It is true that the greatest miracles generally go unnoticed. This is certainly the case for most of us when it comes to the complex function of our brains. Like every other body part, we mostly pay attention to it when it hurts or quits working. Just to give you a few ideas to help increase your appreciation of the amazing stuff that happens between your ears:
Modern physics has established that the world around and within us is made up of energy, rather than “things”. Even the smallest particles, such as electrons and photons, are “quanta”(meaning a certain amount) of energy. These quanta can appear out of, and disappear into, nothingness. And even if they were “things”, the empty spaces between them are vast. If the nucleus of a hydrogen atom were the size of an orange, the only electron of the atom would be the size of a cherry circling the nucleus at a distance equivalent to the length of a football field.
So modern physics has to agree to some extent with the ancient Buddhist teaching that form is emptiness, emptiness is form. No-thing-ness is the basis of existence.
It does not feel that way, though, when you hit your thumb with a hammer. So what is actually there? Electromagnetic forces that strongly repel each other. They give us the very convenient appearance of solid matter.
Your skin has built in sensors that respond to their electromagnetic interactions with “things” and report them to a specific part of the brain through electrio-chemical nerve conduction. The brain now creates an image of hard, soft, hot, cold, rough, smooth, and so on, out of nothing more than impulse computations.
What you see is what you get, but it’s not what is actually there. What the sun provides us with is light rays, vibration, radiation. Only a very small spectrum of this radiation is interacting with the sensors in your eyes, which translates into electrical impulses sent to another specific region of your brain. Color, shade, 3D depth perception, recognition of shapes and faces, finding meaning in little black scribbles on a piece of paper as “writing”, “seeing” a big black bird in your mind’s eye when you recognize the 5 letters on your computer screen that add up to RAVEN, all of that is a function of the brain’s perception.
When a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?
Actually, it does not. What it does is create shockwaves in the air. Only when some ears are present to translate the shock waves hitting the eardrum into electrical impulses sent to yet another highly specialized region of the brain, can we reasonably speak of “sound”.
And naturally, it is the brain that allows us to convey meaning through consecutive noises we make and call language. If you don’t believe me, travel to a country with a language completely foreign to you and ask where the bathroom is. Even understanding universal body language requires very complex brain functions.
To sum things up, the world “out there” only exists as we know it because our brains make it so. As humans we generally perceive the same events “out there” because “in here”, our brains are built and wired in roughly the same way. We have different filters that decide subconsciously what is worth noticing and what is mere background noise, but we generally agree that a tree is a tree.
A bee creates visual images by processing the ultraviolet radiation spectrum. Its world looks vastly different, and we can barely imagine how our tree appears to a bee. A bear has very poor eyesight but one of the most sensitive noses on the planet. Its reality is made up of entirely different sense integration skills than ours.
Creating a meaningful experience of the world “out there” is only half the task of our astonishing brains. There is also the world inside our skin that needs to be monitored and coordinated. Our conscious thinking comprises only a minute fraction of the brain’s information processing at any given moment. It is truly a blessing that we don’t have to make decisions regarding our blood acidity levels for effective oxygen bonding and release into the tissue, for example. It would be difficult to concentrate on reading this article while simultaneously having to focus on micromanaging our liver functions and hormone cycles.
Think about the inconceivable amount of computations the brain has to accomplish for a tennis player to hit the ball across the net. She has to perceive the speed and movement arc of the ball while rushing to the right place at the right time to hit the ball back with the most efficient muscle action of her upper body, and she has to calculate the exact angle, speed and force to connect the center of her racket with the ball to get it over the net to a location within bounds but preferably out of reach of her opponent. Her split second visual computations have to create an instant response of extremely fine tuned muscular coordination, balance, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, internal heat regulations, and much more. All of our most advanced supercomputers combined could not handle a task like that.
Since our conception, our bodies have grown from one single fertilized cell into a complex community made up of roughly 50 to 70 trillion individual cells. By the time we are born, these cells are specialized and functionally grouped together into most of the basic structures necessary for life on land: Bones, muscles, skin, connective tissue, organs, glands, blood and lymph vessels, body fluids and the immune system. But the nervous system requires another couple of years to fully develop and master skills like the ability to walk upright and language development.
Keeping our inner maintenance up and running non-stop requires so much information processing that it would be too slow and inefficient to do it all in one fairly remote location. Therefore our internal organs have nerve plexuses connected to them where functional monitoring and self-correction takes place on the spot. The heart itself is actually not just a muscle but is made up of 60% neurons like those in the gray matter of the brain. So we speak of a heart brain, a gut brain, and immunologists speak of the immune system as a mobile brain.
However, if our individual organs only look out for their own function and growth, without consideration for the needs of the whole, what we get is cancer. So it is absolutely essential that the activities of all of our body parts are connected, monitored and coordinated. That is what our central nervous system does.
The survival of the individual entity we call a human being depends on the willingness and ability of the individual cells and organs to communicate and cooperate for the good of the whole. When the whole dies, so do the cells and organs. This is not rocket science, but it is something the cancer does not know or chooses to deny.
Just a thought: what would happen if we applied the body’s wisdom to the whole of the human race?
In the past 100 years we have had two competing economic ideologies.
Communism was all about absolute, central control. This lead to a huge, bloated head and atrophied, non-functioning organs. The body was ultimately not able to support the head, and it fell.
Capitalism is all about the individual organ-(ization) taking whatever it needs to grow and prosper without regard to the consequences for the rest of the body. “Off with the head! It only gets in the way!” Has anyone seen the headless rider lately?
There is a third option. Our body proves it. But we have not seen it in action yet. Could it be that the human race is still so young that the nervous system of our collective body is still growing into its full function, and upright gait plus communication skills are just around the corner? In our previous attempts to get on our feet we fell on our behind more than once, and throwing tantrums has not been very effective in communicating our needs. But considering the age of our universe, the human race was only born a few seconds ago. So there is hope.
There is one more admirable capacity of our brain that I still need to mention:
Our ability to dream, imagine and visualize possibilities that have yet to be created. Our head-, heart-, and gut brains are capable of receiving information – inspiration directly from the Field. What is the Field? It cannot be described in terms of space and time, it cannot be measured, and it is an inescapable necessity for our most up-to-date observations of quantum physics to work. It is a concept that tries to explain the inexplicable: How can information travel faster than the speed of light?
It does, and not at random.
Switching from physics to metaphysics: there appears to be an Intelligence or Collective Consciousness that is in charge of our personal, collective and universal evolution. I am convinced that it is this omnipresent Intelligence that allows our individual Consciousness to inhabit a complex body grown from a single fertilized cell. It is also in charge of the growth and maturation of the human race as a whole. It has purpose and patience. Yes, we are facing a crisis, and the growing pains are profound. But the Intelligence that came up with this brilliant way of expressing Consciousness through physical form is certainly capable of guiding our continued journey from evolution of consciousness to Conscious Evolution past the present crisis. It is a journey worth taking!
Shana Dieterle, PT, CST, is a CranioSacral Therapist practicing in Missoula, MT. She has trained with the Upledger Institute International and is presently working on her Diplomate certification. It is her pleasure to explore the amazing health benefits of light touch therapy to optimize brain function and self-healing.
For further information and contact information, go to www.ShanasHeartofHealing.com