An epiphany about the university we have chosen to be in

Per Lachaise University

epiphany noun
epiph·​a·​ny | \ i-ˈpi-fə-nē  \

Definition of epiphany

3a(1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking
(3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
b : a revealing scene or moment

In light of this recent mass shooting - not done by a US citizen, but according to his manifesto, inspired by hatred, inspired by people who espouse or engender hatred, I wanted to share a conversation I had this morning.
Mick's epiphany.  First Day of School.

My wife Sherry had an epiphany.  After reading the reports of what this angry man in New Zealand spoke of, what inspired him to murder 49 church goers and wound 20 others, she reflected on the source of his anger. 

He claimed he was furious over the death of a young girl who had been murdered in anger. (Leaving aside his identifying her, what country she was from, and who killed her). It was a death caused in hate.
"Realize we don't die."

Which made her think of the other murders that have been done in the name of hate. Whether it's a mass shooting in a nightclub in Orlando, or a mass shooting in Vegas, or a man shooting up a high school or an elementary school - mass shootings can be anywhere, everywhere; the roots of the event are most often mired in that one emotion; hate.

"If what you're saying is correct," she began her thought to me - "that we do choose to come here, that people reincarnate and come back to Earth, they do so because it's a school.  It's a beautiful school, but a difficult school - it's filled with many possibilities for anger and hate and cruelty.  But it seems to me that the lesson that we learn when we come here, is to rise above the vibration of hate, to rise above what causes people to react in such a violent way - and respond with what hate is not."

Which got me into this post.

If we can respond with an idea of what love is - allowing for people to make mistakes, to work out their anger and hatred and fear, then we've learned how to respond with love.


The logic goes like this:

Earth is a school.  We choose to incarnate here for many reasons, including teaching and learning lessons in love.  We come here knowing that it's a rough and difficult location for a school, that the lessons can and will be difficult, that the school itself is complex, complicated and difficult to attend.
Tortured for 30 years, outlived all of his torturers.
Because he meditated on love.

There's great beauty here, there can be episodes of courage, of tender moments of love, there can be great acts of compassion - but when events happen that challenge our concept of love, challenge who we are as a human, if we choose to respond with hate, then we are just perpetuating that hate over and over again, and have learned nothing.

If we respond to hate and anger with hate and anger - its what keeps us mired in the muck and desolation and cruelty, sadness and pain.
School of Hard Knocks.

But if we respond differently - respond with a concept that this is a school that we've all agreed to attend, and that when a difficult lesson appears before us, we see it for what it is - a temporary state of ill will, a temporary state of confusion, fear and desolation - a class in anger and hate if you will - then we can respond in the way that will allow us to "succeed" or "graduate" from that lesson.  
A note from Garry Shandling to himself

To overcome that lesson by responding with "love" - in the true essence of that word.  When love is given freely, unconditionally, it's something quite different than love that is given conditionally, or based on the idea that you can't love unless you're "loved back."

So the only logical, lesson learning way to respond to hate and anger and violence - is by not allowing ourself to be mired in it.  Further, if we can wrap our minds around the research that no one dies, that we only bring a portion of our conscious energy to each lifetime, that when the lifetime is over we don't disappear, aren't "gone" - we transform back into who we were before we came here, before we walked into this university.  
University of To Be or Not To Be

And when we're outside the classroom, or "back home" from the university, we are able to reflect on all the things we learned, shared, gave up, or gave into - all the things we set out to learn and teach and share, and what we failed at in terms of our progression, and what we succeeded at.

So in essence, every tragedy, every difficulty, every illness, every setback in terms of the classroom, in this university we all participate in - is a form of a lesson in our curriculum.  We've set the curriculum ourselves (according to this research) in that we have "agreed" to come and participate in this university even when some of us are aware of how short or long we're going to be in on the campus grounds.
Hard to, but try.

In essence, every tragedy is a lesson in love - not the kind of "throw my hands in the air and dance among the flowers" kind of love, (although nothing wrong with that either) but the kind of unconditional love that is tested, that is honed like a piece of rough gold, polished and smoothed by each experience that we go through so that at the end of all of these classes we take, we emerge this solid gold piece of jewelry - so bright as to blind the eye, so beautiful as to elicit gasps.

Tragedy 101

Those 49 who died - and the 500 in Vegas, and all those children in Sandy Hook, and all the people who sacrifice themselves to teach us lessons in hardship and love, have all been given merit badges, have all been graduated to a higher level because they sacrificed their journey for this profound teaching, and this profound example of what love is, what love can be, what we can learn from their example of courage.

