Richard G. Petty, MD

Interconnection and Intent


“Science and religion tell us that we are energetically interdependent; that matter and energy are the same throughout the universe. Our spiritual interconnectedness and intuitive signals form, in effect, an energetic Internet.”         

–Caroline Myss (American Medical Intuitive, Mystic and Author, 1952-)     

“Invisible Acts of Power: Personal Choices That Create Miracles” (Caroline Myss)

The Power of Intention


“Ultimately, human intentionality is the most powerful evolutionary force on this planet.”

–George Leonard (American Aikidoist, President Emeritus of the Esalen Institute and Writer, 1923-2010) and Michael Murphy (American Cofounder of the Esalen Institute and Author, 1930-)   


“The Life We Are Given: A Long-term Program for Realizing the Potential of Body, Mind, Heart, and Soul” (George Leonard, Michael Murphy)

Exploring the Web of Life

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
–John Muir (Scottish-born American Naturalist, Writer, Founder of the Sierra Club, and “The Father of the National Park System,” 1838-1914)

One of the most significant discoveries during my lifetime has been the gradual understanding that at the most basic levels we are all inextricably interlinked. Long thought to be nothing more than an occasional curiosity concerning the behavior of elementary particles, there is more and more evidence that this interconnectedness is constantly present in our lives.

The work of people like the late David Bohm, Rupert Sheldrake, Dean Radin, Ervin Laszlo and many others has gradually begun to put these essential ideas on a much firmer footing. That’s not to say that every scientist in the world accepts these concepts: they certainly do not. But science grows by slow steps. Each observation adding to the one before, like grains of sand being heaped onto a giant ant heap. Sometimes things turn out to be wrong, and then it’s back to the drawing board. Or the ant heap gets re-arranged.

But rather than argue about the theory, I would like to suggest that you try an experiment. It is particularly effective if you are in a close relationship with another person.

If you are at work or away from the other person for some other reason, spend every free moment during the day thinking kind, loving thoughts about the other person. Feel a sense of gratitude that they are in your life. Do nothing else. Don’t specially call, email or IM them. Just do the thinking and feeling about them. And when next you see them, have a look at their initial reaction toward you. It’s extraordinary how often people find that when they next meet up, the person who’s been thought about in this way is particularly warm and loving.

I don’t recommend doing the converse, and thinking mean thoughts about someone and waiting for the fallout. But if the other person is tired, dispirited or distant when you meet, it’s a good idea to see if your thoughts about them may be factored into the equation.

Clearly there are a hundred things that will determine how people react toward each other. Is it a new relationship or a mature one? Are people tired or distracted by work or children? Has there been an argument, illness or trouble with relatives or neighbors? The list is almost endless.

But I would suggest that you try this experiment for yourself and see what you come up with. If you send them, I’ll publish any interesting observations, with the usual guarantee of anonymity.

And by the way, there are some rigorous scientific experiments being conducted right now to test this phenomenon.

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.”
— Frederick Buechner (American Presbyterian Minister and Writer, 1926-)

Miracles and Expectations

“I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are impossible.”
–William James (American Psychologist and Philosopher, 1842-1910)

There was a very interesting article published in the British Medical Journal in 1983. My old friend Peter Fenwick wrote a very interesting paper on prayer that cited this story.

Christian missionaries had gone to Ethiopia, but were required to leave by the Government in power at the time. They left behind some Gospels. When they returned some years later, they found not only a flourishing church, but also a community of believers amongst whom miracles like those mentioned in the New Testament happened every day. There had been no missionaries to teach them that such things were not supposed to be taken literally. They created miracles because they had never been told that they could not. There were no scientifically trained missionaries to tell them that miracles only occurred in the first century of the Church’s existence, or in special circumstances if a highly trained priest is present.

This sort of case – and there are many others – gets straight to the heart of the role of belief and expectation in our lives. Is there one fixed external reality, and we are no more than puppets dancing on cosmic strings? I’ve heard many people say that. Just recently the Editor of Psychology Today said that he felt that everything in human behavior could be reduced to genes, learning and reflexes. I must respectfully disagree. Free will is not an illusion, and our hopes and expectations have a massive impact on the structure of our lives and our reactions to the events that will come our way.

