By John Kroeker, PhD

I was living in Pasadena when Mount St. Helens blew.

A friend from Oregon showed me a bottle of gray ash he had collected from a driveway-- the cataclysm seemed near in connection at that moment. It was the greatest volcanic explosion of recent times. A mountain’s worth of superheated rock raced through pristine valleys for miles, leaving nothing-- nothing but sterile gray ash. It was not that spring, nor the next, but the third spring that saw delicate green shoots appearing amidst the ash. Those shoots were the optimism of life: the mountain had stolen the present, but those tender shoots owned the future.

Optimism gets some rough treatment. Voltaire bitingly mocked it with “All is for the best, in this best of all possible worlds”. To be a “Pollyanna”, is not a good thing; we all know that such a person is dangerously naive. The hard-headed person of the world should have no truck with unrealistic views of that sort. Hmmpf.

Optimism is not cheerfulness, although they are cousins. It is not being a glass-half-full person rather than a half-empty person. The glass, by the way, is just a glass of course, and it is both full and empty and are you done with it? I’d like to put it in the dishwasher.

Optimism is not a can-do attitude (just cousins again). If you pause to consider, you will notice that optimism is not an attitude at all, which is stance, a way of being or doing; optimism is a feeling or emotion, one of the thousand emotions that color our lives. What is this feeling, the feeling that for no apparent reason, and without logical justification, we feel a sort of ticklish joy at a future prospect? We feel certain that an outcome will-- come out, and come out well.

Optimism is an emotion about the future, quite different from thankfulness, which bows to the past and acknowledges the present. That optimism is a feeling-for-no-reason gives us a clue that this emotion, like courage and love, is to be found in that mysterious region we call the heart. This where we can seek and cultivate optimism-- we find there the stream; we widen its banks; we listen for its murmur.

Yes, there is pessimism too, a dark stream. Pessimism is equally an emotion, and a strong one, and it warns us that something must be quite wrong, like a future pain felt presently. We need these important warnings, and we need to heed them, but we just can’t thrive for long in the stream of pessimism.

And there are times that we are overwhelmed, and optimism seems gone for good. In such times we can remember that the stream of optimism is just underground, waiting to come back to the surface. Sarah, Job’s wife, says on the bare stage, when their lives are blasted, at the end of the play J.B.:

Blow on the coal of the heart.
The candles in churches are out.
The lights have gone out in the sky.
Blow on the coal of the heart
And we’ll see by and by. . . .

--Archibald MacLeish

Heart again. Even at the end of the world, look to the heart-- it’s light will remain: “we’ll see” is that hope-for-no-reason; it is the murmur of the stream of the future in the heart.

Optimism can be cultivated, encouraged, and used. I find it is an indispensable tool for creation and for leadership. Optimism is not only compatible with a clarity of vision of the world as-it-is, but that clarity of vision is essential.:

Once a person asked me if I looked at life with a pessimistic attitude or if I was an optimist. I said, "An optimist with open eyes." Optimism is good as long as the eyes are open, but once the eyes are closed then optimism can be dangerous.
-- Hazrat Inayat Khan

We see; we judge as best we can; we use our reason, but we can at the same time hold an emotional current of optimism in the heart.

Optimism represents the spontaneous flow of love; optimism also represents trust in love. This shows that it is love trusting love which is optimism. -- Hazrat Inayat Khan

These words give us the meditation to use. Finding the breath and then the heartbeat, we feel the current of life in the breath; breathing in and out of the heart we feel the ground of being in the heart, being that now breaths the current of life. Now go deeper, the ground of being in the heart-space is the current of love, love universal, for and between and of all beings. In this current of love hold trust in love, love with abandon. What else? What else would we trust but the self-evident, ever-flowing, ever-creating life-love at the root of all hearts? Hold and remember this love trusting love, it will be your guide.

“Love trusting love” is so evocative. Those pale, tender shoots of life on Mount St. Helens had nothing but love of life to sustain them, and the trust in life and love, a billion years of the unconquerable yearning of life wagering a delicate leaf against gray desolation. This is the power of the stream of optimism.

