Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Lynne McTaggart. Lynne is an award-winning journalist, author of The Field; The Intention Experiment, and an new book called The Bond. The hallmark of her work is exhaustive research that produces science-based discoveries in the worlds of spirituality, health, and culture. With Sounds True, Lynne has created several audio programs, including Living the Field: Tapping into the Secret Force of the Universe; Living with Intention: The Science of Using Thoughts to Change Your Life; and The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Lynne and I spoke about the science behind cooperation versus competition, and new findings that support that we’re actually biology wired to be supportive of each other. We also talked about her work with intention experiments, and how to increase the effectiveness of our intention as well as the limits of intention. And finally, we talked about the most important ways we can align ourselves with the interconnectedness of life in order to shift our culture toward the collective good. Here’s my conversation with Lynne McTaggart.
Lynne, in your work on The Field, you quote the writer Joan Didion, and you quote her saying, “Of all the stories we tell, it is the scientific ones that most define us.” And I found this [both] very curious and also a statement that underlies so much of your work—that you’ve gone after, as an investigative journalist, these scientific stories that we’re telling ourselves and have tried to update them and make them as accurate as possible. And I wonder, here at the beginning of our conversation, if you can talk a little bit about that as your focus as a journalist, this focus on, what are the scientific stories we’re telling ourselves?
Lynne McTaggart: Well, I was really interested in this because of my past as a journalist. I’m very fact-based, and it’s really how I came into this conversation. I edit a newsletter and now a magazine called What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I have been reading medical literature every week for 22 years. And somewhere along the way, around the early 90s, I kept coming across studies of spiritual healing and homeopathy, things like that, demonstrating—and these were good, randomized, double-blind scientific trials—that this stuff works.
And so that really beggared a basic thought, to me, which was if you can send a thought to someone else and make them better, which is what you do with spiritual healing, then that alone undermines everything we think about how the world works, how we work. And so that got me thinking about, what is real? What is life? What is the story we’ve been told and how is that not adequate anymore?
So I started talking to many frontier scientists in many disciplines, particularly physics. And I discovered quickly that each of them were uncovering a little piece of what added up to a completely new view of the world, a completely new view of who we are, too. And so I started thinking about the role of science, too. And we do tell ourselves stories in order to live, because they create meaning and they create the idea of how we should live our lives, what kinds of structures we should create.
And our current scientific structure—and our current scientific story and the structures we’ve created from it—is all about, essentially, “I win, you lose;” the idea that we’re all individual things, separate from each other, all operating this very well-behaved universe, which is what Isaac Newton told us. And also, there’s a scarcity model out there that there’s not enough to go around, so all of us have to compete with each other, which is the model that Darwin gave us.
So between these two things—the idea of individualism and a competitive mindset that life is a race to the finish line—that becomes the prevailing paradigm by which we create all of the structures that we make in order to create our society, from education to business to neighborhoods to even relationships. All of these now are based on competitive individualism, and that is not square with the scientific story that is unfolding now.
TS: Well, can you help us understand that? Because I think people do have this idea that survival of the fittest is the scientific story of our time, right? It’s not?
LM: Well, no, not—I mean, this is really what my focus [is] in my latest book The Bond. I wanted to answer the simple question: were we made to be so competitive? That was really what was intriguing me. And so aside from physics, I looked at biology and psychology and anthropology and all the “-ologies.” I wanted to see what all of these different sciences said about how we were programmed, [and] whether we were programmed to compete or something else.
And I discovered something very basic, which is nature hasn’t designed us to dominate and compete. Nature has designed us with a will to connect. And we have that will in every area of our lives, from our sub-atomic particles to the way we interact with each other. There is what I call a bond, and by “bond” I mean a connection so integral and profound that it’s impossible to say where one thing ends and another thing begins.
TS: Well, then how is it that this idea of survival of the fittest—and, you know, I’ll admit right here in the beginning, I’m not the most educated person when it comes to scientific paradigms, but here I am, part of a culture believing that this is the basic claim of evolution.
LM: Right. And everyone does. But remember, we all have to understand that science, like every other story, is simply a story. And we make discoveries and we think that they are the discoveries that are going to last for all time. But, you know, they’re just a chapter that’s written in their time. As time goes on, new chapters are written that re-write those older ones.
So in the case of Darwin, Darwin was very much a person of his time. At that time, there was a lot of concern about population explosion and the idea that there just isn’t enough to go around. And so he was profoundly influenced by those ideas of the time, and so he started thinking that life must evolve through struggle. If there isn’t enough to go around, it must be a race to the finish line. It must be all about survival of the fittest.
