For celebrated author, speaker, and podcast host Mark Gober, there’s a bigger and far more independent force residing in our minds just waiting to be tapped: inner consciousness. Together with Adam Markel, they dive deep into this unseen yet powerful force that can lead to a better understanding of how distinction and duality in life can diverge into one common consciousness, ultimately leading to benevolence. Mark explains why everything in life must be seen more than just the physicality and materialistic perspective, and how the relativity of time can help us appreciate the now even more.
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Mark Gober: Understanding The Independent Force That Is Our Inner Consciousness
I am feeling this real sense of awe at how big the universe is or feels to me in this moment. Even the concept of time is mind-bogglingly large that I can think back around the same time, the start of a brand-new year, how energized we were around 2020 getting going, all these great goals and aspirations we had and not having any sense that the universe was going to test my sense of humor and test us in so many ways with more change and uncertainty than I experienced in probably my entire adult life. I think a lot of people have experienced very similar things.
It was a glorious and painful year. It’s a year of tremendous change and lots of suffering. I don’t diminish that in the least, yet I look back and it was a beautiful, unpredictable and majestic year. I’m in awe of what’s happened in the span of the last several months. Even contemplating time itself is such a mystery. As easily as I can think back on where I was at this moment, many of you can think back on where you were at this moment last 2020. It’s easy to think back to 10 or 20 years earlier or at some early stage in our lives. That only seemed like a second ago. That’s any longer a journey backward in time than even pre-pandemic was. It’s a mystery. Many things are mysteries.
I’m at a stage and phase of my life where I’m much more embracing of the unknown, uncertainty and mystery of life than I’ve ever been before. In fact, I started writing a book last 2020 that’s all about uncertainty, which we’ll be talking about in the months ahead. I won’t say anything about it other than to say that it is a book very much about how we leverage uncertainty for the purpose of long-term growth. Everything that has happened in 2020 without sounding so ridiculously optimistic that it’s Pollyanna-like is all about our growth. Even if we can’t see all of that at this moment, everything is intended for our growth individually, as species and as a universe, whatever that means. It’s such a big concept.
What’s great is taking on the conversation of a big concept, big universe and the mysteries of life as we know it and as we are yet to know it maybe. I’ve got the perfect guest for that conversation who happens to be a dear friend. I could say an old friend. We know each other for a while now but certainly a dear friend. I’ll say a little bit about him and then we’re going to dig into this and see where it leads. It’s always fun to start in a place, follow the breadcrumbs, allow ourselves to be guided and then see where it takes us. Mark Gober is the author of the award-winning book An End to Upside Down Thinking and the new sequel, An End to Upside Down Living. He is the host of the podcast, Where Is My Mind? He is a Former Partner at Sherpa Technology Group in Silicon Valley and previously worked on Wall Street. There’s a lot more to this man’s bio, but I’m going to start by saying welcome, Mark. It’s so great to have you on the show again.
Thank you for having me back, Adam.
It’s a pleasure. I’d love for you to think of one thing that’s not in that short but impressive bio that you would love for people to know about you at the outset.
I was always a very traditional thinker and was traditionally trained. I went to an elite private school outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and then I went to Princeton. I was a captain of the tennis team there, following the trajectory of someone who’s trying to achieve. I went into investment banking. I worked on Wall Street for a little under two years during the financial crisis. That was a big part of my life and foundation. It was a pretty traumatic time, not only for the world but also for me to be starting my career in such a stressful environment. Investment banking is stressful, to begin with and then also to be advising companies like banks and insurance companies, it was my duty to work with the financial institutions. That was a big part of my life.
I decided to leave. I then joined at the time, a new firm that spun out of the Boston Consulting Group. Boston Consulting Group, BCG, is a large consulting firm advising companies all over the world on their business strategy. I joined a spin-out of that firm to advise companies focused on their technology and their intellectual property. I was leaving the traditional path a little bit, but in a lot of ways, I wasn’t. I’m still advising companies and thinking about achievement. That was my focus. In my bio, you mentioned my books and podcast, and that’s where my life has moved in this other direction, which is thinking about the big questions you were talking about.
In 2016, everything shifted for me and not because I was looking for it, but I would say it was a combination of life circumstances. I hit a wall in many ways in my personal and professional life. Things weren’t quite going my way at that time. I heard some things on podcasts that I wasn’t planning to hear that challenged my view of reality. It made me go from a person who thought, “There’s no meaning to life. We are in this big, random universe, but it’s all meaningless.” That’s what my educational system and societal conditioning had taught me to believe.
I went from believing that to learning about Science that suggested there is a spiritual dimension to reality. My journey is to explore the nature of reality with this expanded perspective and then look at my own life, “What do I want to be doing? Do I want to just be focused on achieving and doing the next step based on what I’ve been conditioned to do? Do I want to do something else?” I’ve chosen to veer in another direction. I don’t know exactly where that’s going to go, but that’s the short version, Adam.Even in a perceived loss, there is something to gain from it. Click To Tweet
I’d love to get a sense of, what’s the difference in a day in a life for you? Meaning, what was your life like following that more traditional, conventional and well-worn path of achievement that leads to success or work? Establishing yourself, credentials and the like that ultimately leads to financial success and rewards associated with that? The path that you were on there and a day in a life now? What would be the telltale signs that your life, while still you, are quite different or feel different?
The first word that comes to mind is stress. Stress was a huge part of my life before. It’s not absent from my life now. When I think about that old track, even going back to the first time there were grades in middle school, stress, “What’s the next thing I’m going to achieve? I have a tennis tournament this weekend. I’ve got to perform there.” That never ended. It was because I was focused on the next thing in front of me. There was a fear associated with that next thing in front of me, a fear of failure, of not getting the thing that I want to get and knowing that every challenge in front of me had the potential of failure, but it also had the potential of success.
