that you don't understand: they're fine just as they are. The feeling of not knowing what to do or what to say can be uncomfortable, but only so long as you think that you are supposed to understand. One teacher I know of claims if you just give up worrying about what you are supposed to say and completely relax, you will always know what to say. Instead of trying to understand how people live, you just live the way you want and being a human being, that will always be the right way. Looking over the brain science, my conclusion is that if you feel the world knows what to do and you don't, its a pretty good sign that you could be very successful doing Zen techniques and other meditations like it.

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" After I lose an argument, my mind keeps thinking of things I should have said."

I'll admit it: this is a trick question. Almost everybody does this. It doesn't reveal anything in particular about your spiritual potential. But I would like to offer you the following thought: are your memories of the last argument that you had real, or are you remembering what you should have said instead All memories are very untrustworthy. I don't know about you, but arguments that lasted only five minutes can stay in my mind for hours. A couple of days later, I will have spent much, much more time, with my memories of that argument than the argument itself. Does it seem so strange that my memory should reflect where I spent most of my time. The next time somebody reminds you of something you said when you were angry, think twice before denying it.

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I can have a hard time stopping a conversation if I'm enjoying it.


This trait is fairly common among people who do spiritual practice. It comes up when language centers in the brain, located in the temporal lobes, are activated in the course of spiritual practice. The temporal lobes are also the parts of the brain that manage states of consciousness. If you experience moments when words seem to fail you, or in which you have experiences that simply cannot be put into words, it's a pretty good bet that the parts of your brain that are involved in your experiences are on the side of the brain opposite the language centers. When you are in ordinary states of mind, you may enjoy talking more than most people.

As a rule of thumb, whenever a structure on one side of the brain has been activated, a structure in the same spot on the other side of the brain will try to become involved. Of course, many times, the mirror image-like Structure will have a function very different from the first, and its activities may often be inhibited. But, all other conditions being equal, if the Silent You, on the right side of the brain, is activated more than normally, the talking you will also become busier.

So, the more you feel things that don't go into words very well, the more you will want to talk about them. I am remembering how so many gurus and spiritual teachers say that the truth is beyond words, and then spent hours talking and writing about it. Your Linguistic sense of self, having been put down when you went beyond words, wants to reassert itself, making you into something of a blabbermouth at times. If you have this trait and you're looking for a healthy way to express it, you might want to consider spending time with language arts.

Poetry, writing, storytelling, and so forth. You might even find yourself feeling the presence of something like a muse, which can even become a kind of spirit guide. Also, the more you let go, allowing all your words to flow from you, the deeper your experience of nonverbal states can be. I don't know of any spiritual tradition that says that working with words constitutes a spiritual practice by itself. But I also don't know of any spiritual tradition that doesn't have a large pile of written works. There is a tension between speech and spirituality, and if you like talking a lot, you may well grow spiritually if you give yourself a chance to indulge yourself completely. It's not important whether or not you are heard in what you have to say, the important thing is expressing whatever you feel you need to express. By all means, don't neglect verbal prayer, if you are drawn to prayer at all.

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'I get angry easily, but it never lasts long, and I feel terrible afterward.'

Many people who are involved with spiritual practice find themselves becoming irritable. To be very general about it, anger is a response that we feel when we perceive ourselves as being attacked. Someone says something we don't like, we tend to respond as though their opinions can actually do some harm. Sometimes this is the case, but usually "sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you." The more time a person spends in unusual states of consciousness, or the more time they spend doing spiritual practice, (which can amount to the same thing), the more their normal sense of self, the one that processes everything in words, is eroded.

While this is happening, a person can be very prone to overreacting to anything that threatens their sense of self. Because our sense of self is largely a story that we have told ourselves over and over again, our sense of self is normally a very linguistic phenomena. So, it should come as no surprise that spiritual people are more likely to be angered when they hear words that they do not like than others. If you're an irritable person, there are two spiritual practices you might like to look at, and the fact that you're as irritable as you are, means that you will have a good chance of success with them. It may be difficult for you to do, but people who don't get angry don't have much potential for working with these practices.

The first is best suited for those who are drawn to prayer. Whenever anyone says anything to you that makes you angry, try to imagine that they are saying it because they themselves are in some kind of pain, and whatever they've said is an unhealthy way of acting it out. If someone insults you, imagine that they themselves have been insulted. If someone steals from you, imagine that they're very poor. Always look for the excuse for the other person's unpleasant behavior. There are several religious traditions that say that when anger is defeated, it's replaced with compassion. All over the world, wherever you find this teaching, you will be told that you have to use your mind; you have to think. It's nothing to do with the "truth," it's about deliberately choosing to have compassion, even for those who don't deserve it, and even when there is no excuse that all for their behavior. Invent an excuse for their behavior if you have to.

