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The Awakened Brain

An in-person conversation with Dr. Lisa Miller.
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Lisa Miller, Ph.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of The Spiritual Child and a professor in the Clinical Psychology Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is the Founder and Director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute, the first Ivy League graduate program and research institute in spirituality and psychology, and has held over a decade of joint appointments in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical School.

Her innovative research has been published in more than one hundred peer-reviewed articles in leading journals, including Cerebral Cortex, The American Journal of Psychiatry, and the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Transcript

Adam Jacobs: So, Dr. Lisa Miller, it's great to finally meet you in person. As I mentioned when we were talking before, you have a lot of groupies here and I'm really excited to have you, and thank you so much for spending the time with us today.

Lisa Miller: This is so much fun. This is a joy. I'm thrilled to be here.

Adam Jacobs: So I read your book, which I recommend to everyone, The Awakened Brain, and one of the fascinating accounts, one of many, was your description of a religious service that you conducted in a hospital setting. And I'm going to ask you a question about it, a specific question, but I wonder, just for the sake of the audience, could you just give us a sketch of what happened?

Lisa Miller: So I was a new intern at the time. I'd just gotten my doctorate and was on an inpatient unit in a New York City hospital. I don't use the name. It was very typical of the time. It was really no different than anywhere else. And when the High Holidays rolled around, this hospital served a great number of Jewish patients. There was a community meeting in which one of the patients raised his hand and said, doctor, what is the plan for Yom Kippur? And the doctor was a good person and felt badly about this. He kind of looked down and he said, well, there's nothing planned. The chaplains will be gone that day. And this gentleman who had bipolar disorder was devastated by that news, and I had not even known that he was Jewish, but he looked despondent. And then he got agitated and he said, what?

No, Yom Kippur service, what? And he got up and he stormed out. As I looked across the room, there was another patient who I did know was Jewish who was deeply depressed, and she collapsed. And it occurred to me in that moment, even as a new intern, that there was a real painful loss in not having a Yom Kippur poor service. And so after the meeting, I pulled the unit chief aside and said, listen, I'm not a rabbi, but I've been to 20-plus years of Yom Kippur services. May I facilitate one? So I show up on Yom Kippur and the service was to be held in the kitchen. The bright fluorescent lights were beaming. We had a linoleum table. And there that day, the very same patients had come dressed beautifully. They'd all called home for beautiful clothes instead of the overly revealing, perhaps degrading gurneys.

And by each of their side was an attendant. And the moment I walked into the kitchen, our sanctuary, there was a deep sense of specialness. The prayers were the prayers that they'd been raised with for decades, and we all knew what to do. So very little facilitation was needed. But what I noticed, Adam, as we started to say the prayers that we'd said every year, Yom Kippur and picked up together the pace and the feeling and the depth, it was the gentleman with bipolar who was holding the cadence of the service the most. The so-called psychologically disorganized patient was the backbone of our organization, of our service. And the woman who had looked very slumped and despairing sat up, she had a radiance.

And it was very clear to me very quickly that what was happening in a Yom Kippur service was not happening in mental health at that time. And very quickly became clear to me that mental health minus a spiritual core, really made no sense. I can share with you, that I went on over the course of that experience to find out that actually when we disintegrate the spiritual core from the whole person, we are creating harm in the hospital. We would call that iatrogenic harm, making people worse.

Adam Jacobs: So I think I'm probably not alone in just a casual observation of the people I know in my life and people I've read about and seen in all kinds of settings who've been going to talk therapy and using various medications to try to control their moods. And for decades, in some cases without any breakthrough. I know somebody who refers to it as getting a tune-up. She goes and has a conversation with a therapist, and she's been doing this for decades, literally. And I always wondered, why do you go if this person hasn't helped you to solve your core issues and all this time, is there something deficient in your working relationship? But more than that, are you concerned that the entire psychology enterprise as it's constituted now, by and large, is missing the mark because it doesn't incorporate some of the ideas that you promote?

