In episode # 108, Dr. Reese sits down with Dr. Chris Niebauer, university professor and author of the book, No Self, No Problem. In this talk, they discuss the process of thinking, the root cause of problems, the power of the placebo effect, the evolution of human thought and the beauty of thought gaps. They also dive into two dramatic events that happened to Chris when he was 20 that sent him down the path of neurosis and surrender. Plus - They ponder the question; What happens if you stop complaining?
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Dr. Reese (00:01:06):
How is there no problem. If there's no self?
Dr. Niebauer (00:02:10):
One of the oldest questions out there, who am I? What, what are your problems? I mean, it's a strange thing, you know, when we talk about it, it's your problems, you know, I mean, do you really lay awake at night, worrying about someone else's problems? So if you do away with the self, or if you see through the self, if you see the self for what it is, which is really just a thought, those problems tend to go away with the concept of the self.
Dr. Reese (00:02:42):
A lot of people, especially here in the west, have trouble wrapping their head around this self though, this ego,
Dr. Niebauer (00:02:51):
The thing that I go through in the book and actually I'm, this is actually the focus of my next book coming out is to give an idea kind of a backstory to the self. Where did it come from? Um, why does it feel so real for many people? It's almost impossible to imagine that there's anything else going on, but we know from experience. And we know, uh, that, uh, so many people have had this experience of, of seeing through the self, seeing through the story. Uh, and I know from teaching this being a college professor and, and lecturing on, uh, topics of neuroscience, it's one of the things that help valid source of information. So when we, so I could give you hundreds of examples of individuals who will relate their experience of the self, and when they see through it as just the thought their problems seem to go away.
Dr. Reese (00:03:51):
So with neuroscience, you know, this kind of, you know, our brain is very powerful. In in fact, I was just doing some studying on Dr. Sarno. He helped people heal their physical problems by changing their belief systems and, you know, their mind, body connection. <affirmative>, that's powerful stuff that our brain can actually create a back pain. <laugh>
Dr. Niebauer (00:04:21):
I tell my students that it, it's kind of remarkable that you can't get a PhD in the placebo effect. And it's very common when people talk about the placebo effect, they say, well, that's just the placebo effect as if it's trivial or it's just a nuisance. In fact, a lot of science. And if you look at how we set up an experiment in psychology, we set up control conditions because the placebo effect is so powerful. We need to control for it. And so, so much of science is looking at it as like a nuisance. And yet it's this amazing mystery, one of my favorite studies. And you may have seen that one with the, uh, people with knee surgery. So these are individuals who had such bad knee pain, that some of them were in a wheelchair and they split the groups up half of 'em got a sham operation.
Dr. Niebauer (00:05:07):
Uh, so everything was exactly the same, uh, their belief that they were getting the operation, but they didn't do the actual, uh, procedure that under the kneecap that was respons, that they believed was responsible for lessening the pain. And of course the other half had the actual surgery. And there was no difference when it came to pain reduction. Both groups had equal pain reduction. In fact, the best, uh, example is a guy who was in a wheelchair after this, and he had the sham surgery. So he did, he was in a placebo group and he was dancing with his wife after the surgery, no pain.
Dr. Reese (00:05:39):
Dr. Niebauer (00:05:39):
And that should just have us, like, that is so powerful. And that should be, you think that would be the cover of magazines. Like the placebo effect is something we need to really investigate
Dr. Reese (00:05:51):
It's, you know, and, and just placebo might be a strange word for some people that aren't familiar with it, pushing that to the side and just getting to the simple core we're talking belief.
Dr. Niebauer (00:06:03):
It's, it's your belief, it's your belief that you're getting the surgery that alleviates the pain.
Dr. Reese (00:06:08):
It it's. How, how, how did Michael Jordan do as good as he did? He had an incredible belief in himself, a confidence,
Dr. Niebauer (00:06:19):
At least from my end, the really interesting thing about all this is that, that those kind of beliefs actually don't come from what I'm calling self or what I'm calling the ego. In fact, sometimes you'll find, um, you know, the ego is trying desperately, and this is why sometimes, um, when people choke, you know, that's a very interesting scenario, too. Um, you're under pressure and you really know you have to perform. And those are the moments when that internal dialogue starts. And we become so concerned with the internal dialogue that we end up missing the shot. Mm. And that's wonderful thing about real those athletes that are a quote in the zone, you know, when they get in the zone, the wonderful thing about what's happening in that scenario is they're that the thinking mind is, is just off. They're not thinking, you know, they, they, everything is happening perfectly. Their, their body is doing exactly what it knows to do, and it's doing it flawlessly because they're not caught up in that internal dialogue. They're not caught up in that thinking that creates the self that creates the, um, self-criticism the self- doubt that we come up with. And, and they're doing rather than thinking about doing, and that leads to some really wonderful performance. And, um, and of course the, if you've ever had that state, you know, that while you're in it, you're really not thinking about the outcome at all. Right?
Dr. Reese (00:07:48):
So in order to get rid of this self, or at least tame, it, there's quite a, quite a bit of chipping away. One has to, to do because they spent 20, 30, 40, 50 years as this ego, as this personality, they have personality traits. They may be caught up in the dream in their head, and then you come along and you say, well, <laugh> no self, no problem. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, that's really difficult concept for them.
Dr. Niebauer (00:08:22):
There's a, there's a really interesting paradox when it comes to the way the self works. A few people have brought it up. I've noticed, um, all this Huxley brought it up. Um, a Watts brought it up, they call it the, like the effect of the opposite effect of intention, something like that, or paradoxical intention, Victor Frankel, uh, who wrote the meaning, um, uh, the man's search for meaning, uh, he brought it up too. He called it paradoxical intention. And the interesting thing about all this is that when you really try to go effort in, in a certain direction, the mind seems to fight back in the opposite direction. It's just like, if I say, don't think of the number 13 right now. And, and if, and if, you know, you know, something bad will happen, if you think of the number 13 that's, then that's all you can think about.
