December 22, 2008

Power vs. Force

Early in my mediation practice I stumbled upon a book that helped me sort a few things in my own mind, although it is neither a mainstream book nor one that is typically associated with meditation. Ralf and I were on vacation in Arizona without the kids and we spent several days in Sedona, hiking around the healthful red cliffs and drinking in the scenery. Since I went to school in Pheonix for 7 years the dry, stark landscape really spoke to me, whereas Ralf, who grow up surrounded by rolling green hills and distant snow-covered mountains, found it weirdly exotic.

Anyway, Ralf was the driving force behind our decision to join a meditation Sangha and he was on the lookout for spiritual paraphelia like Buddha statues and incense to help with our practice. Accordingly, he dragged us into a psychic's shop too look at polished crystals and clumsy-looking jewelry. Don't get me wrong - I kind of like psychics because they always tell me I have a deeply happy aura, which cheers me up no end. But I'm not a huge fan of the jewelry.

Anyway, this shop had a whole shelf of books with nonsense titles but one title in particular caught my attention: Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. I actually picked it out for Ralf, who was struggling with some issues at work at the time, but ended up reading it myself and getting much more out of it than he did.

I had been questioning what the point of seeking enlightenment is. Part of the search for enlightenment involves loosening the attachments you have to physical things - as at least one guru has put it, it's a bit like practicing death before you die. But it seemed to me at the time that we're all going to die whether we practice or not so why bother? And aside from the pain or discomfort we may feel during this life, does it matter intrinsically if a life is good or bad? Does the universe care? I wanted to believe that the universe does care and that there is an evolutionary force in the universe that pulls us in the right direction but Buddhist teachings seem to indicate that this isn't true, based on their reluctance to call anything good or bad. If nothing is bad, then there's no need to evolve to something better.

As for the other mainstream religions, they've never done much for me in terms of offering a compelling reason to live a good life, although I grew up going to church and you can't beat a good Presbyterian potluck. Even as a child I didn't understand why Jesus had to die in order for God to forgive my sins and why God couldn't just cut to the chase and forgive people without that unfortunate middle step, since he didn't seem to be holding the guilty parties accountable anyway. Generally speaking, God always seemed to be punishing the wrong people, if you asked, say, eight-year-old me, so I guess I feared him and hoped I would not die before I waked and all that, but I didn't really respect his judgement.

Anyway, in the early days of my meditation practice I was looking for evidence that goodness matters in some way. Not because I wanted to run amok if I didn't find the proof I was looking for but because I wanted to believe we're all headed in the right direction, despite evidence to the contrary. And this book gave me some great food for thought.

It is not a book about religion or meditation. It is a book about Kinesiology, which is the study of muscles, and what they can tell us about the human condition. Basically, over decades of conducting repeatable tests on thousands of subjects with consistent results, Hawkins was able to show that muscles weaken in response to 'untruth' and strengthen in response to 'truth.' No big surprise there, lie detector tests can also measure physical responses to lies. But the interesting bit is that the beliefs of the test subject are completely irrelevant.

Think about what this means: We are all connected in some way to some greater truth, regardless of our own petty beliefs, and actually have physical access to that truth through the unthinking responses of our own muscles.

For those in tune with their own physical responses, this may be what we call 'instinct.' Or perhaps 'conscience.'

Hawkins was also was able to calibrate some common emotions such as 'pride' and 'love' and 'hate' based on muscular responses and discovered that some concepts consistently calibrate higher than others. It will probably come as no surprise to you that love calibrates significantly higher than hate, which means that feeling love is life affirming and strengthening for your muscles. But more interesting for me was the reflection that this would indeed seem to indicate a higher purpose - in other words, the universe does care about good v. evil and in fact seems to assign a higher value, or at least more life energy, to good.

The next point of interest is that each of us calibrates somewhere on the unenlightened to enlightened range (your personal calibration can of course change over time) and it is possible to take an 'average' of the calibration of the human race at any point in time. As it happens, one enlightened person calibrates highly enough to hold the fort for hundreds of thousands of normal unenlightened people, which is good because otherwise we would all implode under the weight of our own collective negativity. Each enlightened person also makes it that much easier for others to seek enlightenment, just as the first guppies to hop out of the primordial soup made it easier for others to follow.

According to Hawkins, the human race only recently averaged on the positive side of the scale, which is a great message of hope for all of us. This means that enough folks have evolved from witch-burning haters into reasonably tolerant beings to pull us all a bit higher up the path.

This puts a new perspective on the value added by meditating and seeking enlightenment. It becomes something you do for the betterment of the human race as a whole rather than just yourself.

Anyway, make of this what you will. But consider this:

What if everything you do and think is faithfully recorded in some collective consciousness and from there influences how others think, feel and behave, as well as how high the entire human race calibrates spiritually? What if this in turn impacts our ability to grow, evolve and survive as a species?

If you knew this to be true, would it impact your life?

Now's a great time to think about stuff like that, with the new year coming up and all...


  1. That certainly is inspiring - enough to make me want to return to my meditation practice. Thank you for a great post.

  2. it stands to reason that the things i do affect others and therefore have an impact on the collective. for me, it is common sense. if i help someone, there is less suffering in the world. period.


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