SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY
 
Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz: Fundamentals of Mind-Brain Interaction    Part 1   
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Welcome, noble viewers, to Science and Spirituality on Supreme Master Television. Today’s program features neurobiologist and researcher Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, USA. Dr. Schwartz, who graduated with honors in philosophy from the University of Rochester, USA, has published nearly a hundred academic articles in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry as well as several books, and is well versed in Buddhist philosophy, specializing in the concept of mindfulness or conscious awareness.

He studies the influence of mindfulness on brain function and is an expert in self-directed neuroplasticity or the mind’s ability to purposefully reorganize neural pathways in the brain. Dr. Schwartz is best known for his four-step method of treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition characterized by unwanted thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors.

For example, some OCD sufferers fear germs so much that they engage in constant, excessive hand washing. Supreme Master Television recently interviewed Dr. Schwartz about his views on mind-brain interaction and other topics. Dr. Schwartz begins by speaking about his book, “Dear Patrick: Life is Tough – Here’s Some Good Advice,” which provides guidance for young people moving from childhood to adolescence.

That book was written with a very good friend of mine by the name of Patrick Buckley. That book was done 12 years ago, when he was 16, and it's letters that we exchanged that basically delve into the subject of as adolescence sort of comes upon you, there are a lot of changes going on in your mind, your brain. Adolescence turns out to be a very good subject in which to investigate this relationship between mind and brain, and specifically what we were trying to do in that book is show that something, which in the subsequent decade has become a lot more popular, called “mindful awareness” is useful for helping people.

To answer Patrick’s questions, Dr. Schwartz draws on his own experiences while undergoing the doubts and challenges of adolescence, on the ideas of great spiritual masters such as Jesus Christ, Moses and the Buddha, and on his psychiatric background.

The sense of social acceptance and rejection is becoming much more acute. So these things are going on as you go from 12 to 13 to 15 and then when you hit 16, it all seems to sort of just explode. So we were discussing in this book what can you do in terms of developing what I've come to call the “impartial spectator.”

Following the great Scottish philosopher Adam Smith, what can you do in terms of self-observation to help you deal with all these feelings that you are having that can become overwhelming? That term impartial spectator came from Adam Smith. He wrote a book that was published in 1759, and the title of that book is "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." And this book has been very influential on me.

So, that term, impartial spectator he used to mean that we can actually look from the outside into ourselves, taking the perspective of an impartial person. You can actually utilize a perspective of attention that is like standing outside yourself, like being another rational, fair-minded person who's viewing you and what you are doing and thinking, and has access to your inner experience.

Dr. Schwartz gives lectures to diverse audiences in the US, Europe and Asia and writes insightfully on the philosophy of mind, especially on the role of volition in human neurobiology. His book, “The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force,” was co-written with Sharon Begley, a prominent senior science columnist and editor of the popular US magazine Newsweek.

The focus of my whole work has been getting away from what has become the accepted paradigm. The belief that everything about your mind is completely determined by and in fact reducible to what your brain does, what's become a slogan; that is, “The mind is what the brain does.”

The separation and integration of the words “mind" and "brain" are best understood by realizing that, yes, the brain is certainly responsible, and definitely in a scientific and cultural context is very reasonably understood to be causing a lot of the content of your thinking in certain ways, and certainly how you are feeling about things, what we call in psychiatry the “affect” or the “mood,” states of happiness and sadness.

These things can markedly be influenced by the neural chemistry of your brain. But, and it's a big “but,” it's also important to realize that the way you experience those feelings, the way you interface with those thoughts, the kinds of attention that you pay to it, being either mindfully aware or having sort of a rational, third person perspective on it, or being just gripped by it interfaces with what your brain is doing, and how you focus your attention can change what your brain is doing.

When Science and Spirituality returns, we’ll learn more about Dr. Schwartz’s important work of empowering people to take charge of their lives. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

You’re getting people to change their perspective, change their quality of attention. Use the impartial spectator, use full awareness, to help them understand that this is their brain sending them a false message, and then when they understand that it’s their brain sending a false message, they can change the perspective they take on it.

Welcome back to Science and Spirituality featuring respected US neurobiologist Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz. In his best-selling book, “Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior,” Dr. Schwartz presents a four-step, mental exercise method for overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder, a condition characterized by unwanted thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors.

The specific steps in Dr. Schwartz’s method are as follows: Relabel, Reattribute, Refocus and Revalue. In step one, Relabeling, a patient’s attention is focused on his or her thinking process so that obsessive thoughts and compulsive urges may be recognized.

That kind of attention is very similar to what in ancient Buddhist philosophy came to be called “mindful awareness,” and it certainly also has strong analogs in the Judeo-Christian tradition, in terms of having some attempt to make a connection with God and of course in a Christian perspective, very much with making a connection through Jesus to God. In a Christian perspective you can actually view Jesus as helping you (find) that quality of attention that allows you to be reasonable, rational, loving when you are angry, and calm when you are upset.