Dr. Niebauer (00:09:10):
So when I say, if you're gonna go on this adventure, uh, there's a sort of a cautionary thing. Like the, the more effort you put into getting rid of the self, don't be surprised that the exact opposite happens. You might end up building a huge self, or sometimes the self is very clever. It will hide in these other manifestations. So some people go on a quest to end the self and they'll call it spirituality. But in the end, uh, they'll end up having a, in an even deeper, uh, fixation on the self. Um, and, uh, so there's a, you know, there's a whole bunch of kind of cautionary notes that I would tell someone who's starting off on this path, but I would get to the origin. So in my new book, this is where I go. I'm like, what are the origins? Where did the self come from?
Dr. Niebauer (00:10:02):
Have we always had a self, what's it story? Why is it so persistent? And why is it, why is it the cultures vary? Like some cultures are very self. You know, if you grow up in a certain culture, it's gonna teach you to embrace this self and, and, and all of its problems. That's not true for every culture. Hmm. There are huge cultural differences where some cultures are actually, they don't encourage this idea of itself. And so there's a little bit of flexibility as a human being, but the process of creating itself can be linked back to the process of thinking. And you say, okay, well thinking, you know, if, if, if you're in the west, you know, you might be familiar with Dakar's famous phrase. I think, therefore I am, I am. Yeah. And so we put, we put thinking as the pinnacle of human experience and be smart to be a clever thinker.
Dr. Niebauer (00:11:01):
I mean, these are all things that are just, we just assume are universal values. Um, but we, one of the things that may not be obvious to people is that it's the process of thinking that creates the self illusion. Yeah. And so I tell people go back to thinking, and there's some wonderful, um, I think it was Graham Hancock who actually said that humans have, uh, kind of an amnesia for our past. And we, we, we think we just kind of, you know, came on the scene and, and it's always been like this there's always been wifi and there's always been social media. And, um, and so we forget that human history goes back. We've been on the planet for about two and a half million years. Our version homo sapien has been around for about a hundred or 200,000 years. But the thing that most people, at least when I talk to students that is a surprise to them is that we've only been thinking the way that we think for about 40,000 years. That's a tiny, tiny, little bit of the history of the universe. Yeah. And so this process that gives rise to itself is a really new thing in the universe. It's a, it's a really, uh, it's a new trick and says, there's so many tricks about thinking that, um, well, if you look just in the last 20 years, look at cognitive behavioral therapy, there's an entire therapy that centers around the recognition that your thoughts are the problem that you have a thinking that most of us have a thinking problem,
Dr. Reese (00:12:47):
Thoughts create the emotion or the feeling
Dr. Niebauer (00:12:51):
And change your thoughts and change your resistance. So if you're starting off on all of this, um, be very learn to be the observer of your thoughts. And you'll start to recognize so many interesting things about the thinking process. There's a certain invisibility or transparency to thinking. In other words, most of us, when we're engaging in the process of thought, we just assume it's a perfect reflection of reality. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, and we're just waking up to this. In fact, uh, I like to put the date as 1967. That's when cognitive psychology sort of came on the scene and that's when nicer was a cognitive psych, one of the first cognitive psychologist. And, and he talks about the process of cognition. And he doesn't say that our thoughts are the way reality is he says cognition is when we take sensory data. So, you know, information from our senses site hearing and all that.
Dr. Niebauer (00:13:57):
And we take the information from the outside world and we transform it and we edit it and we elaborate parts of it. And then we delete other parts of it. So the thinking process is not a perfect image of reality. In fact, it may be far from a perfect image of reality and that recognition alone, if you can start to observe your thoughts, recognizing that they are thoughts, they are not perfect reflections of reality, that alone will send you down a path that will eventually you'll see the self as just another thought who I thought I, who I think I am is just another thought, right? And so there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's nothing wrong with thinking as long as you recognize it for exactly what it is.
Dr. Reese (00:14:48):
We have a storyteller in our head, a narrator who's sometimes critical <laugh> of other people and ourselves, you know, it's interesting Chris, because exploring peace and exploring enlightenment on this podcast and interviewing so many people at first, you know, enlightenment seems like this very, very mystical Jedi type thing, but when it comes down to it, the bottom line is getting that mind, the shut up. And that's the very core of everything. This is not an easy process. Now you just mentioned, watch it, observe it. That's like step two, step one is knowing that you're not your thoughts. Right? Step two would be, watch it. <laugh> mm-hmm, <affirmative> watch it like a movie. And some people might say, well, how do I watch my thoughts? But then we gotta go back to, well, you are not your thoughts. It's just like a projection going on a screen. Right? So in my experience, there's two ways to nip this in the bud. The first one is to, to watch it and kind of ignore it in a way, or maybe be mindful of it, like, oh, that's interesting thought, but you don't do anything about it. You're just watching you just continue to watch. And the gaps will get bigger.
Dr. Niebauer (00:16:22):
Yeah. Nice way to put it.
Dr. Reese (00:16:24):
The second way is if you have a negative thought or any thought at all, you switch it to love, or God, you switch it to a very positive thing. And that raises your vibration. That's another way centering prayer. That's what centering prayer is about. Um, you know, the work of Dr. Emmett Fox back in the early 19 hundreds, uh, a lot of Christian mystics use that approach. So the question remains, which way is the better way, or is there another way to, I'm not bringing to the table?
Dr. Niebauer (00:17:08):
No, I, I like the way you put it. And, um, you can really imagine starting every day with the choice, you could turn on the news and if you do, you're gonna find very likely you're gonna find drama. You're gonna find conflict. Um, or you can listen to the birds, you know? Uh, and so there's a lot of versions of that. But in the morning when we start our days, I like to think of like creating my reality by making a choice. And, and I'm not saying I'm not judging. Sometimes we're attracted to drama and we know we're attracted to drama and we're not ready to let go it. So I do a practice with my students where I, I, I challenge them to see how long they can go without complaining. And <laugh>, I say, let's see if we can go for one day without making a complaint.
Dr. Niebauer (00:18:01):
And you'll see when you stop complaining everything else changes. And because you're, you're really, instead of focusing on the negative, you're really shifting over. If you're not gonna complain, you're gonna start finding things that are good in your life. And I get some wonderful responses where students will just be honest with me. And they're like, I love to complain. I have no intention of stopping complaining <laugh>. And, and I think that's, you know, that that's a certain self recognition that they're embracing the drama, they're embracing the day and, and they're going to suffer the consequences of it. But there's a certain honesty where they at least are recognizing the path in what they're choosing. And, but there's not, some people are just, that gets old. And, and so when you were talking about recognizing thoughts, um, part of that process for me is that when you, when you start, it gets, gets old, the entertainment value of thinking is very limited.