How many things are you failing to achieve because of fears or negative expectations?

Some people might describe the Ethiopians as unsophisticated. I would not: these good people can teach us something that many of us have forgotten.

Clean up and focus your expectations, ensure the purity of your intentions and see what happens in your life.

I’ve put just a few quotations below. I selected them for this reason: as you look at them, see how many are directly relevant to your life.

Do any of them give you ideas about managing your own life? If not, you may like to have a look at/listen to Healing, Meaning and Purpose or the articles and podcasts that I shall be posting this month.

“Men are probably nearer the central truth in their superstitions than in their science.”
–Henry David Thoreau (American Essayist and Philosopher, 1817-1862)

“Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in.”
–Willis Harman (American Scientist and Late President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences; 1920-1997)

“It is one of the most common of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.”
C.W. Leadbeater (English Clergyman and Theosophical Writer, 1854-1934)

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
–Arthur C. Clarke (English-born Writer, 1917-)

“Only if you reach the boundary will the boundary recede before you. And if you don’t, if you confine your efforts, the boundary will shrink to accommodate itself to your efforts. And you can only expand your capacities by working to the very limit.”
–Hugh Nibley (American Scholar in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-2005)

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you 
came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
–James Baldwin (African-American Writer, 1924-1987)

“Give yourself the freedom to explore the possibility of life without limits. Goals are dreams with deadlines, a means to an end but not the ultimate purpose of life.”
–Glynis Nunn (Australian Heptathlete, 1960-)

“Imposing limitations on yourself is cowardly because it protects you from having to try, and perhaps failing.”
–Vladimir Zworykin (Russian-born American Physicist and, in 1923, the inventor of the “Iconoscope:” the first television camera, 1889-1982)

“Divine wisdom is inexhaustible; the limitation is only in the receptive faculty of the form.”
–Henricus Madathanus (German Philosopher, Alchemist and Co-Founder of the Fraternity Rosae Crucis, 1575-1639)

The Biofield

The biofield is a word about which you are going to hear a great deal in the years to come. It is a term that we use for the organizing Informational Matrix, which is the underlying field of life itself. If you are not functioning at your best, or if you’re ill, this means your Informational Matrix or as the ancients called it, your Inner Light is being hidden and not expressing itself. We decided upon this new term several years ago because it best explained our observations. The Matrix underlies the energy fields of the body, which themselves support molecular and biological processes. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about this issue in Healing, Meaning and Purpose.

Information is a form of energy. But when we use the term “energy,” I must issue a word of caution. The term itself is fuzzy, conveying multiple meanings, with many people discussing “energies” and “vibrations” with little clarity. There is a potent reason why this matters: When healers only visualize energy flowing from them into a receiver, like water flowing from a pipe, they are limiting what they can do to help. When we use self-healing, it is essential to use the bigger idea of the Informational Matrix to help us focus our mind and our attention. Yes, there is a flow of “energy:” I can see and feel it, as can thousands of other people. I can train most people to sense it within an hour, and it can probably be photographed. But the energy flow is secondary to a correction in the Informational Matrix.

For centuries, most of the traditional forms of healing have relied upon the notion that there is a “Vital Energy,” an “Essence,” a “Life Force,” forming the basis for a person’s health and healing. Many scientists around the world are now re-investigating this life force, now re-labeled the biofield, or, as we prefer it, the Informational Matrix. A recent paper in a prestigious journal has advocated the importance of integrating “energetic” therapies into cancer care. Here are just seven recent and very interesting papers on this incredibly important subject: 1. 2.3. 4.5. 6.7.

“The cause is hidden, but the result is known.”

