Consciousness and reality.
Article Type: Editorial
Subject: Consciousness (Analysis)
Reality (Social aspects)
Author: Gaby, Alan R.
Pub Date: 08/01/2012
Publication: Name: Townsend Letter Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group Audience: General; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 The Townsend Letter Group ISSN: 1940-5464
Issue: Date: August-Sept, 2012 Source Issue: 349-350
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 303012923
Full Text: There is a supposedly true story known as "The Hundredth Monkey" that took place on a Japanese island in 1952. Scientists were providing monkeys on that island with raw sweet potatoes by dropping them periodically in the sand. The monkeys liked the taste of the sweet potatoes, but they did not enjoy having to eat the attached sand and dirt. A young female monkey learned that she could make the potatoes more palatable by washing them in a nearby stream. Other monkeys observed this innovative strategy, and soon many were imitating it.

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After a while, most of the monkeys had learned by observation to wash their sweet potatoes. Then, something surprising happened. When a critical mass of potato washers had been reached, the addition of one more potato washer (the so-called hundredth monkey) created a breakthrough in consciousness, such that monkeys on other islands also began to wash their potatoes. The animals on those other islands had not seen or heard what the monkeys on the first island were doing, because the islands were separated by a large distance. This was no simple monkey-see-monkey-do event; rather, it was the transmission of awareness through some vehicle other than the usual physical senses. As Deepak Chopra would say, the collective consciousness created a new reality.

"New Age" philosophers cite this story to support the idea that a group of hearts, minds, and souls resonating together can create a powerful force for change. While the failed attempt of Abbie Hoffman and friends to levitate the Pentagon during my college years revealed that collective consciousness does have its limitations, I believe that there is an important interaction between our beliefs and our reality.

At age 8, I joined a wrestling team and continued to compete throughout high school and college. I had a talent for the sport and won many tournaments and honors. However, I also had a reputation for being a "gasser," someone who would "gas out" or become overwhelmingly exhausted near the end of a grueling bout. I would often build up a large lead early in the match and then desperately hang on and win by just a point or two. Against a tough opponent, the final minutes of a match would be characterized by severe pain in the lungs and chest, fear of losing, embarrassment from looking bad, nausea from oxygen debt, and an occasional time-out to vomit into a bucket that was always waiting for me at the edge of the mat.

Once I was ahead 4 to 2 at the end of the first period against a top wrestler from the Naval Academy. But I was nearly worn out and there were still two periods left to go. Struggling for air, I was certain that, despite being ahead, I had no chance of winning. How demoralizing to have known in advance that I could not hold the lead!

Although I sometimes worked hard in practice, I had never really pushed myself to the limit. It seemed rather pointless to try any harder. After all, it was ingrained in my consciousness that I was a "gasser"; congenitally, constitutionally, stylistically, and karmically. Why put myself through the additional pain of working out even harder? I would probably still be a "gasser" anyway.

In my senior year of college, as my wrestling career was coming to an end, the coach pulled me aside and asked whether I wanted to know how good I could be. His subtle fatherly advice, disguised as an intriguing concept, was indeed intriguing. For the next 6 weeks, I ran 2 miles as hard as I could every morning and pushed myself as hard as I could every afternoon during practice.

The results were gradual but progressive, and eventually obvious, as old barriers of pain became new frontiers of opportunity. With a few days to go before the big tournament, the coach made me wrestle 4 consecutive 10-minute matches with 4 different teammates, with no rest in between. During those 40 minutes, my heart pounded and my lungs worked like machines. But there was no pain, and I felt as if I could keep going as long as I wanted. At the completion of this challenge, I sat in puddle of sweat, feeling serene and clear. This was no mere endorphin high--this was a consciousness shift. I was no longer a "gasser."

In the big tournament, I fell behind 4 to 1 early in the first match. But my usual thoughts of conserving energy were nowhere to be found. Instead, I focused on the fact that I had 6 more minutes to push and push and push and eventually wear down my opponent and whomp him. And that's what I did. And a similar come-from-behind scenario was repeated 3 matches later in the finals. This by someone who had never once in 15 years come from behind late in a match.

So, is this story of my escape from being a "gasser" an example of the reality creating the consciousness, or of the consciousness creating the reality? I believe that it is both; that reality and consciousness join together to form a self-reinforcing feedback loop. While self-fulfilling prophecies are in part the recognition of what is, they also contribute to what will be. When I was 10, my father told me that I was destined to do something important. What did he see in me and what did he create? Other parents tell their children that they won't amount to anything. Irrespective of what they see, what do they create?

For whatever will be, will we just punt and say "whatever," or will we be a determining factor in what will be?
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.