Dr. Niebauer (00:19:02):
I mean, thoughts are, that's like the same story every time. And, you know, are you gonna play the hero a thousand times or the victim a thousand, or then you replace stuff from 10 years ago, or then you start thinking about the future. And then you start to recognize that all these thoughts you have, it's, it's kind of remarkable that the thinking mind 40,000 years ago resulted in our survival in a really difficult environment. That's almost unimaginable by current standards. Yeah. Because it's so often wrong. <laugh>, I mean, when you think, when was the last time that, you know, and these are wonderful moments where sometimes you'll worry about something and you're so sure that something you did at work is gonna result in something, some horrible thing happening, and then it never happens. And then we all make a sort of self commitment. We say, well, I'm not gonna worry again, but the next time the thought comes in and it convinces us that this time it's real, this, this time it's, it's good.
Dr. Niebauer (00:20:02):
So we end up getting caught up in that again, it's the same old story. It's the same old, uh, uh, song and dance it's it's. So I think for some people, they just get burned out on it, you know? Um, and I think a lot of us, when I, when I talk and I, um, talk about the book and, and it's part of the appeal to the book is that so many of us got onto this path because we were suffering. You know, if I look at myself when I was 20 years old, I was so neurotic and so caught up in thinking that every moment of my life was terrifying. <laugh> and that PA that eventually just burns out because you, you, you start to recognize how literally absurd thinking is it just, it almost never turns out to be the way you think it will.
Dr. Reese (00:20:56):
You really only need it to solve a direct problem. Communicate.
Dr. Niebauer (00:21:00):
Yeah. Like right now, I mean, it's a great thing that we have language it's really nice that we can communicate very effectively right now. Um, but I'm finding that thinking is useful maybe 10 to 20% of our existence. And I'm starting to question even that, um, to really find the utility of, of, of why we, and, and for me, the most beautiful moments of life are just not thinking, getting in those. And so you mentioned enlightenment a little while ago, and I don't consider enlightenment a very mystical thing to me, enlightenment is just when the thinking mind, either slows so much that it's just, you don't notice it anymore, or it's just off. And, and, and you, all of a sudden you hear the, the bird, you hear nature, you know, you feel the sun, you start getting into actual reality. You, you start being in the moment.
Dr. Reese (00:21:55):
Uh, all it really means is you're, you're thinking mind stops, but my understanding is your vibration goes way up, your frequency goes way up because the energy it's it's, it's like your digestive system. If you fast, that energy can go to your, you know, the cut on your left arm, instead of digesting it, you know, a stake <laugh>, it's the same concept. If your mind stops. There's a lot of energy there.
Dr. Niebauer (00:22:28):
Yeah. Well, are you familiar with the default mode network?
Dr. Reese (00:22:32):
Dr. Niebauer (00:22:32):
Okay. So this is, so there's two really interesting things in neuroscience that have happened over the last 50 years, um, and no self, no problem. I focus on one of them, that's the left brain interpreter, and how much time it spends up creating interpretations and stories about reality and, and very rarely is it on track. Um, that's amazing to see some of the patients who just so whimsically, they just make up stories. And that's what we do as humans. That's, we're we're story tellers and story makers. And that's what we do. But the default mode network is more recent and it's a, it's a different set of brain structures, more along the midline. And there's one in the back of the brain and one in the front of the brain. And the interesting thing about the default mode network is, is that it's where our, our mind goes when we wander and our mind wandering, you know, so like, you're just sitting here now.
Dr. Niebauer (00:23:24):
I could just sit here and so measure in a lab and, and they, they want me in a control condition. So they say, well, why don't you just sit there and do nothing. We're not very good at that. You know, the mind starts to wonder, and it goes in the past and it goes in the future. And, and this is the thinking that, so it causes so much of our suffering and that's what the default mode network is. It's a series of brain structure light up when we start overthinking. Mm. But the interesting thing is the, the way you put it, the default mode network takes up so much resources. Um, it is literally taking up so much of our energy to keep these brain areas active, that if we can. And so it, the research shows pretty clearly that when you meditate, the default mode network slows down.
Dr. Niebauer (00:24:10):
Mm. And so when you, you're not talking metaphorically here, you're literally talking about more energy that the brain has when you limit thinking and come, um, you know, it, it's not different than what Allen Watts said in the sixties. Um, if you think all the time, all you think about are thoughts and you live in a world of illusion, so at least once a day, come to your senses and stop thinking. And when you come to your senses, like you said, that that vibrational energy, I don't think is even a metaphor. I think it's, it's actually tapping into a very accurate description of what happens. Mm-hmm <affirmative> when, when you stop thinking. And the funny thing about thinking is that so much of us, so many of us in the west assume that if we think enough will be creative and what happens is true, creativity comes when you slow thinking down, when you slow thinking down, um, that's when the really, uh, beautiful insights come and, and they're not, you know, uh, the result of thinking, they're the result of slowing the thinking mind down and getting in touch with actual consciousness.
Dr. Reese (00:25:23):
Mm, yeah. Merging into that source,
Dr. Niebauer (00:25:28):
Dr. Reese (00:25:29):
God, energy, whatever you wanna call
Dr. Niebauer (00:25:30):
It. God. Um, and that's where all the true creativity comes from. You know, we could say, God is the source of, of actual creativity. And that's why if you sit and think you'll come up with ideas, but none of them will be really very good. They'll be okay. You know, and I know when I write, I can, I can always tell like an idea that I, myself, my ego came up with and it'll be okay. And then there's these other, I there's other insights that come, and you don't know where they come from. I mean, thinking mind is, is clueless. That has no, no idea where this stuff came from. Um, but they're always of, of a different quality and, and they're, and, you know, they have a sense of beauty to them. And, and, but then there's the irony. You can't take credit for it. It's like, I didn't really come up with this. You know, my ego is clueless where this stuff came up, where it came from
Dr. Reese (00:26:23):
A lot of synchronos happen, too. Things just fall on your lap mysteriously.