Lisa Miller: Well, we now have a good 20, 25 years of science that is starting to push a paradigm change. And Adam, what I think is right before us, we're right on the cusp, is an awareness that a great deal of suffering. Not every case of depression, but at least two-thirds of what we call depression. The very broad category, which holds a great range of pathways and etiologies ways of getting there, is that for many, many people suffering is actually the ignition, if you will. It is the start. It is the knock at the door for a spiritual awakening. Suffering is actually part of the spiritual path. It doesn't mean we're off the path. It means that we are headed into a period of deep, meaningful, often accelerated growth. So if you ask two people, two very well-trained mental health providers to assess someone who has schizophrenia, they agree nine out of 10 times this gentleman has, or a woman has schizophrenia.

If you ask two, well-trained mental health providers to assess someone with bipolar, they agree six to seven out of 10 times. But if you ask two, well-trained mental health providers to assess someone with what we call depression, they agree two to three out of 10 times. Which is to say there are actually a great number of subcategories or subtypes within what DSM calls depression and the makers of DSM themselves say this is a kind of a wastebasket category. It catches a lot of things. Suffering is a very… well through the ages we've examined suffering through our faith traditions, through our cultural traditions, through our wisdom traditions. And what we now know through science is that at least two-thirds of the time suffering is actually a harbinger for growth. So we take medication. I'm not saying don't take medication, but I'm saying that medication alone is insufficient at least two-thirds of the time.

Adam Jacobs: There seems to be like a sweet spot (the wrong term), but where the suffering isn't acute enough to cause change and people are just willing to live with it or manage it for indefinitely, it seems like as long as I can deaden my emotions that are plaguing me.

Lisa Miller: Dysthymia

Adam Jacobs: Is that what it's called?

Lisa Miller: Dysthymia is kind of the blah of life, right? That's a synchronicity. Thank you. We need to answer the call of dysthymia. Okay. So dysthymia is endemic to our culture. It is all over. It's in every major city, certainly in the west. And Dysthymia is when we're not deeply, deeply depressed. We can get out of bed, we can go to work, but somehow the bucket never feels full. Somehow things aren't just as shining and bright and they just, our lives don't fulfill the promise that we somehow felt. That is a low-grade form of not quite suffering, but dissatisfaction with our short, magnificent, precious life.

So it's as urgent as a deep depression. And we do need to answer the call for both. Depression and Dysthymia share in common is there has been an occlusion, there is basically a disengagement of our natural birthright, our spiritual awareness because when we look at every biomarker that we've been able to look at, cortical thickening in the brain, genotyping, single gene candidates, what lens we put up to it, depression in the sense of sluggish, dysthymia, deeper suffering is really the opposite side of the coin of the bright numinous spiritual awareness.

We are looking at two sides of one coin. And the evidence for that just builds and builds and builds. And I've never seen a shred of evidence that counter-indicates that concept. So here's some evidence when we look at the regions of the brain that are thick and strong, literally like a thick tree, the parietal and occipital regions of perception, reflection, and orientation in people with a sustained spiritual life, those regions help us to see more deeply into the truer nature of life. These are regions of spiritual awareness.

Those regions are not thick but thin in people with recurrent major depression. And when we look at these very same nice thick regions and people with a sustained spiritual life, and we say, what is a thick awakened brain today say about how you'll be doing prospectively a year from now, which science takes to be the high bar to go prospective through linear time. It turns out that indeed we see lower levels of depression a year from now if our spiritually aware brain has, by way of analogy, like a muscle been given a chance to get thick and strong.

So that's the first layer of evidence. The second layer of evidence is that the very same single gene candidates associated with depression are associated in their other variant with spiritual awareness. So for instance, the genes that code for serotonin or the little membrane that carries it across the synapse or dopamine too. So my point is that as we watch the evidence mount, there's not one single piece of disconfirming evidence that I've seen published. And this, which I share with you now, has been in JAMA Psychiatry. It's been in the American Journal of Psychiatry, it's top-shelf peer-reviewed science. It simply seems to be the case that spirituality and suffering are two sides of one coin.