You reminded me of something that I studied in undergrad. I was a Psychology major focused on Judgment and Decision-Making. This conversation has reminded me of a concept called loss aversion. The idea in Psychology that losses are more painful than gains feel good. It’s a human tendency. That was very much how I think I lived because I was confronted with win-loss situations. I saw the potential for losses and that can lead to lots of stress. That also implied that I was framing the question as gain-loss on some arbitrary scale, as you were alluding to. Now, I look at everything so much differently, which we can get into. I look at life in a more evolutionary fashion and that gains and losses are arbitrary. Even in a perceived loss, there is something to gain from it. There’s less stress now.
Where does worry fit in? I think we have a sense of what stress is like and feels like, and worry is part of that.
Worry was associated with the stress that I used to have. Worry comes into play now, but it’s neutralized much more quickly when I experience it. It has to do with this more, what I call spiritual outlook. I almost don’t like to use that word because of the connotations. To me, the Science points to a reality which is inherently spiritual, but that perspective, this idea that we are not just our body, the essence of what we are, some would call it consciousness, the part of us that experiences life. Some might call it the soul that is beyond the body and this lifetime. Within an expanded perspective, what might seem worrisome can be re-contextualized and re-understood with this other worldview.
I want to dig into that. I want to go back to the gain-loss distinction there because a lot of people can relate to that. We can live our lives in many ways trying to avert mistakes, the pain of losing, the pain of screwing up or the pain of any number of other things that lead to self-judgment or the judgment of others. How different would it be if we somehow understood that gain and loss are arbitrary and is it a zero-sum game? What does that mean to you?
One of the things that you asked as you were talking that’s related to gain-loss is also the concept of risk and risk aversion. This goes back to Daniel Kahneman’s Prospect Theory, which he won the Nobel Prize for. My thesis was on this topic. I was exploring how it works and trying to figure it out. The idea is that when a person is faced with a sure thing, like, “Adam, I’m going to give you $100,” or, “We’re going to flip a coin. If you win, you get $200. If you lose, you get nothing.” You take the gamble or you can take the sure thing. Most people take the sure thing. That’s how they frame it in their mind. It’s called risk aversion. If you flip it around though and I said, “Adam, you’re going to give me $100 for sure or we’re going to flip a coin and you’re either going to lose $200 or lose nothing.”
What the researchers found is that when you flip it around, people like to take the gamble rather than to take the sure loss. That idea won the Nobel Prize because when it’s framed as a gain, people like to take the sure gain. When it’s framed as a loss, they like to take the gamble rather than take a sure loss. This concept informs how we think about gains and losses in any decisions we make in life. We think about what the risk associated with it. If we frame it as a potential gain, then we like to take the sure thing. If we’re in the position where we might lose more or lose something for sure, we’d rather gamble to have the opportunity of not losing anything.
Is there a philosophy that you now hold that as you say neutralizes the distinction between or creates almost like oneness? We’ll get into that what oneness has to do with any of this. I was reading at some point in a text some years ago that in the divine mind, this was metaphysical text. In that context, the supply and demand were one and the same. It feels like in this instance, something that you’re addressing is that gain and loss are one and the same in a different framework. Am I near to what you’re getting at?
Yes, especially from this worldview that I now hold that even in what you would call the loss, there is something to be gained on another level. Even in the “gain,” it might be on a different dimension almost.
Even on the gain, there’s a loss that is possible in the gaining. You and I had a similar path at the beginning, doing the things that are traditionally associated with creating a path for success and then even tasting the fruit for a while of that path. A lot of people know that success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s that old cliché. The truth in that is that even in the gain, you lose lots of things. You may lose time that you can’t get back. You may lose time with people that you can’t recapture. You may lose respect for yourself, as was the case for me. Fifteen years into a practice of law, knowing that for the most part, each day, I was doing work I didn’t love and feeling like I’m selling out or even feeling like a fraud in the process. My bank account or my possessions were swelling. I was certainly taking care of my family, but for me, my view of myself was shrinking. That’s a loss, the front and back of the same coin.
At a different level of reality, there is no question about whether there is a gain or a loss. It’s a construct because no matter how you look at it, you can find something that’s a gain or a loss in any situation. A good way to summarize much of the transformation I’ve had in my own thinking is that any event that happens can be neutralized by looking at all of the surrounding effects. One can always find the positives. At the highest level, there’s always a positive to be found usually, if not always, with regard to growth in some way. Everything causes growth.
This is a good lead to some of these big concepts. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic. For months, I’m doing shows and speaking to people. I still feel like we’re somewhere between Dover and Calais, somewhere in the middle of the English Channel and haven’t yet reached ashore. This pandemic is certainly not gone and not going away instantly. Even with the advent of a vaccine, there are still tons of things happening. With everything that’s going on in the world and all the change that’s around, how do we help? What’s the conversation about framing this as something that’s neutral that is both a combination of gain and loss, of good and other, for people who are living with it daily?
You’ve been blessed and I know you’ve worked hard to create a lot of your blessings. I’ve been blessed and I’m not taking anything away from the work that’s led to this point and for the grace of God because there are people living in boxes. There are people who are homeless. There are people who can’t put food on their table. There are people who have experienced a loss of family members and friends. It’s beyond description on some level. I love it if what we’re discussing in some way is something that’s usable for people in how they approach their experience of living even in this moment and beyond. What else do we have? My theory is that we’ve got a feeling. We experience a feeling of our lives each moment and hopefully, moments to come too many to count.
This is the only one we’ve got. All my feelings of my life don’t change what I’m feeling at this moment. If what I’m feeling is scared, alone or any other ways of taking in the enormity of the world as it is in this moment, then my life is not as I would want it to be. I also would believe it’s not as it was designed by a great creator for it to be. How do we speak to people now who are dealing with real harsh realities in their lives that allows them to reframe and experience even the hardship but in a more neutral way, the way you were describing it?