Dr. Niebauer (00:26:28):
<laugh> at, at the end of no self, no problem. My play around with the idea of non-duality and this idea that, um, that we're on kind of an adventure right now, and we're lost in this dream of thinking, but we've left these breadcrumbs for us so we can find our way home. And sometimes the universe shows us these, and it will show us a breadcrumb and it'll show us who we are. It will show us that everything's fine. Like, everything is fine right now. Yeah. And you just think it isn't
Dr. Reese (00:26:57):
Dr. Niebauer (00:26:58):
Like I said, some people enjoy complaining and, and they're, they're so, you know, um, you know, they're so lost in the adventure that, uh, they don't want to, they're like, that's like being in a movie and you're so caught up in the movie and the person next to you is like, look, it's just a movie. And they're like, just be quiet. Yeah. I'm having too much fun with it. <laugh>
Dr. Reese (00:27:19):
They're, they're, they're in dream, dream based reality.
Dr. Niebauer (00:27:22):
The, the dream based real reality is, so when you start getting into non-duality you say, well, well, why, you know, why are we doing this? If everything is non-dual, if everything is connected, why do we have this dreamlike state of duality?
Dr. Reese (00:27:41):
What's your practice? Because if 20 year old neurotic Chris, 20 year old neurotic, Chris became Dr. Nealer <laugh> professor. So what was your method of getting out of that neurosis and, and getting to the point where you're a neuroscientist and you're writing these books and you're helping people.
Dr. Niebauer (00:28:03):
I had one insight that maybe you could say sent me on a different path. And I was in the middle of very intense, neurotic episode. And, uh, I got very frustrated with it because again, I would keep putting more effort into trying to get out of the trap. And I didn't see at the time that all the effort you put into trying to get out of the trap is actually getting you into the trap deeper. Yeah. Yeah. And I have to reminded me so much of like, when you lose something in the cushion of your couch and the more you try to reach for the deeper it falls. And we have so many paradoxes like that, but for me, it actually hit that. It was my trying to not be neurotic. That was my neurosis.
Dr. Niebauer (00:28:52):
And when I saw those mechanics, when I saw that, it was like, and it, and it's interesting. It goes back to, um, insights that other people have had too. But I wasn't familiar with these individuals at the time. Uh, Victor Frankel noticed this too. He noticed that it's the pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness, and people realize like, if I go on a mission and it's a serious mission to be happy, I'm almost certain to fail. Yeah. You know, if I say, be happy now, it's just so, so tho the mechanics of that hit me pretty deeply. And I had recognized that it was me trying not to be neurotic. That was my neurosis. And I just said, forget it. I said, I'm done with this. And the moment I stopped trying. So in the east, I'll call this like, um, you know, non effort, that's a big thing to direct.
Dr. Niebauer (00:29:45):
And so I had acceptance, I had surrender and I had given up, I realized that all of my efforts were futile. In fact, it was worse than being futile. It was my efforts that were getting me stuck in the mess in the first place. Yeah. And when I gave up on all that, I noticed that wasn't neurotic for a while. And so it's the process of thinking that is associated with effort it's associated with trying it's associated with whatever's happening right now is not good enough. Now, this is the real funny paradox of all this, because it was that thinking program that saved us 40,000 years ago. It was that thinking that nothing is ever good enough that continuous drive that continuous search for something better and not being happy in the moment that actually helped the survival of our species that is actually plaguing us right now. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And I actually call this, I call it mind 1.0, because it's, it's an, it's a 40,000 year old program in our skull. It's outdated.
Dr. Reese (00:30:59):
Our environment changed, but our mind didn't,
Dr. Niebauer (00:31:02):
We we're the same biological beings who would do great. If he threw me into an ice age, the problem is there's no ice age. And here I am in a comfortable place living one of the most blessed existence that, that Humana humanity has seen. You know, it's, it's like, we're so many of us are so gift. We have so many gifts and blessings and
Dr. Reese (00:31:27):
Even 150 years ago. I mean, we don't have horsey carriages. We, we got electric cars.
Dr. Niebauer (00:31:34):
It's, it's truly, and it can almost take your breath away with gratitude if you've ever gotten into that. Because again, when you, when you, uh, see that you're not this mind program, it's like almost all the problems go away. And then to replace that you get this immense sense of gratitude and you feel so absolutely blessed and grateful that like, I can't like I'm a ex I, I exist and not only do I exist, I, I, I literally have everything there. I have no there's everything. And people say, well, this is the experience that everything is perfect as it is. And when you have that recognition, then, um, I don't know for me, I can't help. I, I kind of laugh a little, I don't know. There's, to me, the, the nature of the universe is a humorous one. There's a certain, um, comedic sense to the universe, at least from my perspective.
Dr. Niebauer (00:32:29):
And so, uh, you know, I can't help, but to sort of laugh at, you know, the, the, the, the par the, the situation we're in, where, uh, you could find yourself complaining one moment, thinking your life is an absolute disaster. And then a slight shift in recognizing the thinking mind, you can immediately see that you had everything you needed all along. I, I liken it to, um, I dunno if you've had this experience, but, you know, you think you lost your cell phone. And so here's me, and maybe I'm getting old, but I'll be walking around. I'm like looking for my cell phone. And then all of a sudden I look and I see it. I had it, I had it the whole time. Yeah. And I start to laugh a little, you know, cuz I find this. And, and to me that's a very similar experience to the recognition that you have everything you need already.
Dr. Niebauer (00:33:20):
It's already here there. So there's no effort you have to put into to, to be happy. There's no effort you need to, uh, improve your life. There's no effort there. You don't need to improve yourself. The only thing, uh, if you want to get to the state is to recognize thinking, recognize how the thoughts are not good reflections of reality. Most of the time they give rise to illusion. And one of the illusions is the sense of self and also so many of the problems that we think we have. And with that recognition, then it seems to be a pretty big shift in our experience.