The second step, Reattribute, involves not blaming oneself for an obsession or compulsion, but instead re-attributing it to a medical condition affecting the brain. Using mindful awareness or acting as an “impartial spectator” is also a key to step three, Refocus. In this step, one should work around the obsessive thought or compulsive urge by shifting attention to something else. Any activity with a constructive purpose is a suitable substitute, with hobbies being an excellent choice. For example, one can jog, paint or play a game with friends.

My view of how to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder hinges on when people understand that the urge to watch, the urge to check the terrible bad thoughts that come in to people who have obsessive compulsive disorder, that these things are caused by misfirings in their brain.

The “Fifteen-Minute Rule” is a useful technique in refocusing. Instead of acting on the urge, one should let 15 minutes pass, and in the interim perform steps one through three of the four-step process. Then at the end of the period, a constructive activity should be undertaken to substitute for the unwanted behavior. With the fourth step, Revalue, one reassesses one’s unwanted thoughts and urges and decides to assign them a lower value. As a result, one is less likely to have such thoughts or act on them in the future. However, Dr. Schwartz says a complete cure of the condition is rare.

What you can do is get it to the point where you can really manage it and manage it in ways that it really doesn't have very significant impacts on your life anymore.

Dr. Schwartz believes we need to reintegrate spiritual ideals into science so that it can provide the answers we seek. Thus his four-step process for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder takes a different approach than that of conventional medicine, yet it is no less scientific.

If you’re talking to me about how the mind can change the brain; how the mind can influence the brain, and I’ve done a lot of work with a colleague by the name of Henry Stapp, who’s a physicist up in the University of California, Berkley (USA) at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, we have a very, very orthodox scientific theory based in quantum mechanics that really makes the case in a very scientifically rigorous way that attention through a quantum mechanical process can influence what the brain does.

This is all very rigorously done; it’s been published in top journals. My book, “The Mind in the Brain,” is an overview of it for scientifically interested lay readers. There’s been significant resistance to accepting the view, both because it flies directly in the face of the accepted fundamentalist belief that the mind is what the brain does.

It cuts against the grain of a materialist science that wants to stress the use of drugs as a treatment for psychiatric disorders, and that’s one of the main outcomes of having a materialist world view in science and medicine is that it puts a premium on treating things with drugs.

I believe that it’s culturally damaging to view science and religion as intrinsically completely separated. Hopefully things are changing and science is going to become less materialistic. That’s what my whole life’s work has been.

We thank Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz for sharing his ideas on the interaction of the mind and brain, blending science with spirituality. Please join us next Monday for Part 2 of our program, when Dr. Schwartz will further discuss how people can use mind power to reach their goals.

For more details on Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, please visit Books by Dr. Schwartz are available at www.Amazon.com

Gracious viewers, thank you for your company today on Science and Spirituality. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom after Noteworthy News here on Supreme Master Television. May your life be blessed with God’s love, comfort and light.
I really pursued in a more scientifically rigorous way, “What does happen when you change the focus of your attention and, do things to modulate, moderate, the quality of attention that you are using? How does this change your brain? How does that all work?”

Welcome, beloved viewers, to Science and Spirituality on Supreme Master Television. Today’s program features Part 2 of our interview with neurobiologist and researcher Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, USA.

Dr. Schwartz, who graduated with honors in philosophy from the University of Rochester, USA, has published nearly a hundred academic articles in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry as well as several books, and is well versed in Buddhist philosophy, specializing in the concept of mindfulness or conscious awareness. He studies the influence of mindfulness on brain function and is an expert in self-directed neuroplasticity or the mind’s ability to purposefully reorganize neural pathways in the brain.

Dr. Schwartz is best known for his four-step method of treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition characterized by unwanted thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors. For example, some OCD sufferers fear germs so much that they engage in constant, excessive hand washing.

What originally got you interested in obsessive- compulsive disorder and the science of the brain?

We actually stumbled on the study of obsessive-compulsive disorder way back in the 1980s when it was thought to be a very rare condition, and we just thought it was interesting. And it turned out that it was a lot more common than we thought, and then as I've described in some of my writings, when I started to see how obsessive-compulsive disorder manifested itself in people who suffer from it, by which I specifically mean they're getting these urges to watch and check. They're getting these terrible feelings; they're getting these intrusive, bothersome thoughts telling them that they're no good, telling them terrible things that they know do not make sense, that they know are not true.

I realized that this gave me an opportunity to study this interface between the mind and the brain, because we had done these positron emission tomography brain imaging studies that show there was something going on in the brain. And specifically in the bottom of the front of the brain, right above the eye sockets, a part of the brain called the “orbital frontal cortex” and this is basically, among other things, an error-detection circuitry in the brain and it's overactive.

So we were seeing that people who had obsessive-compulsive disorder had an overactive error-detection circuitry, but they realized that the way they were thinking and feeling didn't make sense so this enabled me to say, “Well, the reason why you're feeling like everything is wrong is because your brain is sending you a false message.”

And because of the nature of the condition, not every condition leaves the people who suffer from it with as clear an awareness as obsessive-compulsive disorder does, but most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder can go, “Yes, I can see how that makes sense. My brain is sending me a false message.”

