"There are no individuals in a forest, no separable events." "Forests shape and mend themselves through subterranean synapses. And, in shaping themselves, they shape too the tens of thousands of other creatures that form it from within. Maybe it's useful to think of forests as enormous spreading, branching, underground super-trees." - Excerpted from The Overstory by Richard Powers
Is it any surprise that neuroscience science refers to some brain activities as "neural branching"? And, it seems no random accident that the invisible space between neurons, the synapse, is precisely where neurotransmitters jump the gap to send messages out into the brain at large?
I don't think I am pressing too hard to find connections that are merely poetic; it seems clear to me that like trees, we sentient humans transmit information and, at our best, we do this for the benefit of others. Perhaps it's also no accident that yoga refers to its' eight dimensions of study/practice as the "8 limbs or branches" of the practice.
Yoga: Brilliant practical tools for living life in a wakeful state
Trees: grand beings who give to give
Humans at their best: Magnificent beings who give to give
Neurons that fire together, fire together. This idea originally came from the scientist Donald O. Hebb regarding neural communication and spike-dependent plasticity
From the Yoga Sutras:
Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga
Addiction comes in many forms. Our dopamine driven brains seek novelty and our devices are the siren songs luring us into a churning ocean of promising new hits of pleasure in the way of notifications. But are those hits of distraction really pleasures? Much contemporary neuroscience thinks not. I think not. What do you think?
Creating and sustaining more discipline with our devices is up to us because our burgeoning, amazing technology is not slowing down any time soon. Aside from our purposeful unplugging, there are things we can do that help to repair and rejuvenate the brain/mind and body that becomes lost and fragmented in digital space.
This brings me to my favorite, most effective, means of returning homeostasis to our complex nervous systems and this numero uno practice is called Yoga Nidra. My second favorite treatment is a combination of yoga (in all it’s branches, not just asana) and mindfulness practice, which includes formal seated practice and informal (employing it during all moments of ordinary life) practice.
So, consider this: You have within you a capacity to incline your mind away from the neural ruts and habits that have become your auto pilot default mode. In fact, neuroscientists have parsed our innate default modes and the research shows that the ruminative (I/Me/Mine) default mode of attention increases our anxiety, depression and overall suffering. More expansive states of being that are less entangled in the mire of "I/Me/Mine" lift us, enlarge us and decrease our suffering.
The question becomes: What do you want to wire up for? Increased isolation, rumination and agitation? Or, do you want to persistently and lovingly untangle your negative habits and create a spacious mind and wider heart?