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       It is clear that if we are to make the political, economic, educational, and ecological changes necessary for survival, we must change the way we see ourselves, each other and the world we live in. We must find it in ourselves to turn away from competitive and exploitive social practices to those of cooperation and nurturance. Because this shift to open-heartedness is essentially a transformation of consciousness, perhaps the most useful resource we can have would be a simple and effective tool to put people in their "highest mind" in the course of daily living. This essay introduces a simple and elegant process for doing just that -- "Top-Down Yoga."

       Top-Down Yoga -- so named because it involves subtle and powerful exercises "from the neck up" -- activates certain neurological pathways or what is called the "Social Engagement System."  Identified by Dr. Stephen Porges as the most advanced human brain organization, the Social Engagement System makes people intelligible to each other and helps regulate the autonomic nervous system away from excessive reliance on the mechanisms of arousal and fear.  Not only does this system allow us to "read" the facial expressions and other subtle cues in human communication but it acts as a gateway to the kinds of deep meditation and abilities that have long been the province of yogis and other spiritual adepts.  The beauty of Top-Down Yoga is that anyone can learn to do it and anyone can benefit.

       Top-Down Yoga is an important part of an emerging, scientifically-grounded spirit-based participatory knowledge system. Its simple movements tap into and strengthen each practitioner's Social Engagement System, so that we may use our evolving consciousness to join together to exploit our collective wisdom. "Harmonic Continuum" celebratory events are a vehicle for integrating these principles into the culture.  They form an open-ended context for regeneration, celebration, adaptation and evolutionary learning that can be integrated into daily life.  "Oxytocin Salons" can be used as way-stations to support the emerging connectedness of human being.


       Careless and destructive measures are being widely pursued for short-term economic and political gain, to growing alarm and concern among thoughtful individuals and leaders around the world.  The wonders of human creativity and innovation are often applied to the wanton exploitation of resources and the advancement of weaponry. Such obviously foolish and short-sighted behavior is leading to the extinction of many species, including homo sapiens.  Our collective activities may even be taking us to a "tipping point" beyond which global systems may not be recoverable no matter how much effort is expended.  If we are to survive, we must redirect ourselves en masse towards life-positive ends.

       The public is becoming increasingly aware of the destructive choices being made by business and government. While one need only look at the news to get an idea of what is happening, recent publications and films are focusing attention on the damage done by conflicts between countries and on the extent of our destruction of the environment. The possibility of shifting toward ecological and social sustainability is emerging as the dominant issue of our times.  The success of the film, "What the Bleep Do We Know", demonstrates the passion of millions to understand the relationship between frontier science, spirituality and social dynamics. The film, "An Inconvenient Truth", explores the ways our collective consciousness and actions can play a role in resolving the environmental disasters that are confronting us.

       We have always been capable of envisioning a world in which peace and satisfaction are the norm for everyone, but such goals remain elusive in a world where the populace is increasingly entrained to accept and focus on hostility, animosity, separation and inequality.

       Modern science has begun to study consciousness itself in order to clarify the features of "mind" that are capable of pointing our collective awareness in beneficial directions.  These investigations are leading to new ways of addressing the common root of the environmental, spiritual, social, educational, economic and political crises.

       Former Canadian ambassador Jim George, in his book, Asking For The Earth, presents the view that ecological and spiritual crises are two sides of the same coin.  He equates global warming with spiritual crisis because he sees the underlying cause for the neglect of the planet is belief in the existence of a dichotomy between "us and them" that has allowed us to stray from our own best interests.   For significant change to occur, we must transcend the moment in our collective evolution when apparent individuality and objectivity emerged to dominate human consciousness.  While this development led to almost unimaginable technological advances, it has also inflicted misery on many at the hands of a few, even to the brink of mass extinction.  Now is the time for us to use our bodies, minds and spirits in secure connection with each other to take control of the evolutionary process.

       This essay describes the beginnings of a remarkably simple strategy that enables us to confidently envision a far more viable individual, collective and planetary future.


