The brain is an amazing organ. I know you don’t need me to tell you that. Take for example the news article posted last Thursday (June 20, 2013) in the Guardian UK. Using an amazing combination of computing and image analysis scientists have been able to create a detailed 3D image of a brain that can be viewed from all angles and depths.
I love reading about neuroscience. I am not a good “rememberer” so I have to repeat my readings over and over. Each review allows me to retain more and I am able to integrate knowledge from one source to another. Learning about the negative brain changes from addictions, hearing about the intellectual and emotional recovery that occurs in twelve steps groups, and further reading about people’s journeys in book I am able to correlate and incorporate what I know.
We have ways of looking at the brain in 3D (video) and we have ways to image the brain in the grips of a disease (color scans.) We also know that using substances AND participating in behaviors changes the neurological patterns of reward in the brain. They change hormonal balance and change emotional patterning that respond to these. We are excited about the science and the visual tools we have now that document what the ancients have known for thousands of years. Yoga calls this SAMSKARA.
Habits of any type do change the brain. We rely on this with learning of any type – brushing teeth, walking, identifying letters and reading and so on. It happens also with the habit of reaching for the third cookie when we SAID we wouldn’t. It happens when we play “just one more” hand of cards, purchase one more outfit, purse or product, when we take a pill just “one more time” because we are in pain. We develop a habit of “not listening”, to our wisdom mind, to our out ethics, to our sense of “knowing better”. For examples, we respond with anger to delays on the road, so each time we feel we are presented with a similar circumstance we respond with the vigor of the initial anger. Warranted or not – anger at delay has become a conditioned, habitual response.
I have been reading “[Some Assembly Required] A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain” by Dan Mager, MSW. The whole book is filled with “ah ha” nuggets – but on the subject of samskara Mager relates the tale of the wheelbarrow on a dirt path. Pushing a wheelbarrow along a path creates a groove on the path. The more frequently the barrow is pushed through down the path inside this furrow the deeper the furrow becomes. “There comes a tipping point where it becomes harder fo get the wheelbarrow out of the rut than to continue to follow it, which makes it only deeper still.” (pg 63)
The SOLUTION IS to create positive habits of the mind. To slowly replace the negative with the positive, to carefully, with discipline, support, and courage to practice changing the course of the rut, perhaps avoiding it altogether. It takes vigilance and diligence to create new furrows, to create new brain patterns, to restore healthy balance to that beautiful organ: the brain. One you notice the rut – reach out for healthy companionship, wise counsel and support. Be patient as your brain heals and re-wires itself. It takes time. With care you will flourish anew.
Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200, RTY500 is the author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path”, a leader of Y12SR classes, and the creator of SOAR(tm) (Success Over Addiction and Relapse) a teacher certification training she holds with her good friend Kent Bond E-RYT500. Find out more about her, her classes and the training at www.yogarecovery.com