A few centuries ago, a viral disease like coronavirus would have likely killed broad swathes of the population in a matter of months.
Yet, in just a few generations - a blip in the cosmic calendar - we've developed technologies to communicate the spread of the disease, built planes to flee the most stricken areas, and developed bioengineering methods to potentially cure the disease.
However, what worries me more are the subtle chronic diseases that many of us suffer from on a daily basis like anxiety, stress, and lack of purpose.
How did we become so dominant from an evolutionary perspective, but suffer so much individually?
To answer that, we need to explore ideas from history, genetics, evolutionary psychology, social sciences, and computer science to understand our roots and how we got to where we are today.
We also need to tap into emerging ideas in fields like electromagnetism, neuroplasticity, and quantum physics to understand where we may be going.
Finally, with a dose of ancient wisdom, we may be able to understand what tools we can develop over the next few decades to solve some of our most pernicous mental diseases.
But first, a story.
Six months ago I was on a flight from Miami back to San Francisco and had a panic attack for the first time in my life.
My heart was racing. I was agitated. Couldn't concentrate. I had to get up and walk to the back of the plane to calm down. I heard about people having panic attacks before but never thought I'd have one. This moment was a culmination of months of nonstop working, followed by spurts of gluttonous partying.
It was like my nervous system was having an autonomic response telling me this wasn't healthy.
For weeks afterward, I suffered from social anxiety for the first time in my life.
At work, I couldn't concentrate sitting at my desk in an open office floor plan so I spent the next two months working from isolated parts of the office. I stopped going to dinners with friends because I couldn't stand being in crowded restaurants. I sought out a therapist to have someone to confide in. I was so ashamed of where I was. I dyed my hair in an attempt to shed the personality of the person I was becoming. I even changed jobs to work for a small startup in an attempt to find a deeper sense of purpose.
I began trying to understand my body a bit more. "What are these thoughts, feelings, and emotions inside of me?" "Where do they come from?" "Why do they persist?"
The answer was in my right pocket the entire time.
Software + Hardware + Consciousness = Us
From a biological perspective, we're actually pretty similar to smartphones.
A smartphone is just software plus hardware.
The software is controlled by code that that drives behaviors like the ability to text a friend or show a red battery icon to signal it needs to be charged.
Similarly, we have genetic code in our bodies that drives behaviors like the ability to speak to other humans and feel tired in order to get us to go to sleep and "recharge".
Smartphones also have hardware components like a CPU for processing information, a speaker for making noise and a camera for perceiving the external world.
Humans have hardware components like a brain for processing information, a mouth for making noise, and eyes for perceiving the external world.
We're all like a bunch of smartphones with arms and legs. We have genetic code driving many of our behaviors and hardware components that allow us to interact with the world.
That's cool and all... So what?
It gets interesting when you begin to explore the differences between us and smartphones.
The code in our phones is created by humans. This type of design is known as "intelligent design".
Alternatively, the code in our bodies is created by nature and has evolved over time. This type of design is known as "natural selection".
You can begin to understand why a system operates a certain way once you understand what its goal is.
The only goal for the genetic code inside our bodies is to survive and reproduce.
When we realize that our species got here by evolving to be survival and reproduction machines, questions like: "What are these thoughts, feelings, and emotions inside of me?" "Where do they come from?" "Why do they persist?" begin to make a lot more sense.
So how did we get to this point? To understand that, we will need to go back to the beginning.
A Brief History of Ourselves
The pre-historic period was brutal. Imagine you're an animal, minding your own business, and here comes a more buff and aggressive animal. It takes all your food and leaves you starving for the next few days.
What caused one animal to be more aggressive than the other? Well, one animal had evolved certain genetic code that made it more buff and aggressive.
How did that happen? When two organisms reproduce, they combine genetic code which potentially creates new features.
Depending on the environment, evolved features could include fur to keep you warm, longer legs to run faster, or buff arms and an aggressive demeanor to help you bully poor little rabbits (looking at you Mr. Bear).
As a result, material aspects of an animal are just a container with the sole purpose of surviving and reproducing. Similar to how a Playboy model uses Hugh Heffner for money and a career, genes use bodies so they can survive and reproduce. Nothing else matters to our genes. As far as we know, they don't have any self-awareness. They are just programmed to survive and reproduce.