It's around us always - courage to endure illness, courage to endure hate and racism, and anger, and to get through these damn classes without falling off the bus that brought us here.

Graduation gift; epiphany

So while I may enjoy posting comedic commentary about the idiots who claim to be in charge of the classroom - the fools who can't see that they're destroying the university with every tweet that promotes hate, chokes the air, pollutes the water or kills the planet - while I may enjoy poking fun at their insanity - part of this journey is to respond to hate with the opposite of hate.

Unconditional love.

It's the thing that permeates the universe, it's what our consciousness is part of, it's what two thirds of us is always aware of "back home."  And so while we're in class together, let's take the time to embrace each other, enjoy the sunshine, and say a prayer for those folks who left the planet early in order to teach us all a lesson about unconditional love.

Professor Martini


A little perspective on Quora

Richard Martini
Richard Martini, Film Director Writer at Internet Movie Database (1985-present)

I appreciate your comment. But having spent some time doing this research, I can tell you the scientists who don’t dismiss it “out of hand.” In fact, having interviewed a number of scientists about this particular topic, I can tell you that they not only don’t dismiss it “out of hand” but are doing their own studies on the same topics.
Gary E Schwartz PhD from Harvard (“Sacred Promise”) former head of a Yale hospital, wrote the introduction to my book Flipside. He’s currently at the University of Arizona running a lab on the topic.
Mario Beauregard PhDappears in my book “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife.” He wrote “Brain Wars” and we’ve spoken often about his studies into consciousness - including doing MRI with people who are under deep hypnosis. Trained at the University of Montreal, he’s currently working with Gary in Arizona.
Dr. Bruce Greyson psychiatrist, part of DOPS at UVA and Iands (dot) org. I spent a couple of days with Dr. Greyson, he is known as the godfather of near death experiences, the scale that scientists use to measure NDEs is named for him - he also appears in “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” discussing how consciousness is not only produced by the brain. For your own reference, I can recommend watching his YouTube talk of the same name.
His colleague, Dr. Sam Parnia has studied near death events as well, as part of the “Aware” project - a ten year study of near death experiences. In these near death reports, people claim the same things that people under deep hypnosis claim.
I can recommend reading the 2000 cases from Dr. Helen Wambach, a psychologist in New Jersey who reported ten years before Michael Newton reported the same things with his 7000 cases. As I’ve reported, I’ve only filmed 50 - people I chose to be part of a study based on their skepticism. As it turns out, the most ardent skeptics are often the people who go the furthest in these deep hypnosis sessions.

Other scientific research worth examining: Ed Kelley, who wrote “Irriducible Mind” - a textbook on consciousness, who is also part of DOPS at UVA - someone who is a scientist who studies Psi phenomena, or Dr. Jim Tucker, also part of DOPS at UVA who has written books about the verified cases of reincarnation. Or perhaps take a look at David E Presti’s latest book “Mind Beyond Brain.” David being a professor or neurobiology, psychology and cognitive science at UC Berkeley. In his latest tome, he digs into the concept of consciousness existing outside the brain.
I could go on - but what’s the point? You are obviously not familiar with the books I’ve cited, or the work I’ve done in this area (which cites the above books and interviews a number of the authors.) I’m happy to give a hand to anyone who wants to understand what the data shows - that is, reports that are consistent and reproducible. I’ve been doing the same kind of research for over a decade now, and am happy to help guide anyone to the research involved. All I can say is that for those who want to “dismiss” the research “out of hand” that’s great. It’s not my task or job to hold anyone’s hand, or to direct anyone’s hand to the research. I’m a filmmaker after all - everyone that I film I put in my books and transcribe what they have to say, and then compare it to the thousands of other cases.
In my case - none of this is theory, belief or opinion - I’m filming people saying the same things consistently, and then transcribing what they say. If one has a problem with what they’re saying - or any scientist has a problem with what they’re saying - I suggest taking it up with them, or conducting their own experiments.
I suggested the same to UVA when I presented my research to them in 2011. At the moment, I’m told they have had the same results using people who have used deep hypnosis to access near death memories - which in turn leads to other bits of new information. But thanks for weighing in.


Interview with Bill Paxton on the flipside

I was finishing up my film for Gaia "Backstage Pass to the Flipside: Talking to Bill Paxton" when Dr. Medhus reached out to me and asked if there was anyone I wanted her to speak with.  I suggested Billy.

I asked these same questions to two other mediums (as mentioned in "Backstage Pass") and got the SAME ANSWERS from all three mediums.