Dr. Reese (00:33:59):
Our subconscious can catastrophize, you know, uh, I, I remember I used to have these really weird dots of getting into a car accident. I've never been in a bad car wreck in my life. I'm a fender bender here and there <laugh>. Yeah, but not a bad wreck. And like, where's that coming from? Where's that weird fear coming from? It's like subconscious somewhere. I don't know if it's a past life thing. I have no idea. But what do you do with the thought? Do you laugh at it?
Dr. Niebauer (00:34:36):
<laugh> I, well, not at first. I mean, at first it's, it's a matter of, uh, fear, anxiety. Um, but then you recog one of the important recognitions when it comes to all, this is the recognition that like, none of your thoughts are your own. I mean, we have this strange thing when we start asking a question, who am I? And we start exploring and we, so we think we're peeling away the layers and we're getting to something genuine. And, and so maybe I'm an introvert. And I think I've discovered something about myself, but that's not really accurate because so many of our thoughts are just it's part of the mind program. It's, it's, it's part of the collective society. I mean, we didn't invent the language. We speak the voice in our head that has most of what we consider thinking is just the voice in our head it's language.
Dr. Niebauer (00:35:30):
I didn't invent this language and I didn't invent, you know, thoughts of catastrophe. Um, those are things, you know, are, are it's the society, the collective, it, it comes up with these rather odd thoughts. It convinces us that they're real. And then we suffer from them. And, um, when you start recognizing that 99% of your thoughts, I mean, I'd probably say a hundred, but we'll be careful, 99% of your thoughts aren't even your own thoughts. They didn't come from you. You know? And what would you have had that same thought if you lived 200 years ago?
Dr. Reese (00:36:06):
No, there's no cars,
Dr. Niebauer (00:36:07):
There's no cars you wouldn't have had thought. And so, you know that this is the price we pay for exposing ourselves to, um, social media. And, and, and like I said, in the morning, you've got choice
Dr. Reese (00:36:19):
Television and television, like, you know, social media is only 15 years old for the most part. Uh, uh, watching the movie die hard in the eighties, you know, the violence yeah. Is astronomical, horror movies, astronomical violence. This is stored in us.
Dr. Niebauer (00:36:43):
And it comes down to where we started. But with this, with this choice, you know, you may want to have a really scary adventure, you know, and you may want to have that narrow escape of the hero, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just, you're gonna pay a price for it, cuz you can't play the hero without having some sense of fear without having some sense of you have to real danger. Um, and, and it has to be life and death, you know, and, and to payoff of that, and this works for some people, the payoff of that is you get to kind of embrace that archetypal hero. The negative side of that is that you have to live with the fear. You have to live with the anxiety and uh, not everyone, you know, like I said, the adventures of the hero, um, or being the, like all that stuff sort of just wears itself out after a while.
Dr. Reese (00:37:33):
But then the, the other side to this coin, Chris is there's a big demographic of people that are into the law of attraction manifesting as it's called now a hundred years ago, they called it demonstrating. Now it's manifesting. Uh, not that you know, if you think about a Lamborghini, all of a sudden you have a Lamborghini, but we can sort of manifest good health. We can manifest, you know, financial security. I don't know if you can manifest an exact amount, but you know, things like this to make sure that you're safe, you know, and things, things like this.
Dr. Niebauer (00:38:14):
But what I found some very interesting, uh, experiences with what, you know, uh, the law of attraction is that the more I can turn down thinking, the more kind of abundance the universe keeps providing me. And, um, and maybe it was there to begin with. It just feels like it because I'm turning thought down and recognizing that everything was already there.
Dr. Reese (00:38:41):
Well, I've always kind of used a metaphor as of a video game in that we're in a video game and the objective of a video game is to beat the game <laugh>
Dr. Niebauer (00:38:53):
Dr. Reese (00:38:54):
And to beat this game is to become so called enlightened. Uh there's that's what's been said for 5,000 years, that's, that's the underlying message because, you know, and then, then you go into the reincarnation thing. And so, you know, Buddha called it a no returner, you know, once you become a Buddha, there's no returning you're, you're done. And so Christianity, this would be heaven, right. You know, keeping it a little human, like <laugh>, uh, beating the game would be slowing down the thoughts as we've been talking about and getting out of this false self so that we don't have the anxiety, we don't have the depression and we're, we're detached in a way that we're an observer.
Dr. Niebauer (00:39:49):
I think at the end of the book, I talk about having like, you know, one foot in each reality. And so, you know, um, recognizing, being grounded in the idea that the ego thoughts, none of them are real. It is like a video game, but that's the fun thing about a video game. If you really, you know, when you, we start playing a video game, you can get sucked. It's very seductive. You can get pulled into it and buy into it. And it could be very exciting. It could be a really interesting adventure, as long as you don't take it too seriously. You know, if you, to me, that's one of the biggest people ask me about the left and right sides of the brain. And I, the way I put it in a, just a very practical way is that the left brain is very serious and it, it takes everything, um, like it's life and death, the right brain is far more playful. And so it's a really, it, I mean, it's a really adventurous game to play both at the same time. Mm. And to, to be grounded in the idea that, you know, I am eternal, uh, my true being is beyond it's a mystery that the thinking mind will never know, but then I'm still gonna have a little fun at a sporting event. And maybe I will cheer for one team. Sure. You know, so, so I was at my son's soccer. Oh, last weekend. And so you get caught up in this and, and, and you have fun and you enjoy it, but not so much that you are totally lost, you know? Um,
Dr. Reese (00:41:23):
I, I, it's interesting using myself as you know, on my journey. I, uh, I, I got off of the drama entertainment wise. I, I can't even watch a movie 10 minutes. I'll turn it off. I just can't connect anymore, but I love sports. And I had to really think about why, and it's because it's reality, <laugh>, it's either two guys or two teams competing. It's real, there's a referee, there's people in the crowd. It's not die hard. It's not breaking bad. And, and so I, I think that speaks to what you were just saying that, you know, you can, you know, dive into more of a reality based entertainment and it's, even though you might get into it and, you know, you get the crazy soccer mom, who's just like, no, you know, you stepped on Billy's foot, you know? Yeah. But to me that's better than watching Fred Kruger.