And although he himself never actually coined that term—that was a friend of his who was spreading around his material, in a sense, like propaganda—it’s really impossible to overestimate Darwin’s effect on the world. Because he published his material on his ideas just at the time that mass printing came to be.
And so his ideas swept the globe and they became a justifying principle for so many burgeoning movements—industrialized capitalism, colonial domination. They justified the whitening of certain stock. They justified that one race was superior to another. They’ve justified sociopathic behavior—you know, Hitler loved Darwin. They’ve justified modern-day banking principles. And they’ve even justified murder. I think some of the psychopaths who have gone into schools and killed other students are part of burgeoning websites that are survival of the fittest websites, that talk about the fact that you have to exterminate the less-fit. The Columbine killings, the two boys who went in there and murdered all their classmates, one of them was wearing a t-shirt that said, “natural selection.”
So these ideas have really permeated our culture, but as I say, I asked the basic question: Was it meant to be like this? And the overwhelming answer is no. Many people are now recognizing—in cutting-edge biology as well as the different sciences—that Darwin was [essentially] wrong.
TS: Can you tell me what these new scientific discoveries are that show that he was wrong? What’s the research behind that?
LM: Well, I mean, in every area they demonstrate that we were actually—nature has designed us to cooperate. Nature has designed us—it’s hasn’t designed our most dominant genes to dominate the environment. Our genes and the environment have a symbiotic process. We have always believed, since the discovery of DNA [up until now], that we’re invented from [the] inside out, from our DNA, which writes the code that creates our cells and our tissues and our organs and so forth.
But new discoveries have recognized that a little quartet of atoms that sit above every gene determine whether or not those gene get expressed or not—whether they’re turned on or off. And those little quartets of atoms are exquisitely sensitive to everything outside of our bodies: the air we breathe, the food we eat, the friends we have—you know, the sum total of how we live our lives. All of this determines whether those genes will be turned on or off.
And so in a sense, we’re not driven by survival of the fittest. We’re driven by a bond between our cells and everything outside of ourselves. We are the sum total of that bond with our environment throughout our lives. That creates the thing that we call “uniquely me.”
Now, that’s just the biological perspective. But if you look at how we’re created to connect with other people—you know, we’re told that the natural state of man is selfishness, and that we do best for society by looking after number one. But the science shows us that in every way, we were made to connect.
We need connection with other people. We need belonging with other people. That is probably the greatest human need we have, even more than eating. We need to belong. And suicides kill themselves from what psychologists call “excessive individuation.” They feel left out, even though our culture reveres the sort of long wolf heroes—you know, the Gary Cooper, he’s got his fist up against the establishment, or the Nicolas Cage or the Harrison Ford. The guy who’s fighting the masses by himself.
Actually, that kind of person is the perfect candidate for a heart attack because that kind of person is excessively individuated. And they’ve found that people who get heart attacks, only half of them have the usual side effects, the usual risk factors like clogged arteries. The other half are simply lonely. They just don’t have enough connection. So connection protects us against not only heart attacks, but even the common cold. It protects us against hard times.
People show that they’re not stressed so long as they have two things—even if they have real challenges financially. There’s a study of Americans like this. The lowest income levels were not stressed so long as they had a good spiritual connection—a strong spiritual connection, but more importantly, a strong spiritual community.
So community is just the number one need that we have. We also have a need to agree with each other. We find each other emotionally contagious. We have a need to give, as basic as eating or having sex. And we have an automatic need to be fair and to make sure other people are fair back. There’s a thing in our brains that goes off when we’re given too much or given too little, or if someone else is given too much or given too little. That’s why we’re all so angry about the banking community, because all of us have, in our brains, a thing that’s screaming, “It’s not fair.”
TS: Now, one question here. You mentioned the need to agree, and here I am, I’m going to disagree with you for a moment, just partially to question this need to agree. I’m in meetings all the time in my workplace, and people are always disagreeing. It seems like people almost have a need to disagree.
LM: OK. Well, we have to separate out what’s biological and what’s cultural. We have been programmed from the time we’ve been young to be individuated, particularly us in the West. You know, we’ve been taught from a very [young] age—think of our first books. They were Fun with Dick and Jane, if you’re my age. And in those books, we were taught to revere the comings and goings of individuals—you know, “See Dick run.”
But other cultures, like the Japanese, aren’t taught the same way. They’re taught with primers that go something like this: “Big Brother is sitting with Little Brother. Little Brother loves Big Brother. Big Brother looks after Little Brother.” And that’s what they’re taught from the very beginning. They’re not taught about individualism, they’re taught about relationship as being the unit of the world, not individualism.