Further, she nails a number of things in this interview - including that I met Bill in a pub in London when he was working on Aliens.  No one knows that story but me and Bill.

Welcome to the flipside.


Love you Billy!

Early film director

In Cannes

Alex Honnold's Amgydala and Free Soloing with Tonglen

For those who got a chance to see the Oscar wining film "Free Solo" on National Geographic channel, they got a glimpse into the inner workings of the mind of the most amazing climber ever put on film. Directed by Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, it's in theaters now as well as the safety of the National Geographic Channel in your own home.

There was a key moment in the film, when Alex agreed to have his brain MRI'd. The doctor looking at the inner workings of his brain, said "Your amygdala isn't functioning normally."

Alex made a comment like "I guess my brain's different."
Image result for mri amygdala
Typical amygdala - Wikimedia
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Some can argue that the evidence of why Alex appears to be unafraid of heights, is because the "flight or fight" mechanism in his brain is malfunctioning.  It's the catchall phrase that people use when talking about the amygdala - a peanut sized part of the brain that regulates serotonin.

I'm not a doctor, but I've studied a little bit about the amygdala because it appears in an epic study on meditation, something I am familiar with.
Using MRI to study meditation

Richie Davidson

Part of his study with a monk trained in meditation.

Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin did a study with MRI of brains of people who were expert at meditation, where he showed that a "single session of meditation can change the shape of the amygdala." 

I attended a lecture he gave at UCLA where he talked about this research to a room full of psychiatrists, eager to find an alternate to the customary methodology of prescribing SSRI drugs to children who are depressed.

I attended the lecture because I know that Davidson is part of the Dalai Lama's mind science program, and was curious what his research might show about meditation.  But after the lecture where he demonstrated that his study showed that "mediation can cure or alleviate symptoms of depression," hand after hand went up.

The psychiatrists in the SRO room were concerned because parents were insisting, asking for help with depressed children, or with children who were acting out - and the only medicine they had in their arsenal was medicine that would "inhibit serotonin release." (SSRI drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, etc).  (The "misfiring" of serotonin is frequently cited in everything from autism to not being able to sleep properly)

As it turns out, there had been no definite studies done with teens and these SSRI drugs, and the side effects (one pediatrician told me that it was as high as 15%) could be severe; ideations of suicide or violence.  Here is a warning from the National Institute of Health: 

"The documented efficacy and long-term benefit of antidepressants in patients with recurrent forms of severe anxiety or depressive disorders support their use in those individuals with these disorders, who experience suicidal thoughts or behavior. In general, it is assumed that antidepressants are beneficial for all symptoms of depression, including suicidality. However, some evidence suggests that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors [SSRIs] may cause worsening of suicidal ideas in vulnerable patients. Systematic reviews and pooled analysis of experimental, observational, and epidemiological studies have investigated the use of SSRIs and their association with suicidality. Taking account of the methodological limitations of these studies, the current evidence fails to provide a clear relationship between their use and risk of suicidality in adults. However, in children and adolescents, there appears to be a bit of increased risk of suicidal ideations and attempts, but not of completed suicides."

(And further, if one wants to make the case that every mass shooting since Columbine has had an SSRI or "antidepressant" component - that case can be made. Many of the shooters had been under psychiatric care, or had a history of Serotonin Release inhibitor use). 

Michael Moore weighs in on the topic:

It's not my opinion, theory or belief that is the case - it's just in the public records when there has been an autopsy done on the shooter or shooters, or there is a known record of that kind of medical prescription.

Be that as it may, this isn't a post about SSRI abuse, or the medical community prescribing something that hasn't been fully studied - it's about the part of the brain that for some reason, wasn't "functioning normally" in the brain of Alex Honnold, the man who is the first to free solo "El Cap" in Yosemite.

Robert Thurman (left) leading a meditation under the north face of Mt. Kailash in Western Tibet

If you've seen the film, it's thrilling, dizzying, almost disturbing to see him defy gravity and reach the top.  His casual comments of his success - not screaming, hopping up and down, but of sitting down and smiling profusely - point to someone who has his amygdala "not abnormal" but functioning perfectly well.

In the voice over, he talks about "controlling his fear" by "expanding his horizon" - by expanding what it is that he is doing in his mind with regard to each step of the journey.  It's as if he's "meditating on what he should be doing" and "visualizing what can be done."  Further, he had done the trip "40 or 50 times" the year prior, so he was very familiar with the journey. He was able to previsualize each step.

However, there are not many human beings that could make that trip, as is noted throughout the film.  He has an amazing ability to either compartmentalize fear, or as the MRI shows - to not have it both him at all.

