Neuroscience & behavior

From the moment my recent chemo treatment began, months ago, I had one thought in mind: Once this is done, I want to travel. I had my sights on Tashkent, and Samarkand, and Amritsar. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, it’s like something is waiting there for me. No matter, it won’t happen: The virus happened, and I am grounded. I know, my timing sucks!

When will it end? No one knows. I no longer consume virus news. And while I do not mean to litter our collective mindscape with more virus food, I will. Because if I don’t speak out now, it may be too late.

Our response to the virus worries me. Not for our 3-6 month future, because we know that will be painful. But for how life will be in 3-5 years and beyond.

There are unrecognizable lives ahead of us:  a healthcare disaster; economic collapse; retail, and airlines, and hotel industries going down; geopolitical games with China; the environmental rebound that nature engineered, that we have incapable of designing in over 30 years.

But I will focus on only one:

The cratering of our social life

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

There was that summer, many years ago, when my travels through the rough seas of mental pain hit a category 5 hurricane. My heart grieved losses so catastrophic, so life-crushing, that I lost all anchors. It felt like my brain had detached from my skull, that is was swirling and shifting inside my head.  I was in depression severe enough to have me dissolve into rivers of tears, so sudden, that I had to bolt from the dinner table and go hide until the storm passed. I needed to do something to not drown.

Know when you need help

And I did: I explored everything. The magic of therapists, and of mind-bending gurus; Medications; And meditations, kirtans, retreats, temples in Indian valley villages, I needed help. I did everything by the book: Sat through deep breathing exercises, trying to let my thoughts come and go without engaging them, without judging, passively staying in the one breath.

“You can do anything for one breath”, they said. “Your mind will be constantly buzzing, just let it be”; “try slow-eating a raisin for 5 minutes”. The problem was the mind, the mind, the mind. “We need to silence the mind”. Everybody was convinced that therein laid the root of human suffering.

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Photo by Haley Lawrence on Unsplash

I was a just little girl.

That evening, I was playing on the floor next to my father’s armchair, when I accidentally knocked over his cigarette holder. His cigarettes all spilled out. He got fuming mad. He demanded that I pick them up and replace them in the holder. He yelled at me to apologize. I refused to do either. I froze as this went on for a couple of hours. I cried, but never apologized.

It was downhill from there. As a teenager, he imposed a 9 pm curfew. If I showed up at 9:05, there would be punishment. Delivered with a belt with a buckle, on the front steps of the house, no discussion. I remember the day that the rage in me became a distinct object that lived in my throat: I had just gotten t my hands on my first Beatles record, when he pulled it from the player and smashed it on his knee — because he did not like the lyrics. I was devastated.

For decades, I carried that fury around. It seeped into everything in my life. I remained stubborn, I couldn’t trust anyone, I had authority issues.

What do you do with all this damage?

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oculusbrain

http://www.businessinsider.com/image/5373d131eab8ea310d52974e/

My brain seems to be going a million miles an hour, every hour. It is constantly busy. I cannot find peace, it bothers me.

Is there a way to stop this? Is it any good anyway?

The good news is, the answer is yes. There is a way. The bad news is that it takes work. Effort. Until you make it a habit (See here about habits).

  • My brain is firing constantly because that is what brains do. It’s a muscle.
  • What I am really after though, is some relief. A destination. Some point where there is meaning, not noise.

A useful brain is a disciplined brain. The other kind is just torture.
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What can I say?

Two thoughts:

1 – You can transfer your brain’s electrical signal to another through a wire – it’s really that simple?!

2 – Gage’s group has put together DIY brain science technology. The goal is to promote the teaching and learning of neuroscience in schools – and at your home. You can now do neuroscience at home. Enter the BackyardBrains era: https://www.backyardbrains.com/

If you, like me, have spent the many years of mandatory (and optional) schooling sitting at a desk and listening to a teacher ‘teach’, and you now wonder whatever happened to all this information you ‘received’, we have good news and bad news:

The bad news is, we didn’t really learn much of any of this. Really not. It was mostly good until test time, and then it was over. Done. Basically, hugely wasted time. And immensely wasted opportunity.  13 years in K-12, then college and grad school(s), and what remains? It hurts to think about it.

Neuroscience now proves that the 'Sage on Stage' model fails to deliver long-term learning. Intensely experiential, effortful models do that.

But there is also good news: We now know exactly why we did not learn much. Better yet, we know how to really, really learn! Seriously. Neuroscientists have understood enough – maybe just enough still – about the way the brain records, stores and retrieves information, to be able to tell us, conclusively, that… the methods we have been using, the “Sage on Stage” instruction model does not result in ‘real’ learning.

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