Is life a series of lessons we can learn and grow from, or a prison or soul trap?
Is the message from Plato’s allegory of the cave true–are we stuck in a soul trap?
This past month, I received a question via email: “Your friend and colleague Christopher Anatra did an interview with Howdie Mickoski, not sure you know of him or if you saw the interview but my question is basically;
What’s your thought on this whole idea that we the people are being “farmed” for energy in this reality? Basically Plato’s Cave with a layer of energy farming from the Arcons, that we’re being held prisoners in this reality.
I hold you and your thoughts in high regard and i am very curious to what your take on this is, would absolutely love it if you made a video about it and if not, just for you just to give me your thoughts here.
I have a feeling that this idea of Howdie Mickoski can be a trap of its own, it certainly isn’t asking how good can it get, more like the opposite.”
This is a terrific and timely question, especially since so many people recently have been feeling more stuck and trapped, due to a variety of events unfolding globally these days.
Soul Traps and Plato’s Cave
Howdie Mickoski’s idea that humanity is caught in a “Soul Trap” appears to be a valuable topic of discussion, since apparently so many different people have come to similar conclusions with a sense that this is some kind of prison planet (as David Icke describes), or a loosh factory (as Robert Monroe once mentioned), or that we’re all in something akin to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave–chained and restrained and only able to see shadows moving on the cave walls.
It seems there may be value in taking a look at the points Howdie is making, with regard to the “Soul Trap” idea. First of all, I like Howdie’s observation very much that there seems something strange about the configuration of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in the sense that it seems weird that people are trapped inside a cave. Having pointed out this peculiarity, Howdie proceeds to advocate preparing to intentionally leave the existence we’ve come to accept in our lifetime, with an idea that there must be access to something beyond.
What lies beyond
Plato’s notion that we can step outside Plato’s cave, and Howdie’s notion that we can step outside our current conceptualization of reality provide us with an invitation to rise above current limitations of sensing and knowing true reality. While it makes no logical sense that we can ever ‘escape’ or leave the foundational reality we are part of, what does make sense is that there may exist levels of conscious awareness within the oneness of consciousness, reality, and All That Is.
The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote in New Essays on Human Understanding:
Conscious perception arises gradually “by degrees from [perceptions] that are too minute to be noticed.” (ie: unconscious perceptions)
With awareness of such levels of perception, we can envision how higher levels of consciousness steadily arise, as a natural part of how we see the outside world, and how our mind internally represents what we perceive. Leibniz is sometimes referred to as “the last universal genius,” making brilliant contributions to the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of religion, mathematics, physics, geology, jurisprudence, and history. Leibniz was one of the two people credited with the invention / discovery of Calculus, the other being Sir Isaac Newton, and Leibniz provides further clarity with a bit of a mathematical feel to this statement from Principles of Nature and Grace, clarifying how these perceptions arise:
“… it is good to make a distinction between ‘perception,’ which is the internal state of the monad representing external things, and ‘apperception,’ which is ‘consciousness’ [conscience], or the reflective cognition of this internal state, which is not given to all souls, or at all times to the same soul.”
Leibniz has thus provided us with a sense of how consciousness provides both a first-order perception of ‘x’ and a second order reflective perception of the original perception of ‘x.’ And Leibniz posited a unified field of reality and consciousness. In about 1710, Leibniz wrote a letter in response to someone asking him what philosophical school he followed; Leibniz replied that he follows the school of the perennial philosophy, Philosophia Perennis.
School? Or Soul Trap?
The idea of the reality of humanity’s existence being one of two things–either a School, or a Soul Trap–seems over-simplified to me.
I can appreciate how some might narrow down reality to life being a School, based on the idea of reincarnation and people getting a memory wipe so most of us don’t remember past lives. I observe that the only things any of us truly know are those things that we can never forget. It seems to me that we best learn those lessons that resonate for us emotionally in powerful ways–and these are the true lessons we actually know, and are the basis for us being able to transcend such things as the emotional drama of “playing the part” of: Victim; Rescuer; or Perpetrator in what Stephen Karpman described as a ‘drama triangle.’ For people caught up in all the drama, it’s easy to feel that the true nature of reality involves both an aspect of it being like a dream (or simulation), and also like there is no free will, and people are trapped and stuck, like the prisoners in Plato’s allegory of the cave.
The ‘Drama Triangle’ can feel like a kind of trap for people who live their lives mostly at the Egoic level of identity, without reaching a level of connection with higher self connecting to what Leibniz called Philosophia Perennis. For those feeling trapped in the drama triangle, roles are moved through such that many of us start off feeling like sad, helpless Victims; many of us then move out of that role and move on to becoming anxious Rescuers, concerned about the troubles in the world; and many then proceed on to righteous anger about what they know to be wrong, where they become Perpetrators. Escaping this unhappy merry-go-round can thus provide freedom from feeling imprisoned or trapped.
To the question, why do we need to suffer in order to learn more, we can see some kinds of what we take to be suffering can be for our benefit, because we are multi-layered conscious beings. We operate at multiple levels of conscious agency, and this is the biggest secret that’s been right in front of us all along. We can learn that we ourselves have the ability to rise above the root source of suffering, and this knowledge is powerfully beneficial to us, not just as incarnate beings, but also as spiritual entities when we exist before we are born and after each life. There is a kind of wisdom known as the Perennial Philosophy, which acknowledges that there exists a sense of highest conscious identity operating outside of space and time. In this state of changeless infinite eternity, we can experience awareness that there is a Divine Spark within each and every one of us–and this powerful point-source of our being was forged from the pure state of infinite, eternal consciousness.
The Biggest Question
One of the biggest clues to what is really going on–Soul Trap? Or School?–lies in one of the biggest questions that usually goes unasked. It goes unasked by physicists, and it goes unasked by psychologists and philosophers. It goes unasked because it seems so simple and basic as to be obvious. Yet, if we really stop to think about it,we can start to realize the vastness of it, and the way it can provide us with a better appreciation about what life and reality is truly all about.
This question is: “Who am I?”