Two things come to mind. First is I want to re-explain what I mean by neutrality. Secondly, I want to introduce the concept of humility. There’s so much that we don’t know about the universe, what we’re doing here and what the purpose of life is. It’s difficult to judge and know why things are happening, but we’ll get to that. Neutrality, when I talk about neutrality, I don’t mean that in a way where we dismiss feelings that come up, whether they feel good or bad. This is a core tenet of many spiritual traditions or self-help traditions is to fully experience whatever is coming up. That might need to happen for reasons that we can’t understand. It could be a negative feeling that needs to be cleared from within us.
When there are things happening in the world that appear to be very dark, those could also be viewed as a form of a clearing. We see that on a personal level throughout an individual’s life. In order to progress to a new level of understanding or a new level of anything in life, we typically have to clear out the stuff that’s holding us back. Whatever darkness we have within us has to be expressed and has to come out in some way so that we can be free of that. Maybe that’s what we’re seeing on a collective level and an individual level. On a planetary level, we could be experiencing the surfacing of some of the darkness that’s been there so that we can advance to a new phase.
This neutrality means that we can look at things and find the positives in something that might be “negative.” Also, like you were saying, when there’s a gain, there is something that’s lost with it. It’s a more holistic perspective than saying, “I don’t care. I’m passive. I feel pain, but I’m going to ignore it.” That’s not what I mean or, “I feel joy. I’m going to ignore it.” That’s what I mean by neutrality. On the topic of humility, I want to take a few steps back. In order to explain this, I need to get into my worldview. If you don’t mind, unless you want to go somewhere else out, I want to take the core question.
This is a perfect opportunity.
The core question that I explore in both books but especially the first book I wrote, An End to Upside Down Thinking, and my show, Where Is My Mind? is about consciousness. What do I mean by consciousness? It’s the part of us that experiences. Anyone reading this, you’re having the experience of that. That’s what I mean by consciousness. It’s hard to define because we can’t touch consciousness. It’s an abstract thing. I can touch my table, but I can’t touch my consciousness, yet it’s experiencing our life and everything about it.Any event can be neutralized by looking at all of the surrounding effects. One can always find the positives. Click To Tweet
One of the big questions in science, in fact, Science Magazine has called it the number two question that’s remaining in all of science, “How could a brain make consciousness?” We know the brain has a lot to do with our thinking and mental state. Science assumes that the sense of experiencing comes from chemical and electrical activities happening in our skull somehow. That’s exactly the assumption that I question, challenge and say, “We’ve got it upside down. This consciousness that we experience is more basic than even our body or the physical world. The body is like a vessel and consciousness is experiencing the world through the lens of the body.
To use an analogy that I often reference, it’s from a philosopher named Dr. Bernardo Castro. He says that, “We are like whirlpools in an infinite stream.” Meaning, there’s a Mark whirlpool, an Adam whirlpool, etc., that seemed like individuals. They are localized as its own one thing, but it’s within a larger stream. There’s interconnectivity even though there’s individuality. The way I arrive at this without going into all the sciences, lots of evidence from places like the CIA, University of Virginia, Princeton University and peer-reviewed papers are showing that psychic phenomena where our consciousness can be at a distant location in space and time, for example.
That sounds insane but there had been scientific studies that suggest that someone in one whirlpool can access a part of the stream far away. There’s a science to back that up. There’s also science backing up the idea that, “When a whirlpool stops being a whirlpool, the water dissolves back into the broader stream. It doesn’t leave the stream.” Similarly, when the physical body stops being this individual body, when the body dies, the consciousness transitions into a new state. There’s a lot of this evidence scientifically that consciousness continues even when the body dies. This is all to say that the worldview I’m discussing is that we’re part of an infinite stream of consciousness, even though we’re perceiving a very narrow sliver of it.
It might be like I’m standing out on the deck and looking out at the ocean, for example. I can see as far as my eyes can allow me to see maybe to the horizon line, but there’s a whole world well beyond what I can see and perceive that us, as a tiny sliver of consciousness, have a perspective or vantage point. Beyond that, we are left in either a state of knowing our ignorance, being aware of what we’re unaware of or unaware that we’re unaware.
There are two analogies that I like to use to describe exactly what you said. The brain and the body can be likened to filtering mechanisms or almost like blindfolds, where there is a broader reality that we see a sliver of and it’s because the brain is blocking out the rest. The evidence for this comes from a few places. One is a near-death experience where a person’s brain is essentially knocked out. A person might be in cardiac arrest. They shouldn’t be able to have any lucid consciousness, yet after they’re resuscitated, they come back and say, “I was immersed in unconditional love. I was in other dimensions. I saw things.” Sometimes the things that they saw were accurate, meaning it wasn’t a hallucination. We see an expansion of consciousness, even though the brain and the body were shut down.
We see this in emerging psychedelics research when parts of the brain have reductions in functioning during the psychedelic trip and there’s an expansion of this perception of reality. We see it with savant syndrome. This is a person who might have certain damage to the brain in certain ways. Like in the movie Rain Man, they have mathematical and musical abilities that are unreal. You see a heightened consciousness associated with reductions in the brain in certain capacities. From this whirlpool that we’re in, we are directly perceiving not the entire stream. There’s this process by which we become aware that we are the whirlpool within the broader stream.
There’s a period, at least for me, where I had no conception that any of this could be possible. I didn’t even think of being interconnected as part of a stream. I just thought of myself as an individual who, when you die, it’s over. There’s no paranormal or anything like that. Whereas this other worldview raises many questions and makes us become more aware of the unknown. There is an unknown that we can’t even know how big that unknown is. This is going back to the original point about humility. We don’t know what’s going on in the world. We don’t know how life works. To judge and say something is good or bad, even though it might bring up those feelings, we don’t know.