The second spiritual technique for working with anger comes from the Buddhist meditation traditions. It's very easy to practice. When you feel anger, simply ask yourself "where is my anger " Eventually, you will notice that it has a location. It's spread uniformly all over your body. You will have to look for it, though. You will have to make a rather intense effort with your attention, right in the moment when your temper is at its worst. After you have seen this for a time, you will begin to experience anger as something that happens in your body. The tendency to move naturally into angry thoughts, and eventually angry words, will begin to lose its power. One person who was successful with it found that things that once made them angry now made them sad. I don't want that to happen to you, but it's better than being irritable, and there are some mystics who say that sadness is one of the milestones along the way to compassion. Good luck with it.

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'I have felt the presence of a spirit or power that I have prayed to.'

This is an example of an experience we call "the sensed presence." If this is happening spontaneously, then you probably have the potential to learn to make it happen whenever you need it to. I'm going to offer a simple way to try and bring to experience about, without any explanation for how the it works. It's quite simple: just imagine that the presence you want to invoke is emanating from a place behind you, and to the left. At the same time, be aware of your breathing. Simply feel your breath go in and out. If it happens to feel unpleasant, just switch sides. A few people are 'left-handed' in this regard.

Within a very short time, Imagining that presence will turn into a sense of actually feeling it. For most people, It will work better at night. Once you had conjured up that sense of a presence, you can begin to interact with it in different ways. If you want it to physically touch you, first imagine it. Some people who have done this have felt their shoulder is being touched, or their hand being held. Others have imagined a presence they invoke speaks to them, and sometimes begin to feel that they are 'channeling' messages from it. Having the experience of feeling a presence that has been the object of your prayers suggests a potential for all practices that involve working with an outer entity. This can even include spiritual healing. All of these techniques begin the same: evoke the presence, and then begin to imagine it doing various things. Use your imagination any way you like. There is an old rule of sorcery: "you become that which you pretend." So also, will the presences that visit you sometimes. No curses, now. Be nice.

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'I have been visited by a spirit or a power that wanted to do me harm'.


My response to this is going to be less about your spiritual potential than about how to respond when this experience comes up. If you learn to respond well, you will open up some of your spiritual potential along the way, quite naturally. Try to remember the last time this happened to you. If your memory serves you well, you should find that the negative presence appeared on either one side or the other.

The way to prepare for these experiences is to imagine a presence behind you, and to the left, at the same time as you watch your breathing. Feel your breath go in and out. If it happens that you don't feel good imagining a presence on the left, just switch sides. Soon, you should actually feel a presence. AS the old rule of magic says, 'imagining it, it becomes real'. When you find that you can imagine a presence that makes you feel good, spend some time practicing. Keep at it until you can invoke that pleasant sense of a presence at will. The next time you feel that negative presence, just imagine a presence on the opposite side of you, away from the bad guy. Being able to invoke a presence might even be able to help you learn to channel, heal, write with the help of a muse, and to bless people in various ways. Like any other spiritual technique, this one takes practice.

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'At least once in my life, I have left my body, and I knew it wasn't a dream.'

There is a good chance you have the potential to create certain kinds of "energy events." Sometimes these events are out of body experiences. Sometimes, they take other forms. The technique for getting to them is the same in either case, and there's no way of knowing, until you're actually working with it, how it will turn out for you. Most people who try this technique find it interesting, and sometimes they are able to induce "peak" experiences for themselves. The method is simple: while you are lying in bed waiting to go to sleep, simply imagine that your body is rocking back and forth. Your head goes up while your feet go down, and vice versa.

There are authors of books that explain how to have an out of body experience, and they always mention this technique. But what they often don't mention is that the same techniques can create a range of other experiences. My guess is that they themselves were prone to out of body experiences, and they felt this rocking sensation at the beginning of their experiences, so they simply assume it will be the same for everybody else. It doesn't work that way. Some people start out the same way, and end up doing lucid dreaming. As near as I can tell, achieving peak experiences by this technique can often mean going through some unpleasant sensations, or rather, sensations that are so unfamiliar that the mind is quick to say "this must be unpleasant."

As you progress with this technique, just try to relax and allow the sensations to move in whatever way they will, and all the time you're doing it, keep "checking in" to see if you are tense in any way. If you notice any tense places, just do your best to let them relax. The more relaxed you are, the farther and faster you will go with this technique. If you end up with an out of body experience (or OBE or 'obie' to the elite), you'll most likely to get there by 'rocking' yourself out of your body.

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'I have heard voices in my head so strongly that I wasn't sure if they were from outside or not'.


A lot depends on what kind of voice you were hearing. If it was a pleasant voice, one that gave you good advice or spoke to you gently, that's one thing. If they were nasty demonic voices that planted unpleasant thoughts in your mind, that's quite another. There is something that both types say about the person who's having the experience: that they have the potential for success in spiritual practices that rely on words. One such practice is called "channeling." Another is writing poetry. Another is an old Christian practice that you don't hear about too much anymore, the practice of speaking kindly to everyone.

