“The Brain is a River, Not a Rock” Part I

Modern technologies for measuring brain activity have revealed that every experience changes the brain. Novel experiences, especially those that are repeated or emotionally significant, are encoded as neural pathways and strengthened over time. The structure of my brain plays a major role in what I perceive and how I interpret life around me. Change in brain structure is significantly constrained by biological development during the first 20 years (or so) of life. However, the environment also interacts with the brain and influences how it develops.

With the body of neuroscientific research available today, I can understand my life in a new and nerdy way – a way that brings more clarity to the diversity of my experiences growing up. Understanding the neuroscience also helps me see how my development has been influenced by the scientific paradigm—the set of accepted scientific models—of my culture. The more I learn about brain structure and function, the more I realize that I literally create my reality; the reality that I experience is shaped and constrained by my worldview—my unique conception of the world and what is real. Each person’s worldview is constructed by the paradigms (or models) that define the structure and function of the world around him or her. By free will I can choose to put myself in an environment that will either reinforce or challenge my worldview, however, the quality of my choices is largely dependent upon the particular way my brain is connected at that moment. The way I respond to life on a day-to-day basis is inevitably shaped by my worldview, yet I am able to change my understanding based on new knowledge and experience.

Frequently, people fail to recognize the paradigms that construct their own worldview and thus fail to seek out novel perspectives or question their way of understanding; this results in a phenomenon called paradigm blindness, where the individual follows a paradigm and ignores contradictory facts. They accept certain things without critical review simply because it fits into their paradigm. Most of this happens subconsciously without their noticing at all. Thus, they never find a reason to consider novel points of view or even notice existing credible evidence that calls aspects of the paradigm into question. Knowing this, I will summarize my conception of reality and discuss how new models (paradigms) of brain science and the neuro-physiological effects of meditation inform and influence my worldview.

Today I understand life as a field phenomenon, much like quantum physicists and super-string theorists. In other words, the Universe is a unified field out of which infinite forms of variation and diversity arise and interact systematically before recycling back into the field out of which it came. As a conscious being I am distinct, yet part of the whole. The light of self-awareness is of a Universal Source, which shines through my unique physiology to create a unique reflection; this creates a threefold process of consciousness interacting with itself – as the knower (the “I”) the known (the “other”) and the process of knowing (perception). In terms of Maharishi Vedic Science this three-fold dynamic of Rishi (knower), Devata (process of knowing), and Chandas (that which is known) is a fundamental design for anything with a body. Through the interaction of the three together—knower, process of knowing, and known—comes knowledge and the capacity to learn, change and grow.

Plant roots and human brain neurons act alike, changing positions daily based on stimulus from the environment.

Each of us, including, microorganisms, plants, and animals, are unique selforganizing systems that change moment to moment despite maintaining our specific pattern of form. Plant brains (root systems) respond to changing locations of available nutrients and shifting clusters of micro-organisms that make nutrients available for them to absorb; their roots are moving accordingly, creating a dynamic network of intelligent growth that is reflected in the growth of the plant body above. At the same time, plants perceive changing conditions above ground, which leads to inner activity at the cellular level to make changes supporting survival and growth. Human nature is no different and as a person grows, biological development interacts with environmental stimulus to shape their brain, body and unique worldview

My body is the mechanism for consciousness to distinguish itself. Experience changes the brain and the rest of the body follows suit. The changing structure of my brain is signified by the strength and pattern of neural connections. When I go to sleep each night the most significant experiences from the day are encoded to memory and the new neural connections that have been formed are strengthened; likewise, other connections from less significant experiences are not maintained. When I wake up in the morning I will be a different person than I was yesterday. As a matter of fact, roughly 70% of our current brain connections will be different tomorrow than they are today.  Experience changes the brain!

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