“When have I been both a point and wave?”

Lisa Miller

“When have I been both a point and wave?”

Lisa Miller

Professor of Psychology

Dr Lisa Miller is a psychologist at Columbia University in New York. She is author of The Awakened Brain and The Spiritual Child, and is founder of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute. Her work has been highly influential, having collaborated with the Pentagon in training the US Army, as well as within education (K-12 and Universities), and the business and private sector to create a more spiritually aware civil society.


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KP Dr Lisa Miller thank you so much for joining me today

LM It’s wonderful to connect with you Kenny

KP I wonder if you could begin with the question you think we should be asking ourselves, and we can go from there?

LM So my question is really shared at the level of phenomenology the experience in being. I’m proposing, if you and our community is aware, of having the experience of being both a point and a wave. Which is to say connecting into the distinct separateness in life, perhaps at the mechanistic and material level, and at the same time connecting into the unitive reality of life – the phenomenological awareness of being part of one sacred consciousness field.

KP A point in a way that brings to mind the sea, is that the kind of the metaphor or image that you had in mind?

LM Yeah, white caps on one ocean; that there is a distinction emergent in an instant and in its deep essence and substance – we’re part of one sea of life.

KP It’s a beautiful metaphor. A wave has force, is measurable and is there for a time, but it’s, you know, connected to to the sea

LM And it’s emergent, as you say a wave is emergent – so the sea is already there right?

KP Yeah, and ephemeral too right? So there for a time and dissipates again, becoming part of another wave. I Wonder if you could help us kind of get into this idea of a point in a wave by maybe identifying a couple of your own experiences of, you know, maybe being a point or a wave?

LM So you know Kenny, I was taught by very very bright, extremely well-intentioned kind professors and before that k twelve teachers. In the air and water of my education I was effectively brought into a view of the world where we are like billiard balls bouncing around. That you’re sitting there and I’m sitting here, and we are different and we are separate, and maybe we have a few things in common but it was really the model of life as as billiard balls. It was a notion really of radical separateness, radical materialism. We exist insofar as you can detect us, measure us you know, height, weight, IQ, whatever it is – measure us up. And in my path in life at the most important moments in my life, it quickly became clear that the idea that we’re billiard balls, and even ever more so that were somehow so-called randomly bouncing into each other, that the sort of foundational tempo or nature of the universe is random – that was an assumption with which I was also raised in the air and water of my education. We randomly bump into each other’s billiard balls, sometimes good things happen, sometimes unwanted things happen. Well that was a model of reality, and it never as a young child quite squared with my early open eyed uncensored view of life.

But after a good number of years of school I started to look through life with those goggles as well, and it was only through really life changing moments of incredible pain and despair that I started seeing a model of reality that was much more consistent with the data in my life’s path. So as a scientist it seemed to me that the notion of a random universe of billiard balls bumping around did not hold the most transformative or the biggest catches in my life of meaning and direction and significance, it just didn’t hold life in its most meaningful moments. I’ll give you an example, in The Awakened Brain I talk about my husband and I really struggling, like down on the floor miserable struggling, for 5 years to become parents. and when I used door number one of the model of billiard balls I went about through a twentieth century scientist lens, I looked up all the doctors in Manhattan and then all the doctors and the northeast of the US, and then all the doctors in the United States who had the highest rates of conception for couples trying to become parents. And that approach yielded nothing but despair, and concomitant with that journey in the awakened brain I share we also were having an ego death. Really a death of the illusion of radical control in our lives. There’s a few things we can control: I can push the elevator button I can get in my car but but if there’s traffic, and if the elevator takes 10 minutes or 10 seconds, we don’t control 90% of life, and that other 90% started to show itself as a pathway. Really more than a pathway rolling out the red carpet in direction to actually becoming parents, that was the you know the ultimate journey. Shall I share a bit of that?

KP I would love you to if you’re happy to yeah.