So for us, we’re taught from a very young age, “What do you want? The red pen or the blue pen? Do you want to watch Barney or Sesame Street?” And so we’re taught that the important thing to be is right. The important thing to [do] is prevail and to get your point across rather than to connect.
But if you actually look at our biology, it’s very different from that. Our biology is wanting to connect automatically. Now, you may be wanting to disagree with me over this phone call, but if there was a camera trained on you, just as it was trained on me, if there were cameras on both of us, you would find that you’d be nodding involuntarily, nodding and blinking in perfect time to my voice. And so you would be connecting with me whether you knew it or not.
Plus the fact that we now know that we find other emotions contagious. Whether or not we agree with them, we find them contagious. There was a woman called Sigal Barsade who was in her office one day, and she couldn’t figure out what had changed. It was such a grumpy office and no one spent the time of day with anybody else. And she wondered how come people all of a sudden were meeting at the Coke machine, were talking among themselves, were saying, “Hi, how are you?” You know, the whole atmosphere had changed.
She couldn’t put her finger on it until it suddenly occurred to her that a grumpy co-worker of hers was on vacation. And with that person out of the way, the whole mood had lifted. And it stayed that way for an entire week until that person came back, and then the mood descended again and became testy and sullen.
So that kind of mood contagion occurs all through our lives. They found in studies of business meetings that when somebody is in good mood, it can affect the rest of the office and everybody else will be in a better mood and make better decisions. And the reverse happens too: if somebody’s in a bad mood, they can affect other people and people make bad decisions as a result.
This kind of mood conduction that we have all the time, this emotional contagion, doesn’t just happen between individuals. It happens down a social network. Scientists from Harvard have found that if you’re happy, you’re automatically more likely to have happy friends. Not because you self-select optimists to be with, but because of the natural spread of happiness down a social network.
And the reverse can happen too; it doesn’t have to just be positive emotions. If you’re lonely, you’re more likely to have lonely friends. If you overeat, you’re more likely to have overeating friends. There was even a study of someone where they put a person in a restaurant and they had him mindlessly overeat, and before long, all the people around him in the restaurant were doing the same. They were mindlessly overeating too.
So when I say “agree,” I don’t mean literally agree with people’s arguments. But that involuntarily, we’re always seeking that bond. We’re always seeking to connect by agreeing, by imitating, by catching each other’s moods.
TS: Well, I’m definitely nodding and I’m hoping I’m going to catch some of your brilliance and intelligence as a result of this conversation. And one of the things I just want to circle back and really see if I understand, because it seems so important: it seems that [what] you’re saying here is that here, during a certain period of history and certain cultural context, Darwin offered this theory of survival of the fittest, and then so much of what we now see in our culture that’s so painful and terrible in terms of the way we treat each other is a result of that discovery that now needs to be radically updated and the result of that radical update could be, over time, a different kind of culture?
LM: Absolutely. In fact, I was arguing for a different kind of culture, because what I was really saying in my book The Bond, I was trying to figure out essentially why we’re in the mess we’re in right now. Because we all sense that things are collapsing around us, our world is going down. We hear from every corner every day, “it’s the end of capitalism as we know it, it’s the end our ability to access foreign oil, it’s the end of food because it’s the end of oil, and now that it’s 2012, it could even be the beginning of the end of the world.”
So I wanted to find out, OK, why is all of this collapsing? And what I concluded after looking at all of this science is that this is the end of something alright, but it’s the end of a false sense of who we are. Because we have been operating according to one mindset, one story, and it’s time to rewrite that story. It’s time to provide a new version.
And the new version that’s coming to the fore with all of the scientific discoveries that have been made in all of these areas creates a very different story of who we are, and essentially comes down to: when we connect, when we bond with other people, we’re strong. When we don’t, when we compete the way we are now, we’re weak. And that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in, because this is end point of what selfish looks like.
This is what selfish looks like. It looks like the collapse of everything, from our political system, to our economic system, to our neighborhoods, to our relationships. It’s all falling down. And that’s because we’re operating according to the wrong mindset. But if we were to embrace our real birthright, who we really are, we could create a much more bonded and connected culture and in that, the way we were meant to be, the way nature designed us, we will thrive.
TS: But now, what about something like human greed? I mean, it seems like that’s something that’s so deep inside people. It’s not from some scientific paradigm they’ve heard about, it’s just this thing of—you know, I want that, I want that, I want that for me. It almost seems like greed is like an inner drive or instinct. Do you not see it that way?
LM: OK. Well, we have to look back at other cultures to try to find out whether this is true in every regard. There are bad people, you know, in every culture. There are people who want more. But it’s not so regular in other societies that are much more connected. If you look at indigenous societies, they value the connection more than anything else.