–Ovid (Roman Poet, 43 B.C.E.-c.A.D.18)

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Meditation and the Brain

In the last few years, there have been a number of studies of the brain in people who are practicing different forms of meditation. Andy Newberg at the University of Pennsylvania has looked at cerebral blood flow of meditators, and there has been a long-standing collaboration between Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin and the Dalai Lama, who has provided the University with a steady flow of experienced meditators for an array of different types of electrical measurements of their brains. One of the most consistent findings in experienced meditators is that some of these electrical rhythms become synchronized. This was first reported over 20 years ago, but some of those early experiments had some technical problems associated with them. But the new findings seem to be very robust. Meditators also produce an unusual type of high frequency electrical activity known as gamma waves, that oscillate at 40 cycles per second.
This work has some important implications:

1. There are many types of meditation: many are a form of intense concentration, others are a witnessing or watching of thoughts, yet others are a form of profound devotion. So it is no surprise that different forms will produce different effects in the brain.

2. The fact that the brain can be trained to produce certain types of electrical activity is in line with multiple lines of evidence demonstrating that the brain is not the static structure that we used to think it to be: it can learn and develop. We already knew that with motor functions and some cognitive abilities, but now we can extend those findings into the emotions: feelings of love and empathy can be developed, expanded and deepened. The old metaphor that the brain can be exercised like a muscle may not be a metaphor after all, but a biological fact.

3. The fact that there are neurological correlates of meditation or of any emotional or psychological state does not mean that we can reduce the experience to the firing of some neurons or the synchronization of regions of the brain. Some of this research has been misinterpreted to mean that meditative states or mystical insights are no more than the calming of neural activity. It is vital that we also acknowledge the subjective experiences and reports of individuals and recognize that they are as valid descriptors as changes in the brain.

4. Meditation has been shown to have a great many physiological and psychological effects, from lowering blood pressure, to improving the performance of sleep-deprived individuals, reducing age-related cortical thinning and ultimately leading to demonstrable psychological and spiritual development. So the neurological and psychological findings provide a partial explanation for those observations.

The fact that some researchers are cooperating with the Dalai Lama has not sat well with some critics, but I think that it is important for us to remember that we are living in a time when it is essential for us to synthesize different approaches and to find common ground. So I applaud these studies and will continue to report them.

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Healing and Spirituality

For thousands of years, spiritual teachers and healers were one and the same. The first hospitals in Europe were founded by religious orders. There was always a rather interesting split: folk healers were primarily, though not exclusively female, while the hospitals were male dominated. One of the fruits of the Enlightenment was the separation of healing from faith. The separation of body and spirit was pursued vigorously by medical science as it advanced. Indeed, many in the medical establishment echoed Freud in comparing religion to a neurosis. A well-known figure in British medicine has made no bones about his opposition to the involvement of spirituality in medicine, which he says is the proper business of the church, and has nothing to do with science.

Over the last two decades, things have been changing. A number of physicians and scientists have recognized the importance of re-introducing a spiritual perspective into medicine. But do they have any right to do so? The answer is a definite “Yes”! There has been a gradual build up of scientific evidence that prayer and faith can protect health. A second area of investigation is whether religious or spiritual practice, in particularly intercessory prayer, can affect the health of those being prayed for?

First is the clear observation that faith and prayer can support physical and emotional well-being as well as the health of relationships. One school of thought is that this is all the consequence of an internal healing mechanism. Over 30 years ago Herbert Benson at Harvard first described the “Relaxation response,” a simple method of using techniques derived from Transcendental Meditation for changing a person’s emotional response to stress. He then demonstrated that prayer could also elicit a relaxation response.

In recent years, there has been a global effort to research the connections between faith and health, and I have been particularly impressed by the body of work being generated by the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University, that has provided incontrovertible evidence that religious people live longer, healthier lives. This seems to be more than just the stress-reducing impact of prayer and meditation.

We also have evidence that thankfulness and an attitude of gratitude may have a lasting impact on your mood and state of health and well-being.

Second is intercessory prayer. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the psychiatrist Daniel Benor. Like most people trained in Western medicine, he was very skeptical about spiritual healing until he saw a tough case that failed to respond to conventional medicine but was cured by a spiritual healer. He then started to study spiritual healing and has written the standard textbook on the subject, which runs to FOUR volumes. He once told me that the evidence for spiritual healing is stronger than the evidence for almost any other field of unorthodox medicine and stronger than the evidence for quite a number of practices in orthodox medicine!

The moral of the story? Do not neglect your own spirituality or the spirituality of those around you, and remember that empirical scientific research is showing us yet again, that the power of worship and prayer are far from being neuroses or primitive superstitions.

