Brain Scans of Journeys

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My friend Razena posted an article on my FaceBook page about a study done in Germany and Austria. Fifteen experienced shamanic practitioners had their brains scanned while they were journeying to the spirit world. The results were published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Pathology in June of 2015. Functional MRI scans revealed which areas of the brain were active during the journey.

I read that article as well as one written for non-scientists, The Neuroscience Of Trance. I noted the three major areas of activity and also researched them on Wikipedia. I wanted to see how the observed brain functions matched up with my own experiences.

There was increased activity in the posterior cingulate cortex. This part is associated with internally directed thought, first impressions, wakeful rest, and is not focused on the outside world.

The insular cortex is associated with the sources of urges and cravings, decision making, and communicates with other areas of the brain. It is part of the core control network and is suspected of helping maintain internally directed states.

The third part is the anterior cingulate cortex which acts as a core network controller also, and helps regulate the amygdala. In turn, the amygdala controls autonomic functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. The amygdala is also associated with rational functions like decision making, impulse control, empathy, and the emotions. The amygdala is important in deciding what is a threat and what is not (survival instinct).

These findings please me. The functions described are not concerned with the outside world but internally on a state of wakeful rest. They are focused on decision-making, internal brain communications, and maintaining internally directed states. There is a connection to our feelings. Note that, other than the internally directed state, the other areas of focus are areas our brains engage in during our normal, non-trance, every day experiences.

This tracks perfectly with my journeys. As I report in my soon-to-be-published book, My Journeys To The Spirit World, journeying is so real that I view it as a normal event. My first journey to the spirit world was on April 13, 2011. After describing that journey on page 6 of my book, I wrote, “Simply put, it was real. I knew it was real. I acted on this reality.”

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Who Are We? Our Beliefs!

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As we have seen, our two brains function in certain ways that have helped humanity survive. Our instincts also promote survival; our needs for food, a place to live, safety, good health, sex and intimacy, community. These instincts are so basic as to be an integral part of ourselves. Without them Homo sapiens would not be here today.

However we are not like animals, moving automatically at the direction of these driving forces. We can to use our conscious brains to think and reason, to decide what we do want as opposed to what we don’t want. Using our consciousness we can make choices which will direct the course of our lives. We are, in this sense, CO-creators. The sum of our individual beliefs shape the society in which we live. If we don’t like our existing world it is up to us to think about it and decide what we want to change. We will succeed if enough people believe along with us.

I end today’s blog with a quote from the book Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, by Leonard Mlodinow, page 218.

“We choose the facts that we want to believe. We also choose our friends, lovers, and spouses, not just because of the way we perceive them, but because of the way they perceive us. Unlike phenomena in physics, in life, events can often obey one theory or another, and what actually happens can depend largely upon which theory we choose to believe. It is a gift of the human mind to be extraordinarily open to accepting the theory of ourselves that pushes us in the direction of survival, and even happiness.”

 

Who Are We? Neanderthals?

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Nah! I just wanted to get your attention. We are not descended from the Neanderthals. However, scientists have found out that there was some, shall we say, interaction between our ancestors and Neanderthals. Enough interaction that all of modern humanity carries 1% to 3% of Neanderthal DNA in our own DNA.

We have been taught that Homo sapiens did not fraternize with other species. That teaching has been proven incorrect. In the 1960s scientists found that different species of baboons interacted and interbred with each other. But the belief was that Homo sapiens didn’t. That theory was accepted because there was no proof of interbreeding.

Then one day a bulldozer in Israel pushed back some dirt and found a circular opening in the ground. This led to an underground cave that was loaded with ancient tools, ornaments and a large portion of a skull. The skull was of a hybrid human, part Homo sapiens and part Neanderthal.

The Neanderthals, who preceded Homo sapiens, left their homeland in Africa, traveled across the Middle East and went on to Europe. Tens of thousands of years later our ancestors made the same journey. Guess who they met in the Middle East? Yep, the Neanderthals. They were returning because a new ice age was beginning in Europe.

Scientists are starting to believe that this was a more common occurrence than they previously realized. At the same time DNA analysis of  female mitochondria and male ‘Y’ chromosomes is suggesting the same conclusion. We aren’t Neanderthals, but some of our ancestors were hybrids.

Scientists believe this interbreeding did what? Yes, it helped each of the species survive longer because we have been sharing good genes with each other. Gives me a warm, toasty feeling inside. For more information on this topic watch WTTW’s series titled First Peoples – Africa or check www.pbs.org.

Who Are We? African.