We have to go back to, what’s greed all about? And greed is all about thinking you need more. Where is “more” coming from? “More” is coming from a mindset of feeling, “I don’t have enough.” And so that is coming out of, in most cases, cultures where there has been a sense of domination and repression, and domination by the few, and a situation where people have been, in some way, pushed aside and not connected.
Now, I feel that, yes, as you say, bad things didn’t just start with Darwin. But I think he created a kind of defining mindset that made it OK to do what we’re doing. He justified the idea that we do best for society by looking after number one. I mean, even if you look at the 20th century in America—because I don’t live in the States, and I haven’t for 30 years. I’ve kept wondering why every time I go back—and I go back every year—why is it a lot worse than when I left?
And I started trying to figure that out. And I looked at what it used to be like prior to 1980 and what happened among the so-called ruling elite. You know, the heads of corporations, the heads of education, and the government. And there were several things that were much more prevalent back then.
One was the abiding notion of the common good. That even if there was a law out there that wasn’t really Republican and you were a Republican, you would vote for it because it was for the common good; it was, on its face, a good thing to do. That’s what happened during the civil rights—you know, the passage of all the civil rights legislation in the 60s. Everybody voted for it, both sides of the bench, because they just felt that it was a good thing to do.
And there was this sense among business leaders, too. I’m not saying they were lily white, but they were nothing like they are today, because there was a sense that you had to look after the common good. And so they had a bit more responsibility not to just take 400 times the salary of their employees, but to look after their employees. So there was much more of that communal sense, even in America, even in the post-McCarthy, post-’50s America. There was a sense of the common good.
It had its negative aspects—McCarthyism being a giant example of it—but there was far more of that sense of, “We’re all in this together” then there is now. Now it is “every man for himself.” That is the mindset. So it’s become this extreme situation. So I’m saying that much of this kind of mindset has been taken to a very extreme degree now. And that does stem from the justification we have felt is science, because science has told us we’re programmed to be selfish, so it’s OK. A lot of this behavior is very parallel to the rise of the ideas of the selfish gene and all of that.
TS: Now, one of the things that’s interesting to me in your new work on The Bond, is that you actually begin the book by talking about how we can’t even find such a thing as a thing. We can’t even find anything that’s a separate thing in science that exists all on its own, which, of course, underscores this focus on individualism. Is there even such a thing as an individual, separate from other people, separate from the whole system? And I wonder if you can talk a little bit about the scientific discoveries that show us that there is not even such a thing as an individual.
LM: Well, this is [also] what really started me on this thinking about the idea of the bond as being the unit of the universe. Because scientists like to take apart the universe like a big old radio and investigate its individual pieces. And they figure if they can find the smallest pieces of the universe, then they can define the big pieces. That’s how they think.
So they’ve been looking and looking and looking for the smallest piece of the universe, And as you know, at a certain point all of us in high school were taught with little billiard balls [about] an atom and all the surrounding things inside an atom. At first they thought the smallest thing was an atom, and then they found the subatomic particles inside of it. And then they found even smaller things like quarks, and then the more they look, the more they find more particles. You know, they find muons and tau neutrinos, and now the latest, the Higgs-Boson. They think they’ve found it.
But the more they look, the more they find. And the reason for that is that it’s pretty evident that there is no one thing that’s the smallest thing out of which everything else derives. Because when you look at a subatomic particle, it’s not a billiard ball as we’re taught in physics classes. It’s more like a vibrating packet of energy, trading energy back and forth with other subatomic particles and with a background quantum field. And what happens is—it’s like a little endless game of tennis. So every subatomic particle is like a shape-shifter. It’s sending information back and forth, and changing as it does so with other subatomic particles.
And so realistically, you can’t really say that the subatomic particle is a thing. It is—and the unit of the universe, essentially—is a relationship. It’s a relationship with all of those other subatomic particles. And so that is the unit of our universe: a relationship. And that gets mimicked as you scale up in biology and the other sciences. You see this integral connection in everything. You see it between us and our environment biologically. You see it in the way we understand other people.
They’ve now found a thing called “mirror neurons,” and they demonstrate that when we see another person performing an action or having an emotion, the very same neurons in our brains fire as if we were having the emotion, we were performing the action. And so what this means is nature has designed us to understand other people by temporarily merging with them, by actually getting inside their heads and feeling as they feel.
So this is kind of interesting when you think about it. It starts getting a little messy, because you realize that your thoughts, which we’ve always thought are so individual, so locked inside our heads, aren’t that at all. They’re a complex mix of our own thoughts and everybody else we’re witnessing at any moment. And you don’t even have to witness, you can listen. If I had a big emotion now, your neurons would fire in your head, the very same neurons if you were having that emotion. That’s how you’re understanding me.