As a result, these containers started off as single-celled microorganisms and over time, have evolved into elaborate multi-cellular organisms like dogs, elephants, and monkeys.
In order to keep the container alive so it can reproduce, the genes have developed advanced software that regulates a bunch of feelings to increase the containers' likelihood of survival.
These feelings include hunger (to fuel the container), sleepiness (to rest the container), and horniness (to reproduce the container).
At some point, one set of genes with ape containers somehow upgraded its code to an intelligence level that hadn’t been tried before.
Today, these containers are known as Homo Sapiens.
And the killer feature was consciousness.
Wait wait wait. What do you mean they just "somehow upgraded its code to an intelligence level that hadn't tried before"?.
Unfortunately, nobody knows how it happened. There's speculation.
Some believe it was the act of a higher power, others believe we were visited by extraterrestrial aliens, and - my favorite theory - some theorize it was caused by apes eating magic mushrooms over time.
Regardless of the cause, for the first time in recorded history, consciousness gave a species powerful survival tools like the ability to reason, imagine, and become self-aware.
Homo Sapiens were still primarily run by their ancient survival software but their newfound consciousness software was also running independently at the same time.
For the first time, consciousness software was able to override the animal software and program new behaviors.
These behaviors included elaborate social structures, like tribes with advanced communication protocols, which helped them begin to dominate the food chain.
After Homo Sapiens exterminated their cousins, species like Neanderthals and Homo Erectus, they began to fight for resources amongst their Homo Sapien brothers and sisters.
In order to protect their resources from enemies, Homo Sapiens transitioned from tribes to villages, fueled by the agricultural revolution.
Once these villages got large enough, they needed to develop other social structures like empires to manage resources, religions to guide moral behavior, and money to provide an efficient way to exchange, store, and transport value.
Over time, humans developed advancements in science to help us better understand the material world. Humans also created innovative technologies like the steam engine, electricity, and the internet to create a globally connected society.
However, we're still largely run by our ancient survival software.
From an evolutionary perspective, we've made it. So why do we still suffer?
I believe it's because we haven't yet fully explored our relatively new software - consciousness.
From a biological perspective, consciousness is still a brand new feature.
Many people claim they know what consciousness is, where it came from, and how it can be used, but there's still a world of untapped potential waiting to be explored.
It's like the internet in the late 90's.
However, since the dawn of human consciousness 200,000 years ago, our minds have been engaged in a battle between the ancient survival software and the consciousness software.
They've worked together to enable humans to build cities, postulate mathematical theorems, and write beautiful literature.
Yet, in terms of our internal sense of peace, joy, and fulfillment, our consciousness software has been starved.
In the coming years, I believe this battle between our ancient survival software and our consciousness software will be the defining characteristic in the legacy of the human race.
Interestingly, modern science is beginning to prove many of the ideas that ancient mystics intuitively felt but couldn't prove about our consciousness software.
Similar to how we can optimize someone's body for a bodybuilding competition or triathlon, we'll soon understand the science and metaphysics to be able to optimize somebody's body for peace, joy, and fulfillment instead of unconsciously being slaves to the ancient survival software that rules the material world.
In the coming years, I believe we'll begin to look at consciousness as it's own discipline. Like how we view math, philosophy, or chemistry today.
Here are a few ideas leading the charge.
The Science Behind Consciousness
First, what is consciousness?
Frankly, we don't know.
For our purposes, let's define consciousness as:
The ability to have empathy for other humans and feel connected to a greater purpose outside of the material container it sits in.
Going back to the smartphone analogy, smartphones are connected by transmitting bits of information through radio waves. We can't see this energy because it's vibrating at a frequency that's imperceptible to our eyes.
Similarly, studies of electromagnetism, neuroplasticity, and quantum physics are beginning to show us that humans also transmit information that can't be perceived consciously, but powers a lot of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
We're much more powerful than we think.
Studies into electromagnetism by the HeartMath Institute have shown us that:
“Human beings and all creatures radiate an electromagnetic field produced by the heartbeat. Our feelings broadcast like radio waves through this field. When you are in the presence of a group of friends, family or others, everyone’s thoughts, feelings and attitudes are intermingling in your immediate area.”