Some cultures preserve the habit of speaking blessings all the time. Good luck. Be healthy. Have a nice day. Here in the West, we have largely dropped the habit. I feel this is a really spiritual practice because I believe that our minds largely work out of habit. If we cultivate the habit of thinking of positive things to say to others, it will become difficult to find negative things to say. So many people have their "default" settings pointed to complaint, anger, resentment, jealousy, and so forth. Always looking for positive things to say will force you to always find positive thoughts. Over time, your 'cognitive style' will become more positive, and there are many serious researchers who are concluding that this can even improve your health.

If the language centers in your brain are so powerful that they can create voices even when there is no one speaking, then those same language centers are powerful enough to transform you into a more spiritual person, if you just give them a place to express themselves. Whether the voices you hearing are saying positive or negative things, the most direct approach I know of to move forward with it is to evoke a positive presence, and then to give voice. There are a couple of steps in this process, which is best done after the sun goes down. You begin by simply imagining that there is a presence behind you, and to the left. Usually, this evokes a strong sense of the presence that has a positive feel to it, sometimes even blissful. At the same time, try to be aware of your breathing. Feel your breath go in and out. If it happens that presence on your left side is not so comfortable, try imagining it on the right. A few people are sort of "left-handed" in this regard.

You should be able to move from imagining a presence to really feeling it in a very short time. Once that has happened, simply pretend that the presence is going to speak to you. Just sit with it, and be ready to listen. It may be very quiet at first, and might sometimes speak only a single word, such as your name. In time, though, it might actually begin to speak to you. Or at least seem to. Each time it happens, the pathways involved with positive visitor experiences get their exercise. When they get strong enough, the negative ones should be replaced by positive ones. But it will probably need you to keep up the practice of imaging and evoking the positive ones. Practice makes perfect.

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'Sometimes I smell things that aren't there.'

You might like to know that there's a brain structure, called the amygdala, that's right on the other hand of the nerve-bundles coming out of your olfactory bulb. The amygdala has been found to be the source of many mystic experiences, especially the ones of the "self-and-other" variety. Stimulating the amygdala can make a person feel that there's a presence in a room with them, even though they're quite alone. If you smell things that aren't there, your amygdala is probably quite busy. And that could easily mean that you will have an aptitude for spiritual practices that rely on the "other." Prayer is one such practice, where the other is God.

So is massage, bodywork, and esoteric healing techniques, where the other is the client. I don't want to say too much just based on illusions of smell, but if you have this experience, then I would sooner bet that your way is the way of love, than the way of awareness. If your amygdala is busier than those of most people, then you're probably a fairly vulnerable person, emotionally. You probably have a very acute sense of smell, too. The only suggestion I can make to you is that you consider looking at aromatherapy and magical practices that work with incense, essential oils, and so forth. A pretty obvious suggestion, but I'll make it all the same.

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'I have a spirit familiar'.

When you checked this item, I hope you meant the same thing that I meant when I wrote it. I was thinking of a presence of is either with you all the time, or that comes to you whenever you ask it to. The phrase "spirit familiar" evokes a feeling of the positive presence, and not to a negative one, so I'm going to respond to this item on that basis. Spirit familiars are said to have all kinds of powers. People use them to channel "higher wisdom," to do spiritual healing, and to give them psychic information. Sometimes they serve as muses, inspiring writers and artists.

I know one person whose spirit familiar gives people blessings by walking up to them and touching them, even though the recipients don't know anything about it. Occasionally, he gets feedback to the effect that the person even felt something very good while he was working on them, and in a couple of cases, actually experienced physical healings. He began by imagining that his familiar was standing behind him, and to the left, as he watched his breathing, and that invoked a real feeling of its presence. He imagined that his familiar, a spiritual teacher, walked out from behind him, and then touched the person that he wanted to bless. He said that doing this had done two things for him. It made him feel that he was closer to his teacher, and it made him feel that he was worthy to be a teacher himself, or more worthy than he had felt before.

My own opinion is that his familiar was a projection of himself, the way he was when he was with his teacher. He looked up to his teacher. He felt his familiar had more wisdom than he did, and this practice helped make that wisdom more available to him.

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'Sometimes my vision sharpens so that I can see with incredible clarity'

This experience has a few names. One of them is "Enhanced visual acuity." Another is "Seeing the divine in creation." If you have this experience, then there are two types of practices that I think might work well for you. The first is Zen, a meditation that puts an emphasis on being here now. In order to have this experience, your mind must disconnect some of your attention from your thoughts and feelings, and apply it to your senses. Your thoughts and feelings are often "stuck" in the past or are busy anticipating the future. Your senses, on the other hand, are always in the present.

So, as a rule of thumb, I advise people who spontaneously experience enhancements in their senses to work with meditations and spiritual practices that emphasize the present (and their senses more than their emotions). The second practice that I would suggest has been called "gazing." People gaze at candle flames, mirrors, crystal balls, pools of water, and even, in one case I remember, the back of a spoon. The important thing is the gazing itself, not what you're looking at. To have some success with this technique, you need to stay with it long enough that your eyes begin to lose their habituated positions. There is a thing called "ocular dominance." Each person has one eye or the other dominating their vision.