A common example could be when someone experiences a loss like losing a job, getting sick or death in the family. Those events might seem very negative but from a broader perspective, if you take a helicopter’s perspective and you can see the 30,000-foot. Maybe in ten years, those apparent losses might have led to growth or even positivity in that person’s life many years later. For that reason, we can have the initial negative reaction to something because we’re human beings, but then look at it, be introspective and say, “Do I know that this is all bad? Is there something that could come out of this that’s ultimately a positive thing?”
That goes back to what you were saying about gain and loss with the benefit of seeing what else is there. I won’t say there to be seen because we can talk about, “Is there a way for us to expand our view?” I can see as far as my eyes will allow me but is there a way to supplement that or see beyond the horizon line of my own consciousness? There’s an element of, if we can’t see, then are we left with the choice to have faith, understanding or some knowingness inside of us that we trust that if we could see more, if we could see at 30,000 feet, would we then see there is a lot of good that’s associated with something we would call bad? Sometimes even, a lot of bad with things that we associate with the good. In that sense, you remove the distinction between good and bad where they, in essence, become oneness.
Going back to your earlier point about worry and stress, one of the reasons why I feel much less worry and stress is because there is this analogy I use in my new book, An End to Upside Down Living. It’s like we’re walking through a maze. We can see what’s immediately in front of us but we can’t see the entire maze. If you had a helicopter’s perspective, you could see that whatever you’re going through in your little corner of the maze, you could see what’s ahead from that perspective. Knowing that that even exists puts to rest potentially some of the long-term worries. One other point about the stream of consciousness that relates to the same concept is the idea that the stream itself is intelligent and not only intelligent but probably of some kind of intelligence that we can’t conceive of. Maybe infinitely intelligent.
Where do I arrive at that hypothesis? If we get to this idea that consciousness is the basis of everything physical, which I wrote a whole book and did an episode on, the evidence to suggest that that’s true if we buy that for now, then we look at how complex the universe is from the microscopic level to the macroscopic level. It’s beyond human comprehension. Our brain can’t understand it like the concept of infinity. We know mathematically it’s a real thing, but we don’t understand what that means. We get to the point where we say, “Maybe there’s this intelligence underlying all of reality and the maze that we are in, in this life that we can’t possibly understand.” Therefore, to get too caught up in a judgment about a circumstance doesn’t make any sense because we don’t know enough to make that judgment.
I’m going to ask you an interesting question. It sounds funny to say that. Maybe it’s not an interesting question. Who knows? Do you believe that stream, that consciousness is a force of benevolence? Is that your worldview?
I would say yes at the highest level. This gets into another distinction I talked about in An End to Upside Down Living, the distinction between the absolute level of reality and the relative level. The absolute level would be that there is this one consciousness, one stream. At some level of that stream, there is no division at all. The appearance of a whirlpool is still a version of separation, even though it’s within the unity. We see this with many spiritual teachers who have reached very high states of consciousness. They talk about this oneness. People who have taken DMT describes something similar. We see it on near-death experiences these states of expanded awareness. People talk about this absolute level almost where it’s one with everything.
There’s also a relative level of reality, where there is a Mark and an Adam. They co-exist. This is a paradox that we’re never going to understand how those could be true at the same time. I would argue that they do co-exist. There’s a Mark and an Adam. At the same time, there’s no Mark and no Adam. There’s just oneness. They both co-exist. Going back to your question about what’s the nature of the stream. It gets into good and evil. Is that a real thing or not? At the absolute level, there’s no distinction. There is oneness. It’s benevolent based on the fact that there are so many of these direct experiences from distinct disciplines that talk about people feeling pure oneness and bliss. They use the term unconditional love.
I haven’t had an experience like that that many people have described from psychedelics, near-death experiences, meditation but I can say I’ve had glimpses of maybe what they’re referring to in meditation. Maybe we can talk about this but in 2020, I’ve been meditating a ton. I went on two silent meditation retreats right before COVID hit, not knowing COVID was going to hit. Now, I’m still meditating on average for 4 to 5 hours a day. In two instances, I’ve had an experience with a very positive energy, more than usual, because there’s usually positive energy. This was a sensation that is not describable with words. Love is the closest word that I can use to it, but it was not personal love. It trended in that direction. It was a complete bliss out. When it happened for a very short period of time, it was terrifying because I felt like I was losing my sense of identity in my body. I shut it down.
At that point, I understood. I said, “Now, I understand why these people will go into a cave and meditate all the time.” Whatever the sensation is, it is better than anything you can get in the physical world. If that experience I had related to this oneness that other people have talked about, if we assume that’s true, then I’m going to assume there is benevolence at the highest level. At the relative level, there’s distinction and duality. There’s me and you. There’s love and hate. We see that dichotomy all over the place. Ultimately, there’s benevolence. Within the relative that we experience, there is a dark light and the darkness can be viewed from multiple lenses. Like we’ve been saying, we can dwell on the dark parts of it, which certainly exists, but we can look from a higher level and see the growth that it’s enabling.
You may have answered the question I had. You said that, to some extent, our mind is blocking out more awareness or access to consciousness than we are capable of handling. It’s like a Jack Nicholson thing, “You can’t handle the truth.” Is the divine mind or the universe set up to only allow us so much viewing time or a view of the picture? Can we expand our view? You’ve alluded to the fact that there are ways to gain access to more. What’s your thought or experience on that?
Whatever bodily form we have enables us to have specific learning experiences. If we knew more and had more access, maybe we wouldn’t have those experiences that we’re having. There’s a benefit to having the blocks in some way. Even on a more physical level, there are probably reasons for having blocks to this energy. Having experienced it myself, it’s overwhelming. In my new book, An End to Upside Down Living, I explored this awakening process that many people have described and many of these experiences of energy coming in.