Awareness of levels of conscious agency–levels of self–provides us with the idea that we have both Free Will, and also Destiny. When we are living our lives from the Egoic (drama-filled) state of being. Some (high) level of ourselves have the Free Will, and we can operate with awareness that these higher levels of ourselves are who we really and truly are. When we own this truth, we gain the responsibility of living with Free Will–which lifts us above the feeling of being stuck in a deterministic, pre-planned storyline.
For those feeling trapped or imprisoned by reality, and wishing to escape boundaries and limitations, where do they imagine they will be, after breaking free? Might they arrive in nothingness itself? If so, they may be interested in contemplating the true nature of nothingness. Leibniz points out:
“It is true that as the empty voids and the dismal wilderness belong to zero, so the spirit of God and His light belong to the all-powerful One.”
Miracle-Mindedness at Higher Levels of Conscious Agency
I feel a sense of intrinsic freedom via my connection with God / Creator / Source of the Philosophia Perennis that was first named by Leibniz. For those with awareness of divine source, who are open to living in a state of mind of miracle-mindedness, we are operating outside the realm of manipulation by outside forces. This awareness of sovereignty of spirit arrives thanks to surrendering to living in accordance with our highest principles, ethics, and values. We can reform those beliefs and assumptions that had been instilled, due to the fact that beliefs can be reviewed and changed, and we can reprogram our beliefs (as I point out in my book, “Reality Shifts”) by noticing what beliefs are circulating in our thoughts and minds, and flipping around and reversing negative beliefs (those that feel sickening or weakening) to their positive opposites.
We can gain a finer sense of who we truly are and what level of conscious agency we are currently operating with by observing our thoughts and feelings, and becoming increasingly clearer that we are not our thoughts and feelings–we are the observer of those thoughts and feelings. We can gain this awareness through meditation, and these meditations can prepare us to retain a sense of higher conscious agency, even after being “memory-wiped,” as occurs sometimes when we dream, and when we move from this life to the afterlife.
We need not have any karma or shame when facing our full life review, thanks to training ourselves to rise above the drama of guilt, shame, and regret. Those emotions are so much a part of the Drama Triangle of Egoic self, yet we are capable of witnessing these emotions and feelings, and realizing while we are alive that we are not those feelings.
Practicing lucid dreaming and meditation into silence and nothingness are wonderful ways to train ourselves to access higher levels of our own conscious agency. From that state of consciousness, we have the ability to practice being in astral / out-of-body form, in order that our lives when we are in material bodies can be the fullest and richest possible.
With respect to an Allegory for reality that I feel best aligned with, I love the idea of Axiogenesis, described by philosopher Nicholas Rescher. Axiogenesis has been defined as: A form of metaphysical optimism in which the state of affairs which actually obtains is the one most favorable (of all possible states of affairs) to the development of intelligence and the interests of intelligent beings. Such a philosophy is more in keeping with life and reality providing us all with learning opportunities, rather than being a soul trap. And for those who are agnostics or atheists, such a positive philosophy can be most welcome.
I personally love the idea of the Holy Spirit; I love the idea of the Tao. There is a beauty in the silence of nothingness, and there is a fullness of experiencing the bliss of being an eternal, infinite spirit. When we come out of such meditations, we feel recharged, refreshed, and gain a sense of knowing who we truly are. And this sense of self identity (with associated level of conscious agency) provides us with much deeper and richer awareness of who we truly are, what reality actually is, what we genuinely are living for, and what has deepest meaning to us.
I find there is great value in sovereignty, which seems to be the great gift we can receive from adopting Howdie’s “soul trap” / Plato’s cave view of reality. I feel we can actually find our greatest sovereignty–and our greatest Free Will–when we live our lives from the highest level of conscious agency identity we can retain. We can learn through lucid dreaming and meditation how we are doing toward our goal of discovering what we retain even after “memory wipe.”
Some of the daily practices I follow on a daily basis is practicing the meditation of aching with the entirety of my being to experiencing living the answer to the question, “How good can it get?” By asking this question, we provide ourselves with the opportunity to feel strong emotions that motivate and inspire us, and give us a sense of self identity and meaning, while steadily gaining higher levels of conscious agency, and higher emotional vibrational levels of such feelings as: compassion, kindness, unconditional divine love, and reverence.
You can watch the companion video to this blog post on YouTube here:
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Anatra, Christopher and Howdie Minckowski. “Exposing the Matrix.” Symphony of Realities Podcast. Episode 15. 31 Jan 2023. https://youtu.be/WATYVAw10U8
Karpman, Stephen. “Fairy tales and script drama analysis.” Transactional analysis bulletin 7, no. 26 (1968): 39-43.
Larson, Cynthia Sue. Reality Shifts: When Consciousness Changes the Physical World. RealityShifters, 2011.
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, and Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz. Leibniz: New essays on human understanding. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. “Principles of Nature and Grace (1714).” (1992).
Rescher, Nicholas. Axiogenesis: An essay in metaphysical optimalism. Lexington Books, 2010.
Novak, Michael. The experience of nothingness. Transaction Publishers, 1970.
Cynthia Sue Larson is the best-selling author of six books, including Quantum Jumps. Cynthia has a degree in physics from UC Berkeley, an MBA degree, a Doctor of Divinity, and a second degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won. Cynthia is the founder of RealityShifters, and first President of the International Mandela Effect Conference. Cynthia hosts “Living the Quantum Dream” on the DreamVisions7 radio network, and has been featured in numerous shows including Gaia, the History Channel, Coast to Coast AM, One World with Deepak Chopra, and BBC. Cynthia reminds us to ask in every situation, “How good can it get?” Subscribe to her free monthly ezine at:
” It is wisdom to know others;
It is enlightenment to know one’s self.”
— Lao Tzu
Who are you?
The first time someone asked you, “Who are you?” you might reply by saying your name. If someone asked, “Who are you?” a second time, you might state your job title, in order to provide information that helps to set you apart and explain your relationship to others.