-- John Kroeker

Dr. Kroeker received his doctorate in neurophysiology from Cornell University, researched neuromathematics at CalTech, and became an entrepreneur applying speech recognition to health care services. He is currently researching sound-imaging in dolphins and sits on the Board of Directors at iamHeart.

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As we see it, the soul is the seed of individuality.

Each soul is a unique individuality, an unduplicated combination of the resources and qualities of the universe. The soul defines an individual, so it holds that essential formula that describes how one person is fundamentally different from all others.

Every step that the soul takes toward life and through life differentiates it further as it builds a unique memory of events, incorporates a unique stream of nutrients into its body, has a unique set of relationships, etc.

Yet, throughout all this accumulation of experience, a person's soul remains relatively unchanged. In the body, enormous growth occurs as cells divide throughout one's life, but the DNA inside each cell is virtually constant. The DNA is the "soul" of the cell.

But the DNA can change when the body becomes adapted to some new condition. Likewise, the soul can change slightly over time. Nothing about the universe is static.

The soul is the outgrowth of the wish of the whole universe to express itself. Once the soul is formed, individuality begins. Then the individual desires to express itself, and for that it develops the heart as its instrument.

The heart develops the mind as its instrument, and the mind develops the body as its instrument. Change occurs at every level. Even the soul can change.

So the faculty that is the closest to the soul is the heart, and the heart knows the purpose of the soul best. The heart is imprinted with an impression of the soul's purpose and it becomes the deep wish of the heart.

The heart, when open, has the power of attraction, to attract to itself all that it needs to fulfill this wish. And the heart guides one's path through life, revealing to the mind the steps that lead to wish-fulfillment.

The soul has a purpose, that purpose for which it was individuated from the whole. The purpose of the soul's creation is what causes the soul to be created. The heart has a wish, to fulfil the soul's purpose.

With concentration on the heart, we become aware of its wish. This reveals the purpose of the soul, which can be felt as an inevitability, a destiny, which is different from a wish.

But the purpose is not always fulfilled in life, like not every acorn becomes a tall oak tree. To be fulfilled, our conscious involvement is necessary. Even though it is our destiny, it requires our participation. And that requires our awareness of our purpose.

The first experience of it we have is our wish. Even that much awareness is rare, because relatively few people have felt the wish of their heart.

This is the promise and the importance of heart-focused meditation -- it makes us aware of the wish of our heart, the clue to the purpose of our life.

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We think losing weight is really hard. Everyone knows how to do it -- you either eat less or exercise more -- so it's not a lack of technique.

There is something that keeps us at our weight. We have to understand that reason before we can hope to change it.

Spiritually, there must be four reasons, corresponding to the Elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth.

The Earth Element in us is what likes to be solid and substantial: massive, like a mountain. Consequently, Earth types are comfortable being large.

Also contributing to one's weight is the fear the Earth Element has of becoming non-existent or invisible, a non-entity. One person described it this way: 

"All my life I've felt as if I was invisible. I worry that I might just blow away. My solution is to be real heavy so I can feel my substance. With my physical weight I am reminded that I have an impact on the earth." 

We counter the fear of becoming nothing by taking on more of the Earth Element through physical mass.

There are Air types who love to be Air, with its freedom and fast changes like the wind. In the extreme, they are like spirits rather than people, and that's what makes some Earth types nervous. 

The idea that there might be an "unseen world" is repugnant to the Earth type and soundly rejected. This is a reaction of fear: fear that "that world" might draw one out of "this world". In most people, the ego develops so strongly that they lose their attraction to the unseen world, until they discover the spiritual path.

The fear of dissolution is one problem that gets worse, initially, through spiritual work that is not heart-centered. When the reality of the unseen world dawns on one, the fear of dissolution can become very strong so that one needs even more mass.

The alternate solution to the Earth's fear of non-existence, beside developing a large and substantial body as a defense or a commanding ego as an offense, is to develop the heart. 

