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A Small Medium @ Large

Until recently, scientists believed that the nervous system was a fixed system that was not capable of regeneration and that growth no longer continued after the embryonic development phase.  Now the understanding is that significant neurogenesis takes place in adults and is vital to memory and cognitive functions.

The term neurogenesis is the process by which nervous system stem cells are formed in the hippocampus area of the brain.  Neurobiological research shows that ordinary changes in the environment, alter the wiring configurations and the chemical microenvironment of the brain as well.  Adult neurogenesis seems to be quite sensitive to these changes in the brain’s regulatory system with both specific and non-specific reactions to stimuli observed.

It is well known that, in one of many neuro-chemical processes involved in the act of perception, a protein molecule called myelin forms around axons when a neural field is stimulated often enough, or employed above some energetic threshold.  How, and directed to what ends, is the broad subject of our enquiry.  

Myelination, as it is called, is brought about by repetition, and the imagery or pat-tern of learning becomes an embedded part of the new neural map. Everything we perceive is accompanied by a structural change in the brain!  As we age, our interpretation of reality becomes ever more concretized, as it were, particularly if the mental routines of life become habituated (non-deliberate).

When we assume an ever larger sense of being, we cease to identify ourselves with a particular location or limited mental state.  It’s a natural facility of the mind and we do it all the time.  For example, though the body is composed of trillions of cells, and with the minds millions of impressions, we move about feeling an integrated sense of the whole, certainly by not monitoring every cell or thought.  We don’t feel a specific part of our body until we think to put our attention on it.

By suspending our body-centered beliefs – including scientific, metaphysical, experiential, religious – we can directly apprehend something that lies beyond our meaning-structures, something beyond the individual mind itself.

Objective:  To intuit a “larger-than-self” transpersonal dimension. 

Expected results:  To expand the body-based, limited sense of one’s own self.

Instructions:  This is a guided meditation.  The guide should pause about ten seconds between each instruction.

1) Relax and close the eyes.  Get some impression of the space you occupy.  

2) How far out does it extend?

3) Without resistance, allow yourself to expand in all directions.

4) Allow yourself to be everything and everyone.

5) Now get the impression this space sustains you and all your creations.

6) Feel where you are coming from.

Note to guide:  Repeat the steps three times, then swap places as student/guide.

A downside is that, to the extent our mind becomes automated, our identity can become highly resistant to change as well.  But perhaps the process of neurogenesis can be self-directed to increase human joy, or joined to a paradigm-changing awakening in human consciousness that results in capabilities sufficient to end our global environmental crisis. Where we stand on the issue often depends on where we get paid to sit.

The question is not if we can employ current scientific knowledge to change reality.  As it is, the scientific and medical search for controlling the brain’s activity-dependent regulation of adult neurogenesis is in high gear.  It is, rather, to what ends.  To many, the survival of civilization depends on developing tools that can change the consciousness which has created the crises we are in.

The challenge is to develop a pragmatic and self-paced regimen that employs rapidly evolving neuro-technologies to achieve internally controlled mindlinking skills.  Imagine for a moment that us, the people, could deliberately awaken and hardwire higher capacities of the mind through the artful guidance of hippocampal neural stem cells.  If so, it could usher an emergence (non-militarized and non-silicon based) of the conscious and self-directed advancement of our species.  Homo sapiens sapiens would at long last live up to its name.

Our lives will be better when we harmonize and balance the threefold dimension of our lives – personal, interpersonal and spiritual. Such harmony can also be the basis of an agriculture that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible.  The exercises I introduce emphasize taking small and self-directed steps designed to culminate in larger and more desirable societal possibilities.  The hope is to deliberately navigate our own mental architecture in new ways.

After all, each of us is born with the same equipment as a Mozart or Einstein.  Why doesn’t it function in all of us?  Where’s the “on-off” button?

Awakening highly specialized brain organs might no longer depend upon the rare accident in history.  Is there a process that leads to self-realization at levels far higher than the treadmill of industrialization deems necessary?  Yes.  Can we envision a concept of “stewardship” that doesn’t put money in our pockets at the expense of someone else?  Yes.  In layman’s terms, the quest is to find better ways to take out our brains and play with them.

Some researchers seek to prompt brain tissue regeneration for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as stroke and trauma.  Interest is also focused on environmental enrichment and other factors, particularly on the genetic and epigenetic levels.  

It is known that stroke and epileptic seizure can evoke dramatic stem cell division and neurogenesis.  Concerning enriched experiential conditions alone, the Gage group demonstrated that adult mice grew 60% more new granule cells in the dentate gyrus (part of the hippocampal region of the brain)than did genetically identical control animals.

Published research directed towards a possible neurogenetic effect triggered by a sustained course of trans phenomena remains in its infancy.  The findings of Newberg and D’Aquili, which I have previously noted, have brought us no closer to answering a fundamental question: How does the awareness of self (as consciousness) – a non-material phenomenon – become body-centered?  

Recent work focuses on self-referential mental activity closely associated with the brain’s default mode network (DMN) and properties of the identified ‘core self’ in medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and inferior parietal lobes using dynamic causal modeling.  Mapping the self in the brain’s default mode net-work (Davey, Pujol, Ben, Harrison) is typical of this emerging field:  NeuroImage Vol. 132, 15/May/ 2016. 

But science leaves unanswered the question of how we can transcend our self-referential bias at the level of personal effort.  Much less has it questioned what agricultural poisons might be doing to our mental processes and ‘core self’.  By the time we figure out how to exit from the corporate system of chemical food production, it may be too late.  For laughs, check out the (PG-13) movie:  Idiocracy.

Just consider Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s (Bayer) Roundup herbicide, which is classified by the World Health Organization as a probable human carcinogen.  Of 13 popular foods tested in the National School Breakfast Program for lower-income populations, the highest levels of glyphosate were found in Quaker Maple, Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal, and Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats.  No glyphosate residues were found in organic samples.  Farmers take note: The demand for locally grown organic oats is already here!

It is only reasonable for Herald readers to be skeptical about whether farming in general can be reshaped by the principles of sustainability.  As it stands, we must at least be willing to rethink what we want out of life.  To this end, I’ll continue to introduce mental exercises that help suspend our body-centered beliefs. As a bo-nus, we can overcome the sense of limitations on everyday human experience without big government research grants.  There’s a sure-fire way to get your kid started down a lifelong path of scientific curiosity.  Proposal:  Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.