Your eyes give two slightly different perspectives on the world, and when they're joined together, the world emerges into our vision in three dimensions. The dominant eye will be the one the brain chooses for its visual perspective. Maintaining this involves keeping our eyes in a certain position with respect to one another. When this breaks down, a person's eyes will no longer seem to "track" together. So while you're doing gazing, try crossing your eyes in different ways. Not the extensive, strong effort that will give you a headache, but just 'loosen' your eyes, crossing them just enough to make things slightly blurry, but not enough to make for double vision.

To me spirituality is not-self torture, so if you find that you are giving yourself a headache, relax. Stronger won't be better in this case. After some time, you should find that this sharpening of your vision begins to happen more often. You should also find that you mind is quicker to make pictures out of what you see, like the kind that seem to form in the clouds.

At some point in this process, you should begin to play with your focus while looking at more ordinary things. I know of one case where a person had this sharpening of their vision, but not because of any shift in their consciousness. They had been to the eye doctor, and had been given an ice pack to wear over their lives for about half an hour. After this, they entered a state of Enhanced visual acuity that lasted for several hours. It was quite a pleasant experience. I think what happened was that her eyeballs contracted slightly from the cold, so that it was no longer possible for the habitual settings of her ocular muscles to work as they normally did. So, she experienced a shift in her vision.

You might like to know the people who experienced Enhanced visual acuity tend to feel good a lot of the time. There is an opposite experience, called suppressed visual acuity. People who have it tend to be depressed a lot of time. In fact, they have a higher-than-normal suicide rate. I also once talked to a person who experienced it during anxiety attacks, but I think its not so common.

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'When I fall in love, it takes me over completely'.

The state of romantic love, like the feeling of union with God that can appear in intense prayer, is one where the boundaries of self and other begin to break down. Lovers have said to one another: "I do not know where I end and you begin." The fact that you get swept up in romantic love suggests that you have a strong potential for spiritual practices that rely on the 'self and other' relationship. The most important of these practices, of course, is prayer. In prayer, God becomes the 'other'.

There are other practices. Spiritual healing, massage, and body work, for example. There the client serves as the other. Some mystic poets have used the beloved as a metaphor for God. There are even spiritual groups, teaching an art called "Tantra," that sometimes encourages people to actually worship their romantic partners as they might worship in a temple. It's not that they believe their lovers are actually gods and goddesses. Because a romantic relationship is so involving, some people find that, their sexual and romantic partners are very evocative objects for doing ceremonies. You can actually worship your partner if you want to, but you might like to wait until they're asleep.

I know a story that's relevant at this point. A man I met in the course of my work was in love with a woman who was not in love with him. Of course, he was pretty upset about this. As it happened, he had a picture of her. One day, in desperation, completely at loss for what to do with his feelings, he stuck the picture to the wall and got down on knees in front of it and began to worship it. The guy knew something about the ceremonial practices of Hindus and Buddhists, and worshiped the picture as he might worship the statue in one of the temples he had visited. The first time he did this, he said, it was something of an epiphany. In fact, he liked it so much that each time he found himself thinking of this woman, he would just go do it again. After about three weeks of this, he met her accidentally. He found that he had no response to her at all.

She had, for him, become an ordinary woman, like any other. I intend to try to use the results of the "Spiritual aptitude tests" to study this more carefully, but I'm fairly sure that being prone to romanticism, and being prone to devotional practices are both based on the same things. So if you're not into Prayer already, I suggest you give it to try. I don't think it really matter who you pray to, or even if you really "believe." The important thing is how involved in it you are. If, in praying to a higher power, you feel you're just pretending, don't forget how engrossed you once became in pretending things as a child.

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"Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with a terrible fear of dying."


My suggestion is that you pretend to die. Lie down and imagine that your life is ending. Don't bother wondering what death is like. Just imagine it, and let your mind fill in the details. As much as you can, become absorbed in the process. Do it regularly, as a spiritual practice. Almost every mystic tradition preserves it. The Indian saint, Ramana Maharishi, attained one of his breakthroughs in exactly this way. If you get into wallowing in emotion, look at what you are thinking about as the emotions come up.

The subject, whatever it is, will be an issue for you. A place to look at. If you find yourself in regret about your kids, for example, that's your inner guidance telling you to re-connect with them. Maybe. You might find yourself wondering how you can imagine death without ever having experienced it. Right now, close your eyes, and imagine you are on a city bus, sitting in the front seat. If you do, you will probably imagine a bus driver, a street you can see through the window, and you will imagine a time of day. Is it before or after sunset?