LM Well okay, in our journey I was young, I was only about thirty, and it had never dawned on me. We’d been married for about 5 years, we were married young, and naturally, we’d be parents. I mean we had the jobs we wanted, you know he was a lawyer, I was an academic. That’s what we’d always wanted. We were living where we wanted in a city with nice friends and everything was great, until suddenly I started getting this horrible feeling. You know what if we can’t get pregnant? So you know we went off on a vacation. We went to the Caribbean, that’s where people go to start families – and we came back thinking oh any day now we’ll know the good news, and it was not good news. Not at all. So we said well you know who gets 1 for 1, and instead we went off into the southwest we went to Sedona, which had good energy and we thought oh we’ll get pregnant Sedona. I came back and again it was not good news, and after about six months I got this haunting feeling that something was wrong. And after a year I said you know we’re delusional to think there’s not an impasse here. So our greatest horror, you know, we got everything else we wanted. Well, the only thing that felt like it actually mattered at all to us was that we wanted to become parents, and it wasn’t happening. So I looked up all the best fertility clinics possible and I went to the first one and I actually have to confess, I felt even a little bit high on my horse – I’m so young I can still get pregnant right? Yeah and I went in and they said oh there’s nothing physically wrong and we went through the procedures. No baby. We went through and ramped up more procedures. No baby. And with in vitro, you know, it’s a pretty intense invasive procedure, when it doesn’t take and that tiny little embryo that was there is now dead, it starts to feel like a funeral. It feels really depressing. So much so, that I literally. woke up one night and my husband wasn’t in bed. I thought well where could he be? And then I worried what happened to him. He was down on the floor Kenny, he was literally on the floor flat on his back. This is a Manhattan lawyer in his mid 30’s and he says our lives are completely hollow and meaningless without children. Everything is for nothing. He was really depressed and that’s exactly how I felt as well. Right around this time of real despair people started showing up in our lives in a way that was far too unprobabilistic to have happened by chance. For instance, I just had a horrifically depressing failed in vitro. My husband was depressed I was depressed and I had to go to work nonetheless. So I hop on the bus to go up Broadway to Columbia. The bus is empty because I’ve gone in late because I’m depressed. And a gentleman gets on the bus who was a quite unique gentleman, and I was so depressed I thought oh no, he’s not, he was walking towards me and normally I try to be welcoming and gracious to people, but I just did not have it in me. And I saw this man get closer and closer and I thought no, he’s not, and he sits down right next to me on the empty bus and turns to me and he says ‘you know what lady you look like just that type of woman that goes all around the world adopting children.’ Okay. That is not a random universe, I would not be a scientist by any measure if I threw out the outlier; that was too improbabilistic to have happened by chance. It never happened in the years before, it never happened in the years since, and like all profound synchronicities, it starts with a little bit of annoyance. You know, let me be in my funk and you’re not who I’d planned to see today. No, don’t sit by me – and it was in fact, a meaningful guide. Synchronicity is our greatest gift to open up a new door, because it feels not as we’ve planned because it is a kerfuffling of what the ego had planned for the day. So Synchronicity really upends the ego and that’s part of its power.

KP Thank you so much for sharing Lisa. And so I suppose this interrupted the story you had about the nature of reality, and suggested that there might be something else going on. And that’s something else, would it be fair to say, is personal? Like there’s a force behind it that feels kind of interested and personal in your life?

LM Yes, and it’s not just me. I’m not special, I’m an emanation like everybody else from someone who is a very special source. My word is God, but you know, this isn’t just for a few of us – every one of us is part of this symphony, and we’re showing up for one another. Sometimes we know it, sometimes we don’t even know how much we’ve helped each other. Let’s tell it from the other side, you know Kenny can you think of a time where you’ve just felt like you’ve got to say something to someone I mean you don’t know why, but it’s on the tip of your tongue. And maybe you do say it, and it’s remarkable how much it affects the recipient.

KP Yeah, you bring that up in your book, and I could think of like several times where people had said things to me and I thought, they had no idea how much that meant and how appropriate that was, it feels like a gift.

LM Yeah, like a gift.

KP A gift that comes from somewhere else.

LM Yes, and what kind of somewhere else? It’s something loving and guiding, loving, holding and guiding. So I think we are messengers for one another, that relational spirituality of course has to do with our direct relationship to who I call God, Source, The Universal Spirit – but it also has to do with the presence of the greatest force in our love for one another. You know in all different types of love, like collegial love, and parental love, and romantic love, in our love for one another is the presence of this great guiding force. So when we feel ‘just say it’ by all means that is the most precious gift you can give someone. Do you want to share a story or I’ll share a story of that?

KP You go for, I’m super interested in more of your stories of this kind of thing.

