For the most part, the human brain is a record of the past. All our past experiences, memories, beliefs, unconscious perceptions and habits are stored within the circuitry of our brain. The neurological network is a matrix formed by clusters of nerve cells. Many believe that once they’re set in their ways, that it’s, at the very least, extremely challenging to break free of their redundant habits─or, so they thought!
Thanks to the latest advancements in technology, we now possess the ability to scan the brain and the body while individuals are in altered states of consciousness invoked by spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. We also know that nerve cells that no longer fire together, no longer wire together, which means that if you cease doing something or thinking a certain way, the pathways in the brain concerning that tendency literally start to dissolve.
As an example, imagine you were chased by a stray dog when you were a child and were lucky to get inside your home before it bit you. Due to the experience, you develop a phobia of dogs─you’re programmed to believe they pose a threat to your survival. As a result, there will be a cluster of nerve cells in your brain that are representative of the memory and thoughts associated with the experience.
Now, I know it’s easier said than done, but if you defy your fears, by slowly beginning to interact with dogs again, you’ll start to break apart that cluster of nerve cells that pertain to the phobia. New synaptic connections will emerge in the brain as a result of you changing your belief that all dogs are a threat when in fact, if brought up correctly, most dogs are loving, loyal and caring creatures.
When you respond to circumstances which usually trigger you into fear-based states of being differently, then you also prune their synaptic connections in your brain. Neuroscientists know this process as Metacognition.
Metacognition is the conscious observation of yourself─your habits, mental and emotional patterns, reactions and desires so you can begin to have more control over your responses to external stimuli. Consciousness or self-awareness is the first step to freedom as you can’t change something you don’t see. You must light a match in a dark place to become aware of the old self.
Living a meditative life means being mindful throughout your day with everything you do─whether you’re walking the dog, washing the dishes or stargazing; the act of living immersed in the still waters of the here and now dissolves the old self. When you embrace the present as it is, and hit that sweet spot of the eternal now, you go beyond what you always believed or imagined was yourself. What many think is their personality is just a jumble of thoughts, emotions, beliefs, habits, likes and dislikes that stem from their past. The true self can only be embraced when one is no longer defined by what they imagine to be their past, however.
“Meditation has also been scientifically proven to untangle the nerve cells in the brain that form the old self. Monks and Nuns have had their brains scanned by neuroscientists as they sat in altered states of consciousness invoked by transcendental meditation, prayer and other practices, and the scientists were amazed at what they beheld. Their frontal lobes lit up as brightly as the sun. They were experiencing levels of bliss, peace, and happiness the researchers hadn’t witnessed before. Meditation invokes a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, which is the untangling of the nerve cells or hardwiring in the brain, to make space for new synaptic connections to emerge, which promotes conscious change. Meditation, in this sense, is a fire that burns away the old self.”
─The Labyrinth: Rewiring the Nodes in the Maze of your Mind
The true self isn’t defined by the past as your consciousness is transcendent of space and time. Have you noticed that while you’re doing something you genuinely love, that you’re effortlessly thrust into the present moment? Many people call forms of art or writing self-escapism, for example, as they help one become free of their old self, but I don’t agree as the old self was never their true self in the first place! When you drop what you always believed was you can you fully embrace what is!
The present moment is akin to a fire that burns away the neuropathways in the brain that pertain to your conditioning. Making an effort to connect with the present throughout your day, which includes embracing the unknown as the here and now and the unknown are synonymous, will miraculously transform your life. We have the science now to back it up; it isn’t just a bunch of new age, spiritual philosophy─it is grounded in substantial evidence, we’re living in exciting times, for sure!
Science, in a sense, is only just catching up to the wisdom traditions that have been around since time immemorial. I believe that the Bhagavad-Gita, for example, came from a higher age of consciousness where we were more connected to our divine self and the universe as a whole than we are in this day and age:
“All karma or effects of actions are completely burned away from the liberated being who, free from attachment, with his mind enveloped in wisdom (the higher self), performs the true spiritual fire rite.”– Bhagavad-Gita 4:23
These timeless truths will never go away, but we’re only as good as our ability to execute and embrace them. Transformation is possible for everyone, and it is much easier than we’re told to believe it is. Drop the belief that change is difficult as the idea will only make the challenge even more complicated than it is; thus, you’ll defeat yourself before you even begin. When you start to untangle yourself from the neurological webs of the illusion of the past, you can embrace the here and now with a set of crystal clear windows of perception! Tranquillity begets clarity.
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