The open heart has such a powerful centeredness that it makes one the axis around which the universe turns. This completely satisfies the need to be substantial, influential and having a permanent impact upon the earth.

Isn't the fear of non-existence really about the fear of not making a difference in life, that one's life is vaporous? The heart is the center of a life that has meaning.


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What are the four fundamental types of energies?

How do these four energy types evolve into human behavior?

Is the dark energy of physicists related to the subtle energy of the mystics?


These questions and more are answered by iamHeart co-founder Puran Bair, in the audio recording below:




Click Here to Learn More About the 12 Archetypes Meditation Retreat

 "The 12 Archetypes of the Heart: A Meditation Retreat"
Led by Puran and Susanna Bair
March 3rd - 8th, 2017
Santa Barbara, CA




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"Breath is the first lesson, and it is also the last."

By Dr. John Kroeker, Neurophysiologist and iamHeart Teacher

The Physiology of Breath and Consciousness

So here’s the thing. Your mind is not your brain. In fact, your brain is not your brain, or at least only part of it. Tucked under the cortex we think we think with, are all the old brains, the hind-brains, the core structures of living and emoting and paying attention -- and breathing. And these brains in our skulls are continuous with the intelligence of the spinal cord, again encased in its own protective skeleton. But there are major nerve trunks and nuclei outside the spine, notably the vagus (or wandering) nerve that goes to the heart.


And it doesn't stop there. Our endocrine and immune systems are also massive processors of intelligence and information, although now information is coded in biochemical structures, not in  fleeting electrical impulses. And more and more we find out that the internal community of commensal biota we carry in our gut, skin, and elsewhere participate in our emotions, urges, and being. This community brings in ancient lore coded in its own DNA -- more information.


We are each an enormous, barely-explored, interconnected network of information ebbs and flows -- and of memories and of conflicts and of  successes and of promises for the future.


Why should the breath be the gateway to consciousness of this internal new world? First of all, turning the attention to the breath, redirects our normally outward-directed attention (which therefore neglects the self, or consciousness of the self) to the most prominent, recurring, ever-present activity of being and being alive -- breathing.


Second, especially with a lengthening of the breath, there is an immediate neuroendocrine change of state, from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic systems. This feels like stillness or peace or calmness, which is quite nice, but it is also a radical lowering of the noise level. Lowering the noise level is the universal need for super-listening, and this is why the big space telescopes are often supercooled, and why there are cryogenically cooled receivers in cell-phone towers.


With stillness, now we can listen. Now we can hear. Now we are ready to begin to explore the inner world of awareness. It is a good beginning, stillness, but only the beginning.

Enter the Heart

We find with practice that we can pay attention to multiple things, and that we can maintain that attention. Maintaining attention, by the way, is sometimes called concentrative meditation (as opposed to undirected). We can concentrate in this way on any object, person, or quality, but attending to the critical activity of our existence-- breathing-- creates an internal resonance that is powerfully opening.


The heartbeat is the other essential rhythm of our life. In fact, in embryo, we are at first only a simple heart, before the rest of us grows, so the heartbeat predates our consciousness.


Heartbeat and breath are physiologically linked. The heart sits between the lungs, and these systems have a wonderfully coordinated approach to the business of pumping and circulation. The rhythm and form of the breath affects the beats of the heart, and the heart rate rises and falls with each breath-- this is known as HRV or Heart Rate Variability. This beat-rate is the song of the heart, and this beat song is also strongly affected by our emotional state and physiological stance. The song of the heart affect our emotions and physiological state in the reverse direction. To summarize: we can affect the breath, which affects the heartsong, which affect the emotions and health. Simple physiology here.


Not surprisingly, iamHeart specializes in concentrating on the heartbeat as well as breath. A dual attention to heart and breath, and the careful attunement of their harmony, creates a more powerful gateway to awareness, consciousness and being. 

Join Me on the Live Broadcast

On Saturday, January 11th's web broadcast, you will be able to start your own investigations into breath, as we try out some breath meditation practices together! Join me on this live broadcast by registering here.