Sometimes it’s called Kundalini energy, which is an electric feeling. It feels painful in a way. I’ve had bits of that where I feel almost like sparks of electricity that come in during meditation. Some people get it like a fire hose and they’re out of commission for a while. Their nervous system can’t tolerate the energy. As we move into these realms of expansion, both from a knowledge perspective too, because that takes a lot also to handle, “Wait a second, there’s so much more. I have to change my worldview.” Mentally, there’s a lot to handle, but physically there’s a lot to handle as we evolve.
We skipped past something and I think it’s worth tracking back to, which is in the first book. I was so happy that our first interview was about An End to Upside Down Thinking. I felt fortunate that as you were writing and getting ready to publish that book, you and I were doing some work together, which was magnificent. You exposed the essence of the dispute, if you will, about whether we view consciousness as something that emanates from the brain, is created in the mind or in the brain physically, versus something where consciousness is an independent thing and we access it, which is what your worldview is.To progress to a new level of understanding, we typically have to clear out the stuff holding us back. Click To Tweet
The former being what’s commonly known as materialism and for people who are wondering, that is the mainstream view. I’d love for you to set that up now that we’ve talked about this other way of seeing and experiencing things. That’s not the way the mainstream scientific community views it. There have been tremendous disputes about this for a very long time that don’t seem to have been resolved at this point.
The view known as materialism, also sometimes called physicalism, as the name suggests, is that everything is about the physical and that consciousness, our sense of being, comes out of physical stuff. The way the story goes under the materialist view is that roughly 13.8-ish billion years ago, there was a Big Bang, filling the universe with little pieces of matter called atoms. You have a big universe and lots of atoms flying all over the place. In a big universe, you’re bound to end up with interactions between those atoms, those pieces of matter. We call that Chemistry.
When you have lots of random chemical reactions in this big universe, chance tells us that eventually, you’re going to get a molecule that can replicate itself like DNA. That leads to the evolution of biological species like a human being. That species has developed a brain. From the brain, consciousness comes out. We started with matter. Through Chemistry, Biology and Neuroscience, we end up with consciousness at the very end. What I’m arguing, and many others have argued this as well, is that it’s the reverse. We can leave the stuff about the physical, Chemistry and Biology. We put consciousness in a new place. We put consciousness first. Consciousness is fundamental and everything physical is emerging within this nonphysical consciousness.
Like you said, there are huge debates about this still. Materialism is the conventional scientific worldview, even though there is a realm of quantum physics which is questioning the materialist worldview. As we get down to the smaller scales of what’s something physical like my table here, it feels like it’s solid, but under a microscope, it’s 99.99% empty space. You get into the Physics of it and then also some of those psychic phenomena, near-death experiences that say, “You have a consciousness that seems to be independent of the physical. What’s going on here?” When you put all that together, it leads to questioning the materialist worldview. Why does that matter beyond the scientific implications?
To me, it’s huge because of the worldview that’s implied. If we’re just a material, then what happens when the physical body stops functioning? You’re dead. It’s over. Any meaning that you attributed to your life is wiped out once you’re dead because you can’t think about it anymore. That’s how I used to think. I cared about the gains and the losses as I perceived them, but I didn’t think there was any meaning behind it other than what I wanted to make up. I said, “Why should I make up something? That’s rationalizing. I’m not going to rationalize. I’m going to accept things the way they are, which is that it’s a materialist universe. When I die, it’s over. There’s no supernatural. Therefore, my life is meaningless as bleak as that sounds.” It’s nihilism.
I want to go back to one other thing, too. Looking at the materialist view, it’s not my goal here to try to make a case for this. There are plenty of places people can assess that for themselves, including reading your books. You do almost like a lawyer setup, a bit of a case that you’re proving. I like to sometimes think or want to find the first domino in any sequence for logic purposes. Where is the first domino in the materialist or physicalist view? Isn’t that the actual issue that the first domino exists out of thin air, even in a materialist viewpoint? If we’re going to find one place where you’re building something in air, meaning there’s no actual foundation to it that that’s where you would look?
Yes. This materialist worldview that there was a Big Bang says that something such as this massive universe, comes out of nothing. That is not well-explained even by the materialist worldview. I’m sure there are physicists who have tried to back into that. Even from the perspective that I’m talking about, some in the philosophical world they would call it metaphysical idealism. All that means is everything is consciousness for one stream. As the famous Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger said, “In truth, there is only one mind.” I like to use that term one mind that we are whirlpools. We are individuations of the one mind. I’ll call it the one mind versus materialism. Some would say, “Where does the one mind come from, Mark? You’re talking about the stream. Does it have a source?”
The answer to that is very complicated because the question assumes causality that you need the first domino and that something causes something else. In order for that to be true, you need linear time. What I’m arguing with this one mind is that it’s beyond space and time. That means that consciousness is without any cause. That usually makes people’s heads explode because it’s like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” It doesn’t even make sense to me. I think that data leads there, especially with things like precognition quickly. This is one of the phenomena. Some people call it an anomaly because materialism can’t explain it. Precognition is knowing or sensing the future before it happens. There have been people who claimed to be psychic. You can do tests on that to control for ways of cheating.
Some of the most compelling studies are ones that show a very small effect, but they’re statistically significant. The study goes like this. You have a person in front of a computer screen. The computer screen will either show a neutral image like a mountain, river or something, or a very disturbing or arousing image. It could be a sexual or violent image. One that we know from Psychology would cause a subconscious response by the skin, by the pupils dilating, things you’re not even thinking about. If you saw a certain image, your body would have a reaction if you measured it. I remember these from a psychology class. What the scientists have now done is reverse in time to study. They measure the body before the image comes up on the screen to see if your body somehow senses whether it’s going to be peaceful or arousing before it even happens.