And when I saw that people could really take that, use it, work with it, it gave me a tremendous opportunity to study the relationship between attention or the mind and the brain and then we were fortunate to be able to show that when people did that it changed how their brain worked, and that enabled us to basically have a whole lot of scientific work going forward and write books about it, etc.

The Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, also known as the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, states, “As a man thinks, so is he.” Similarly, Dr. Schwartz says that paying attention to our thoughts and purposely focusing our minds can lead to great transformations.

These techniques of mindfully refocusing your brain, can you give us some examples of how the average person can use this?

In the work that I did with Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie “The Aviator,” trying to help an actor portray a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you can actually do it in reverse. And, of course, that’s relevant to any person, which is that you form an image in your mind of a way you’re wanting to portray yourself and then focus your attention in ways that are consistent with achieving the goal of presenting yourself in that way.

That principal obviously applies to regular people, to any person. If you form an image in your mind of how you want to behave, you can become that, and on top of that the science that we’ve done has shown that you change your brain in the process of doing that, so that the brain actually evolves to become the image that you’re portraying.

And in Leo DiCaprio’s case, in becoming a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it took months for him to fully get out of it, because it took months for him to sort of develop the process of getting into it. So this kind of focus of attention in some significant way changes who you are, changes your inner chemistry; so it's powerful stuff.

When Science and Spirituality returns, Dr. Schwartz will discuss his spiritual journey and how it has informed him in developing pioneering psychiatric theories. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Science and Spirituality, where we’ve been speaking with neurobiologist Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz from the US about consciously using the mind’s power to transform our brains and ourselves. Dr. Schwartz now discusses how his spiritual life informs his scientific work.

I was a person of faith from the very beginning. To quote the great gospel singer, Dorothy Love Coats, “I got my religion when I was very young.” I'm a Jewish person and I was orthodox. I was very serious about it. But then in my later adolescence, I started to sort of fall away as adolescents do, but then in my early 20's, I became very, very interested in classical Buddhism.

So for 30 years, I was a very, very serious practitioner of classical Buddhism in what's called the “Theravada,” which means “the teaching of the elders.” So from that, I learned a lot about the practice of mindfulness and the practice of “Vipassana,” which tends to be translated as the word, “insight,” the very word we were using before about helping people with OCD, and that turns out to have been a clue for me about how to do this therapy.

According to Nyanaponika Thera, a Buddhist monk of the Theravada school, a key element of Insight Meditation is directness of vision or “bare attention,” meaning gaining direct knowledge through meditation, which is different from the inferential knowledge obtained through study and reflection. In developing insight through meditation, practitioners view their physical and mental processes directly, independent of abstract concepts or emotional evaluations, thus allowing them to reach “reality.”

So I practiced very seriously what's called “Insight Meditation” for three decades and then in the last couple of years, for a lot of reasons, a lot of which I think have to do with the influence of God on a person through their life, I really did come to see Jesus Christ as a critical part of my life and became baptized. To quote another philosopher, who I’m very, very involved in studying for the last few years, Soren Kierkegaard the great Danish Christian existentialist, what we’re really trying to do is become the people God wants us to be.

What we are trying to focus our attention on and the self that we are trying to become is the self that through God’s effect on us we come to know that’s where we want to go. And you can see that everything we were saying here about how focused attention changes your brain is very compatible with that, because you’re basically forming a view of the self, you are, through prayer and meditation, coming to see what God wants you to be. You are focusing on it.

Epigenetics is the study of how our environment and lifestyle can transform the way our genes are expressed, and Dr. Schwartz says that evidence from this field further indicates that we’re beings whose lives are not solely dictated by the physical structure of our brains.

You have genetically inherited patterns of brain activity, there is no question about that. That is completely non-controversial, but even with your genetically inherited patterns of brain activity, and no question left to their own devices, those genetically inherited patterns of brain activity are going to have very, very large effects on how you live your life. However, if you realize that you can transcend, you can go beyond those patterns of brain activity through the power of your attention, and through focusing your attention more wisely, you can change the expression of those genes.

So your patterns of genetic inheritance don’t determine what you are, because how you live, the cultural environments you immerse yourself in, the beliefs of the people around you, how you interact with those people, the degree of your faith, the philosophers that you read and expose yourself to, all of these things lead to differences in the way you focus your attention, which have direct effects on how your genes express themselves. There’s a whole new field that has grown up in the last few years called epigenetics, which to a significant degree is about these environmental effects on how the genes are expressed inside of an organism.

So, these kinds of cultural environmental belief-related effects that influence how we focus our attention, have very large potential effects on how your genes express themselves, and that is going to influence how proteins get synthesized and how enzymes act and how your neurochemicals are basically working together and the take-home message is, “If you believe that you don’t have the power to do any of that, you are not going to do it.” So we need to have a culture where people are encouraged to realize, “You have a lot of power over what you can do with your biology.”

We sincerely thank Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz for offering his insights on the biology of the brain and how it interacts powerfully with mindfulness to shape our lives. We wish him the very best in his future research in this field and in developing therapies for his patients.

For more details on Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, please visit Books by Dr. Schwartz are available at

Coming up next is Words of Wisdom after Noteworthy News here on Supreme Master Television. May your life be blessed with God’s love, comfort and light.

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