Adam Jacobs: That makes perfect sense to me. I actually mentioned you and bounced some of your work off of Lisa Feldman Barrett about a week ago, and I asked her the question, is the brain wired for spirituality? Her response to it? And for those who don't know, she's a big neuroscientist that Northeastern very often cited person out in the literature and she didn't want to deny that there was some kind of effect that the brain processes what we call spirituality, which he took a much more measured approach to answering it and said something along the lines of, listen, people have emotions and sometimes emotions become very intense and that intensity is what we call spirituality.

So getting a little philosophical with all of us for a minute, there's the neuroscience aspect of things where the brain, we know the brain does things and can change our moods and has a big influence on how we feel at the same time. When you say spirituality, do you literally mean something that is transcending reality as we know it, or something more along the lines of what Dr. Feldman Barrett is saying, like an enhanced emotional state? Does that make sense?

Lisa Miller: It makes tremendous sense. And if I might paraphrase to make sure we're tracking on the same page is your question. We've identified the neural correlates of spiritual awareness and we've identified even more specifically the neural correlates of a transcendent relationship. I talk to God and I receive an answer from God. I send out my heart's connection to the universe and I feel the resonant love back a lived dynamic relationship, whether or not my word is God, the universe, higher power, Hashem, whatever the downstream language or concept may be. So we've identified that whether I am Jewish or Hindu or Muslim or Catholic or Christian or spiritual but not religious, the same neuro-correlates run. We publish this in Oxford University Press cerebral cortex, we can identify the same circuits, which means there is one spiritual brain and we all have it. We are all born with the capacity for awakening.

But twin studies show us that this capacity, which we've tracked in the brain is one-third in eight in all of us, every single person on earth, there are 7.2 billion spiritual brains ready to awaken has the sprain. It is one-third innate, but it is two-thirds cultivated, and two-thirds environmentally formed, which means prayer and meditation, right? Action service, our parents and grandparents, our besties all weigh in to shape the spiritual core, our outer environment, and our inner environment.

So we have this brain, but it is incumbent upon us to cultivate our spiritual awareness. So the first answer to the question, part one is that there are indeed very well-shown peer reviewed, Oxford Press journal, neural correlates of spiritual awareness, and they're all of ours. There's human variability. We can strengthen our awakened brain, but we all have one. Nobody's left out. So if someone says, Hey, am I spiritual?

Yes, you are spiritual. You absolutely are spiritual. Nobody's left out. Now part two of the question is, are we seeing something real? Is it merely an emotion and a hermetically sealed brain like the brain in the box? Or are we detecting and perceiving something real in us through us, around us? And to part two of the question, I would say absolutely we are perceiving something real. There is a transcendent reality. So while we are wired to perceive that we are loved and held, guided and never alone, that our higher power loves us and holds us, that we don't have to make our own decisions, we'll be guided. There is also emerging science that says, you really are being guided. These synchronicities that you discover are not made up in your head like a package inside a factory. No, you are more like an antenna, detecting something real in the universe.

Your synchronicities are picking up on real guidance, the sense you have that you're not going to fall through an abyss, that somehow you're caught by your higher power. You really are caught. So here's some of that science, which I find to be profoundly meaningful. It's in a very, the scientists in this area are very rigorous because it's so paradigm-changing. They have to not just be good scientists, they have to be tenfold more rigorous. And in my New Oxford University Press Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality that just came out within the past two months, there's a number of scientists to publish on post-material consciousness-based psychology. I'll share with you a taste of this type of inquiry.

One of the classic experiments, so credit to an OG. Ackerhoff put a traditional healer and the patient in two MRIs separated by at least a city block. And as the traditional healer started to do his or her work time and time again, the same predictable pattern came up on the MRI that tracked blood flow. The FMRI, within an instant, the same pattern was seen in the MRI of the patient, a full city block away, which means one thing, healing consciousness, healing spirit, sacred presence, you name it. But that which the MRI was picking up showed one consciousness pattern in two different brains. The healer and the patient separated at a distance. Is that super?