Why would you even think to test that? If your consciousness is in the here and now, it should never happen. Especially if the images are randomly generated, you don’t know if it’s going to be positive or negative. What did the studies show? They showed that the body seemed to react in a very small amount, in a statistically significant matter, seconds before it comes up on the screen. What does that tell you? Does that mean our consciousness is reaching forward in time? Does that mean that he had a backwards causality where a future event is affecting the path? It’s mind-blowing stuff, but it lends credence to this idea that time is not what we think it is. Even Einstein talked about relativity, where time can speed up or slow down depending on how fast you’re going or how much gravity there is.
Time is very weird, even though we seem to perceive sequence. To make this even more mind-blowing, think about our own experience. We’ve never experienced the past. We’ve never experienced the future. We’ve experienced the thoughts about the past, the memories, which occur right now in the present moment. Think about the future, it occurs right now. When we get down to our own experience, all we’ve ever experienced is a now. That’s what I would argue is the case with this one mind is there is some ever-present now that we experience from different lenses. Through our interpretation, we see linear time past to present to future.
Which gives us a great measure of certainty in the midst of great uncertainty. At the same time that everything is so uncertain and so unknown, we also have something so known and so certain as this moment and how it is that we feel and experience this moment. That is our greatest freedom.
If we can get there. When I look back at my own life and maybe you can relate to this as well, Adam, it’s being so busy thinking about achievements and linear time and being so focused on that timeline and time horizon. I use this analogy in my book. It’s almost like the conditioning was, “Get a good education. Get a good job. Get married. Have kids. Take care of your kids and then you die.” That’s the trajectory. All you have to do is think about those events. I don’t want to say we should dismiss all of those things, but when we focus more holistically and get ourselves more in the present moment, maybe a lot of the noise, we can get that out of the way and focus more on the signal.
Going back to the first question that I asked you, Mark. How are you experiencing a day in a life? I’ll shrink it down to a moment. How are you experiencing the now versus the way you recall experiencing the now under a different worldview?
The now has much more mystery. It’s a growing mystery because I’m always researching. I’m now meditating and going inward much more. The more that I don’t know has increased and that increases on a daily basis. The recognition that I don’t know has increased. With that, in my own life, there’s so much that I don’t know. Not just on a metaphysical level, but what am I going to do tomorrow? I left my job. We haven’t talked about this in this interview yet. In December of 2019, after years at the firm, I went from associate to partner. I told my partners that I was going to leave. It wasn’t like I was going to another financial firm or another advisory firm. I was leaving because I wanted space. I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I wanted to be able to explore the things that I am more passionate about, like understanding what life is all about and researching metaphysics.
There was a major uncertainty associated with that. If we look in hindsight, the timing of it turned out to be unbelievable. In December 2019, I gave notice that I’m going to leave my job. I said, “I would love to stay on, help and work part-time. I wasn’t just going to leave everything.” I ended up staying on for three months. That takes us through the end of March 2020. Leading up to the pre-COVID era in the February and early March time frame, I had scheduled three retreats that I could never have done before because I was always so busy. I went on an Ayurvedic retreat, which was very healthy physically but also on a mental level. That set me up very well for two silent meditation retreats, which were a week apart. One was six days and one was five days.
In that meditative period, that’s when the book emerged. I wrote the book in between the two meditation retreats. There was a week where I wrote it. I went on the second meditation retreat to think about it. I revised it and then the book came out. Think about the mystery there of being back in my shoes in December of 2019, not knowing any of the stuff was coming. You and I had talked about the potential for a second book. You probably had more foresight on this than I did because I always thought like, “I don’t have the second book in me.”
You were laying out the time frame and you were about right when it came, but I didn’t see that I was going to write a second book. I made the decision to be more authentic. That’s what it was is that I wasn’t being authentic and I needed to make a pivot, to use your term. When I made that pivot, when I spoke to my business partners about it, that’s when the ideas for the second book came about. I went on a meditation retreat and got into meditation. The pandemic happened and all this stuff. At any given moment, think about how much we don’t know and the rest of the maze. Imagine if we did have that helicopter’s perspective.
I was curious about how your partners responded to that. They’d seen your development. They knew things were changing. They were in support of the first book that you came out with. I think you had developed a good relationship with them. I’m sure they wished you well. I’m curious as a fly on the wall, what was that like? It’s unusual when someone has attained that level of accomplishment, has gotten a brass ring of sorts and gives it back in some way.
How did they respond to that? How has your family responded to it? What’s life like for you because you have done the Robert Frost thing? I taught this too long ago to recall. The two years I spent as a middle school English teacher, I remember The Road Less Traveled was a wonderful poem to share with kids when they were in seventh and eighth grade. You took the road less traveled by. Give us a little taste of what that’s been like.When we get down to our own experience, all we've ever experienced is a now. Click To Tweet
On the Robert Frost, I see a totally different maze than Adam Frost might have seen or that most people would look at as, “Take this path or this path.” I have a totally different vantage point. For me and this goes into my decision as well, it almost wasn’t even a choice. From the way I was looking at the world, it wasn’t a weird move. It would have been weirder for me to stay on the path that I was on because it was out of alignment.
It was trying to serve two masters, in some sense. You know you cannot do. None of us can.
I tried. Even before 2016, when I first learned about this, I was probably serving two masters and didn’t know what the second master was. I was serving the mainstream master and I didn’t know there was something else pulling at me. That probably led to a lot of the personal struggles I had during that period. When I let my partners know about the first book, this was in 2017. After a year of researching and those initial podcast in 2016, I ended up deciding to write the first draft of the book, which came out in 2018. I remember having a conversation with the partners, letting them know that I had written a book because I didn’t even think I would write a book. All of a sudden, it was there because I wrote it quickly. It wasn’t on business, technology, intellectual property. It wasn’t on those things. They were very receptive, but it was a difficult thing for me to do because I was leaving that path, even though I’m staying with the firm and no plans to do anything else to say, “I had this other interest and I’m writing a book about it.”
