I have been reading the latest research about consciousness, which has prompted me to speculate about how this science relates to our practice as paqos. My question to you in this post is: How often and well are you practicing Andean techniques?
The bottom line is that without committed practice, you will make only temporary gains in personal power. You will not make lasting changes in your attainment of all the benefits the tradition offers: greater consciousness of the self and the self’s integral connection with the conscious universe; greater well-being and joy as a human being in the human world, greater coherence in your poq’po so that directed intention results in more effortless and effective ayni; more profound use of your human capacities from munay to rimay to atiy, and on and on.
I turn to the latest science of consciousness to persuade you that you can’t just dabble in this tradition—or any tradition—and expect to reap its most important rewards. Practice matters.
I already have written a few posts inspired by Dawson Church’s book Mind Into Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality. In this post, I want to talk about the science of using intention, what Church calls “mind.”
Let’s start with one of Church’s foundational points. He writes, “This is the everyday superpower that you possess: second by second, you are changing your brain by the way you use your mind. The consciousness of your mind is becoming the cells of the matter of your brain.”
Most conventional, materialist scientists tell us that mind arises as an epiphenomenon of the brain. For them, mind is little more than the complex firing of massively connected neurons and intricate arrays of biochemical cascades. Matter is “first cause.” They claim that the brain is the conductor of the orchestra of mind: It directs our sense of self and all of our perceptions, beliefs, desires, imaginative flights of fancy, actions, and so on. According to these scientists, we might not even have free will, since the impulse to act through the body involves signals that occur subconsciously milliseconds before we even have the thought or intention to act, such as to propel our arm outward to strike someone or reach out our hand to tenderly stroke a baby’s cheek.
Frontier scientists such as Church, and the researchers he refers to in his book, disagree with the conventional consensus about the brain-mind relationship. They tell us the opposite: Mind in a very real sense is the conductor of the material orchestra that is our brain. “With each thought you think, as you direct your attention, you’re signaling your brain to create new neural connections. Use this power deliberately, rather than allowing random thoughts to flow through your mind, and you start to consciously direct the formation of neural tissue. After a few weeks, your brain changes substantially. Keep it up for years, and you can build a brain that’s habituated to process signals of love, peace, and happiness.” Instead of matter to mind, the foundational flow is mind to matter. As Church explains, “What the mind does then determines which brain circuits are engaged. The neural pathways in the brain that the mind’s choices stimulate are the ones that grow. In this sense, the mind literally creates the brain.”
Of course, causality and correlation go both directions: from matter up to mind, and from mind down to matter. That’s what we as paqos call ayni. But as Church notes, you have to actually “direct” your mind/intention over time to effect change. Practice matters. You have to use your mind in a conscious way to build coherence, not let “monkey mind” keep you in a state of incoherent chaos. You have to direct (or at least consciously monitor) your intentions—not once, or just when you feel like it, or when you happen to be in ceremony, but continually throughout every day.
In the same way that habitual and conscious choices are necessary to restructure your brain, Andean mystical practices need to become habitual and conscious to help you accumulate personal power and be in more efficient and effective ayni (to able to consciously influence the kawsay pacha to manifest your desires, from greater well-being to a more satisfying job to a new car).
Your practice does not need to be arduous, but it does need to be sustained. Church writes, “The speed of the process [how the application of directed mind correlates to physical changes in the brain] caused an earthquake in the world of our scientific knowledge. When neurons in a neural bundle are stimulated repeatedly, the number of synaptic connections can double in just an hour.”
That speed of change is indeed astonishing. However, the caveat comes in the following fact: “Within three weeks of inactivity in an existing neural signaling pathway, the body starts to disassemble it in order to reuse those building blocks for active circuits.” The cliché “use it or lose it” is quite literal.
Church sounds a warning, as he offers this message to readers in the early pages of his book: “Most of us are using just a tiny fraction of our ability, not even realizing that our minds create matter. . . . You’re already turning thoughts into things. You’re doing it every day unconsciously. Now it’s time to do it systematically and deliberately.”
At the start of every Andean mysticism training I offer, I get on my soap box and tell students the same thing—sustained practice matters. I advise them to not make the training just another workshop—fun while you’re there and then off to the next workshop on a different energy modality or esoteric tradition. If you value the Andean tradition and you want to reap its benefits, then you have to commit to practicing its techniques often and consciously, using directed intent. You’ll be glad you did.