So it really asks the question: Where do I end and the rest of the universe begin? And I say that there is no answer to that. We are who we are only because of our bond with everything around us.
TS: As you’re talking—this individualism is in fact a complete mythos. That’s really way you’re saying. There’s no such thing.
LM: No, there’s no such thing as me, an individual, a wholly enclosed being that ends with the hair on my skin, at which point the rest of the universe begins. I am a messy and complex interaction with everything else around me. I am part of what I’d like to call an “intergalactic super-organism.”
TS: Oh, I love that! Just say that again. An intergalactic super-organism.
LM: [Laughs] I am part of an intergalactic super-organism. And the reason I say that, Tami, is because [of] one thing I didn’t mention. We always think of our actions as being wholly individual. That’s another example of us as individuals. We are masters of our own fate. We used to think that, but now scientists have come across information showing that solar activity—that means, think of the sun as being a big ball of gasses crossed with a lot of unstable magnetic fields. So every so often it hurls some gaseous stuff toward Earth, and that gets picked up by the solar wind and bounced off a thing called the geomagnetic shield, which is a donut-shaped energy field surrounding the Earth.
All of that activity, that solar activity—solar flares and all that sort of stuff—has a profound effect on living things. This is not any kind of question in science. This is absolute orthodoxy. We all know this, that when there’s a lot of solar activity, it really affects all living things, particularly humans. Our blood gets thicker, we have more heart attacks, we have more psychiatric admissions, we have more epileptic fits. We get energetically destabilized, essentially.
But they’ve now realized that it also affects our behavior. Now, the sun, even though it has all this anarchic activity, it operates according to a very predictable timetable of 11 years of waxing and waning activity. And so scientists have starting looking at things like stock market activity and overlapping over the same time periods. And guess what? They find it tracks perfectly with the waxing and waning of the solar activity. It’s also the waxing and waning of stock market investing and bearish and bullish activity. And of course, this is just a reflection of human activity, because when we’re confident, we buy; when we’re nervous, we sell. That seems to track with [the] waxing and waning of solar activity.
They’ve looks at terrorist activity and overlapped that. And guess what? It also tracks perfectly with solar activity. Even the solicitation efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses—and I know this well because I have a husband who’s a darling guy who hates to say no to anybody, and when some sweet old ladies knocked at our door a few years ago, he saw one was limping. And because we do work on what doctors don’t tell you, he said, “I think I can help you with your arthritis.” So she was convinced that we were only a few leaflets from away from conversion, so she shows up every month with more leaflets to see if we’re going to come to the church.
Now, scientists got a hold of tens of thousands of records of these kinds of solicitation efforts, which are necessary. They’re requirements if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness. And they looked at them compare to solar activity, and guess what? It tracked perfectly.
So this is why I say that we are affected by a star all those millions of miles away. We’re affected by other planetary activity. It’s geomagnetic activity, not astrology, but geomagnetic activity. This is being demonstrated over and over again. So what this means is that our behavior may not be exclusively individual, but may be affected by this star so many miles away. And other planets. And so this is why I say we are part of a larger intergalactic super-organism.
TS: Now, you’re saying this is geomagnetic activity, not astrology. But while you were talking about solar activity and how we’re affected by other planets, it made me think, are you offering some type of endorsement here that consulting my astrological chart before I make a big business decision might actually be a good idea?
LM: [Laughs] I guess I’m saying—I always try to stay conservatively with the science. I mean, there are some interesting studies demonstrating some connection with classical astrological ideas that have their counterpart in planetary activity. But what I do know is the great amount of data showing this connection with solar activity, and so I would say don’t look at your astrological chart, look at what the sun’s doing before making a big decision. Find out how much activity—are there solar flares, or is the sun quiet?
TS: Now, this lack of there being an individual separate from the intergalactic super-organism that we’re a part of, what does this tell us about healing? When we started our conversation, you said that was one of your biggest interests, to understand the examples of spiritual healing that seemed clearly to be happening, [and that] there was proof that these, what we might call healing anomalies, strange miraculous healings, were occurring. What does this big view of our interconnection tell us about spiritual healing?
LM: Well, I suppose the work on my last three books—The Field, The Intention Experiment, my work in Living the Field, and now The Bond—it kind of boils down to trying to understand, much more, us in relation to a larger thing. And essentially arguing, it’s one giant trilogy of an argument that we are not alone—we never have been—and we’re not individuals.