"The Science of Meditation and Breath"

On Saturday, January 14th, PhD scientist and and iamHeart Meditation Teacher John Kroeker leads a live broadcast about the science of breath and why breathing the right way can change your life. Dr. Kroeker received his doctorate in neurophysiology from Cornell University, researched neuromathematics at CalTech, and became an entrepreneur applying speech recognition to health care services. He is currently researching sound-imaging in dolphins and sits on the Board of Directors at iamHeart. Click here to register.



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How does the Universe move between One Source to one individual?

Does an archetype differ from a personality type?

What is a soul family?

These questions and more are answered by iamHeart co-founder Puran Bair, in the audio recording below.

Click the play button below to listen!



Click Here to Learn More About the 12 Archetypes Meditation Retreat

 "The 12 Archetypes of the Heart: A Meditation Retreat"
Led by Puran and Susanna Bair
March 3rd - 8th, 2017
Santa Barbara, CA


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Who am I? 
How can I relate better to others? 
How can I do what I do better? 
Who can I become?

There are 12 ways to respond to these questions:

Though you are a unique person, you're also an example of your archetype. There are twelve archetypes from an energy point-of-view, and each has its own purpose in life AND the inner resources needed to fulfill that purpose.

Linking the types of energies to the sacred qualities of the heart and soul forms the foundation of spiritual psychology.

Knowing about your archetype is essential to understanding yourself and harmonizing with others.


Bob said, “I didn't understand why Julie had to have everything just-so. Why couldn't she be more easy-going and let things slide? When I found out she's a QUEEN archetype, it all made sense. Now I don't mind when she takes charge of things, I figure it's better that she takes it than someone else who maybe couldn't handle the responsibility like she can.”

Bob's wife said, “Once I knew Bob was a SCIENTIST archetype, I could accept how he forgets to take his vitamins. He doesn't even know when he's hot or cold, he's so focused on whatever he's doing or thinking. His awesome concentration is the power for his successes.”

Are you single and looking for a partner? People of the DISCIPLE archetype have many admirers, but they give their devotion to only a few. The KNIGHTS work alone, unless they can find a relationship that's mission-related. Those of the PRIEST(ESS) archetype are aloof, but can be wonderful communicators. The PARTNER archetype is most harmonious and engaging, from whom there is no escape. You wouldn't be single if you were an ARTIST archetype -- they fall in love easily and commit readily.

If you're looking for fun, you can't do better than the DERVISH archetype -- optimistic, joyous and uplifting. Life is always whirling with a dervish. The TRUSTEE archetype, in contrast, is very sober, disciplined, self-reliant and reliable. Both are good to have as friends.

If you're looking for out-of-the-box, big-picture thinking, you need someone of the ORACLE archetype. Oracles are intuitive and innovative, comfortable with complexity, but they don't work with the same sense of time as the rest of us. To get something done, hire a WARRIOR archetype; they live and breathe goals and deadlines. And every group needs a HEALER archetype to facilitate their recovery and ensure their longevity.

Combinations of Archetypes

We each have all twelve archetypes potentially, but have specialized in one or two, leaving the others largely unexplored. By claiming your hidden archetypes, the strength of one compensates for the weakness of another and you bring balance to your personality and awakening to your purpose.

Revealing Your Archetype

How do you know which archetype you are? You can't answer from your mind, because it only knows that of yourself that has become most familiar. People often adopt an archetype that hides their glorious self, like the KING that acts like a distorted DERVISH because he can't handle the weight of responsibility, or the DISCIPLE that has learned to act like a poor example of a WARRIOR because warriors get more respect. Certainly, your heart knows your true nature, and your heart will unfold your self.

We have seven ways of revealing your archetype without asking you any questions. For example, each of the twelve archetypes responds to music differently, and each archetype has its own identifiable walk. In our group retreat, you'll learn how to see people's archetype and delight in discovering your own, which might be surprising!


Explore all 12 archetypes at our upcoming five-day meditation retreat:

Learn More About the 12 Archetypes of the Heart Meditation Retreat


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