If I was asked, “Who are you?” on a college campus, I’d likely mention that I am an alumna, or mention that I have a degree in Physics from UC Berkeley. If asked this question at an airport in France, I’d mention that I’m an American citizen who lives in California. When asked this question on a TV interview, I’d say I’m a best-selling author of the books, Quantum Jumps and Reality Shifts. If asked this question by a meditation master, I’d reply, “awareness.” While each of my answers could be considered accurate and true, a good case could also be made that none of these descriptions is who Ireally am—since there is more to me than just my name, job title, citizenship, and other descriptors. And based on what I have learned about the way we exist in a superposition of states—as can be seen in the doubling of the efficacy of the placebo effect over the past thirty years—I am aware of the importance of keeping a positive, open mind to considering myself to be doing better than how any given label or description might seemingly confine me.
One of the things we most take for granted is knowing who we are—yet this is one of the biggest areas in which we have room to increase our understanding of what is possible in our lives. People sometimes discover that they can do things they didn’t think possible—when circumstances require them to handle situations they’ve never previously faced. In an emergency, people have been known to be able to perform amazing feats of courage and strength, such as lifting a heavy car off of someone else. When some people have transformative life experiences, they often realize there is nothing holding them back from pursuing the life of their dreams, seeking out new kinds of friends, activities, and work.
One very important quality that personality tests don’t describe is what level of consciousness you are accessing at any particular moment. Such levels include: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and a sense of oneness awareness—with transitional levels in between. Some yogis and martial artists are capable of developing the ability through meditation and internal energy work of changing their level of consciousness, allowing them to interact with their environment with harmonious grace and ease. While we move between these levels of consciousness on a regular basis, we seldom give much thought to how we engage with these levels of consciousness, or who and what we’re connecting with while we’re dreaming or daydreaming, for example. What scientists can measure is that they associate some of these stages of consciousness with brain waves, with the lowest stages of unconsciousness corresponding with Delta brainwaves in the 0.5 to 4 Hz frequency range, and Theta brainwaves in the 4 to 8 Hz range. We consider ordinary waking consciousness to correspond with Alpha brainwaves between 8 to 13 Hz, and Beta brainwaves between 13 to 30 Hz. Gamma brainwaves at 30 to 42 Hz, are associated with extreme abilities to focus, and high states of ecstasy.Some employers administer personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in hopes of establishing a better fit between applicants and job openings. The idea is that such tests can help sort out tendencies people have toward being an introvert or extrovert, senser or intuitive, thinker or feeler, and judger or perceiver— providing us with clues as to how people with shared personality characteristics tend to respond to various situations. As tempting as it might be to get your MBTI score and think, “At last I know who I am! I am a ______,” filling in blank with one of the sixteen MBTI personality types, such as “INFJ” for example, for “Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judger”, psychologists are finding that people can sometimes move around from personality type to personality type, such as becoming more extroverted.
The question of who you are takes on tremendous importance at this point in history—the dawning of the Quantum Age. Due to the required inclusion of a conscious observer at the heart of quantum physics, it’s no longer possible for scientists to assume such things as that there can be a purely objective observer. In actuality, observers are known to influence every observation they make, simply by their presence and what the observer is paying attention to. And how we pay attention to ourselves can make a tremendous difference in our health, happiness, and wellbeing.
When I ask myself the question, “Who are you?” I discover I am aware of myself on many levels of being. I realize that I am much more than simply my gender, my age, my profession, my experiences, and my socio-economic information. I am much more than my types of expertise. I am more than my skills, more than my hobbies, more than my bank balance. I’m more than my nationality, more than my college degrees, and more than any other types of certifications I’ve received. There are levels of “me” that can be subsets of my body—such as “being in my head” and thinking about ideas like these. There are levels of my being that are aware of living my life for love, with tremendous heart-centeredness. There are also levels of “me” that include many possible superpositions of states of me—some that I’m more aware of than others. And there are levels of “me” based on awareness of my being entangled with and part of much more than my physical body right here, right now. With so many different answers to who I am, I’m glad to discover that the less limited and the more expansive I am with my answer to the question, “Who are you?” the more enjoyable and fulfilling my life becomes.
Cynthia Sue Larson is the best-selling author of six books, including Quantum Jumps. Cynthia has a degree in Physics from UC Berkeley, and discusses consciousness and quantum physics on numerous shows including the History Channel, Coast to Coast AM, and BBC. You can subscribe to Cynthia’s free monthly ezine at: http://www.RealityShifters.com
There was a time when higher education could be counted on to be a truly transformative experience, in which it was possible for one’s sense of identity to be broken down before being built back up again with a fresh new sense of connection, meaning, and purpose in the world. This idea was beautifully demonstrated in Robin Williams’ film, Dead Poets Society, where he played an English teacher who instructed his students to rip out the introductory pages to their poetry books that contain mathematical rating systems for evaluating prose. Teacher John Keating (played by Robin Williams) says to his class:
Excrement. That’s what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. We’re not laying pipe, we’re talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? I like Byron, I give him a 42, but I can’t dance to it. Now I want you to rip out that page. Go on, rip out the entire page. You heard me, rip it out. Rip it out! Go on, rip it out….Gentlemen, tell you what, don’t just tear out that page, tear out the entire introduction. I want it gone, history. Leave nothing of it. Rip it out. Rip! Begone J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D. Rip, shred, tear. Rip it out. I want to hear nothing but ripping of Mr. Pritchard. We’ll perforate it, put it on a roll. It’s not the Bible, you’re not gonna go to hell for this. Go on, make a clean tear, I want nothing left of it….Rip it out, rip!…I don’t hear enough rips….Keep ripping, gentlemen. This is a battle, a war. And the casualties could be your hearts and souls. (collecting scraps of paper in a metal wastebasket) Thank you, Mr. Dalton. Armies of academics going forward, measuring poetry. No, we will not have that here. No more of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. Now in my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and language. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. I see that look in Mr. Pitt’s eye, like 19th Century literature has nothing to do with going to business school or medical school. Right? Maybe. Mr. Hopkins, you may agree with him, thinking ‘Yes, we should simply study our Mr. Pritchard and learn our rhyme and meter and go quietly about the business of achieving other ambitions.’ I have a little secret for ya. Huddle up. Huddle up!