Adam Jacobs: Which should be impossible, right?

Well, is that superposition consciousness in two places? Is that the non-locality of consciousness that picked up? We're just working on the models, but it's absolutely the case that our brain taps into a consciousness field that is healing and good and loving.

And so what are your colleagues who are maybe less currently open to that way of thinking? How do they respond to a study like that?

Well, good scientists are curious, right? They say, wow, a good scientist says, wow, I want to see that. Tell me more. A scientist takes nothing for granted. So even the method itself should be able to be shaken up. The last thing I should ever do is say, I believe in science. That's a ridiculous statement. There's no self-respecting scientist who believes in science. Scientists are doggedly curious and turn over every stone, hopefully. And so a good scientist says, wow, that's really interesting.

Adam Jacobs: Is that what they say?

Lisa Miller: Good scientists do. Curious scientists do, right?

Adam Jacobs: Are there any dogmatic scientists who don't like it so much?

Lisa Miller: But in the moment that would not be a scientific stance. I mean, their day job might be a scientist. They might get paid to be a scientist, but the stance of being an inquirer, of being a scientist is to be in a sustained state of quest.

Adam Jacobs: Yes. Which is a term that you use in the book that I like very much. I think you call it a quest orientation. Yes. Okay. And you say, and correct me if I'm wrong, but a questing orientation is what leads to this more integrated or healthier brain, if I'm understanding correctly, there's more communication between the lobes. You'd have to explain it better, but my takeaway was brain better on spirituality. Yes. Okay. But does that mean that some people happen to have this more integrated brain and therefore they're more spiritual? Or is it that if I become more spiritual, my brain will improve physically?

Lisa Miller: So because you are Rabbi Adam, you'll appreciate this, which is we are hardwired to be knowers in many forms. So I love science and we are hardwired to be empiricists, to look at outward data. We are hardwired to be logicians and discern. We're also hardwired to be intuitives and mystics and skeptics. And when we can draw all forms of our organic ways of known, our organic ways of knowing, our inborn epistemologies into dialogue, we literally pave the highways. We myelinate the tracks between regions of the brain. So what we've shown is that in people who receive inspiration through a mystical experience are deep intuition and then perhaps throw that to the logician within to discern its significance or to the empiricists to figure out how this lies before them. People who bring into dialogue are inborn ways of knowing. Have a highly effective, highly connected, innovative brain.

Those people are in a state of quest. Now, it can work the other way around too, that we can have a question and we just dunno the answer. Do I send my child to the hospital for this procedure? Do I marry this person with whom I've been dating for three years? What do I do? And that is a question where when I was a kid, I was told, to make a list of all the pros and all the cons. Well, it doesn't matter how many pros and how many cons, because your deep inner wisdom will tell you what to do. Your deep inner wisdom that touches who I call God, your deep inner who touches the infinite, the consciousness field where all information's located. So to ask a question of the head a logical question and throw that then to our intuition into our prayer or meditation life to receive a transcendent answer, this is how we're made.

Adam Jacobs: I have a friend who really is really a friend, friend, really is a friend, really is a friend who did an intense DMT thing. I have never done it to date where he told me he spent the first 15 minutes screaming. And then it ended and then he did it again and he screamed again for 15 minutes and then did it a third time. I mean this is all within an hour or something. The third time something broke open and he viewed himself as a ray emanating from the sun and understood the interconnectivity of all reality and was in this blissful state. He told me he had to go through these first two stages. When I asked him to unpack that for me, what the heck was going on, he basically said, imagine everything you've ever done wrong or how you've hurt yourself every single time in your life winds you into an incredibly tight ball. So he said, imagine it's just being pulled apart and everything is being healed.