And I think spiritual healing can be best understood by looking at the fact that we are part of an energy field. And that goes back to my work in The Field itself, that we’re part of this giant quantum energy field. And I’ve also looked at the role of consciousness in this, because that’s really what interested me for The Intention Experiment. The evidence that had come through when I was researching The Field was that consciousness was an actual something with a capacity to change physical matter.
So I looked into that further with The Intention Experiment in a series of on-going experiments. I’ve run 25 of them to date, now—big online experiments trying to affect something in a philanthropic way, from trying to make food grow faster to purifying water to even lowering violence. And I’ve also looked at the evidence about the power of intention, the power of thought. And it seems that thought is another aspect of the energetic system that we are [part of].
We know from the science that we are constantly emitting a tiny current of light, and that light is having a conversation with the universe, essentially. We know that living things send out light and they also get light back from other living things synchronistically. So in a sense, in our conversation, you and I are having two conversations now: one is our verbal conversation and the other is a conversation with light, essentially.
And so the studies that have been carried out with healers show that there’s a giant energy surge—a magnetic energy surge, an electrical energy surge, an energy surge of light—during healing. So it’s not a transmission in terms of the way we understand it in standard physics, where it’s the mental radio, in a sense, of me sending something to you. It’s more like a quantum [instance] of it happening instantaneously. But there seems to be some sending out of information—this idea that we’re talking about energy and energy connection and relationship, and the relationship changes and corrects the recipient.
TS: That’s very interesting that you’re making a distinction between sending out a signal—like a giver and a receiver and a signal—and instead saying there’s some simultaneous occurrence happening in healing. Can you talk about why that’s an important distinction to make?
LM: Yes, because a signal gets weaker with distance. And the evidence demonstrates that distance doesn’t matter at all. In fact, the evidence demonstrates time doesn’t even seem to matter at all. It can work forward, and there’s a decent amount of evidence to show it can work backward in time.
So what we’re really looking at is something much closer to quantum information, because quantum particles, one of the most essential aspects of them is that, aside from them not being an actual something, once they’ve been in contact with another subatomic particle, it’s like they’re twins separated at birth.
And so let’s say we move one to Boulder, Colorado, and the other one to London, where we both are right now. And even though we’ve moved them at birth, because they were connected once, they will do identical things. So they will both like the color blue, they’ll both, say if they’re boys, go on to marry a woman called Mary, and if one is skiing in Boulder and breaks his leg, the other one will break his leg at the exact same moment even though he’s sitting in London sipping a latte.
So it’s that kind of instant connection across time, across space that happens in the subatomic world. And the evidence for healing demonstrates it’s a little closer to that than some sort of timed transmission.
TS: OK. Now, you mentioned your experiments with intention and the power of thought. And one of the things I’m really curious to know is, what kinds of limits have you found in the power of our thoughts to impact the physical world? I mean, I think whenever I hear people say things like, “Change your thoughts and you’ll see what happens! Blah, blah, blah,” I think, “Well, yes, that has some impact. But I haven’t been able to be powerful enough to cure AIDS with my thinking.”
LM: [Laughs] Yes, I know. I think the facile view of intention is the “master of the universe” view of intention, and it’s once again back to this idea, “I’m an individual, and my thoughts are the most powerful thing in the universe. And they’re going to override everything.” So I think one of the most important limitations, but also important mechanisms, to work with, is the rest of the universe. You have to understand that you’re kind of riding the surf of the rest of the universe, too, when you’re sending intention.
So here’s some of the things that we’ve learned. I mean, as I say, we’ve run 25 of them. And I’ve also run—I’ve been studying the power of small groups since I published The Intention Experiment. Whenever I do workshops, I organize people into small groups and I have them send healing intention to somebody with a healing challenge. And we find unbelievable immediate response. I mean, the people get better, but also so do the senders. They seem to get better, too.
So I’ve been really fascinated by what happens to the people when they’re involved in this group intention experience. And I think that’s the real powerful thing here, the group intention. So some of the things that we realized: We’ve run enough experiments to demonstrate we can definitely make seeds grow faster. We’ve done a whole bunch of controlled experiments in that, and seeds tend to grow faster with intention, sometimes twice as fast as regular seeds.
We’ve done all kinds of experiments with water and we’ve demonstrated we can change some molecular clusters in water, which have been associated with purer water. We can change water pH and make it more pure. We can do some other things, [like] changing energetic footprints of water to make it more similar to purified bottled water.
And we’ve done two intention experiments now—three, but we’ve had the responses back for two—trying to lower violence in a war-torn area, and both have had very provocative, good results showing an enormous lowering of violence after our intention when analyzed by a team of scientists in lots of different ways.