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman: ‘O me, o life of the questions of these recurring, of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, o me, o life?’ Answer: that you are here. That life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
While school may or may not provide you with the means for such inner and outer transformation, the benefits of feeling a sense of being on fire with doing and being what you love cannot be overstated. You can see the difference between a person who is living the life of their dreams and someone who lives as if disillusioned, merely going through the motions, as if on autopilot in a boring rerun, in which each day seems emptier and less meaningful than the day before. You may initially crave a life of practical realism, emulating those who seem powerful and successful, but at some point if you lack a sense of inner meaning, a yearning deep within you for a life transformation calls, beckoning you to contribute your verse of poetry to the world.
So how is such transformation possible? We can find clues in what has been happening with our institutions of higher learning, discovering how and why they can no longer be counted on to provide us with a deep, burning inner sense of purpose. I’ve read two books recently that do an excellent job of pointing out what’s wrong with the university system today, and how we can take steps to improve the system. These books point out that universities today are now being run like corporations focused exclusively on churning out products–employable graduates–that meet certain specifications, with the end goal of ever-increasing profitability, rather than ever-improving sense of ethical goodness in humanity.
In One Magisterium, Seán Ó Nualláin suggests we wrest higher education away from bottom-line focused university businesses, placing it instead in the care of those we entrust to both inculcate knowledge and improve our genuine capacity to learn. Ó Nualláin explains, “Historically, both of these processes have occurred in a religious environment; it is not unfair to say that we have yet to work out how to frame the drive for understanding in a purely secular context.” The framework of the MagisteriumÓ Nualláin describes thus provides a framework from whence noetic action, morality, and aesthetics reflect a hierarchy of value emanating from a Divine Source.
In Excellent Sheep, William Deresiewicz decries elitism that has become rampant in western society as it is demonstrated in university education. Deresiewicz makes a call for universities to stop being run like corporate businesses, with constant concern about school ranking, exclusivity, fame and fortune of alumni–and be operated instead by monks, or some similar group of ethically-minded individuals who are genuinely concerned about their students’ souls. When students are more focused on meeting admission requirements to get into prestigious institutions, they often continue their excellent jumping-through-hoops skills in college, taking more units and credits than make much sense, toward one of the four majors considered ideal (medicine, law, business, consulting). What is lost in this shuffle is a sense of what makes each of us who we truly are.
What we can learn from viewing how higher education can no longer be counted on for providing a crucible by which young people can discover how their unique gifts can be recognized and appreciated for helping serve the common good–and realize that it’s not too late at any point to seek such spiritual awakening! When you know that leadership is more than seeking power and prestige, and feel the difference between sincere compassionate involvement and greedy self-interest, you experience a yearning to fill your life with people who truly care. This inner knowingness–this gut feeling–is a big step forward in daring to live a life less ordinary, contributing your verse of poetry to the world.
So let today be the beginning of a new way of living.
Do you remember a time when you skinned your knee as a child, and went to your Mom or caregiver who “kissed it better”? In such situations, feeling better with no scientific explanation for why that might be can be attributed to your having experienced the “placebo effect.”
The word ‘placebo’ translates from the Latin to mean, ‘I shall please,’ from placere, ‘to please,’ and comes from a time in the Middle Ages when “placebo” referred to professional mourners-for-hire who sang at funeral masses, pretending to be the sorrowful bereaved.
The placebo effect was first recognized when anesthesiologist Henry Beecher reported successfully managing pain in injured soldiers after administering saline injections in place of morphine while working as a field physician for the Allies in World War II. Dr. Beecher watched a nurse give the saline injection to a patient complaining of excruciating pain prior to surgery, and was astonished to see how the patient showed little sign of pain or shock throughout the ensuing surgery. Dr. Beecher continued to repeat this placebo treatment of substituting salty injections for morphine, noting a high rate of positive responses.
Placebos are becoming an increasingly hot topic now, thanks to the way more and more people are experiencing positive placebo effects. Arthur Barsky, director of psychiatric research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, notes, “The placebo response was about twice as powerful than it was in the 1980s.” Placebos have even been proven effective when people knew they were receiving the placebo—and not the real medicine. It helps when study administrators say things like, “Do you know what a sugar pill is? A sugar pill is a pill with no medicine in it at all. I think this pill will help you as it has helped so many others. Are you willing to try this pill?” This statement was part of a standardized script read to participants in a classic non-blind placebo study in which all participants experienced marked improvement in just one week.
97% of the family doctors recently surveyed acknowledged that they have given placebos to one or more of their patients, which proves that doctors depend upon the placebo’s effect’s impressive track record. Very few legitimate pharmaceutical prescriptions can match, let alone exceed the placebo’s astonishing successes, with between 35% to 75% of placebo recipients experiencing frequent, substantial, and in some cases lasting improvement from ailments ranging from arthritis to depression.
Randi McCabe, director of the Anxiety Treatment and Research Center at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Ontario commented, “Your belief that you’re going to get better, your attitude, does influence how you feel. And really, in cognitive behavior therapy, that is really what we’re trying to change: peoples’ beliefs, how they’re seeing their world, their perspective.” David H. Rosmarin notes, “Patients who had higher levels of belief in God demonstrated more effects of treatment. They seemed to get more bang for their buck.”
The placebo effect is successful for surgeries, too. In summer 1994, surgeon J. Bruce Moseley, team physician for the Houston Rockets, arranged a small-scale pilot study with middle-aged veterans. These volunteers were randomly assigned to one of three different groups: standard arthroscopic surgery (scraping and rinsing of the knee joints), rinsing of the knee joints with no scraping, and “sham” or placebo surgery. Dr. Moseley stabbed the placebo patients’ knees with a scalpel—and his behavior before, during, and after all three types of operations was identical. This was made easier by the fact that he’d only find out moments before the actual operation which type of procedure he’d be performing. Bruce Moseley had no expectation for positive results from the placebo surgery group; he was participating in the study because he was skeptical about the benefit of arthroscopic surgery to treat arthritis. Dr. Nelda Wray was in charge of health research at the Houston V.A., and asked Moseley how he could tell if those who improved from surgery weren’t benefiting primarily due to the placebo effect. Moseley was stunned by this question and responded, “It can’t be. This is surgery we’re talking about.” Dr. Wray replied, “You’re all wrong. The bigger and more dramatic the patient perceives the intervention to be, the bigger the placebo effect. Big pills have more than small pills, injections have more than pills and surgery has the most of all.” In this first study, the placebo worked like a charm. Even six months post operation, none of the patients knew which group they were in, and all ten men reported greatly reduced pain. The study was repeated, this time with 180 patients, and with similar results.