All you do is imagine being on a bus, and you involuntarily imagine all kinds of details to fill in the gaps. Its the same with death. Just get involved in pretending that its happening, and you will find that your subtle expectations about death will begin to come out where you can see them. If you imagine a conversation, many of the same parts of the brain that are involved in speech will be activated. If you imagine that you are lifting a heavy weight, some of the muscle control areas in you brain will be activated. If you imagine that you're dying, some of the brain centers (which we believe are mostly in the temporal lobes) involved in the death process will be activated. The things your imagination produces for you will really have something to do with what you will eventually experience when you die. Some of it will be the sheer nonsense the mind produces, too. Repeat the practice often enough, and you'll eventually become a connoisseur of your own imagination, and you'll know what's meaningful, and what's not.

If you do this long enough, One day, you will either get to an epiphany of some sort, or the practice will become stale. When either happens, you will find yourself thinking of your own mortality in a new way, almost certainly without the fear you now feel. Meet death now, while it's still only in the realm of your mind. You should also spend time with books on near-death experiences. It will expose you to the theme in a believable way, one that you'll find non-threatening.

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'I often find myself with words on the tip of my tongue that I just can't get out.'

Have you ever heard of the "split brain" studies The studies done when people had their corpus callosum cut. That's the biggest of the structures that connect the two sides of the brain. People who had this surgery (epileptics) found their abilities to relate to the world outside of themselves impaired in some subtle ways. They might, for example, remember the name of something, but not what it was, or what it was for. Or, they might know what something was but have no idea what it was called. It's a whole complicated story that we don't actually need to go into.

When there's a word on the tip of your tongue that you just can't get out, it's a lot like having the two sides of your brain disconnected from one another for a moment or two. You know what you want to say, but the words aren't there. Knowing what you want to say involves a lot of work on one side of the brain, finding the words involves more of the other side. When the two aren't communicating properly, your speech can sort of "freeze." It happens to everyone. Some people seem to experience it almost constantly. I think what's probably happening with these people is that they have more frequent experiences of altered states of consciousness. I have been gathering data on the subject, so soon I'll be able to be more positive.

Their silent, nonverbal, sense of self gets more exercise than that of others, and so it's more likely to intrude into otherwise quite normal states of consciousness. Some small perception, perhaps too subtle for the person themselves to notice, serves as a trigger. And for a very brief period of time, their consciousness shifts just a bit. It can happen so fast that the person won't notice anything. Except that they've gone 'fuzzy' for a second, and they can't think of what they want to say. If this is happening to you, then you may have a potential for meditation techniques that require you to "stop the inner dialogue" and to cultivate a "silent mind." Two of the most important methods are 1) contemplating the feeling of God's presence, and 2) silent meditations, like those taught in Buddhism.

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'I make little altars around my house'.

Keep doing it. Its more like imaginative play than any other adult activity I know of. Some children get so involved with their dolls and toys that they can be frightened to see them dropped or thrown. "You'll hurt it!", they say. They arrange their toys in little displays, just like your little alters. Depending on what else you've got in this e-mail, this practice suggests a potential for ...how shall put it ...attaining depth in prayer. According to Saint Augustine, if a person wants to cultivate faith, they should begin by pretending that there is a God, even they are sure that there isn't one. That same kind of imagination could well be at work around your house, as a subtle invitation you extend yourself to pray.

I don't recommend any specific object for your prayers, just that you would do well to include some kind of prayer in your practices, if you aren't already doing so. You might find that you have an urge to go around re-arranging them in different ways; that you want to interact with them in different ways. If so, you might like to look at creating a small ceremony for yourself. Just as kids like to ceremonialize things, like bedtime or sitting down to eat, you may find that you can use your sense of play to enhance your spiritual practice, whatever it is.

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'Although I'm glad to be alive, I sometimes look forward to death, and an end to living in the physical reality'.

There are two points where looking forward to death connects with spirituality. The first is where the experience of being in higher states during our lives seems to suggest something about the states that we will experience after death. Normal consciousness stops with death, and because we tend to attribute things that happen in our consciousness to the world we live in, instead of ourselves, it's easy to get the sense that we'll end a basic discomfort when we leave the world. The deeper your sense of spirituality, the more likely you are to feel that there's a higher reality. The stronger your faith in that idea is, the more likely you are to surrender to leaving this one, when the time comes. The second place where thinking about death meets spirituality has to do with the fact that the more spiritual someone is, the more time they will spend in altered states of consciousness. Many of the experiences that people have while in these states are very difficult to express in words. To understand how this relates you need to understand something about the human sense of self. Or, perhaps I should say senses of self.

Actually, we have two of them. One on each side of the brain, and they are both busy doing something almost all the time. Normally the one on the left side, where language is located, tends to dominate our experience of ourselves. This goes on because of our constant inner dialogue. We are constantly trying to tell ourselves what we are experiencing, and we use words to do it. When we have an experience that goes beyond words, one of the things that's happening is that for a brief time, our silent sense of self, out of the right side of the brain, is the one that's 'on top' of our consciousness. Our normal sense of self has to give way. In crude terms, our normal sense of self feels under attack. The things it's learned, it's defense mechanisms, it's tastes and habits, slowly become irrelevant as we have more altered state experiences.