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I want to clarify the title. This blog is not limited to modern Africans. It is about all humanity. My source is a 2014 magazine supplement published by Time Home Entertainment, Inc., NY, New York. The title of the supplement is How DNA Shapes Your Life.

In my last blog I mentioned my Irish and Swedish ancestors did not originate in Ireland and in Sweden. They migrated to those countries from elsewhere in Europe. Where did they come from before that? To answer that question, we have to add another question; what timeframe are we discussing?

DNA analysis and Anthropology provide the following answers. About 10,000 years ago my ancestors were located in Central Europe; 20,000 years ago they were probably in the Middle East; and 50,000 years ago they came from Africa. Africa is the origination point of all humanity. So if we all originated in the same place, how come we look different?

The physical differences we observe in the color of eyes, hair, skin, and other external physical features are accounted for by group interbreeding, natural selection, and random genetic mutations which helped us survive. However the differences we observe, though outwardly noticeable, result from differences in only 0.05% of our DNA. This means 99.95% of our DNA is the same for every human being who currently lives on earth.

Our observations, however, allow us to categorize people by differences. We enjoy this activity. We categorize everything to make it more understandable. Unfortunately we also create in-groups and out-groups as previously discussed. Thankfully we have science teaching us the truth about humanity. According to the science of DNA, we are overwhelmingly more alike than we are different.

Who Are We? Our DNA.

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Last November I decided to order an analysis of my DNA through Ancestry dot com. I ordered the ‘test kit’ ($99.00) online on the 17th. It shipped on the 18th. I received it on the 23rd, placed my saliva sample in the tube provided, and mailed it back. By December 3rd it was in processing. On December 13th my results were available online. I printed them out.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the McAllister family came from Ireland and the Bergstrom family came from Sweden. My cousin, Jim Thomas, found a Finnish connection on the Swedish side when he visited Sweden in the 1990’s.

I expected a 50/50 split between the two families. I was surprised to learn I was 63% Irish (Celtic). The Swedish (Scandinavian) part was second at 21%. Eastern Finnish and Northwest Russian were 15%; the two groups intermingled along a common border. Great Britain was less than 1%.

The DNA process was quick and the results are enjoyable. I’ve started my own research by watching 6 hours of a DVD about the history of the Celtic people. Now I’m reading Celtic Myths and Legends by T.W. Rolleston, published in 1917. In spite of the title it devotes ample space to discussing the few facts that history has preserved; the Celts left no written records. They were first recognized as an ethnic group about 400 BC. They lived along the Danube river in central Europe. Around 300 AD they were pushed into Ireland, Wales and Scotland by the Roman legions. They remain there to this day, though there are no pure Celtic people left due to invasions and intermingling of cultures over centuries.

Have you watched the TV programs on genealogy, Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots? I enjoy them. I’m also enjoying my own research. I feel a deep connection to my ancient relatives. What else do I owe these hardy people besides names and cultures?

Who Are We? Beliefs – Hate or Harmony?

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We are born. We go to school. We go to church. In home, school, and church we learn right from wrong. We also learn what I’ll refer to as preferences. Our preferences include helpful, inspiring in-group data which family, teachers, and pastors have accepted into their own lives. Unfortunately it also includes out-group information, some factual, some fictional.

There was a time when everyone born in Sweden had to be Lutheran. It was the state religion. The Irish are typically Catholic. Indians are mostly Hindu. Pakistanis are mostly Islamic. Many people in our southern states are Baptist. The list goes on. If your parents were Democrats they wanted you to be a Democrat; if Republican, they wanted you to be Republican. As we grew up, some of our ideas changed. But the truth is we tend to become like the people we associate with. They become our in-group.

Did you ever try to change someone from a Democrat to Republican, or vice versa? How about changing a Baptist to a Catholic? These discussions usually result in hurt feelings, possibly even anger. We end up having bad opinions about the ‘out-group’ person and they don’t like us either.

The best way to handle the situation is to, not only recognize, but to expect there will be differences in political and religious beliefs. We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. We shouldn’t take others too seriously either. Differences in beliefs are the result of how our brains function. Their main goal is survival, not peerless social interaction, and certainly not the conversion of everyone else to our point of view. Remember, that would mean all 7 billion of us would have the same belief in God and politics. Talk about a miracle!!

The question of who is right and who is wrong will never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. The true value of our beliefs is what effect they have on us individually. Our beliefs should bring us the kind of peace, love and harmony that will overflow through our actions and speech. If all faiths and political beliefs had this effect on us our world would be heaven on earth.