So we’ve demonstrated a lot of things we can do. I think some of the limitations are: one, people usually aren’t very specific with intention. They’ll say something like, “I want to be rich,” you know. Well, that’s probably not what they really want to be. I mean, a few people will want to be rich, but most people want more time, a better job, a more interesting job, more time to be with their grandchildren, more time to pursue their hobbies, or just less working time. And that’s really what they want, not just the accumulation of more stuff and wealth. So oftentimes they’re not very specific about what they want, so the universe doesn’t know.
And secondly, I think that people aren’t focused enough. I think there are a number of techniques that make intention work better that I discovered after interviewing a lot of masters of intention: qigong masters, master healers, Buddhist monks. And they all had differences, but they also had some commonalities. And so I tried to distill those commonalities into a simple program that people could follow. And I called it “powering up,” because it seemed to me that instead of a state of quiet and meditation, the people who were really intention masters were getting into a very highly energized and focused state, like they were entering hyperspace in a way.
So those are a few things. I also think that—I mean, I’ve found very good results in doing something philanthropic. A lot of times intention is all about more stuff for me, and so that’s another reason why I wrote The Intention Experiment. I felt like if intention is such a powerful thing, let’s not use it to just manifest more stuff for ourselves. Why don’t we use it to cure stuff? Why don’t we use it to get together and try to change the mindset in lots of areas? And so I found it to be very powerful when it’s done altruistically.
So there are a lot of things like that that seem provocative. But I also think it’s very important not to just do an airy-fairy type of intention, which is why I wanted to make this a true experiment working with scientists and an open-minded experiment admitting when some experiments didn’t work. And we’ve had three or four that haven’t worked. So that people would have the real evidence that mind-focused thought does work and that there are—and I also wanted to investigate, what are the limits here? How far can we take this?
TS: And are you running any intention experiments now?
LM: We just ran one. We had a real fun one. I was on Coast to Coast radio, which is one of the largest radio shows in this area. And I persuaded the producers to let me do an intention experiment on the air, which I called the “Heal America Intention Experiment.” And what we did was—and I involved the 3 to 4 million people listening in this live intention experiment. So all of these people—at least, hopefully, a good deal of them—got involved in doing this experiment.
What we did was we sent an intention to lower violence in Washington, and we picked out certain areas in Washington because Washington used to be the murder capital of America. It isn’t anymore, but it’s still got so much crime that one in 100 people can suffer a violent crime in a lot of areas in Washington.
So we wanted to lower violence there, but we also wanted to lower violence in Congress, because one of the scientists I’m working with is Dr. Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona, the psychologist. And the University of Arizona is very interesting because Arizona was the place where the Congresswoman got shot a year and a half ago. And so after that happened, the University set up an Institute for Civil Discourse that was to promote civil discourse between people who don’t agree with each other in politics. And it was set up by George Bush and Bill Clinton, so there was a bipartisan connection just in starting the thing.
So this organization inside the University can actually use computer programs to analyze human speech to say how civil it is. So we got the idea of taking the Congressional record before and after our intention to see whether or not it’s become more civil. And one of the really interesting things that happened was the day after our intention experiment, the current Speaker of the House went over and hugged Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker. And of course, these two are sworn enemies. And he also gave a speech about how lovely she was, I think for her 25th year in the House or something like that.
So it was really interesting to see. Did we do this? Who knows. But it was interesting to see that that occurred when it virtually never would before.
TS: OK, just two final questions, Lynne. The first is, as we’re talking about this interconnected world being part of an intergalactic super-organism—which of course will always stay with me, that phrase—I wonder, in the midst of that, how you understand individual life. I mean, we’ve talked about how there’s no such thing as an individual, there’s only a field of relationships. And yet we each have this sense of being an individual, and in a sense we are, as you said, you’re over there in London and I’m here in Boulder. What’s your metaphor or comprehension of the individual in the midst of being part of this intergalactic super-organism?
LM: Well, the problem is, you know, we have perceived ourselves as being much more particulate. I mean, if we were looking at it as a physics situation, subatomic particles sometimes behave like particles and sometimes like waves. And the big problem for us is we haven’t behaved enough like a wave and to understand that we are connected to everything at all times.
Things that I’ve explored in The Field and The Intention Experiment look at how we have this extended human capacity because we’re able to be like an electron, everywhere at once. We have information coming to us from the furthest parts of the galaxy because of this information quantum field. But we haven’t been schooled in how to use it because we’ve been trained so much to consider ourselves as individuals.
So other cultures who are able to use remote viewing, who routinely use spiritual healing, who routinely use ESP, etc., or dream interpretation, group dream sharing, all of this is based on a different paradigm. And they’ve been able to access things that are available to all of us by having a different view of who we really are.