Also, a great deal of our identities comes from the thoughts we have had about ourselves. In many ways, we think ourselves into being who we are, or rather who we are unconsciously pretending we are. When our silent sense of self is given the chance to emerge, it shows us that we are not what we think we are. Because we are a social species, and each person requires an identity in the eyes of those around us, our feelings of being safe in human company depends on our identifying with a role. Normally our sense of our own identity is very important to us. When the silent sense of self keeps emerging, our awareness tends to shatter that feeling of knowing who we are.

The sense of self that appears in normal states of consciousness, the one that thinks in words and relates to others, is the self that death seems to liberate. If you find that you look forward to death, it could mean that you have an aptitude for the kinds of self-examination used by some spiritual teachers, like The Indian Saint, Ramana Maharishi, who taught only that spiritual seekers should ask themselves "who am I ", until they are liberated from themselves. Or the Teacher, Gurdjieff, who prescribed "stopping" oneself many times a day to look at what you're feeling, thinking, and how you're holding your body. The Christian practice of repentance is another way of looking at your self in a disciplined way, although the guilt it invokes is no longer seen as a virtue these days.

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'I was regularly physically or sexually abused as a child'.

This says more about how much potential you have, spiritually, than it does about how you should realize that potential. Here's how it works: when we were children we responded to trauma by trying to escape from it. Most of the time, however, we couldn't do it. We experience most of our traumas at the hands of adults. And, being kids, we couldn't get away. So we escaped inwardly. The mechanism is called dissociation. As far as I can tell, there are several places where a person can go during Dissociation. A person can just go "blank," they can go into their imagination, they can have actual Hallucinations, and there are probably more that I don't know about yet. When you experienced your abuse as a child, you probably "went off " into one of these places. When you did that, you exercised the portions of your brain that support whatever experience you had. Those same pathways are still available to you now even though you may no longer experience their associated phenomena.

Let me tell you a story. I once interviewed a woman who did healing work professionally. She did massage, "energy work," and a couple of other kinds of body work. She was severely abused as a child. Her story included being locked up in a closet, being denied food and water, and never having been given toys. While she was locked in the closet, she felt herself falling into a pit that she came to call "the well of despair." Eventually, one day she came to the bottom. There, she found a group of angels waiting for her. They held her, comforted her, and told her that there was a reason why she was having these experiences. They told her not to give up hope, and that later her life would be much better. Now, the same angels come to her when she's doing her healing work and help her to understand the people that she's working with, and give her guidance about how she should touch them. She is very good at what she does, and is even a respected teacher at a massage school. Let's suppose that when she was being abused, she had escaped into some other kind of reality. It wouldn't be very likely that she'd be able to experience "spirit guidance" today. Another person I spoke with told me about being forced to sit in a corner for long periods as a punishment when he was a child. He became incredibly bored. He told me that he would fix his gaze on a tiny spot on the wall until the world "washed out" into white light. Today, he is a psychic.

What I can suggest to you is that you try to remember the experience of being abused as clearly as possible, but don't pay too much attention to the abuse itself. Try to remember how you responded to it. That response, whatever it was, may well be the soil in which your spirituality can grow the best now that you're an adult. You'll have to work out the details for yourself. It's a good thing to do, though. It will allow you to think about the experience of being abused in a in a way that doesn't emphasize your being a victim. Here something else you might like to know. There was a researcher in near-death experiences who found that only 30 percent of people who died clinically (and were revived) had any near-death stories to tell. He wanted to know why. He carried out a study and he found something that most people who remembered near-death experiences had in common. They all had experienced abuse during their childhood. I don't think the child abuse means that if you die for a few moments on an operating table you will have a near-death experience.

I think that everyone who dies, even for a few minutes, has some kind of experience. The difference is that those who were abused as children were able to remember their experiences, not because of the abuse, but because they were more experienced in dissociating their consciousness from outer, present, realities, allowing more memories to filter through. Some of the same brain parts that are activated when a person is dissociating are also working when memories are being cons consolidated or retrieved. I have seen instances of both enhanced and suppressed memory skills in association with dissociative skills. A history of early abuse makes it easier for a person to enter other states of consciousness, and also to remember what happens there.

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'I have anxiety attacks'.

Anxiety attacks are never pleasant, but there is a way to make some use of them in your spirituality. When you have an anxiety attack, the first thing is to remember that you are experiencing anxiety even though there is nothing to be anxious about. The questions: "why are you anxious " or "what are you anxious about " are meaningless. When you're in the middle of an anxiety attack, everything you experience will seem to be a bit of a threat.

You're not responding to things with anxiety. Rather, you respond to everything with anxiety. People who think that we are "not supposed" to feel fear when there's nothing to be afraid of will simply never understand what an anxiety attack is like. Anxiety doesn't just exist in the mind. When it's happening, there's a very distinct sensation going on in your body. Pay attention to it. Try to feel it, in all its details. Watch how it changes slightly as you breathe. Then, just relax. As completely as you can. Go totally limp. Keep your attention on your body, so that it isn't pointed at your thoughts. Then, try to imagine that you are floating in space. That's all there is to it. You can add music, if you want, because its processed through these same areas, too. Make sure you choose something uplifting.