The astonishing efficacy of placebo surgeries is particularly striking in such studies as the ones reported in the New England Journal of Medicine involving arthroscopic knee surgery in 2002 and 2008. Positive improvements have been seen in 50% of study participants receiving placebo surgery for Parkinson’s disease, with most positive results associated with the most invasive placebo surgeries, and the most advanced cases of Parkinson’s disease. Numerous additional studies have shown phenomenal success of placebo treatments for everything from painting warts with brightly colored inert dye (with warts falling off when the color wore off); to doctors telling asthmatics they were inhaling a bronchiodilator when they weren’t; to fake ultrasound for post wisdom-tooth extraction patients relieving pain.
If placebos are so powerful, what do we know about how they work? Serious investigation into what makes placebos tick is just getting underway. The Harvard-affiliated Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) in Boston, Massachusetts is the first multidisciplinary institute dedicated entirely to studying how the placebo effect works. Preliminary findings indicate a connection between the most successful placebo treatments and endorphins… yet endorphins don’t fully explain all the positive results placebos achieve. The methods of placebo administration are every bit as important as the administration itself.
The placebo effect is branching out to non-medical areas, as well, where we see indications of new ways we can positively transform our lives through changing our beliefs. Placebos have proven effective for helping students perform better on tests. Psychologists Ulrich Weger and Stephen Loughnan devised an experiment by which 40 undergraduate students were given a 20 question general knowledge test, with each question having four possible answers. Subjects were informed that before each question was asked, the correct answer would be momentarily flashed upon the screen too quickly for them to consciously recognize, but they were assured that the correct answer would register subconsciously in their brains. What was actually being flashed momentarily had nothing at all to do with the correct answers, but was instead a bit of gibberish consisting of random strings of letters. Participants who believed they’d subliminally received the correct answers and were given verbal guidance by experimenters, “On some level, you already know the answer,” scored significantly higher than participants in the control group who received no similar verbal guidance nor subliminal gibberish flashing on their computer screens. Clearly the best possible mantra or affirmation to tell oneself before approaching any test is, “you know this.”
To those who can see it, the human aura looks and feels like a glowing, egg-shaped light that surrounds the human body. It is most pronounced around the head and shoulders, but extends outward for several inches (and sometimes several feet) from our heads down to our toes. Even if you can’t see the waves of energy that are burning brightly all around us, enveloping and connecting us to everything on Earth and throughout this universe, you can certainly feel them. Good physical, mental, and emotional health appears in the form of large auras that are full of bright colors, clear tones, and active patterns. When you start viewing your aura, you will see how its size varies from hour to hour, and day to day. You’ll notice how your life feels more vibrant on days when your aura is brighter and more challenging on days when you aura si dimmer. You’ll get insights into any tendencies you might have toward depression, being accident-prone, or illness… or be able to see the locations of infection. Healthy auras are colorful and fre e of dark areas, tears, breaks, holes, asymmetries, and other similar problems.
Edgar Cayce wrote in Auras: An Essay on the Meaning of Colors, “Ever since I can remember I have seen colors in connection with people. I do not remember a time when the human beings I encountered did not register on my retina with blues and greens and reds gently pouring from their heads and shoulders. It was a long time before I realized that other people did not see these colors. It was a long time before I heard the word aura, and learned to apply it to this phenomenon that to me was comonplace. I do not ever thingk of people except in in connection with their auras; I see them change in my friends and loved ones as time goes by–sickness, dejection, love, fulfillment–these are all reflected int he aura, and for me the aura is the weathervane of the soul. It shows which way the winds of destiny are blowing.”
Your aura is the energetic boundary around you that defines your personal space. Notice how good it feels to sit under a tree or on the shore next to a body of water. Natural places that are ecologically balanced are full of energy that can help to equalize your own energy systems. This is why it feels so good to be out in nature! We humans are part of the intericatedly interconnected system of energy waves, and can heal and be healed by the energy systems around us. You can prove this to yourself the next time you feel hemmed in by the manmade world. Take a break from your usual routine and go to a natural setting where you can spend a little quality, quiet time. Once you arrive at this place, ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Regardless of what you do or don’t do, chances are very good that after you’ve spent twenty or thirty minutes in this natural setting, you’ll be feeling energized and your aura will be shining more brightly.
Exercise for Seeing Your Own Aura: Hands
1. Find a place where you can view your hands in natural or indirect light, with an off- white background. Paper or sheets of fabric do nicely, as do off-white colored walls.
2. Relax, breathe deeply and calmly, rest your eyes, and imagine yourself grounded to the center of the earth.
3. Gently stroke or tap your forehead between your eyebrows and hairline to stimulate the third eye chakra.
4. Extend one hand as comfortably as possible at arm’s length, and rest it in a comfortable position where it can stay in for several minutes.
5. Gaze at an imaginary spot located halfway between your index finger and thumb, keeping your vision focused exactly where you imagine that spot to be. By not looking directly at your fingers and adjusting your focus, you improve your chances of seeing your aura.
6. Remember one of the happiest days of your life, and how good you felt at the very best moment of that day. Continue gazing at that imaginary spot between your index finger and thumb, until you start to see the aura around your fingers.
7. Once you see your aura, notice what colors it has, and how it is distributed around your thumb, palm, and fingers. Is it even, or is it stronger in one place than another? Draw a sketch of what you see in a journal or notebook, using color pencils or crayons if you wish, and making note of how you were feeling at the time.
How did you like this exercise? This hand-viewing exercise is a great one to repeat often because it’s so simple to do, and you might find you can practice it when you are in a waiting room or any other time when you have a few extra minutes on your hands. I hope you took a few minutes to make a simple sketch of your aura, if you saw one this time. Keeping a record of what you observe is something that you’ll grow to appreciate as you start developing your auric viewing abilities and noticing differences in your aura. It’s fun to see how much easier aura viewing gets the more you do it!