Ever wondered where the term "vibe" came from?
Your "vibe" is simply the energetic signature of your thoughts, emotions, and attitudes. When you are in elevated states like love, compassion, and kindness, your vibration is expanded and welcoming. When you are in lower-level states like anxiety, anger, and stress, your vibration is dense and closed off.
It has also been shown that you can use practices like meditation to transmute lower-level emotions into elevated states.
For the first time, we're beginning to measure the wisdom of ancient maxims like the golden rule ("do unto others what you'd like done to yourself") and the idea of karma ("you get what you give").
Neuroplasticity states that you can change your brain with your thoughts.
The circuits in our brain are constantly being rewired based on the information we feed it.
This means we can reprogram ourselves away from the survive and reproduce mentality of our ancient survival software and instead program ourselves with the newer consciousness software.
Every time you process information, neurons in your brain fire chemicals that allow it to form synaptic connections between networks of neurons.
Every thought rewires your brain.
When you learn something, if you keep revisiting it, and keep reviewing it, the hardware (neural networks) becomes software (automated behaviors).
You have neural networks for brushing your teeth, eating, and speaking.
You also have neural networks for anxiety, stress, and fear.
Your negative emotions are programmed by the sympathetic nervous system through the fight-or-flight response cycle.
This is one of the oldest features of our ancient animal software. It maximizes our chance of survival when there are constant threats in our external environment
However, in an age where external threats are limited, our bodies have become addicted to negative thoughts because it craves the rush of energy that comes from the adrenal glands secreting adrenaline.
Through meditation, visualization, and other altered states of consciousness, we can reprogram ourselves to a new state of being.
Quantum Physics is the study of how nature works at a microscopic (atomic and subatomic) level.
Oddly enough, laws that apply in everyday life don't always apply on a microscopic level.
For example, in the early 1900s, Albert Einstein and Max Planck tried to measure an electron by observing it. Wherever they looked, they found the electron and it behaved like a particle. However, once they stopped observing the electron, they ran experiments to prove that the electron was behaving like a wave, instead of a particle.
This experiment showed that reality is impacted by its observer.
We are all quantum observers impacting reality based on how we view the world. Therefore, your perspective is your reality.
Most of the world still lives by the Newtonian Model of Reality, cause and effect, where you wait for some random external event to cause a change inside of you.
It's time to transition to the Quantum Model of Reality, causing an effect, where a clear intention collapses the unobserved waves of infinite potential into a material reality.
What Can We Do?
First, realize that all humans are imbued with this consciousness software.
Doesn't matter your gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, political leanings, etc.
In a way, everything could be considered consciousness manifested in different forms. Similar to how a refrigerator and washing machine have different physical features but are both powered by electricity - everything may be powered by consciousness.
From this perspective, you begin to see yourself in every other living thing and have empathy for them. We're all complex organisms trying to balance this ancient survival software with this new consciousness software.
It's really fucking hard. For all of us.
This realization helps enable higher states of consciousness like unconditional love.
We now have a better understanding of what we're made of, how we got here, and where we can go. It's a lot to take in.
It may be helpful to take some time to reflect on these ideas. In a world with an infinite supply of information, the scarcest resource is the ability to think independently about ideas. Take the time to explore these ideas further and come up with your own truth through direct experience. It's better to fully digest one good book instead of skimming a thousand decent books. I've included a list of resources that inspired some of these thoughts at the end of the post.
Up until the internet age, the scarce resource was information. Then, the scarce resource was knowledge. Now, the scarce resource is wisdom. Wisdom comes from direct experience and embodying your knowledge in everyday life. The way you think, act, and feel.
Realize that we all have this ancient animal software that makes us fallible but we also have this consciousness software that may contain infinite possibilities.
Seize your infinite potential by developing foundational habits, cultivating a strong mentality, and connecting to Source.
Namaste / "I Bow to the Divine in You".
If you are interested in exploring these topics more, here are some resources I found helpful:
- Book - Sapiens
- Book - Vedanta Treatise
- Blog - The Story of Us
- Course - Dr. Joe Dispenza’s Online and Progressive Workshops
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