But he said, it's terrifying. It's terrifying. And so I remember, I think it was young who said that people will do anything to avoid exploring the inner contents of their mind. But nonetheless, I think we're seeing more and more people like they're sort of desperate to want to do just that, but they're also very scared. What would you recommend for people who want to start dipping their toes into this arena and they don't want the depression, they don't want the anxiety. I think probably you tell me, but it seems like we're in an epidemic of anxiety at the moment, nihilism all kinds of fear, and debilitating states of mind. So I feel like people are sort of peeking their heads into different, they're wanting a different reality, but not knowing how to do it and also being sort of scared. What would you say to somebody like that?

Lisa Miller: So people are so good, people are so wonderful, and our natural spirituality will not rest. So even when we are in a depressing moment or a collectively nihilistic moment, you're so right, Adam. There's a hunger of the spiritual heart for love, for the newness, for the transcendent. There's a nagging of the head to know what is the deeper nature of reality. We are built to seek to quest. So yes, people are tremendously curious right now. And the more nihilism and the more radical materialism there is in the air and water of our culture, the more that people are silenced about voicing their spiritual life in the public square, particularly if it happens to be within a faith tradition, the more hunger there is. And this will not rest. This is who we are and how we're built. So that's very good news. People are wonderful.

People will not quit. But the question is how? And I think to take the nagging of the head, the natural curiosity and the longing of the heart, and very gently in your own way start to explore. It can be dust off a rusty prayer. If there's two prayers, pick the one that's the most comfortable and dust it off and say it a few times, and see what ,starts to move. Or try a meditation, try a retreat, go into nature and pay very close attention. Use your awakened attention to say, Hey, what is life showing me now? What is this potential curious force of life in and through all nature revealing to me now? So whatever method feels right, just be a little curious and know that you'll be moved at your own pace. You're not going to be shoved into anything by the universe. God has you and you will be moved at a pace that is right for you. And when we pay just a little attention to the possibility of the transcendent reality, it starts very gently in our own pace to pick up steam. We don't need to have great answers,

We will be guided. All we need to do is show up and be interested.

Adam Jacobs: So you had a series of pretty remarkable experiences, interpreting messages, the kind of messages that you're talking about and the kind of guidance, again, speaking for the world at large, I think that a lot of people don't know what that feels like, that feel that everything that's unfolding is quite random and not necessarily good. It's upsetting, I think to live in a world where everything's random anyway and they would welcome the synchronicities and the messages and whatnot. But your whole adoption story and everything that follows from it, it's so interesting and so remarkable. Could you just recount the contours of it for us for a minute and also with an emphasis on how you listened, how you took advantage of those messages, and how unlikely it was that the ones that you got corresponded to reality. Can you talk about that for a minute?

Lisa Miller: Sure. In the awakened brain, I go in in far more detail. So the awakened brain has the deep dive into this Journey. Well, the details are there, but I'll share with you that in a nutshell. Do I have three minutes? When I was 30, my husband and I decided it is time. We'd been married since I was not quite a child bride. I was married at 24, so I was the first of my friends. But we'd been married a while and we thought, let's start a family. We want to start a family. And after a couple months of going off to the Caribbean and the Oh no, didn't work, going off to Arizona, oh no, no, didn't work. Six months, 10 months, we realized, wait a minute, nobody's coming. What if there's something wrong? We need to go to a doctor. We need to figure out is it possible that we're dealing with infertility? And just that word gave us seizing anxiety and heart. We'd always assumed I'm 30, he's 31.

We'll start a family. So we go to the doctor and like, oh, there's nothing wrong with him. There's nothing wrong with you. We each get a nice pat on the back, a bright, caring, well-meaning doctor, we will get you pregnant. And after several rounds of IUIs and then some rounds of IVFs still, nobody came. And then we really started to get worried. And in fact, as the browns of IVF continued, my husband, we were both very disparate.

My husband was profoundly depressed to the point where one night I woke up at 4:00 AM and he was not in bed. I'm like, where's Phil? And I look over and he's on the floor with his arms out in the middle of the night and he's like, our lives are hollow and meaningless without children. So it was really a very, very depressing journey. But as we moved in deeper and deeper into this, what turned out to be a five-year journey, we started getting help, help from very unexpected places, very unexpected places.