Image result for el capitan yosemite
El Capitan in Yosemite (wiki)

Was it his determination to succeed that caused the amygdala to work differently in such adverse conditions?  Or was he born that way?

Well, in Davidson's epic study, he showed that anyone can change their amygdala by being mindful.  In fact, the idea of "mindfulness" comes directly from his study, because the word "meditation" is often associated with religious practices, or worse - yoga - meaning a person would have to do "some form of exercise in order to accomplish a task."  Which is why the word meditation was changed to something more precise about what was going on.  Mind. Full. Ness.

Palden Gyatso was able to endure thirty years of torture
at the hands of the Chinese authorities through meditation.
After his lecture, I asked Richard Davidson what specific meditation he used to achieve the results.  I figured since there are so many different meditations that are possible, the specific meditation might hold a clue as to why he achieved those results.

He told me; "Tonglen;" but a "non-specific version," using the idea of "healing of the Earth as an object" instead of a person to not skew the scientific results.
As close as I'll get to climbing a mountain
in Tibet

I happen to know what "Tonglen" is and how it's used.  And indeed, it does hold a clue - not only to why Alex Honnold can climb a mountain without fear, but as to how we can help cure or alleviate depression without the use of drugs.

Tonglen means "give and take" in Tibetan.  It refers to the practice itself, where the person meditating imagines someone (or in this case, the non specific Earth) that is ill and needs healing.  The meditator pictures their loved one (or object) in front of them, then imagines the problem that needs repair (or illness) as a "color or smoke."  It doesn't matter which color they choose to represent "illness" or "trauma" - they imagine it on the person or object they're trying to heal.  It's up to the person doing the imagining to determine what color or smoke they see.

Then as they breathe in, the imagine "pulling that illness" out of the person or object, pulling that color or smoke into themselves.

It may sound counterintuitive - pulling an illness out of someone and imagine pulling it into yourself - but as the illness arrives, you're supposed to imagine a healing light ("the healing light of the universe") blasting that illness and transforming it into a healed light - and the color or smoke changes.

So for example, if you're imagining someone's broken rib, you might imagine a color for that injury - perhaps red, or red smoke.  As you picture your friend, you imagine "pulling that color out of them" as you breathe in - the color finds its way into your own rib, but as it arrives, you turn on a "klieg light of healing energy" - and turn that color into a healed energy and then breathe it back into the loved one.

Or in this case the Earth.
Richard Davidson and HHDL
As you breathe in, you pull the color out of the loved one, as you breathe out, you breathe healed light back into them. Perhaps you "take the red" and "give back gold" into your loved one.

In one case, I know of someone who tried this with someone who had pneumonia - they got a call from their friend who was deathly ill, and was asking for help.  First he called a doctor who agreed to go to this person's home, and then as a test of their ability, imagined trying to heal the loved one using Tonglen. First, the person saw the wife's chest as a fireplace with coals inside of it, burning red. And as he breathed in, he saw the coals get brighter, with flames - but then as he breathed out, he imagined his breath was a cool ice filled mist, that damped the coals. 

Eventually the imaginary cool mist turned to snow, and he said that he pictured snow falling on the red coals in his wife's chest - until the fire went out.  

A few moments later, prior to the doctor's arrival, he called his wife, and she said "I don't know what just happened, but my fever broke. My pneumonia just seemed to end. I feel better now."  The doctor arrived moments after that and gave her a dose of antibiotics. It's not as if the meditation saved this person's life where antibiotics did the trick, but it's an anecdotal story of someone claiming to "feel the physical effects" of the tonglen meditation.

There is no scientific proof (that I'm aware of) that demonstrates that prayer or meditation can cure or help the object of the prayer or meditation (there is plenty of anecdotal tales) but there is medical evidence that proves the person doing the prayer or meditation can "cure or alleviate symptoms of depression" in themselves.

Literally "doing unto others" selflessly has a physical healing effect on the person doing the selfless act.

When they imagine themselves healing someone else - doing something selflessly, indeed, they heal themselves.  They alter the amgydala in such a way that it now is able to regulate serotonin normally, or better - or whatever term they use to describe the normal function of the amygdala.  

Which indeed, may very well by the way that Alex Honnold's amygdala works - just fine, thank you very much.  His amygdala may be what we all might aspire to - to be able to experience life without fear on a daily basis.

For further information, Richard Davidson's website is here:  Pema Chodron has a book and technique on teaching Tonglen which can be found here: and for further adventures into the flipside, my film can be found here: - highly recommend watching Free Solo as it's a monumental achievement in film and in sport:

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