       To aid us in furthering our collective evolution, it may be useful to recall times when consciousness has undergone dramatic shifts that have awakened both the public and the institutions to our fundamental interconnectedness and to our clear potential to embrace harmony.  In his seminal text, The Self-Organizing Universe, Erick Jantsch refers to a metafluctuation in the 1960's that "rocked the world."  It was a time of grass roots movements: the awakening of awareness about and concern for the environment, rejection of the war in Vietnam and advocacy for domestic and international human rights. It was also a time of novelty. People felt free to explore alternative lifestyles, live in communes, do mind-expanding drugs and dance to rapidly evolving music that borrowed tone-scales and rhythms from around the world.  Eastern spirituality and the beginning of the Human Potential movement provided powerful new guiding images and social norms.

       Jantsch saw several basic themes in those dynamic times: "self-determination, self-organization and self-renewal… the recognition of a systemic connectedness over space and time of all natural dynamics…, the logical supremacy of processes over spatial structures… the role of fluctuation that renders the law of large numbers invalid and gives a chance to the individual and its creative imagination."

       Looking back, it is easy to understand why the metafluctuation, which changed the world in some fairly radical ways, was dampened back into the existing paradigm. It simply did not have the coherence or necessary information to carry humanity over the threshold of the seemingly immutable values and beliefs of the Cartesian paradigm. Now, almost a half century later, we have the tools and the communication technologies we lacked in the past.  It is up to us to summon the will to use them.

The Social Engagement System

Dr. Stephen Porges is the director of the Brain-Body Center in the
Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago His Polyvagal Theory asserts a biological basis for social behavior and proposes intervention strategies to enhance positive human interaction.  It is derived from over 30 years of research on the relation of the autonomic nervous system to socio-emotional processes. His new understanding of a third branch of intelligence in the autonomic nervous system has led to the confirmation of a neurological basis for what he has termed "The Social Engagement System."

       The old model of the autonomic nervous system presents only two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. That model has been shown to be incomplete as it only describes the autonomic components we share in common with reptiles. A third branch of intelligence, found in mammals, introduces an autonomic alternative beyond the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, one that sparks and maintains a body-based sense of well-being and the social functions of mammalian – and human – existence.

       The Social Engagement System is a synergistic function of five cranial nerves that coordinates and integrates head-turning, looking, listening, vocal communication and facial _expression with cardiac output.  Freed to function optimally, the Social Engagement System works to ground the human experience and _expression in love and social bonding.  Dr. Jim Oschman, author of Energy Medicine, the Scientific Basis and Energy Medicine in Human Performance and Therapeutics, writing on social engagement behaviors states that "social bonds are scientifically described as a powerful form of learning regulated by long-lasting changes in the brain and endocrine system." Dr. Oschman further notes that social attachment is "hard-wired," as it were, in human being and cites research positing that it is vital to human health, longevity, perhaps even to existence itself.

       Regulation of cardiac output by the Social Engagement System induces a positive state of stasis or stillness that conserves precious life energy and establishes the primacy of the warm-blooded current of heart "consciousness" as the bodymind's central organizing mechanism.


       Thanks to this framework and other developments in the understanding of the biological underpinnings of human consciousness, we can now explore a user-friendly and precise method of beneficial self-regulation called Top-Down Yoga. This innovative tool for strengthening the Social Engagement System enables people across social and political divides to overcome the many impediments they face to peace, economic and ecological viability and personal and cultural fulfillment.

       The gentle movements of Top-Down Yoga release constriction at key anatomical points to free the neuroanatomical structures of the Social Engagement System to operate at their best.  The ensuing chemical changes translate into a positive and dynamic state of consciousness. Easy to learn and simple to perform, Top-Down Yoga can be used by anyone almost anywhere, sitting in a chair, standing or lying down.

       Here's how it works:  the cranial nerves, identified as a part of the Social Engagement System, emerge from the brain stem.  If the deep muscles of the neck are chronically tense, the nerves become irritated and their ability to function as a part of the system diminishes.  In this compromised condition, people commonly experience a lack of safety and trust and feelings of separation and conflict are easily aroused.  By gently releasing these structures with simple, systematic movements, the tissues and fluids of the body undergo a physiological change that fosters a very real sense of security and openness within the flux of the dynamically emerging universe.

       Coordinating the breath with movements designed to activate the deep,
small muscles of the head, neck and spine, uncouples neurological and chemical patterns associated with fear and hostile arousal.

       Working with eye movements disengages the practitioners of Top-Down Yoga from their habitual patterns of seeing.  The ensuing changes in heart rate and concomitant release of neuropeptides foster not only a more positive outlook, or how the practioner sees, but an awareness of the act of seeing itself.  The seeing of seeing is a vital step to self-awareness and the introduction of new choices in behavior.