So I call these people who show up in our lives and help us trail angels. And perhaps the greatest trail angel in my life has been my mother, my warm, wonderful suburban Jewish shamanic mother. And she called me once and she said, Honey, I just want to tell you our neighbor, we'll call her Marjorie. Marjorie has the most beautiful little boy. His name is David Paul and he's from Russia. And we just wanted you to know that little David Paul is from Russia and he couldn't be cuter. Bye.

And one by one synchronicities kept picking up. And then I'm Lisa Jane. I have an older cousin, Jane, who's older, big Jane. And one day I'm in my office at Columbia running my numbers where I'm happiest. And the call comes and she says, listen, little Jane, I know that you and Phil have been trying to start a family and I've gotten permission from a group of Lakota leaders here that you're welcome to come visit us and you're welcome even more particularly to come to a healing ceremony. So I said, okay, here, we'd been working and working and working on this. It has now been many, many years. I said I've got to say yes to this. It just felt deep in my heart. I had to say yes to this.

Adam Jacobs: It's pretty out of the box,

Lisa Miller: Right? Yeah. And so I canceled my appointments at Columbia. I hopped on a plane, I flew out to South Dakota

Adam Jacobs: Where my dad is from. Really? Yeah, we'll talk about it later.

Lisa Miller: I would've said hello had I known. And at this healing ceremony, the chief stands up to open the ceremony and in front of everyone, his eyes fill with tears and he beats his chest and he says, my son, who is adopted, I said, well, that's interesting. He's starting the whole ceremony. My son was adopted. And the ceremony goes on and on to the point where every single person stands up, tells their journey why they've come to be healed. People listen, whether it's five minutes or 50 minutes, people listen, the drums play. That person is greeted by each person and then after an hour, the next person stands up. So there's no rush, there's no watching the clock. And when we finally then adjourn, we go to the male and the female in ies, the sweat lodge, the women in one, the men in the other.

The woman who introduced herself as the medicine man's wife ran our ceremony. Now I need to tell you an important point that at this point we'd heard adoption, adoption, adoption, adoption so much we knew that wait a minute, are we missing something? Are we missing something? So much so that we had been to see an adoption specialist just before this trip. Very important point in the adoption specialist office, we'd been asked very frankly, clergy's daughter, rabbi's daughter, what do you want? I said, what do you mean? What do I want? She's like, what do you want in a child? And I thought that was pretty brutally frank. I said, well, I don't care what race this child is. I don't care if this is a boy or a girl, but please a child who can love. And my husband leans over and he cuts me off with his shoulder and he said all that, but kind of a girl.

And then I cut him off, right? We're two Leos. And I'm like, but I said, really a child who can love. We leave. I get on the plane, I go out to South Dakota from there, I'm in South Dakota, I'm in the NEP, the medicine man's wife starts the ceremony and it is beautiful and it is hot. I mean, it is hotter than hot and everyone is so comfortable in the heat. And I'm sucking the air out of the little hole in the tent. There's a tiny crack. And everyone was deeply welcoming of me. I mean, why is this woman here? They were very, very welcoming of me.

As we started to pray and started to go through the ceremony, the medicine man's wife paused and said, I'd like each person to say why she has come. The first woman says, I've come because my son is 14 and he's starting to use drugs and alcohol, and I'm concerned that he'll start to go down the slide and become addicted. The next woman spoke and she said, I am coming because my son is 40 and he's no longer coming home and I'm worried for his family. And we went around and each woman had come to pray for her son.

And we got to Big Jane before me. And I at this point was deeply moved and tongue-tied, which given my day job, it was a treat to have Big Jane talk for me. And Big Jane said this is little Jane. Little Jane has come looking for her child and I'm wondering if we can help her find her child. And I looked around the room and they all understood that sitting here in the api, in the sweat lodge, they could help me find our child. It had been five years and they all said yes.