You can watch me discuss this fast method for seeting your aura in just four minutes on my YouTube video at: http://youtu.be/1617z8K7lTo
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas here on this blog and in the comments under the video. I’d love to know how you feel!
“The bridge between the body and the mind is provided by the senses, some of which are related more closely to the body, some to the mind. Because of this overlap, the senses have the potential to help the body and mind work together naturally. First, however, we must acknowledge our senses and experience them more deeply.” – Tarthang Tulku
Integrating our mind, body, and senses reacquaints us with direct experience and brings us amazing perceptual acuity. We can heighten our sensory awareness to levels most of us aren’t aware is possible. Certain tribes in Africa and South America can identify the position of Venus in daytime. A few hundred years ago, many sailors used Venus to navigate by whenever it was above the horizon, even during the day. Most people today would need some kind of shading or viewing tool to block the sunshine in order to find Venus in daylight, if they were even willing to attempt such a task.
Hyperacuity is our innate ability to feel heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli. Researcher Eugene Marais showed that people under hypnosis can recognize differences between apparently identical pieces of blank paper, using minute differences such as small marks, creases, irregularities, and the position of the watermark, which would otherwise go unnoticed. Marais showed in a 1922 study how a hypnotized subject could easily distinguish between twenty apparently identical snail shells, or determine who had handled certain objects by a sense of smell alone. He devised similar experiments to show that humans have an amazing sense of direction, and this finding suggests that the homing instinct and sense of direction of animals is a natural facility that humans often suppress.
While humans may have developed intellect at the expense of sensory ability, we can recover sensory acuity. Some researchers document extraordinary cases of transposition of the senses, such as the cases Cesare Lombroso cited (1836-1909) of seeing through the skin of the ear and nose, and smelling through the chin and heel.
Many doctors are aware that High Sense Perception exists, since they use it! Some healers who feel comfortable using HSP in their diagnoses include: Barbara Brennan, W. Brugh Joy, Dr. Dolores Krieger, Dr. Shafica Karagulla, and Caroline Myss. Karagulla interviewed many medical professionals with HSP, including famous surgeons, professors of medicine, and heads of departments in large hospitals.
Perhaps part of the reason we don’t realize how sensory awareness can be heightened is that our senses are so often bombarded that we rarely notice we’ve lost some sensual acuity. We seldom take time to savor any particular sensory experience … to relish the way grass feels tickling under our bare feet, the way the surface of water feels in our bathtub when we stroke it from above with our palm, or the way our food and drink tastes as we swallow it slowly and savor its subtle consistency, texture, temperature and flavor. It rarely occurs to us to delight in the way cold air pours out of the refrigerator onto our ankles and toes when we open the door, or the way we sigh quietly when we sit or lie down. We don’t need to lose our senses of smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing as we grow older … we can refine and develop our senses. Recovering sensitivity is a great way to feel fully alive. We can improve our sensitivity at any time in life by appreciating how keen our senses are, and intending that they improve.
An amazing example of someone who did the seemingly impossible by curing his blindness is Meir Schneider, who was born with a number of eye problems including: cataracts, glaucoma, small cornea, strabismus, astigmatism and nystagmus. After five unsuccessful surgeries, he was declared legally blind. At the age of sixteen, Meir began the Bates method vision exercises and gradually gained functional vision. He now has a current unrestricted California driver’s license, sees quite well, and teaches people to heal their bodies and improve their vision to the point that wearing glasses is unnecessary. The British writer Aldous Huxley also used Dr. Bates’s exercises to recover from a condition of near-blindness.
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome before we come to our senses is our belief that our eyes can never improve, or that presbyopia (or ‘middle-age farsightedness’) is an unavoidable result of aging. Neither of these beliefs need be true, and an insistence on believing in such limitations can certainly interfere with improving our sensitivity. Actually, one of the keys to improving your ability to see is simply to believe you can see, and relax. Many people notice their vision improves immediately. This has been dramatically proven to work with visual perception, and it may also work with other senses such as hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” – Albert Einstein
As children, we intrinsically know the joy and value of going beyond ourselves, every time we get the chance to play. When children play, there’s an implicit understanding that all is happening in a spirit of good fun, and even when playing games with “good guys” and “bad guys,” there’s a sense that at the end of the day, regardless what happened in the game, everything’s just fine.
Children know they are much bigger than the games they are playing, so a fresh start is possible every day. This sense of wellbeing comes from the realization that as engaging as games can be, they are just games. We are bigger than any game, any problem, any situation. And in being bigger, we can see solutions to problems from a bigger-picture point of view.
One technique that is a regular part of my most successful experiences with reality shifts and quantum jumps is remembering that awareness is always larger than any given situation–that through remembering this, and through identifying with being awareness, solutions always present themselves naturally. You can see illustrations of what this kind of topography looks like if you read theoretical physics papers written by Yasunori Nomura and Raphael Bousso with Leonard Susskind, showing how the Many Worlds of the quantum realm are one and the same as the expanding multiverse. When we expand our awareness to observe larger areas, we are capable of interacting in a more expansive way that recognizes positive opportunities we are entangled with through the many possible worlds.
This tip for improving your reality shifting and quantum jumping experiences is a meditation in three parts: (1) Breathe to your lower abdomen while feeling joyful enthusiasm, (2) Imagine that your true identity is Awareness that has access to all possible realities, (3) Feel, trust and playfully follow gut feelings and intuition as they arise.
(1) Breathe to your lower abdomen with joyful enthusiasm
Start this meditation by taking slow, deep, steady breaths to your lower abdomen. Close your eyes and smile softly while slowing your breath down to the slowest natural rate you can reach that accommodates full and complete inhalations and exhalations. Relax, and intend that you invite joyful enthusiasm into this moment.
(2) Imagine Your True Identity is Awareness
Imagine that your true self is awareness–the awareness who can recognize how you are feeling and what you are thinking right now, for example. This awareness enables you to enlarge your frame of experience through nondualistic meditative processes, so you can experience firsthand that you are always larger than whatever concerns you have. In this moment, right here and right now, everything is just fine. Intend that you are now experiencing a sense of being more than any dichotomy or category that your rational, analytical mind can label, and rather a sense of awareness that exists always and everywhere.
