Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006
My basic premise here will be that thought, in whatever form, leaves an impression on our subtle physiology. What do I mean by subtle physiology? That could be answered both objectively and experientially. First, objectively, it refers roughly to the nervous system, and within that, the limbic system and outwards to the cortex of the brain, in particular the somatic region of the cortex. It also refers to the yogic concept of nadis, which are subtle energy channels throughout the body. Contrast this to gross physiology: bones, heart muscle, pancreas, pinky finger. Second, experientially: when you have a thought, whether intentional, or far more commonly, unintentional- the thought being something offered to you by your nerves whether you want it or not- when you have this thought, it has a feeling aspect, comparable to fingers touching skin, it makes a mark, like a stick in wet cement, which can be perceived at varying levels. For instance, a major thought, such as “the woman I love just left me and she’s never coming back”, will leave a powerful imprint, may even elicit temporarily debilitating responses like sobbing, shaking, etc. When Einstein connected his way to e=mc squared, we can assume that this thought, in its original revelation, had a host of feeling toned accompaniments for him. Now, most thoughts that most of us have most of the time are smaller, ie: “I’ll get lunch together for the kids”. Nonetheless, these leave an imprint too, just a milder and smaller one: all thoughts leave an imprint.
What is an imprint? The yogic traditions speak of external and internal experience as leaving a trace upon us. My point in the previous paragraph is that internal events, like thoughts, leave an impression on our being, just as outward experiences do. Thought processes are the nervous system in action, often rewiring itself as it thinks, the rewiring process a product of the thought. The imprint would be the change in our gross and subtle physiology after the thought (inwardly) or the frisbee that jammed our pinky (outwardly).
So, the jammed pinky slowly heals, and becomes a slightly beaten down version of our original pinky. And what happens to the imprint left by thoughts? My response: it changes over time too, in a manner similar to gross level pinky healing. So, for example, our poor sad fellow who lost his love has received a large impact on his subtle physiology, an impact he may be increasing with ongoing negative thinking. Well, as time passes, his psyche begins to mend, despite him, and one way to see this process is through the idea of sublimation: the low becomes high in the living organism. The eros of life will take the psychic wound and reorganize it, the unbearable will become comfortable with time, and the wound will actually become the Darwinian imprint from the environment which can initiate new capacities.
This eros process happens even in the lowliest smirking couch potato (sorry to all the low smirking couch potatoes out there, I don’t mean to marginalize you), he is a theater of eros occuring right now, until the day he dies. Viz: the neurologists used to think that our numbers of brain cells died off from age 3, and no new ones could be grown. All downhill from age 3. This has now been debunked and the elderly have been confirmed to grow new brain cells which make new connections in the areas of life in which they participate. Anyway, our couch potato’s psychosomatic being is taking the imprints from his outward and inward experience and gradually, inevitable bringing them to a higher level of organization. The thing is, he’s just mucking through this life, doesn’t care at all, and profound amounts of eros are happening anyway, it’s what keeps him there.
But the yogi: yoga tells us that if we deliberately put our attention on the imprints left by inner and outer experience, evolution will happen faster and much much better. This is why yoga places such value on a mind that can free itself of chatter when it so chooses: the eros, the organizing healing evolutionary force, can get stronger when it receives deliberate attention. How strong can it get? It would seem that God is the limit and God, by definition, has no limit. And when thoughts are mucking up the works, leaving constantly new impressions, an essential part of the process never gets a chance to really concentrate. It still happens, but in couch potato form, or like it does for the always-thinking intellectual, who knows so much but can never really realize it in terms of energetic liberation or happiness. And yoga is pointing us to that place in our being which is beneath discursive thought, telling us to put our attention there, to experience our subtle physiology directly.
So, what happens if a yogi focuses on a feeling and stays with it? My answer: the feeling begins to feel better (although initially it may have to dump out Pandora’s Box, which may very well include getting through the dreaded feelings that he didn’t want to have to feel). It feels better, and if he stays with it, it will reach sublimated form, which will trigger off an awakening of the heart, which I hope in my next post to connect with dopamine and the novelty edge, the rewiring of the brain for constant access to bliss. (Hint: you have to stay on the chaotic inner edge or bliss will never happen.)
Until next time, happy channel surfing.