Dr. Niebauer (00:42:20):
I think it was ARD was talking about, uh, you know, simul opera, and, and this idea that, you know, one, the problems with our culture is we've gotten so far away from reality. We have like simulations and, you know, artificial this, and, and we're, we're so far from the actual real right now that, uh, it, it, you know, to experience the real world for some people is, is kind of a experience of itself, you know? And I mean, you, you think of social media, how many friends, you, I mean, they're not real friends and, um, artificial flavors that, to trick your brain to, to thinking that this is a real strawberry when it's, you know. Yeah. You know, and so we, we live in a very interesting time when, you know, this is why people have the simulation hypothesis. This is why this feels, this could be a simulation because we know that we fall for it so easily.
Dr. Reese (00:43:17):
Yeah. It makes me think of the movie, the matrix, which is arguably the most important movie of this generation. It was 20 years ago.
Dr. Niebauer (00:43:26):
Dr. Reese (00:43:27):
That movie is one big metaphor.
Dr. Niebauer (00:43:31):
<laugh> it is. And it shook neuroscience. It shook and it's, and it's a play from Decart who asked a very similar question. And then you could actually say it, that even goes back to, you know, the allegory of the cave, but it was put in a very modern way that people instantly related to it and made you think, you know, that's the, when we say who, who am I and, uh, know myself and then, and, and, uh, you know, you gotta get through those layers of social construction and you, and you, you know, uh, there's so many things that we live in this world that are nothing more that people go to work. And, um, you know, they're just people in a building, but suddenly it takes on this life. Like this is a real business and they buy into the business and they think it's, it has a life of its own. And, and then it becomes terribly serious. And it's like, it's nothing more than a collective hallucination between, you know, 10 people, but suddenly it becomes like an actual, you know, uh, company. And that's funny because, uh, you know, what we call corporation, the root of that word means you have a body and it's funny. It, it has, no body has no physicality to it at all.
Dr. Reese (00:44:43):
Right. It's well said. Yeah.
Dr. Niebauer (00:44:45):
Well, you know, being a university professor, I tell people like, you know, the university doesn't really exist, you know, it's just a, a collective hallucination. We just all agree that there's such a thing as a university. <laugh>.
Dr. Reese (00:44:59):
Yeah. So we, all we gather on a campus and everyone buy, we have emails with a special thing at the end. Yeah.
Dr. Niebauer (00:45:05):
Yeah. We have buildings and, you know, and, and we all buy into it. And at the end of this whole process, you get this piece of paper that says that you did this. And, you know, and it's, you know, it's, again, there's nothing wrong with that. It could be fun. And it could be like a decent adventure if you make it into that. But if you're TA, if you're really serious about it, and I mean, my kids are 13 and 17. They're already stressed about college. And I, I always tell people where it's such a fascinating time right now, because when we talk about enlightenment, the closest place is also the furthest place. And what I mean by that is when you get very close to this insight about thoughts being nothing more than just your thinking, rather than actual reality, the mind compensates it. It's like when I said, you know, don't think of the number 13, and that's all you can think of in the same way. When you get really close to this insight, the mind will crank up the reality of thinking. So that you're more convinced. It's like, it's bringing you back to the reality of thought.
Dr. Reese (00:46:09):
Well, that just happened to me. I was doing really well spiritual practice, the gaps. So beautiful. Then all of a sudden, bam, <laugh> what they call dark night of the soul.
Dr. Niebauer (00:46:22):
Dr. Reese (00:46:23):
Dr. Niebauer (00:46:24):
Dr. Reese (00:46:24):
Fear, fear, fear. Where did this come from? <laugh>
Dr. Niebauer (00:46:30):
It seems like a common experience, to be honest. Um, sometimes you can get very, very close to enlightenment. Sometimes you can get very, very close to feeling like this is going to last forever, that this, this kind of piece and tranquility is, is, is permanent. But there is some strange thing about clinging to anything permanent. And then, you know, something comes along and remind you of the nature of reality being changed, you know, every, so, you know, if it's, uh, you know, so you, you've, that's the interesting thing about enlightenment and if you cling to it, you know, and it's a very, I mean, it feels so good to have those gaps to I, when you have those gaps between thinking, it's so perfect that when you start thinking again, you're like, I want more of that. Yeah. You know, I wanna live, I want that to be the ground of my being. And here's the irony, the more you want that less it's going to happen. Yep. So you have to have enlighten you, you know, to make the whole system work is if, to have enlightenment, but then not clinging to it. Yep. And, uh, it's a tricky, it's a tricky business.
Dr. Reese (00:47:42):
Well, the best way to do it is just to be present,
Dr. Niebauer (00:47:45):
Just to be present. And, um, I, I can really relate. I've had a lot of experiences where, um, I really felt like I was at a place that was untouchable. That is like, nothing is gonna phase me. Nothing is going to shake me or anything. And sometimes it could be surprising how that shifts all of a sudden you're like, where did this come from?
Dr. Reese (00:48:11):
Yeah. My ego was assaulted because I was embarrassed. I have a podcast called inner peace with Dr. Reese. <laugh>, uh, I was just on a local news network right before the pandemic talking about inner peace. And you know, all of a sudden, bam, <laugh> Just a smack in the head. It's hysterical in a way. Yeah. You
Dr. Niebauer (00:48:35):
Know, it's well, see how you're see how it looks like you're laughing. Like there is just something like you can't help it. It's it's like the universe has a weird sense of humor. It's almost like saying, look, you know, you think you're so like, I, I, one of Ron doses quotes, one of his other quotes, he said, you think you're so enlightened, go live with your family again. And you know, there's a sense where like, look, you know, you can come a long way. That's why I, I honestly, I don't worry too much about enlightenment and I don't worry about, like, I actually called my first book, the neurotics guide to avoiding enlightenment. That's good. And so I actually was like, look, avoid enlightenment at all costs almost just as a, as a game. Like if you avoid it, it's more likely that you'll stumble across it by accident.