       Top-Down Yoga works to unify the most primordial organization of the fluids and tissues of the body, with the advanced evolutionary organization of the Social Engagement System.  It is an embodiment practice that encourages the optimal flow of cerebrospinal fluid while activating the potent neuropeptide "messenger molecules" that coordinate almost all physiological and emotional processes of the body at the cellular level.

       When the cranial nerves of the Social Engagement System are not functioning optimally, the nervous system becomes overloaded with messages from the structures of the reptilian brain, driving the whole toward dualistic thinking, stress, anxiety, depression and resignation.  An unprecedented number of people world-wide suffer from these chronic conditions.  The upward shift of neurological organization fostered by Top-Down Yoga transforms these conditions at their root level, generating an instantaneous shift towards a body-based feeling of wholeness and freedom and away from the chatter of lower brain dominance.  Most people feel immediately soothed and calmed.  Practiced with regularity, these feeling states become habitual and self-renewing.

       The beauty of Top-Down Yoga is that each person, in the context of family, office, school, elder care facility, prison or peace negotiation, can draw upon its benefits to transcend stress, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome

A new model for evolutionary advancement

"The quiet little movements of Top-Down Yoga automatically shift a
person's primary method of support from thinking to feeling.  There's
nothing wrong with thinking but feeling is better for assessing
physical safety and balance. Moreover, a mind relieved of these
preoccupations becomes clearer and more still. I believe that this
shift is one of the goals of most meditative practices, much of
martial arts, yoga and even religion, since it entails the practical
application of relying on a higher power. The good thing is that such
reliance does not really require faith as it makes itself palpably
manifest almost from the get-go. What it does require is the looking
for it.  Top-Down Yoga is a pretty damned good place to start.
Not-coincidentally, a sense of unshakeable strength opens the heart.
There's nothing wrong with the world that loving it can't cure,
especially that interior world where we're stuck with our hurts and
diminishments.  Choosing invincible receptivity changes everything."

From the Rolfing(r) perspective of Deborah Stucker, Advanced Certified
Rolfer, originator of a Direct Electromagnetic Approach.

       Humanity -- whether expressed individually, as a society or as a species – if chronically stuck in a less-than-optimal autonomic state that compels competition and divisiveness, simply lacks the resources of energy, awareness and inspiration necessary to adapt to internal or external challenge.

       We have the potential to come from a position of wholeness and connection.  We can merge without loss of individuality to collaborate creatively.  We are a field-like property of natural light that is the evolutionary 'body' of humanity.

       Top-Down Yoga directly activates the most potent, positive neurochemistry of human being.  The simple movements and postures of the practice create a novel context from which to explore one's own experience.  Perhaps more invitingly, they also serve to promote the rest and the equanimity typical of deep meditation.  Top-Down Yoga, by reinforcing the neuroanatomical components of social engagement, awakens the practitioner to the wisdom of the body and provides access to our body-based collective wisdom.  Perhaps, by using a practice that binds our primary body-consciousness together with the newest, most evolutionary advanced component of the autonomic nervous system, we may, in the words of Dane Rudhyar, "begin again together."

The Harmonic Continuum

"In order to share these practices with people worldwide – and positively impact the entire human "field" on the planet – Lorin envisions what he calls the Harmonic Continuum as an ongoing context for us to fulfill our true "human potential."

Based on the highly-successful and powerful meditations done nearly 20 years ago as part of the Harmonic Convergence, these simple embodiment practices offer a new way to impact the "morphic field" and the coherence of human consciousness.

We envision Harmonic Continuum celebratory events which teach these new practices in the context of music, comedy and other performance. In a series of simulcast events, we seek to teach individuals the art of self-regulation which transforms our dis-ease from the inside-out and top-down and awakens what is most primary -- "loving love and
being Life in the service of life."

This new "technology" is not part of any "church" or organization such as TM, or part of some multi-level commercial venture, but an effective practice that is given to the world to use freely."