So our experience is a very shallow one compared to what it could be. We experience ourselves because of this very materialistic and small definition of who we are. And the problem is we play small as a result. We could play so much bigger, and we need to play bigger if we’re going to survive. So I think this experience that we have isn’t a universal experience. Other cultures don’t experience life that way, they experience it much more interconnectedly, and they’re the richer for it.
So I really am arguing for a drastic rewrite of how we’re supposed to live our lives. And while that is possibly a utopian vision at the moment, it’s something we really have to start embracing. So one of the things that I really have argued for in The Bond is learning to relate differently to each other and also learning the power of coming together in small groups. As I say, I’ve experimented a lot in small groups, and the science that’s so interesting to me demonstrates that when people come together for any kind of common goal in a small group, all of their brainwaves start resonating in synchrony, as do other parts of their body.
So this is like a perfect, simple way to connect with people who disagree with everything you stand for: work on a bigger goal together.
TS: Well, you may have answered this last question, but I’m going to ask it anyway and we’ll see. If I want to live in alignment with this vision that you’re portraying here, the vision that now we can see science underscores a more accurate picture of what’s actually happening. What’s the most important thing I can do?
LM: OK. I think the most important thing you can do is four things. We’ve been brought up with a hard drive full of “I win, you lose.” That is the mindset we have, and even the most so-called spiritual among us still have that mindset. So it’s really tough to wipe that clean. You’ve got to wipe the hard drive clean of that and start over.
And so here are the four things, I think, that are really important: learning how to see much more holistically. That’s what these native cultures do. They see the whole, they see the connections between things, and we have to learn how to do that. And simple practices can enable us to do that in a matter of weeks.
Learning to relate to each other in a different way, so that it’s not all about me being right, me prevailing. Learning [to] not approach relationships with critical thinking tools, [but] approaching relationships with idea that “I’m going to connect, whatever it takes.” That’s a very different mindset, and we need some different tools for that, too, to learn that you honor the connection, that you’re not frightened and you don’t demonize somebody for being different. That’s what we do now, we demonize people if they don’t agree with us. We want to world to know how completely wrong they are. So learning to relate to people differently.
Learning to be much more “we” oriented. I even teach “we” affirmations because science has shown that when you have a “we” affirmation as opposed to an “I” affirmation, individual performance improves. So I think we have to have a much larger version of “we,” so “we” doesn’t just embrace the people who are just like me. That’s what we have at the moment; more and more it’s us versus them. So we have to learn how to come together with people who don’t necessarily agree, and that’s a really important thing that needs to happen in America now, which is becoming increasingly polarized and increasingly living behind gates and gated communities, locking out all the “thems.”
So we have to learn how to connect better with everyone, and there are, again, simple things to do. One of the easiest things is coming together, working on a goal. If it’s your neighborhood, taking turns gardening in each others’ gardens. [Things] like that are powerful, powerful relationship builders, and you know, I list a whole bunch of them.
And finally, taking the responsibility to play big, because we’re, right now, at a real crossroads. This is probably the most important generation that’s ever lived, because everything we decide is not only going to affect our children, but children for all time. And we’re all busy working on individualized spiritual practice, but it’s time to step up to the plate and realize that if we’re to survive, we all have to be spiritual activists.
And one thing I talk about a lot is it doesn’t require being President of the United States. You can become a powerful spiritual activist, creating a contagion of goodwill, because of all of that emotional contagion I talked about earlier. And they found—one of the most interesting pieces of science I’ve found is, in a culture of greed an exploitation, all it takes are a few people, just one or two people whetted to fairness and generosity, to change the whole game around.
I’ve found this with one woman who decided just to leave change in her Coke machine every day at work with a little sign saying, “You’re Coke’s been paid for. Keep the spirit alive and pay it forward.” Although, this totally freaked out her office for a while—this typical dog-eat-dog office. It became the conversation for weeks, and ultimately it became the thing that totally changed the culture in that office. It’s that simple, but it does mean, as I say, stepping up to the plate and understanding that for all of us to survive, we all have to recognize the bond and start playing big.
TS: I love that. Play big. Thank you, Lynne. Thank you so much for being with us on Insights at the Edge. Lynne has worked with Sounds True to create three different audio learning programs: one is on The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe; also a program called Living the Field: Tapping into the Secret Force of the Universe; and a program called Living with Intention: The Science of Using Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World. And now she’s written a beautiful and important new book called The Bond.
Thanks, Lynne, for being with us on Insights at the Edge.
LM: It’s been a delight. Thanks so much, Tami.
TS: The work you’re doing is so important. Thank you for helping us change our story. We need it. SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.