You see, the part of the brain that's most involved in anxiety is very heavily connected to the part of the brain that mediates our perception of space, and both of these parts are fairly strongly connected to the parts of your brain that allow you to feel and control your body. Doing this meditation, or guided visualization, during an anxiety attack is a way of trying to move the center of electrical activity out of the emotional structure and into another one. The emotional structure (on the right) is where most anxiety attacks come from, and the structure next door (also on the right), seems to have something to do with positive thinking as well as spatial perception, according to some lab results I've had.

One person told me about an anxiety attack that they had had. "I was in the playground with my daughter one day when I had an incredibly intense anxiety attack. I really didn't want anyone to come up to me and start making conversation, so I told my kid that I was going to lie down and I did. Sometimes an attack can make me go really limp. That day, I decided just to take a nap. I kept getting more relaxed, almost falling to sleep. And then, my body seemed to wobble, and I opened my eyes. I found my anxiety attack was completely gone, and for about half an hour, my vision seem to 'darken' and to become very, very crisp. It was really beautiful. After that, I had the same experience a few times, but never so intense. I also don't worry about anxiety attacks so much now. When they come, I just try to take a nap."

How does this work? Well, the brain structure that is activated in moments of extreme fear (the right amygdala) is very closely connected to the part that gets active when we are experiencing positive thoughts ( the right hippocampus). If we let go and relax into fear, it can invoke totally opposite experiences, as excess activity from the 'feeling bad' place spills over into into the 'thinking positive' place. It sounds paradoxical; even the opposite of how we 'feel' it should be, but that's only because we are so accustomed to trying to escape fear. When you know your fear and anxiety are groundless, there's no point in spending the effort to resist them. There's nothing to escape from. So you can relax. Perhaps, one day, your fear might carry you through to something well beyond fear. But only if you allow it to go where it will, so that it can eventually find those sacred pathways that lead there. Play with it. Respond to fear with relaxation. See what happens.

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"I'm Gay"


I have an essay about the spirituality of being gay,
gaybrain.htm.

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'Tingly' feelings, like pins-and needles, electric-like 'buzzes', or chills running up your spine.

These sensations are called parasthesias, and those who are doing yoga and tai chi are much more likely to experience them. Usually, they're pleasant sensations, like the chills that might run up the spine when we are hearing music. Sometimes they're not. If you have these sensations in an unpleasant way often, you might do well to talk with an epileptologist about it. These sensations can come up with one kind of epilepsy. The more you experience these sensations, the better success you'll probably have with body-centered practices like Yoga.

Parasthesias have been called "kundalini buzzes', because some yoga practitioners feel they relate to the movement of 'kundalini' through the body. If these people are right, then they might have something to offer you. You might like to look at Kundalini practices. Also, many healers have spoken of feeling sensations like these in their hands while doing healing practices. If you can evoke these feeling in your hands at will, you might be able to use it in a healing art of some kind. One method is to pretend that there are holes in the palms of your hands, and that you can breath through them. If you try this and find that there is an electric quality to the sensations, you might be able to learn to be a healer.

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DEJA VU

You may have had a hard time deciding how to answer this question. Deja vu comes in waves. Most people who experience it find that it comes in waves. For a few months, they get it all the time. Then it stops. Then it starts again. Deja vu is a change in the way we experience the present moment. The present feels like the past. There really isn't much you can do with the past, but you can be in the present. Often, people respond to deja vu by trying to figure out what when its coming from. Was it a dream Was it in a past life?

None of that matters in spiritual terms. What does matter is that deja vu calls your attention, sharply, to the present moment. When it happens, you might like to experiment with being present. Don't try to remember a past moment that's like the present one. Instead, ask yourself why it feels like the past. You might find that there's a feeling you can't put into words. Something past-ish. When are you feeling it Right now. Make that feeling a kind of meditation object. Pay as close an attention as you can to it. Eventually, after trying a few times, you might be able to find a new way of 'being here now.' It will come all of a sudden, as a flash of insight.

In my work, I have found that people who experience deja vu a lot tend to be drawn to Zen Buddhist and Vipassana traditions. Both traditions emphasize being in the present, starting with paying attention to the breath. The more often you experience deja vu, the more likely it is that you will succeed with spiritual practices that emphasize 'being here now,' 'being present,' 'being at one with the NOW,' and so forth. And the more likely it is that you'll find satisfaction in them. There's something else to add. Deja vu can sometimes be a symptom of one kind of epilepsy. A kind that people often refuse to have treated because they like it. Others are desperate to get rid of it. If you experience deja vu with a feeling of terror, you might like to see an epileptologist. The type of epilepsy (called Complex Partial) I'm thinking of is often misdiagnosed by psychologists, but its usually caught by specialists in epilepsy. There is so little available information about deja vu because learning how it works is a matter of brain science. Being present, fortunately, is not.