(3) Feel, trust, and playfully follow gut feelings and intuition
You can now access a state of being-ness in which you feel inspired to be in the right place at the right time, doing what feels best. Allowing yourself to trust this inner knowingness can guide you to experience some of the most extraordinary experiences in your life, so you can feel like you are living in a waking dream. This kind of experience is one of doing what feels right to do in this moment, and living each moment of the day in this way. This is the state of consciousness I describe in my book, Reality Shifts, as Lucid Living, and it’s available and possible for us all. From such a state of consciousness, we have the ability to transcend limitations that we may have presumed to be walls or barriers in our lives.Staying in the present moment, feeling what feels most joyful and beneficial, and being at one with that feeling provides the setting for experiencing the greatest, most satisfying coincidences, synchronicity, miracles and extraordinary events.
Gauging by some of the comments and questions I hear about reality shifts and quantum jumps, there is a fair bit of confusion about exactly what might be in store for someone contemplating making a quantum jump. Some recent reviews posted for Quantum Jumps at amazon indicate there are some pretty big misunderstandings about what it’s all about. Let’s take a look at the top myths about quantum jumps, and get some clarification about what’s going on.
MYTH #1: Quantum Jumps Only Occur in the Quantum Realm
This misconception apparently comes about from the belief by some that the phrase “quantum jump” has been misappropriated, and resides only in the domain of quantum physics. As with many phrases in the English language, including many scientific concepts, what starts out meaning only one thing can often end up meaning much more. Some concepts are much more central than others, and can thus be expected to be encountered far beyond where they were originally intended. Dr. Warren Nagourney of the University of Washington described the palpable excitement felt by the teams of physicists who first witnessed quantum jumps with their own eyes,
“You have to hold yourself steady and look for minutes at a time, and then you’ll see it switch. You see the trapped ion blinking on and off, and each blink is a quantum jump. It’s a striking illustration that things occur discontinuously in nature.”
While it’s true that in 1986 when the above observations were made, the quantum jumps being referred to were only those of quantum particles, there has been progress since then in terms of increasing numbers of physicists coming around to believe, as growing numbers of physicists including UC Berkeley University’s Raphael Bousso and Stanford University’s Leonard Susskind assert in their 2011 paper published in High Energy Physics,
“… the many worlds of quantum mechanics and the many worlds of the multiverse are the same thing, and that the multiverse is necessary to give exact operational meaning to probabilistic predictions from quantum mechanics.”
MYTH #2: The Multiverse is an Unprovable Theory, and therefore Not Scientific
Very recently a method was devised by which the idea that the multiverse could be tested, using mathematical models that show what we would expect to find in our universe if bubble universes collided. Being able to prove or disprove a theory is essential in order for a theory to be considered scientific, so it’s big news that we will soon know what to look for astronomically that matches what computer models will show us we’ll expect to see when bubble universes in the multiverse crash into one another. Perimeter Institute’s Matthew Johnson is creating a computer simulation of our universe, which he says, “is easy.” Thanks to computer simulations, it’s now possible to rule out certain models of the multiverse, so if we are living in a bubble universe, there is a chance we might be able to confirm this is actually so.
There is a concern that some people have that if many possible versions of you and many possible versions of me exist in the multiverse, then messing around with other possible realities is just looking for trouble, and we should keep to our own universe without engaging with others, thank you very much. I would not have even known about this concern, had it not been brought to my attention by an alert book reviewer at amazon, who voices a concern that my book, Quantum Jumps, is a how-to guide for cosmic identity theft. If you’re having trouble following what this reader is concerned about, they summarize the concern as, “If you are immoral enough to destroy another person’s life to benefit your own, then be aware that it could be YOUR life being screwed up by a version of yourself who is better at quantum jumping.” The best way to straighten out this misunderstanding is to return to physics papers written by UC Berkeley University’s Yasunori Nomura, and also by Raphael Bousso and Leonard Susskind. The key concept is that while growing numbers of eminent physicists are coming to agreement that it looks quite likely that the many worlds of quantum physics are one and the same as the multiverse, the way this comes into being is a matter of probabilities. Put more simply, when you make a jump to another reality, you are not messing up someone else’s life by giving them a worse state of affairs so much as you are experiencing a different path down the decision tree of your life, based on new information.
MYTH #4: You Might Get Trapped in an Alternate Universe
Fears of becoming trapped in some alternate universe without any way to return home are unfounded, based on all reports I’ve so far heard from people who have experienced remarkable shifts in reality. The idea of “home” in a multiverse that exists in probability space actually implies that we are physically experiencing one particular universe amongst multitudes of possible universes, much the same way that while you might imagine many possible travel routes to get from one place to another, you only physically experience one.
MYTH #5: If You Don’t See Instant Results, Quantum Jumps Don’t Work
Mastering quantum jumping abilities at a level of proficiency some people expect immediately creates unrealistic expectations. There are skills involved, some of which require a body of prior practice and experience. Just as you wouldn’t expect to be able to be an award-winning chef after taking cooking lessons for a month, or be able to play first violin with the London Symphony Orchestra after a few weeks of training. Mastering the art of quantum jumping requires developing skills in honing your internal energy, or Qi; clearing your energy body of blockages and fears; and moving into a state of being-doing-awareness that is very different than the typical left-brain thinking based on categories and labels that is so prevalent in the western way of thinking and living.
There is a saying I’ve often heard in martial arts classes that, “If you’re putting lots of muscle into a certain escape or technique, you’re doing it wrong.” While this may at first seem counter-intuitive, since one might assume that greater forcefulness is always good in self defense, ancient wisdom teaches that minimal effort is required when using proper technique. In fact, so little effort is needed when correctly applying technique, that sometimes it can feel to the person doing the technique that nothing is being done at all. Yet with remarkably little muscle power, by applying just the right force and momentum to the right place at the right time, a very small person can defend themselves against a much larger opponent.
I recently read a WeWork blog post that reminded me of the importance of doing less with more, Save Time and Do Less, that got me thinking about applying this concept in daily life. The basic concepts presented in this article suggest you can ask seven simple questions to help optimize various aspects of your life, which can help ensure that you aren’t inadvertently wasting time. These tips include such important concepts as remembering to: say “no,” delegate tasks, and eliminate non-essentials. These questions are an excellent start to ensuring you gain more time to do what you love most by doing less of what matters least. I love all these tips, and as a writer and author, I’d add making sure you have times when you aren’t jumping to immediately reply to every phone call, email, chat, text, facebook post and tweet.