Steve Bhaerman, comic performer and social activist, Swami Beyondananda,

The Harmonic Continuum is conceived as an ever-evolving, ongoing movement supporting new social applications arising from our emergent, collective wisdom. The initial inspiration for the idea of Harmonic Continuum is the promotion of simple practices of self-regulation that take advantage of our neurological organization for optimal human potential.  Harmonic Continuum ceremonial events, broadcast in real-time and disseminated all over the globe, would engage their participants in Top-Down Yoga and bring them together in comedy, music and dance.

       In an effort to create the world we would like to -- and can -- inhabit, Harmonic Continuum ceremonies will introduce powerful and coherent messages for collective understanding, adaptation and action. Ceremonies that awaken the celebratory nature of our collective humanity provide fresh inspiration and can nurture coherent and intuitive paths of action.  Engaging the Social Engagement System at the level of the individual calls into play each person's response to the environment and may, lets us hope, translate into a concerted effort to save the world politically and ecologically.

       As groups enjoy and reinforce the upward shift in their neurological organization, they will discover how to carry humanity over the current evolutionary threshold into a viable future.


       Dr. Stephen Porges suggested an answer to the question, "What is love?"  "Love," he suggested, "is immobilization without fear." Oxytocin is a peptide produced in abundance when humans bond, make love, give birth – truly the "molecule of love."  As such, it allows the body to be immobilized without fear.  According to Porges, "it is part of the feedback system regulating the old unmylenated vagal system. Oxytocin enables the old immobilization system to be utilized for a special reason. Immobilization without fear is mediated by a co-opting of the neural circuit regulating defensive freezing behaviors through the involvement of oxytocin, a neuropeptide involved in the formation of social bonds"

       Oxytocin's first and strongest role may have been in forging the mother-infant bond.  Subsequently, its ability to influence brain circuitry may have been used to serve other affiliative purposes that allowed the formation of alliances and partnerships, thus hastening the evolution of advanced cognitive skills by playing an essential role in the evolution of social behavior.  Dr. Sue Carter, whose multidisciplinary research on the physiological factors mediating mammalian behavior has investigated the behavioral effects of oxytocin, notes that "we have evolved as social organisms."  "The study of love tells us that we have a biology that allows us to be good to each other."  Top-Down Yoga, by releasing the tensions that inhibit oxytocin production, automatically reinforces a sense of safety and trust, the prerequisites to bonding and attachment.

       David Brooks' New York Times editorial of Sunday, July 2nd, "Of Human Bonding", calls on his readers to discover a way to "tap" this most precious and essential human resource, the "affiliative neuropeptide",... that "helps mammals bond." "Humans who have a higher level of oxytocin are more likely to trust other people."  He notes that these people "are more resistant to stress and social phobias." Brooks ends with an appeal to everyone to focus on what we really need to solve our problems.  "The real resource shortage afflicting our country is not the oil shortage. It is the oxytocin shortage."

       Oxytocin Salons are a perfect place to regenerate and enhance genuine care and concern for others and the earth and allow people to discover what wisdom they can find in the human collective.  Oxytocin Salons will be a leading innovative social 'technology'    in an emerging
paradigm of human evolution.

Oxytocin Salons will provide drop-in classes open to the general public. The salons will also 'double' as a training center for Top-Down Yoga and mystery school for refining the self-regulatingprocesses and exploring the morphic potentials of "collective wisdom."


"A dream is a wish your heart makes" – Walt Disney

       We in the nascent Harmonic Continuum envision a present in which television and film documentaries, dramas, animation and comedies set fire to our collective imagination and encourage each person's active participation in new social, environmental, scientific, political and economic action. The key is access to the openness, freedom and coherence of simply being. As Illya Prigogine says, "We must seek a new order through fluctuation."

       Erick Jantsch states, "Evolution is basically open. It determines its own dynamics and direction." If consciousness, life itself, is left open to create itself dynamically as a form of poetry, each emerging moment -- as opposed to a straight-forward narrative with its hierarchies and limitations -- "not only restores strength, but also creates the possibility of recognizing and bringing into play ever new… developmental lines."

       Embodied openness surely aligns us with our true nature.  We can use our rich, if potentially divisive, neurology to surmount our traumatic imprints and imposed mechanizations to nurture ourselves and our environment.  Why not embrace the simple techniques to do this now?

       Let's start with our house and move towards the White House, to move ourselves collectively forward towards an ecologically viable future that offers maximum benefit to all. Let's celebrate our humanity through the acknowledgement of our own bodies to inspire action worldwide.