On February 12, 2013, Dr. James Doty hosted Eckhart Tolle at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Dr. Doty is a neurosurgeon. On his academic profile he writes, “More recently, my interests revolve around understanding the neural, social and mental bases of compassion and altruism using a multi-disciplinary approach.” Tolle is described on his website as, “… a spiritual teacher and author who was born in Germany and educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge. At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey.”
I was drawn to this talk because of my interest in the brain, specifically, the central nervous system and the integration of Western medicine (which is changing) and the spiritual self. Although the talk is entitled, Conversations on Compassion, its focus is on compassion towards oneself.
Tolle suggests that if we step back and observe our thoughts, we may be able to recognize that they can be quite negative. One way to change this pattern is by meditating. I would like to add that since having a neurofeedback training session can have the same outcomes that meditation can have (decrease obsessive thoughts, feelings of anxiety and depression and generally create a feeling of contentedness) it is helpful to include meditation and neurofeedback into a regular practice. The difference is that it is beneficial to meditate on a daily basis but not necessary to train more than once a week and eventually most do not need to train at all. Also, a meditation practice is most effective when performed daily, while neurofeedback training has an ending but the results remain.
Tolle’s transformation occurred when he observed a particular thought: “I cannot live with myself anymore.” He then asked himself, “Who am I and what is the self that I cannot live with?” He became aware of the separation between himself and his thoughts.
Just asking himself the question, “Who am I and what is the self that I cannot live with?” allowed him to separate from his thoughts and his negative inner voice. Then, the next morning, he said that he woke and he sensed that his depression completely lifted. He didn’t understand it but says that since then there was a shift in his life and a feeling of peace. Some days it was greater than others but the underlying peace remains to this day.
The self-talk is conditioned by our past and culture. To move beyond this, one must acknowledge that there is a negative voice in our heads. Tolle says that our sense of self is derived from the thoughts we have of ourselves.
Dr. Doty added that, in looking at the neuroscience of this we can see that if we believe our negative thoughts, we will never able to get break out of the cycle of negative thinking. It can be addictive to stay in those patterns. We’re used to the stream of negative thoughts and we need to break away from them by being mindful.
Negative thinking (self-talk) is worrying about what is going to happen or thinking about what might have been. There is only ever the present moment. The past and the future come from thinking. The present moment is all that we have.
If you would like to learn more about neurofeedback and how I can help you with your negative self-talk, contact me.