In addition to these wonderful suggestions, I’ve found there exists a level beyond these basic tips available to me if and when I get into “The Zone” of meditative awareness. From such a state of awareness, I realize that who I think I am–the “Me” who is watching and observing the world–is also the awareness watching and observing my thoughts and feelings. From such a state of elevated awareness, I am more fully present in each moment, and thus much more genuinely responsive to doing and saying exactly the best thing at the right time.
Getting into “The Zone” with Meditation
Meditation is not as hard as you might think. Any time you enjoy the space between your thoughts, such as when gazing out off into the distance at leaves rustling in the breeze, or clouds floating by in the sky, you are in a meditative state of mind. Enjoying such moments brings tremendous value from accessing a kind of expanded awareness that members of the Seattle Seahawks recently utilized in winning the Super Bowl this year. Offensive tackle Russell Okung was quoted by ESPN as saying,
“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out there on the field for practice. It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them, and change them.”
The Seattle Seahawks were coached to include meditation each and every day, and as a result, found that they moved together much more cohesively, much more effortlessly, with responses to unpredictable developments in the game happening with an extraordinary level of coordination and finesse.
What Makes the Difference of Success and Failure in Your Life?
When you look back at past successes and failures, would you tend to attribute results more to physical events, or mental frame of mind? If you answered, “Mental,” you’re recognizing the importance of benefiting from staying on task without interference from intrusive distracting thoughts.
When I meditate, I experience a sense of moving in synchronization with what I’m doing and who I’m working with. There’s a possible explanation for this from quantum physics, which is called coherence. You can observe coherence in Nature when you see a flock of starlings or a school of fish changing direction simultaneously. There is a sense of shared consciousness happening, which may just be due to these animals getting into “The Zone” in a state of meditative awareness of being awareness–of being aware. This is a way of finding you are now doing exactly the right thing at the right time, saying the best possible thing to the most appropriate person, and feeling inspired to pursue those tasks and activities that most benefit you and others.
And best of all, it only takes a few minutes every day to get into “The Zone” and start experiencing the joys of synchronicity!
“There are only two ways to be quite unprejudiced and impartial. One is to be completely ignorant. The other is to be completely indifferent. Bias and prejudice are attitudes to be kept in hand, not attitudes to be avoided.” — Charles Curtis
The definition of prejudice in my dictionary is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” Preconceptions are our underlying assumptions; they act as the lenses by which we see the world that henceforth color all we see. Just as we seldom notice the unique and familiar smell of our own home unless we’ve been away for quite a while, we often have no idea what our unexamined biases and prejudices are, since we take them so for granted.
“We all decry prejudice, yet are all prejudiced.” — Herbert Spencer
The word ‘prejudice’ carries a heavy implication that some of our inner biases result in harm or injury due to unfounded dislikes and hostilities. While our underlying biases can help us make daily discernments in life, most of us know that preconceptions and prejudgments can be needlessly injurious to others. What may come as a surprise is that we seldom recognize ways our own unconscious stereotypes can boomerang back and harm ourselves.
Recent research shows that one of the best things you can do to positively improve both the length of your life and the life in your years has everything to do with your prejudices and stereotypes.
Improve Your Life by Becoming What You Think
When you think of old people, what are the first five words or phrases that come to mind? It turns out that your answer to this question could make a tremendous difference in your health and longevity in later years.
Recent research shows that our subconsciously adopted “age stereotypes” regarding our expectations of what will happen as we age makes a tremendous difference in how we actually do age. An increasing body of scientific research studies show that when seniors expect that growing older means they will become incapacitated, confused, useless, weak or devalued they are less likely to take preventive steps against such deterioration and they actually will suffer from mental and physical deterioration.
Intriguingly, when seniors believe positive stereotypes about aging, such as that older adults are wise, involved with life and satisfied, such individuals actually experience higher levels of physical and mental wellbeing. A medical research team at Yale University led by Becca Levy reported recently in !e Journal of the American Medical Association that seniors with positive biases toward aging are 44% more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability—better able to bathe, dress and walk than those with negative aging stereotypes. The research team propose that positive age stereotypes are so effective because they operate through several pathways: limiting cardiovascular responses to stress, improving physical balance, enhancing self-efficacy, and increasing peoples’ engagement in healthy behaviors.
Dr. Becca Levy is a pioneer in the field of age stereotypes and aging, and has helped us better appreciate the importance of maintaining a positive mindset around our elders, because their exposure—even subliminally—to negative age stereotypes and expectations can prove debilitating. Levy conducted many laboratory experiments with older people to observe peoples’ reactions to subliminal messages prior to attempting to complete various tasks. Levy noted that seniors who’d subliminally received negative words, such as “decrepit” had worse handwriting and slower walking speeds afterward, whereas those who saw positive words such as “wisdom” did much better.
Dr. Levy studied a database of 600 people who’d been tracked over a period of 23 years, from 1975 to 1998, to see how people’s age stereotypes influence their lives. Levy noted that participants with positive age stereotypes lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with negative stereotypes. “This longevity gap persisted even after variables of age, gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness and functional health were considered as covariates. Participants were asked at the beginning of the research to answer either “True” or “False” to questions such as, “Things keep getting worse as I get older,” or “as you get older, you get less useful.”
Dr. Levy asks us to be more mindful of the ‘little things’ that add to quite a lot when we interact with seniors. Everything from our tone of voice, attitude, and use of loaded phrases or expressions make a huge difference. Rather than parroting whatever negative stereotypes we might have accumulated, each of us has an opportunity to “think about how to reinforce the more positive aspects of aging,” as Dr. Levy suggests.
Ask yourself again, when you think of old people, what are the first five words or phrases that come to mind? Hopefully you’re now adopting some new, positive stereotypes about the elderly! Pay attention to seniors who demonstrate these positive qualities, and imagine how you and your loved ones can get better and better with each passing year.