LM Well, okay. So I’m standing in line at the health food store and in front of me, you know I always sort of peek into the next person’s basket I’m interested, I need ideas, so you know I see the fresh kale and I see the coconut milk, and I look at her and something says to me deep inside – I am compelled tell her tell her how healthy she looks. And so I respected that urge that felt to come from deep within, which is to say in us threw us and around a source, and I turned to her and I said ‘I just have to tell you how healthy you look’ and she bursts out crying and she says ‘I can’t believe it’, and she leans forward and very quietly she says ‘yesterday I started chemotherapy’. And I said, ‘well so you now you are healthy, and you’re taking the cancer out’ and she said ‘yes, thank you’.

KP So this obviously happened a bit further down the line when you’d learned to kind of, tune into those impulses, and is that something you exercise – that tuning in to knowledge from elsewhere?

LM Yes, in us, through us, around us; elsewhere meaning it was not from the level of ego, from what I call our achieving awareness – planned tactically, strategically. It came from a dialogue with spirit, a dialogue with life. You know, achieving awareness is going about things as we’ve planned, and thinking that we’re masters of the universe, and like I said, pushing the elevator button we can do that – but whether the elevator comes that has nothing to do with us. And so the 90% of life that’s not controllable, such as 3 years of a pandemic, such as a 52 card pickup of our global post-industrial culture. [Banging noise from outside] see, this is synchronicity Kenny can you hear it – right? as we talk about what we don’t control in my office at Columbia there is a kicking and a racket.

KP Ha, yeah.

LM Well, yeah, okay -point emphasized. So in the 90% of life that is flux and dynamic, we can hold a different conversation with life that is far more buoyant and effective, which is what is life showing me now? What is the deepest nature of life showing me now, and how might I live in dialogue? So that you know it’s just like a lover; you don’t control a lover, you want to get to know him or her. Do you want to know life, or do you want to step upon life and hold the reins tight and make it do what you think you want.

KP You put it quite beautifully towards the end of your book. You write that ‘We rise from the narrows of splintered self-interest, isolation and competition, and awaken our hearts to the world as it is.’ Did it take you some time to come to this as an academic, having been reared in a diet of materialism and billiard balls? To challenge that story is something significant, particularly if you’re a professor at Columbia University. What did your colleagues think when you started saying well these these things are more than coindences, this is the universe speaking to me – did you find that a hard argument to make?

LM Well, there were two things that really propelled this journey, despite the fact that 90% of people were naysayers. The first is that it the fact that no one else was even willing to entertain the possibility meant that the work needed to be done. So it didn’t mean it was wrong, it was being dismissed out of hand, I hadn’t heard a single shred of evidence to support the notion of a random universe or anything like that. So the sort of mass denial or vogue to turn the head towards radical materialism I took as a sign that the work needed to be done.

The second piece was that I was finding in my own journey a profound authorization of other ways of knowing, and these weren’t other ways of knowing that Dr Miller made up in 2 years; these were other ways of knowing that our rich human heritage has carried forward for thousands of years, much of which seems to have been inspired information. So you know, at the inner table of human knowing I had a very well built up empiricist and logician, as many of us do from mainstream education, but also at that table in our birthright, deserving to be there is the mystic, and the intuitive, and okay, the skeptic – and everyone can work together, multiple forms of knowing, multiple forms of perception which I have come to see as multiple forms of perceiving layers of reality now.

That to me was so important because it hurts too much to not live out fully our nature. It hurts as a way of kicking us, it’s an existential pain. It’s a spiritual hunger kicking us to open up and realize our full being. You know that we are in fact, mystics – every one of us, not just the most pious or the longest in meditation. Every one of us is built with an innate capacity for transcendent awareness. Now you know, 20 years down the pike I can show you our published MRI studies and top peer review journals that show we are all built with a neuroseat of transcendent awareness, through which we perceive a transcendent relationship and that presence and our love for one another. But back then, before we had access to MRI studies, and before we knew what to ask, I was looking through the lens of epidemiology and I could see in the very same data sets that everybody else used, nationally representative data sets measuring depression, and despair, and addiction – in the same way every other scientist did, that the only factor amongst everything in the clinical or social sciences that really protects against addiction, that really mitigates despair, is spiritual awareness – a strong spiritual core is what 80% protective. You never hear that, if something is 20% protective you buy it in a pill at the yeah pharmacy. A strong spiritual life is 80% protective against addiction, then it seems to me that the mass epidemic of addiction is because we haven’t realized our spiritual nature. You can’t locate that in an individual when half of Gen Z is depressed or addicted. That’s not an individual’s stumbling block, that is a mass cultural indoctrination out of our birthright, our spiritual core.

