The discovery of my gift after facing my personal wound, as life changing and liberating as it was, placed before me a new set of challenges. As time passed, I continued experiencing an increasing number of things that I could not rationally explain. This was particularly difficult for me because through high school and college I had excelled in the sciences. I worked in a research lab as an undergraduate on a project that would eventually be submitted for publication, landed a my first job post-college as a laboratory manager/research assistant at a prestigious medical school, and had it not been for my illness and drug addiction, may have had a promising career in science. As odd events and synchronicities befell me, none of my prior educational background or training had prepared me to understand or cope with what was happening to me. I was confronted with the possibility of a weakening grip on reality; yet, such a notion proved a difficult pill to swallow. Day by day, I was becoming more functional and effective than I had ever been before. I realized that to begin to understand a paradigm shift was needed.
A paradigm is a mental construct or system that serves as a lens; we perceive ourselves, other human beings, and the world through them. The development of our own personal paradigms is a function of the way we interact with our environment and the beliefs, habits, and values we acquire or are “programmed” with through our experiences. The people we interact with, subcultures and cultures we are a part of, and the societies we live in are also integral to our paradigms. Most people are so deeply embedded in their way of seeing things that when confronted with anything in conflict with that viewpoint a common reaction is complete rejection of the idea by labeling it as false (cue Gollum voice), malignant, or both. A paradigm shift typically occurs when, in a short span of time, the lens we see through is bombarded with so many assaults that we are left looking at the cracks and questioning if it was the most accurate way of viewing things to begin with. Then begins a question, answer, and exploration process where we finally face the inconsistencies that we had been previously ignorant to and our understanding of reality and truth starts to expand and shift.
As my old paradigm began to crumble due to the deviation of my experienced reality from the things that I have previously been taught and learned, I launched myself into seeking answers from places that I had not examined before. One by one, I began acquiring and studying spiritual and religious texts from different cultures and time periods. The Bhagavad Gita, The Holy Bible, Tao Te Ching, The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides, Buddhist Sutras, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead were among those on my list. Keeping the concept of paradigms in mind, I tried to read these texts with an open mind, heart, and with an unbiased opinion. My goal was to focus on concepts and themes instead of details and, as I did this, I began to notice something fascinating. It didn’t matter what I was reading, it became clear to me that everybody was saying pretty much the same damned thing only from different perspectives. Think of a group of people in a large dark room. There’s a dimly lit object at a distance and everyone is trying to make sense of what they are seeing by attempting to characterize and define the object but because they are all observing it from different vantage points no one can agree on what they are seeing! In reality, they all see different facets of the same thing but become entrenched in the details only seen from their particular point of view, thus creating restrictive paradigms.
At the same time that the hidden threads connecting various spiritual traditions revealed themselves to me I was also reading about quantum mechanics and physics. Without pretending to be well versed in such a complex and convoluted area of science, what I took from it was that the laws of the universe and “reality” aren’t quite as concrete as we would like to believe. I read about extraordinarily clever experiments in which scientists teased out the inconsistencies and paradoxes inherent in the universe around us and showed that reality is not easily reduced to the kind of black and white thinking that most of humanity is so comfortable with. For example, it has long since been established that a photon behaves as both a particle and a wave simultaneously yet the behavior and qualities of waves and particles are so vastly different that the idea of something acting as both at the same time is in itself a paradox. Another even more thought provoking experiment performed at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN demonstrated that certain subatomic particles behave differently depending on whether they were directly or indirectly observed. This opens up the floor for a HUGE question: to what degree does consciousness influence the nature of reality?
None of what I read, spiritual or scientific, divulged to me the secrets of the universe and I cannot say that I have yet attained self-realization, certainly not enlightenment. What I did learn; however, was that science and spirituality aren’t as incompatible as history would have us believe. The field of quantum physics is where the boundaries seemingly segregating those two areas begin to blur and overlap. The most illuminating part for me was identifying particular passages in texts thousands of years old (most notably The Bhagavad Gita) defining theories that are now mainstays in quantum theory. As my mind continued to open and the restrictive walls of my old paradigms began to topple, I found it easier to understand my own experience of reality in a much more loving, accepting, and inclusive way. As terrifying and disconcerting releasing the restrictively dualistic ways I had been taught to view the world initially was…I have come to realize that the less I believe I know for certain, the happier I am.