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The New Frontier in Brain Control

In the 1970s, many of us in the scientific and medical fields started becoming very interested in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, in which we used monitoring devices to measure certain biological processes, like skin temperature an blood pressure, so that we could then teach people to gain some voluntary control over previously involuntary functions. I remember being particularly impressed that some people seemed to be able to gain some measure of control over epileptic seizures. Much of this interest grew out of some extraordinary experiments conducted at the Menninger Clinic in 1969, when it was still in Topeka, Kansas. An Indian Yogi named Swami Rama was shown to be able to voluntarily stop his heart for between 16.2 and 20.1 seconds, and subsequently others were shown to be able to control temperature, pain and bleeding.
In 1981, I had the privilege of setting up the first biofeedback system in the Department of Neurology at Charing Cross Hospital in London. I was quite astonished when a teenager working on the staff was, in less than 30 minutes, able to learn to increases the temperature of one hand more than three degrees Celsius (5 over in degrees Fahrenheit), compared with her other hand. We tried to use biofeedback in painful conditions and migraine, with some benefit. During the intervening years, there has been continuing interest in the whole field, but we have not seen any real reproducible breakthroughs.
But now, with the advent of new technology, things may be changing. There is an interesting report on the use of functional MRI scanning and chronic pain that was highlighted on the Nightly News with Brian Williams.
The report refers to work being done on chronic pain at Stanford University. When a person with chronic pain imagines the pain to be as bad as bad can be, specific regions of the brain become activated. Then by using an array of relaxation techniques, including breathing, muscle relaxation and thinking pleasant thoughts, the person can watch the over-activity of the brain gradually calm down as their pain lessens.

This is important work for several reasons:

It may well help people with chronic pain to use non-pharmacological approaches to the control of their pain, even if they do not have access to fancy high-tech scanners.
The work is pushing the frontier of what is possible in terms of controlling one’s own body.
It is an amazing confirmation of the teachings of many schools of teaching about health, from yoga and qigong, to Science of Mind.
It raises very interesting questions about who or what is actually controlling the pain: it gets us straight back to the whole question of where is the mind and is it the same as the brain. (The answer to that is NO: a subject for many more entries)
It is important not to lose sight of the fact that pain is often a lot more than aberrant firing of neurons or an imbalance in the some of the serotonin and norepinephrine systems of the brain. It can be brought on or exacerbated by psychological and social factors, and I have seen many people in extreme spiritual crisis, who then began to develop pain in various part of their bodies, yet had no overt signs of depression or of any other psychological or psychiatric problem.
Chronic pain often develops into a “habit,” or what I term a “pain cycle.” This may have both a physical substrate (abnormal firing in circuits in the thalamus of the brain), and a strong psychological component (pain becoming “learned”). Interrupting a pain cycle for even a few hours can often have long-term effects.
There may also be other non-pharmacological approaches that can help an individual. When dealing with chronic pain, it is also important to sort out the effects of medications. However appropriately used, some may have long term effects on the body/mind complex.

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Sense of Purpose

George Bernard Shaw, the famous Nobel Prize-winning Irish Playwright, once said:

"Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself."

Purpose is found throughout Nature.  DNA manifests its purpose when it provides the information to initiate protein synthesis that might ultimately lead to life becoming organized and perpetuating itself.  We manifest purposes when we eat, have children, create art, or establish societies.  But Until we understand that purpose-driven Universal laws are still emerging and until we consciously align with them, our sense of purpose remains personal and we are unlikely to have found a Higher Purpose, or Destiny.

Purpose gives us direction, clarity and power.  Real power healing happens when we are coherent and organized.  Purpose is such an organizing force.  Purpose is not static.  Instead it is a dynamic process that re-emerges every few years as we grow and develop and again during major life transitions.

There is evidence that a sense of purpose is hardwired in the brain.  A complete absence of purpose can be a powerful cause of depression.  Some of us have a strong innate sense of purpose. For others it comes as a result of a life event. Once we have found our purpose, we must take action on it.

What is your purpose?

What are you doing to fulfill your purpose?

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