Thoughts on Health… the Brain

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There’s a lot of suffering in thinking you should know and be right

and figure things out and that sort of thing.

When we are out there in ego, we believe we can know and should know.

When we come back to center, we realize that we don’t know

and we don’t need to know.

So it’s a coming back to center that has us on the right path.

– Cheri Huber

The brain is our knowledge power house.  It is our database, stores our memories, sorts facts, a filing cabinet which processes new information and fits in into our existing, learned framework of “logic.”

It is a closed system… an organ living in a finite space.  It is encased in the skull, in the hardest thing our body can make to protect it… bone.  Really, it’s the only major organ that functions like this, within bone… even the rib cage, protecting our heart and lungs, allows for the expansion of movement, breath, and blood flow.  In the skull, even fluid things can act as a space occupying lesion and cause pressure like a tumor… a hemorage of blood or a build up of cerebrospinal fluid, both completely liquid, can cause a build up of pressure and damage the brain under the limited space available within the skull.

Diseases of the brain many times come in the form of impairing access to the concrete information stored there… either a physical block in the form of a tumor, stroke, hydrocephalous… or a mental block in the form of dementia, depression, Alzheimers.

When we are young children, our brains grow at amazing speed, forming an immense amount of neuronal connections.  It is very plastic and resilant, open to all new learning experiences.  In fact, when we are very young, only months old, our skull bones do not even cover our entire brain… the fontenells are open and the plates of the skull are not yet fused.

At some point, as adults, we plateau our learning.  We transition from living life with an open eyed sense of wonder, and we start becoming satisfied with just learning “facts.”  We label things, and fit them in to the framework we’ve established.  We collapse what is possible into facts and figures and answers.  We start functioning on a repeat loop… with only mild variation from day to day.

Wake up.  Eat cereal.  Put on socks and shoes.  Commute to work.  Sit in a cubicle.  Commute home.  Watch TV.  Go to bed.  Repeat.

Relying too much on routine and structure, we stop practicing open-ended thinking.  We lose our adaptability.  Our brains become more fixed, more rigid, more closed.  We become “closed-minded.”

Brains can be adaptable… new pathways and neruonal connections can constantly evolve, even in adulthood, but this takes new and vaired input.  This literally keeps your mind young.  Somehow, adults stop experiencing the world in an open ended state of wonder, and become over-reliant on facts and labels.  The brain stops trying to make new neuronal connections, and instead relies on the ones already built and established.  It loses it’s plasticity.  Adults deal with life through information, and facts, and labels.  Logical, linear thinking, concrete thinking, factual thinking limits you to what you “know.”  Labeling things, reducing them to mere facts and putting them away into your brain, is a sure way to turn your brain into a closed system.

Maintaining an open ended sense of wonder… continuously questioning things without a need for an answer, experiencing life through the wide eyed joy usually reserved for the young… these are the best things you can do to preserve the health of your brain.

In week’s past, I talked about how the strength of your heart is it’s flexibility.  Without it’s flexibility, it becomes suseptible to dis-ease.  The strength of your mind is adaptability.  Without it’s ability to constantly form new connections, your brain becomes suseptible to space occupying lesions and disease.   So explore within yourself if you are okay sitting with open ended questions, or do you immediately reach for an answer.  Do you rely too heavily on a routine and on structure?  Your brain’s health is all about maintaining it’s adaptability.

Please come back next week to see the spiritual side of the brain… the adaptable, amazing, complex and mysterious organ encased in bone.  I will present another health collage about the brain, explain a new way of thinking, and give you a simple exercise to increase your capacity for open ended thinking.  See you then!  xoxo