Dr. Niebauer (00:49:18):
Mm. Um, if, if it's your, if it's your, if, if you're pursuing this path of enlightenment, if you, because you know, the thinking mind is so tied up in effort and goals, and, and again, it's projecting into the future. This is how I want to be. And, you know, you get a taste of it, a taste of the piece of non-thinking that thinking mine turns back on and it says, wow, this is really perfect. I want more of it. But then you get that irony of you can't be at peace while you're thinking, because peace is not thinking. And so, and, and the thinking mind wants to reestablish itself. So it comes it using its old tricks, which will fear and anxiety are two of its best tricks.
Dr. Reese (00:50:07):
Yeah. My fear was intense. I lost my sleep. Never experienced anything. Like it,
Dr. Niebauer (00:50:12):
Isn't it remarkable out you can be lying in bed and everything's perfect, but the mind will be so convincing like a bad movie or something. And it will be so convincing that this is wrong. Something is, this has to happen. Um, you know, everything's gonna fall apart. It, it tells some story and we just fall for it, you know? I mean, I, so, and, and then you, uh, and then you say, you know, what is the universe teaching me with this? You know, it's another lesson, look for those breadcrumbs. You look for like, okay, this is another hint that I've left myself. You know? Um, I think these things happened and they happened, um, you know, it's not random, you know, I mean, it was that happened for there, something behind it, maybe, you know, these experiences happen and then you go way deeper than you ever thought you were, would,
Dr. Reese (00:51:12):
Uh, that changed. I've changed so much, uh, a lot it's, it's like I was nudged to improve in this area, that area, in that area, you know, mm-hmm <affirmative> and, uh, you know, even something as simple as getting your eating habits, you know, <laugh> more disciplined, you know,
Dr. Niebauer (00:51:38):
We're so far from nature right now that some of the most basic things of eating, you know, we, we don't really know how to eat. So we we've gotta watch, you know, podcast on how to tear away all these cultural things that taught us how that the wrong way to eat the wrong way to breathe. Um, and we're working. And so we're working on all that. And, uh, you know, it can be a little overwhelming, I think for a lot of people, um, just something as simple as breath work, I'll, I'll talk to people and you know, it, it just feels like, look, you know, let me work on one thing at a time <laugh> and so, you know, you've got, but you've got eating. Um, like I tell people, look, you know, if you get up and have a pot of coffee and watch the news, and then complain that you're anxious the rest of the day, you really have no one to blame, but yourself, you know, you can't fill your body with a stimulant and then expose yourself to drama and then expect the mind, which is programmed to respond to that.
Dr. Niebauer (00:52:40):
Um, so you've become more conscious and you say, well, maybe I have too much caffeine and you start becoming aware of how caffeine affects you. Some people, it doesn't affect them at all, but others that's the same. I've got students, they'll start talking to me about anxiety. And the first thing I ask them is about stimulants. You know, what kind of stimulants are you? You know, and adults of like, wow, you know, just a couple coffees every morning. And for some people that can be it. And so you say, okay, let me change that a little bit.
Dr. Reese (00:53:11):
One of the fears that I was experiencing heavy fears was loss of parents, I guess it was, uh, perception of loss. Yeah. As a term, right. I read that you lost your dad. How did you feel
Dr. Niebauer (00:53:30):
It immediately threw me into neurosis? Mm, uh, it death. How,
Dr. Reese (00:53:38):
How long ago was it?
Dr. Niebauer (00:53:39):
Um, I was 20 and, uh, his death was very unexpected. It was by suicide. So none of us were prepared. Um, and, uh, I think when I look back, what, what really affected me was how his death affected everyone around him. Like I saw death as the enemy because I saw how much sadness it brought to people and how, um, you know, UN uncontrolled it is, you know, no, he did this, you know, no one had any say in it, it just, uh, happened. And then everyone else suffered from this. And, um, I, I really felt like death was, uh, like an enemy. It, it was something that had to be, uh, thought and I was terrified of death. So that, that, from that moment, uh, I had instantly gone into a world where, so if I was say 22, right now, most of my consciousness was taken up with thoughts that I was dying. Mm. That I was always dying. I was continuously, terrifi
Dr. Reese (00:54:50):
Catastrophizing about death.
Dr. Niebauer (00:54:52):
My, my heart's going to stop. Uh, my throat's gonna close up. I had all kinds of, it would manifest in slightly different ways, but it was an incredible force. And, um, so yeah, that's um, and
Dr. Reese (00:55:06):
You had to let go
Dr. Niebauer (00:55:08):
And, and I had to, because I realized that it was me fighting it. That was the problem. Yes. And you have to just say, I'm, I'm help, you know, that surrender moment is, is, is, and there's no way to intellectually tell people how to surrender. I mean, we can give hints, we can talk, but it's such an inner process that you'll surrender when you're ready. And when you do it will be transformative and it will be, uh, you know, you look back, you know, how, how, how, how did they get, how, how, why was they so afraid? Yeah. You know, what did it, how did it convince me that it was the enemy and, and you look back and, um, you know, but at the time it seemed, nothing could have seemed more real than that at the time.
Dr. Reese (00:55:57):
Here's a deep question. Your dad, and most people that commit suicide are caught in their thoughts. So how do you think this information that you have now, this book and all this wisdom, the stuff we're talking about right now, do you think something like that have helped him
Dr. Niebauer (00:56:25):
That's yeah. I, I, I think that's exactly what, so my experience is to give you a little more detail. So my dad was in physically good health. He was fine, and there was nothing wrong. We had no real problems financially. We were okay. Uh, you know, uh, really no actual problems. And at the same time, um, my girlfriend at the time from high school, her dad, um, uh, enjoyed life, uh, but he had cancer. So physically, it that's a real problem. You know, he he's, he has no mental, it's not his mind. It's not his thoughts, but he was dealing with cancer and died very shortly for about maybe six months. And it was a very aggressive form of cancer. And I remember just being really puzzled by this, like, here's one person, like my dad who's physically fine, but his thoughts ended up convincing him that life was not worth living. But at the same time, here's another person who seems to have the exact opposite problem. Their thoughts are fine, but the physical is, uh, taking life away from them. Right. And so I, that, that, that puzzle sort of stuck with me for a very long time, but yeah, a lot of what I do when you see how P I mean, what could be more powerful than thoughts, convincing you to end your own life?