Not only that, it’s challenging. People like Einstein and some of the great thinkers, I’m going against their assumptions and talking about what might seem like weird scientific ideas. They were very receptive to that. I mentioned it because it was difficult to come out and tell people that I was writing about this stuff while having a traditional business thing. I mentioned this because I don’t know where people are on their own journeys and you might be going through something similar. I felt much better after I did it at that time for sure, even though I still felt a little bit of nerves because I was on this two masters’ path very clearly. I didn’t know either if I was going to leave, even though I had been on the path to becoming a partner and eventually did become a partner even though I’d written the first book.
I got to this point in December of 2019 where I had to make this decision. It hit me, but I had to make the call. I was hoping that maybe another opportunity would emerge or something more clearly would emerge in the current role that would allow me to stick with it. I had to pull the trigger and it was very difficult. It’s one of the more difficult things that I’ve probably ever done. Many years of my entire professional career other than the stint I did in New York helped build the firm. It was a new firm when I joined it. I had put so much into it. I learned a lot about a very specific topic, the relationship between intellectual property and business, which is both broad but also a niche.
To spend all that time and say, “I’m going to do something else,” was hard for me personally. That was probably the hardest part is the talking about it with them. They were very receptive and disappointed that I would be leaving because we had a good relationship and spent a lot of time together. It was completely amicable. The hardest part was on my side of it. Same with family, they’ve been receptive throughout this whole journey. I’ve been fortunate in that regard that people around me have been supportive, but not everyone agrees with what I’m doing. I would say this more about friends and some people close to me. They don’t agree with what I’m talking about. They don’t agree with some of the science or haven’t read some of the science. They have a different worldview. I knew that was coming. To write a book, put a line in the sand and say, “I’m on this side rather than that side,” anytime someone does that, there will be opposition. That goes with the territory.
The idea that you would have to win everybody over or get their approval is so ironic. In the sense that, yes, it’s impossible to serve two masters. Imagine serving 2,200 masters or whatever number of people in our lives we might want to have beyond board, understand, support or any of those things. It’s not possible. It’s depleting on so many levels. That is something a lot of people can also relate to is the idea that what they want to do or what they’re doing even has to somehow be reconciled with what other people think or what they want other people to think. Even that is a made-up story in so many respects. Mark, you’re a great example of what’s possible when you are willing to be humble in the way that you have shown. To me, this is the greatest humility of all is to realize each day what little we do know but still be craving for greater understanding at the same time. With every new thing I understand, I discover an infinite number of things to allow our lives to unfold without some of those other attachments.
It’s a challenge. I’m still adjusting to that. I’m not even a full year in being completely out of my job. It’s a new state of being to not know what I’m used to knowing, what’s going to be next, knowing when the next paycheck is or where I’m even going to live. I have many things here up in the air. I have very few commitments. Even tracking back to 2016 when I first became interested in this and looking back at my own life, I’ve always had questions about things. Even though I had a certain worldview, I was very curious. Now that I’ve seen this other potential of how much exists that I don’t know is that I feel like my devotion is to truth and uncovering truth. That’s what all of my explorations have been at both books and shows. Whatever I do next, I’m sure it will be related to understanding the truth and living in accordance with that, whatever that means.
The way I started off the second book, An End to Upside Down Living, I asked the question, “What is the overall intention of your life?” The quest of the book is to answer that question, develop a worldview and then say, “Based on the way we think the world is, how would we then live?” Ultimately, at the end of the book, I describe in a more detailed fashion what that is. The short version for me is I want to perfect myself to become the purest vessel for whatever this consciousness, intelligence, one mind stream is so that I can be of service in whatever way manifests for me.
That happens through my own perfection. I am working on myself so then I can be of service in a better way. That’s the compass for me in this context of not knowing. Whatever happens, I don’t know how it’s going to manifest for me. The way it works for me might be different than it way it works for you, Adam, or for any other person. I don’t think there is a superior way or an inferior way. For me, maybe it’s speaking. We’ve worked on writing books, getting out there and getting the message out. For another person, it might be being a caring person in a relationship or doing a good job at work. We don’t know what that is for each person.
It would be great if we were more involved in the process. If there’s anything that feels tragic to me about any life, it’s the degree to which we’re not actively engaged and involved in the process or involved in something that is a bit of a sham of the process. We were convinced that it’s one thing and we go down that road and live our lives in accordance with something that turns out to not be truthful. I applaud your quest and search for truth for yourself and the way that it informs you and the rest of us. You’re not just keeping it to yourself. I don’t want to put this in a judgment for me, either. You’re not in a cave, cross-legged, having this experience exclusively for yourself, but you are sharing it with others, writing books and delivering a great show. It’s sharing and giving.
That’s how I view it. I appreciate you saying that. That’s the reason I’m doing all of this. If I just cared about the traditional track, it would have been easy for me to stay in my job. I had made it to partner at a relatively young age. I was very fortunate. I could have stuck with that, but something hit me when I was researching all this material. This is changing my life. If other people understood this, if they had access to the information, they could understand it as well and it could change their lives in a positive way. There has been this impulse to want to get the information out there. That’s how it’s been for me.
You mentioned the cross-legged in a cave thing because I’ve had to think about that. There’s been almost a pull to do that. Many in the past have done that. Some would say that metaphysically by elevating oneself through that process. It’s almost like ripples in the pool, pond or stream that’s helping. There might be something to that. I’ve been doing a hybrid, where hours a day, I am meditating like that. For whatever reason, it feels like I need to do that. Maybe not forever. I’m doing other stuff on the side. Maybe it’s researching, doing interviews, not as much speaking because of the opportunities. It’s a different world in the pandemic.