And then little Jane didn't have much to say. And the medicine man's wife moved us into a state of prayer where we were praying for each woman in the sweat lodge and at once praying for us, we, the superordinate. She put out the fire, and in my mind's eye, I could see the numinous go up. So it was really a union of the transcendent and the imminent. And that night a call came. We have found the miller's child. Mr. Miller wanted a girl, and we have many wonderful girls. We can find you a girl, but this is the Miller's child. And this is a son after five years, and he is absolutely the miller's child. This is our son.

So he's named Isaiah Lakota, Isaiah for one world and Lakota for those who prayed for him.

Adam Jacobs: That's a remarkable and beautiful story. And that's just one of a series of coincidences that you received in your journey.

Lisa Miller: I think in my words, you use yours, God puts synchronicities before us, the loving force in us, through us and around us, the source. And we can say, yes, thank you for opening that bright, radiant double door because there's Isaiah. What if I'd missed him?

Adam Jacobs: Well, what are the chances that you would end up in South Dakota in a sweat lodge? And it'd be open to that to begin with. Most people I don't think would be, well,

Lisa Miller: That's where despair is our friend. That's why I think we are hardwired when the bottom falls out when life isn't working when we're in pain. We're open yes to what is life showing me now? What higher power are you revealing to me now. What does the universe have in store now?

Adam Jacobs: I think that is a critical way to be. As long as someone takes one step into the possibility of that, that's a reality. And not some hippie good vibes, but fake way of looking at the world. And of course, when somebody experiences something like it, they feel charged and can parlay that into going forward with more and more experience as an openness.

Lisa Miller: We can at the table of human knowing alongside the mystic and the intuitive and the empiricist and logician is a skeptic. And we can invite the skeptic, the skeptics, our friend into this inquiry and say, Hey, skeptic, I invite you into your own experiment when you say yes to synchronicity, yes, it just might be real or even, yes, I'm going to try to walk down this path. What happens next? Who knows?

And that's your own personal experiment. So not that Dr. Miller said, go follow your synchronicities. I invite you to bring forward your own inner scientist and see what happens when you say yes to synchronicity when you really feel this gut instinct to go left, not right, to not yesterday or the day before, who came around that corner, and how is your day different when you feel this odd confluence between thinking about your friend who you haven't talked to in three years, and then suddenly you get a callback, what do you think is going on? So these are opportunities. These are huge opportunities. There's no failing at the spiritual path. It's not like you're bad or wrong if you don't do it, but if you do, life holds a promise that's just infinite.

Adam Jacobs: I have one more question and then we'll open it up to our friends. From your vantage point, what do you see as the future of psychology? Do you foresee this being integrated in a meaningful way and psychologists all over the country will start helping people explore in this kind of way, or do you think it's going to stagnate or…

Lisa Miller: I think we're on the edge of a great awakening as a society and yes, as a mental health field. So first of all, the preponderance of evidence is so strong that someone with a strong spiritual awareness is 80% less likely to become addicted. And as you said, Adam, we are in an epidemic of the diseases of despair. Addiction is one of them. Depression, even suicide. The rate of death by suicide rivals the rate of death by auto accident in high school. So this should be on the front page of the New York Times every single day.

And yet we know through a meta-analysis, a study of studies that in 2000 tragically completed suicides and 5,000 match controls, we are at 62% decreased relative risk of completed suicide. And that goes up to 82% less likely to take our lives when spiritual life is shared, shared in the minyan, the songa, the fellowship, the squad, when we see each other as souls on earth, when we share from the depth of our heart, our own spiritual experience, and then illuminate in one another the depth of our awakened awareness, this is our birthright. So we don't have a choice. I mean as a mental health field, it is iatrogenic harm to ignore the evidence we have no choice but to honor the possibility, the opportunity of our patients' lifetimes, that their suffering is indeed a knock at the door for a spiritual awakening.

Adam Jacobs: Thank you. First of all, thank you for being here. And also thank you for your remarkable work and I hope you go from strength to strength in your discoveries and your teaching. I think it's very important what you're doing.

Lisa Miller: Thank you for your strong spiritual voice at this time of collective awakening right here in the center of the world.

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