Dr. Reese (00:58:01):
I, I, I think what you just said is, is, is again, the puzzle is very powerful. And I think that speaks to people to take care of their health mentally and physically, and there needs to be a balance there because if the mental health is outta whack, it can go all the way to something like suicide. And if the physical health is outta whack, it can go all the way to something like cancer. And you had to go through all this in your early twenties, two big, two big deaths to puzzle you.
Dr. Niebauer (00:58:32):
Yeah. And, um, but you know, people will talk about their suffering and their early suffering, but from my end, it was all lessons. It was all things that, you know, um, you know, was the universe kind of teaching me, you know, along the way. And, and, uh, you know, uh, uh, but it's a very profound, it's a very deep experience to, to see that in your life where thoughts are capable of convincing you to take your own life. It's, you know, and it, and it set me into a neurosis that lasted at least 10 years. Um, but out of all, that comes, this work and comes what we're doing right now. And, you know, even if one person just, you know, is to the podcast and, and, and just has that insight that maybe everything is okay, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it's, it's my thoughts that are tricking me into believing that I have all these problems that I don't have,
Dr. Reese (00:59:33):
Even your old girlfriend's father was okay. It's just the, you know, the body was gonna deteriorate and, and it sucks, but he still had a choice to be happy.
Dr. Niebauer (00:59:56):
That's, you know, I think you, you hit it. I think that's the one choice we have that, uh, we make all the time. And, and, and it's just, are you ready to be happy? I mean, it's a, it's a, it sounds kind of simple, but it's, like I said in the morning, well, you know, what are you gonna, what are you doing? Are you choosing happiness? You know, cuz if you're not choosing happiness and then you're complaining that you're not happy, that's a little strange, you know, but if, if you're choosing happiness, um, yeah, it's it, everything it's like, you know, it's like some, um, multidimensions, it's like these dimensions of reality and like the many worlds hypothesis and there's this like, you know, we create different worlds when we start choosing happiness. Yeah. And, and reality responds to it. And, and it's almost like the world says, look, do you wanna be miserable?
Dr. Niebauer (01:00:49):
Reality says, let's do it right. You wanna be, we're gonna make your life miserable. And the more you start complaining about, and then more misery hits you and then you choose happiness. And all of a sudden everything starts working in your favor and you're kind of like it, it's weird how everything's just, you know, the synchronicity, everything just sort of falls into place because you've chosen happiness and you are, maybe you were ready for it. Um, you know, and, and when I look back, if, if I was listening to myself right now, when I was 20, I would probably be really skeptical. Mm. But that's okay because you, you, you can, all you need to do is get a little crack in the kind of armor of the ego. Just a little bit into that nature of the self, just a little bit into the nature of thinking, just a, a bit of skepticism and you'll start, and that can work. You know, like you said, the gaps get bigger. Just notice one gap, just one gap in your thinking. And as long as you notice one, you've had the experience and you're gonna be more likely to pick it up. The mind has a certain momentum to it. It's like a big truck. You know, if you get a big truck moving, it's really hard to stop.
Dr. Reese (01:02:05):
Dr. Niebauer (01:02:06):
So you slow it down little, little at a time, you know, you notice the one gap and then you're you notice another and that's going, and you don't realize it at the, but what you're doing there is you're choosing happiness. You you're choosing it the whole time. It may not be like a light. So maybe I choose to run a marathon. I'm not just gonna go out and run 26 miles. Right. You know, I'm gonna go do little, like I might run half a mile and then a half a mile. And, um, and then eventually you're running the marathon, but it's the same thing with choosing happiness. You don't just choose happiness. And then all of a sudden, you know, it's like hap it doesn't, it's not gonna happen instantly. For many of us, it's a choice, but it, it, it works it's way in over time of time. At least that's what I found
Dr. Reese (01:02:59):
Before I wrap this up. Where can somebody find you and come say hello? And where can they get your book?
Dr. Niebauer (01:03:07):
So the no self, no problem on Amazon, but it's at a lot of other it's on most places where you can find any book and the new book, which is really a workbook, because what I found is that, you know, these conversations are wonderful. Um, and, and, but the exercise people need exercises. They, you know, you can't fix a thinking problem with more thinking. And so you need exercises. You need, like you said, the gap, you need something, that's gonna point people towards the experience. So they feel for themselves that there is a gap between thinking. And so it's, I've put a collection of exercises together that help people kind of really just helps them experience that gap. And that tribute out, uh, early in 2022. So something like January or something that should be out and you can actually, pre-order it, it's on Amazon right now. Just Chris Nebar PhD, I think, uh, on YouTube and I have a home. Um, I have a webpage, I think it's Chris Nebar PhD, um, where I've got all the information kind of put together and a lot of different clips and interviews and that kind of thing.
Dr. Reese (01:04:13):
Knowing now what I know about you with everything that happened to your dad, is it safe to say that this work that you're doing is personal?
Dr. Niebauer (01:04:25):
Hmm. That's a, that's an interesting way to put it. Um, I, I think it's deep. The, the, the beginning was deeply personal because I found myself in a situation that was such suffering that for all I knew, if I went down that path, I may have taken that same option. My father did. I mean, it was such unbearable suffering to just continuously be tortured by thinking. Um, so the beginning felt personal, but then you go into the very impersonal and that's the wonderful thing about not thinking you realize it's, it's not about you anymore. And that's where people feel this collective. They feel like it's not my consciousness. It's consciousness. It's not mine. It's the same. The, so the same consciousness you experience, it's the same consciousness I experience. So you immediately go from the personal to something that's actually really impersonal. This something's collective that we're all, we all have this, every human being has in other species, we've with some, you know, collective sense of consciousness. And, um, and you feel part of a collective that at least I, I would say transcends the kind of collective we feel from an ego perspective. And so we can very feel very close to people with friends and, and all that, but you can be alone and maybe not even have any friends, but if you're in touch with that collective sense of consciousness, I don't think you ever feel alone. Chris, it's been a pleasure talking to you today. Yeah, it was great.
Speaker 2 (01:06:10):
Thanks for listening to inner peace with Dr. Reese. If this episode opened your heart, feel free to share on social media and tell your loved ones. Also be sure to subscribe. So you never miss an episode until next time may peace be with you.