While researching what happens in the brain when we flow, I stumbled across the work of Erik Hoffman, a Danish academic who has spent much of his career researching what happens in our brain during different states of consciousness. Hoffman is no ordinary brain researcher. He reached the top of his field in the academic neuro-science world, with groundbreaking research into brain wave (neurofeedback) training. His research results have been published in scientific journals and presented at international brain conferences across the world.
Hoffman has also explored far reaches of spiritual and alternative methods of looking at the brain and our consciousness. He has studied altered states of consciousness in meditation, hypnosis and whilst on ayahuasca using EEG methods and real-time brainmapping. A PhD neuro-scientist who has has applied scientific knowledge to ancient pratcices- this is the kind of guy who I would listen to about the brain and consciousness. Someone who has looked at it from all sides, from the scientific to the alternative.
Hoffman wrote a book called New Brain New World: How the Evolution of a New Human Brain Can Transform Consciousness and Create a New World. Below is a brief blurb on Hoffman taken from his website:
"Based on 40 years of consciousness research in areas such as meditation, kundalini awakening, feeling release therapy, the drinking of ayahuasca and brain wave training, Erik Hoffmann has developed a model of future brain evolution and global consciousness transformation. He maintains that the global crisis facing us is basically a crisis of human consciousness. It is the human ego with its destructive thoughts and insatiable greed that stands in the way of a new and better world. We can only raise our consciousness beyond the ego and drop our selfish behaviour by developing a new mode of brain function."
Obviously this is a topic that goes far beyond flow states. We are talking about changing human consciousness to change the world. In my more philosophical moments I have often wondered about what would actually make a difference to all the problems we have in the world. Pick up a newspaper and you see the same familiar themes. People fight over stuff (religion, oil or land usually). Someone wins, someone loses, but actually everyone loses. People suffer. Repeat ad infinitum. The root problems don't go away, because the system remains the same.
I remember when the US elections were on there was such clamour over who would win, such hype and hope, as if people actually thought that if a certain person was elected to the most powerful office of the most powerful nation in the world, something important would happen. I know that significant changes (like medicare) were at stake, but in the grand scheme of things (the fate of our planet and species) it seemed petty and trivial.
Surely any change that occurs within a system can only change what is within that system. And if this system itself is broken, which surely any sane person can see, how can anyone become excited about who the face of the system is?
Surely any real, lasting change would have to occur at the level of individual human consciousness. It seems logical that if most of the 7 billion humans were to subtley shift the way they saw the world and their place in it, massive and sustainable change was possible.
So if we can accept that the problem our world faces is on the level of individual consciousness, the solution must also be at that level. Therefore, as the title of Hoffman's book makes clear, the equation is so simple: New Brain= New World.
Endeavouring to get more flow and awareness in our lives is actually about so much more than that. On one level it’s about neuro-science, brain waves, mindfulness and immersion in activities like surfing and snowboarding. It's about feeling amazing and doing things better. But that’s just the icing on the cake. The cake itself is about training ourselves to improve our brain functions, and by doing so, being part of the global solution.