Sunday, October 31, 2010

On Neuroplasticity

I find myself drawn to teachers who straddle the delicate line between exoteric and esoteric, who walk between the ethereal and the material, who balance between the spiritual and the worldly. On the material plane, I understand that this is a very dualistic way of seeing the reality of things, but I have to be honest about where I am. I cannot claim non-dualism and oneness when I am not there. I guess this is why I am drawn to The Dalai Lama who is a staunch supporter of both science and religion. The Buddha himself has been said to possess a scientific mind as well in his adamant teaching for his students to experience the teachings for themselves. Empirical knowledge, after all, may be one of those things that can leave lasting imprints on people. As opposed to just reading or hearing or understanding something from a purely intellectual level, first-hand experience and experimentation is still the most powerful of teachers.

I am astounded by the stuff that I have been finding about the intersection of spirituality and science, particularly how it has been scientifically proven that meditative practices do have positive and lasting effects on the brain, and therefore, can also alter a persons disposition. If you are curious, here is a video of Rick Hanson, a neuro-psychologist-slash-Buddhist-practitioner-slash-meditation-teacher, talking at Google about his scientific findings in the spiritual realm.

While the Eastern practices of meditation are said to eventually lead us to enlightenment (which really is essentially "moksha" or liberation and, in Christianity, eternal salvation and heaven), my experience has been that psychology can be used with these contemplative practices as a powerful tool to get to the same place. I personally like Carl Jung's definition of enlightenment - that which is to bring unconsciousness to consciousness.

We live in a very cluttered, chaotic world, and admit it, we have been conditioned all our lives to assimilate, socialize and conform. If we survive adolescence and the early impressionable years of adulthood unscathed, then awesome. More power. But does that really exist? Does anyone really ever get here without any form of psychological wounding? Then when we get older (happens at mid-life for a lot of people), there is a sudden onslaught of existential questions. Is this all that there is? This can't be it. There has to be more to life than this. Some turn to fast cars and boob jobs. Some turn to a Higher Being. If we choose the latter path, we then realize that everything they told us when we were young about happiness has been wrong - success, money, houses, cars - they all bring us fleeting waves of happiness but not lasting and true joy. Where is that everlasting happiness then if it cannot be bought or acquired?

I personally believe that psychology in whatever form you can get it (podcasts, books, psychotherapy, dream analysis, etc.) can be that bridge between your past and everything you knew about life, and where you want to be, which is to become that vessel of joy, love, compassion, and unconditionality. I am not a New Age chick and I don't proselytize self help books either. I think it is important to exercise both caution and discrimination when choosing who to listen to or read. What is also important to me is that these people have to 1.) do or have done the work themselves and 2.) are grounded in proven teachings, which are usually a combination of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

Spirituality is known to be a safe place to hide. Everything is supposedly happy, mellow, zen, and perfect. It's an easy fix, people think. I just sit and my life will suddenly get better??? If it was seriously THAT easy, wouldn't you think then that enlightenment would be everywhere?

My reality has been that because of my psychological make-up and controlling tendencies, I cannot get to that unchanging place of perpetual oneness and unceasing bliss and reside there unless I deal with my demons first. I cannot use spirituality as an escape route, as another identity that I build around myself out of my need to feel whole and complete. I have to deserve that. I have to work for it. I have to sort out my issues because they are there. Denial of their existence doesn't work and I know because I have tried it again and again. Meditation alone will not heal. It is not meant to.

I do believe that people are wired very differently. In Yoga, there are four paths because someone somewhere (Patanjali? I don't even know..) realized that people have different tendencies and inclinations. Some think more than they feel. Some are more anahata than sahasrara (see more about chakras here, if you're interested). According to one of my Vedanta teachers, each of the four Yogas speaks to certain types of personalities. Jnana is for the scholarly, intellectual types. Karma is for the givers and caretakers. Bhakti is for the devotional. Raja is for the contemplative. Ultimately, the goal is to integrate all of these paths.

My teachers are my teachers. My experiences are my own. In as much as I am, on the deepest of levels, one with everything, I have unique fingerprints that nobody else in the world has. Yes, we are one, but we are separate and we must accept and embrace that separateness before we can get to the oneness...

No comments:

Post a Comment