There are four pathways in yoga. It’s worth mentioning this. It has helped me frame out how I think about my daily living. This applies to any spiritual tradition. The four pathways to this process of personal development, spiritual development, whatever you want to call it. One is called Jnana yoga, which is a pathway of knowledge. I clearly started out on that path of wanting to understand. There’s a path called Bhakti yoga, which is devotion. That’s devotion to this one mind or understanding that we’re a whirlpool within the broader stream. It’s an attitude. Some people will do it through prayers or rituals, but to me, it’s an attitude. There’s a service path of helping others. They come and mesh together. Their knowledge ends up relating to devotion and relating to wanting to serve. There’s an independent but sort of not.
The fourth one is known as Raja yoga, which is around energy. That could be meditation or other processes that bring about the alignment of the physical body with this other stuff. The four swirls together toward one’s personal development. You can almost segment one’s own life based on these four pathways. “How am I working on these four pathways every day? Am I learning something new? Am I doing service or doing something that could lead to service? Do I have this attitude or approach of devotion in some way? Am I doing something energetically?” Maybe even it is diet, physical exercise, physical yoga or meditation. It could be lots of different things. I like to think every day about what I’m doing in those four areas.
That’s as good a blueprint as I think we’ll ever hear about how to architect a great day in a life. I so enjoyed the conversation as always, Mark. I love you. Thank you for being on the show again. It’s a pleasure.
Thank you so much, Adam. Thank you for giving me the opportunity and for all that you do. I’ve gotten to know you over the last few years and the work that you’re doing to help other people in your own way. I appreciate it.
I want to close out our episode with a reminder. This is again thinking about the blueprint or the architecture of a day in a life. To me, the fact that we’re awake and aware at this moment is such a gift. I don’t know that we are always feeling in such a state of gratitude for that fact. I want to call it out at this moment that our ability to be here now in this is so special, profound and holy even. That all began with the first waking breath, the first conscious moment of the day, conscious awareness. There’s no beginning and no end. If we could encompass that idea and take that in, there’s no beginning and no end.
It’s hard to point to, like you said, the first domino. We do go to sleep and enter into a different realm in our subconscious. That’s a different exploration for a different time. We wake up. It’s metaphoric, literal, figurative, all of that. I want to point to that moment. To me, that first waking moment of the day is a very profound moment. It’s the way that I would create that architecture that you described. I wanted, for all of us, to imagine that waking moment for yourselves now. What was that like for you? What did that look like? I know that when I was on a similar path that you described, my waking moments were lots to do, kids, responsibilities, clients and whatnot. I would start the day, put my feet on the floor and feel it all at the moment. I get this rush of that energy. It felt like anxiety. It produced anxiety for me at that moment in time.
That was many years ago. I didn’t like at all how that felt just like you. That stress felt off. I was curious, wanted to explore it and ultimately did a change. I won’t get into the details of all that. There was one particular practice at the very start of the day that I began to adopt, which on some level is very simple, but for me, not simplistic. That was to consciously cultivate a thought and feeling at that waking moment. My theory is that all our lives are a collection of feelings. It’s all we ever have. The resonance of that feeling is what we experience when we transition to whatever that next phase of our consciousness happens to be.
I believe I ascribe to the same philosophy that you do. I don’t think there’s any end. This is a wonderful backstory to all this. That moment of waking, I choose instead in each day. Instead of experience that anxiety, of all the risks to do and all that there is that’s missing, wrong or any of those things, I instead start with a thought. That thought is that, “I love my life.” I say it out loud. Those four simple words, “I love my life,” is about what you said, Mark. It’s about creating unconditionality with this idea that we can be unconditional with ourselves and use the word love. It’s our language for that. It’s just a word, but we’re assigning meaning to that word. To me, it’s acceptance, peace, harmony, all of those things and so much more wrapped up in it. To begin a new day and consciously cultivating that day from that first seed, and that first thought is so powerful.
I leave us with that, “Wake up tomorrow.” That’s my prayer for all of us, that we get to wake up. Be a little more conscious tomorrow than now. Be in a state, if possible, of generosity and gratitude for yourself. If you feel like thinking about it or saying it out loud, those four little words are there for you, “I love my life,” or any other words that might make sense to you at the moment. This has been a blessing, Mark. I appreciate you. I hope everybody have enjoyed this conversation. We’d love to get your comments, AdamMarkel.com/podcasts. Leave a comment there. If there’s somebody who you think would benefit from reading and taking part in this, feel free to share this episode. If you haven’t subscribed, we’d love to have you join our community as well. With that, I’ll say ciao for now, everyone.
- Mark Gober – previous episode
- An End to Upside Down Thinking
- An End to Upside Down Living
- Where Is My Mind?
About Mark Gober
Mark Gober is an author whose worldview was turned upside down in late 2016 when he learned of phenomena that threaten the prevailing view in science that consciousness comes from the brain. After researching extensively, he became convinced that a paradigm shift was in order: biology does not produce consciousness; rather, consciousness produces biology. Implications are immense for science, technology, medicine and even for everyday issues like happiness, health, and relationships.
His book, An End to Upside Down Thinking (Waterside Press, October 2018), has received endorsements from Jack Canfield, Goldie Hawn, #1 NYT bestseller Eben Alexander MD, 2-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Ervin Laszlo, Pixar founder Loren Carpenter, UVA professor Ed Kelly, NYT bestseller Larry Dossey MD, and others. Mark is a senior member of Sherpa Technology Group in Silicon Valley, a firm that advises businesses on mergers & acquisitions and strategy. He previously worked as an investment banking analyst in New York.
Mark has been quoted for his opinions on business and technology matters in Bloomberg Businessweek and elsewhere, and he has authored internationally published business articles. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where he was captain of the tennis team. Mark also represents Dr. Ervin Laszlo’s Institute of New Paradigm Research as Director of Corporate Relations.