KP So The the statistics are absolutely staggering, which is why the the Pentagon employed you to try and to help with this epidemic of kind of depression and suicide. And the fact that we’re educated out of it, to some extent by the story that we’re sold, do you think you see it more acutely in children? This this kind of spiritual sense before um, you know we rush in with our measuring things and you know whatever Schemas we give people to live out of.

LM Kenny 100 %, I can say that both as a scientist and as a parent who’s raised 3 children, and I’ll give you an example. The first important piece of data is that if you look at twin studies you can determine the extent to which any human capacity is inborn versus taught. Okay so the gift of religion is 100% environmentally transmitted. It is taught by your parents, your grandparents, it’s given by the community. Religion is an environmentally transmitted gift. Spirituality and the deep capacity to perceive that we are white caps on one ocean, that we’re all emanations one source, that we show up for each other in divine appointment. Spirituality, the capacity to perceive our spiritual nature and who we are to one another that is, is one third innate – that means it is hardwired. Every one of us is born with a neuroseat of spiritual awareness. Now let me compare that with temperament, whether or not we’re laid back or high strung, whether we’re introverted or extroverted – temperament is half innate, half environmentally formed. IQ is 60% and forty percent environmentally formed. Do one-third innate, our spiritual capacity means that it is our birthright, but two thirds environmentally formed. That means that how we are raised, our culture, the air and water of our culture, of the silent curriculum, the pedagogical, deeply molding forces of k twelve and university all way up, shape our natural spiritual core. So when we are not realized when we are not supported in all that we might see and be, it atrophies – just as if we didn’t eat right or didn’t get enough exercise, or were raised in horrible experiments from the 50’s where animals are kept in a box and their eyes don’t form. You know that’s what we’re doing to our spiritual awareness. Locking it up in a lock box and letting kids starve, and it is little wonder that they then have profound despair when they come of age. That’s the first piece of data.

The second piece of data on the child, and I go into this in The Awakened Brain and also in The Spiritual Child, my first book, when you listen to young children They express what psychologists call implicit spiritual cognition. A religious person might call that the natural soul, but whatever one’s lens or lexicon, the child, unless socialized out of it, will perceive continuity of consciousness, or spirit after death that we go on, and will spontaneously speak in that way. The child, unless socialized out of it, will perceive that we can simply know.

But I would say we have direct access to the consciousness field in us through us and around us, we can directly know without being told. And I’ll give you examples of both. My oldest child Isaiah, I share in The Awakened Brain, I was so grateful and blessed to adopt from an orphanage north of St Petersburg in Russia. And when he came home, he was already in a direct connection to spirit, to God. He would yell out the door, you know up at the stars ‘Thank you God’, I mean I didn’t teach him to yell up at the stars. ‘Thank you God’, full of love. And yeah, we went to the beach once, and a highly acculturated Western child saw that Isaiah had his one treasured toy. The only toy he’d had the week he came home, which was a rinsed out cottage cheese container, and the other little boy snatched it. And Isaiah didn’t look angry. He looked puzzled because he hadn’t been raised with ‘mine’ hard boundaries, so-called property atomism, separateness. So he was born sharing and generous.

Another example is from the week that our great grandfather dies, Pop Pop. We’re Jews, and Isaiah was sitting as Jews do, right graveside by the open hole on the earth, and what in our tradition we do is we literally take a shovel Kenny, and put earth on the casket – because then body, mind, and soul – we get the picture that the person has crossed. Isaiah being so little was given little tiny garden spade and tiny bit of earth, and he looked at me, having done something for his Pop Pop to help bury him. He said ‘look mama the body goes back to the good earth, the soul goes to God’ I hadn’t taught him that, he knew it, continuity of consciousness. A week later we’re in the backyard of our garden, ‘Mommy come here now’ so we come, ‘you see mommy’, and there’s a dead turkey flat on its back ‘the body goes back to the good earth, the soul goes to God’, and his eyes sparkled. He wasn’t traumatized, he felt connected to the continuity of spirit consciousness, and the glory of the spiritual nature of reality. He’d figured that all out on his own. What I can do as a parent is not ruin it for him, I can say wow yes, how wonderful. You know if I don’t have anything to say about cosmology, I can honour his direct knowing, and it’s profoundly important, because he then knows he’s a direct knower – those are examples of the young child. Yeah.

Further transcription to follow.


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