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JAMAIS VU


This feeling has a name. Its called 'Jamais vu.' Its French for 'never seen'. When it's happening, all sense of familiarity is gone. The present moment seems to have nothing in common with anything from the past. It can be quite uncomfortable for some, while others really enjoy it. The key, as near as I can tell, is in relaxing while it happens. In these moments, the present is disconnected from the past, and everything seems either alien or quite new. While it happens, you might like to play with seeing how relaxed you can be. The more you allow the sense of not-knowing-anything that it creates, the more you will find your self just being in the present.


I have found in my research that people who have this experience often are more likely to be doing Zen or vipassana meditation than prayer. They have their sense of the present more exercised than others, so when they hear the words "be here now", they're more likely to 'get it.' When they sit down to do meditation, they are more able to let go of the past, because this experience has done it for them so many times already, spontaneously. So, my suggestion to you is that you give 'being present' a try, for your spiritual practice, using Zen, vipassana, or any other practice that emphasizes 'being here now.'

There's something else to add. Jamais vu can sometimes be a symptom of one kind of epilepsy. A kind that people often refuse to have treated because they like it. Others are desperate to get rid of it. If you experience jamais vu with a feeling of terror, you might like to see an epileptologist. The type of epilepsy (called Complex Partial) I'm thinking of is often misdiagnosed by psychologists, but its usually caught by specialists in epilepsy. There is so little available information about it because learning how it works is a matter of brain science. Being present, fortunately, is not.

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"The Sensed Presence"

This feeling has been called "The sensed Presence." The brain scientist's explanation for this lies in the idea that we have two senses of self, one on each side of the brain. Ordinarily, we rely primarily on the one on the left, where language, both inner and outer, is produced. When a person is having the sensed presence, the senses of self on the two sides of the brain have fallen out of phase with each other. The right-sided self comes out where the left-sided self can experience it. It's being projected, or its a projected being. It's real if you are.

The right side of the brain seems to be where most intuition happens. The left also plays a role, but I want to keep it simple here. No matter whether you sense a presence or have a spirit familiar or guide, its all the same. Its literally a side of yourself you don't usually experience. It will be projected from the side where intuition happens, so it will seem to know all sorts of thing that your usual sense of self, the one that guides your words, couldn't possibly know. So the sensed presence is the fabric out of which spirit mediumship is woven. A healer, projecting their self onto a sick person, might be more able to 'connect' with them. A lot depends on how you feel during the experience. A sensed presence can be terrifying.


It includes the monster that horrify children from under the bed. For some adults, the presence can 'feel evil'. When this happens a lot, its not unwise to see an epileptologist. The sensed presence can appear as a symptom of one kind of epilepsy, and I wouldn't be doing my job here if I didn't mention it. Most psychologists have a hard time sorting the symptoms of this kind of epilepsy out from those of psychiatric disorders.

I believe, along with many Hindus and Buddhists, that if I ever stand before God, I will be brought face-to-face with myself. The God of my experience in that moment will be my self. The one on the right side, that is using the emotions of the left. In being blissful, the experience will do something in a certain part of my brain, one that specializes in positive emotions. If the way I'm seeing it is valid, then the more you experience the sensed presence, the more satisfaction you will find in prayer. And the more romantic you probably are.

Romantic love, like the "mystic union", is a place where the boundaries of self and other become a bit blurred. There are many ways to pray. Most God-oriented religions say that one of the highest forms of prayer is the one in which you use very few words, and just try to feel God's presence. If you experience the sensed presence often, you should be able to do this.

If you don't believe in God, then you can express yourself in this by focusing on practices that are built on the other, like healing arts, or workshops and seminars that develop relating skills to 'higher' or 'full' potential, or words to that effect. There is even a Kung Fu exercise called 'sticking hands'. Its kind of a martial artists game where two people touch hands, and one of them tries to break contact while the other tries to keep it. Its supposed to develop one's sense of how another is going to move. Again, sensing other's presence through more than just their words. Stay open to themes in spirituality that use the self and other.

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Vestibular Sensations:


These sensations are more common than you might think.

You might remember seeing TV ads for amusement parks with the camera on a roller coaster and feeling a palpable sense of movement. That's called a vestibular illusion. When it's happening, your visual input is perturbing your somatic (bodily) sense oforientation in space.

In my work, I've found that people who have this experience are very likely to be drawn to body-centered practices, like Tai Chi, Tantra, and yoga. The more often it happens, the better your chances for an out-of-body experience. Usually, books that teach how to have an out of body experience tell you to work with these sensations until you sort of 'rock' yourself out of you body. You might like to try playing with the sensations to see how much you can allow them. Some people who experience this sense of movement also have anxiety while its happening. These people might do well to consult an epileptologist, as these sensations can be a sign of one type of epilepsy. If the experience feels good, then think of it as an invitation to experiment with body-centered practices in your spiritual life.

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There's no results. There's just what you're thinking and feeling right now.



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