For hundreds of years biologists and neurologists concluded that the adult brain was “hard-wired” and that the structure of the brain would never change. The claim was that our brains were only malleable as children. That once we reach maturity the circuitry is then fixed for life. That is what the saying “ you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” relates to. We often use and hear that line in a defeated tone, referring to us or others not being able to change. It is also often used as an excuse for complacency.
At the time, they basically believed that the brain was like a concrete structure, that after it was ‘poured and shaped’ in our youth that it would quickly harden into its final form and that was it, we/it could never change. The brain would then begin the slow process of decay, nerve cells would die and no new neurons would grow or develop.
There were, however, those who were ahead of their time, then called heretics, that had discovered otherwise. They saw indications through brain research that the adult brain was actually still malleable. In 1895, Freud, who prior to his career in psychology worked as a neurophysiology researcher, argued that ‘… the brain, in particular the contact barriers (synapses) between neurons, could change in response to a person’s experience.’
In 1880, American psychologist William James expressed a similar insight about the adaptability of the brain. He wrote that ‘…the nervous tissue seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity’, that, ‘either outward forces or inward tensions can, from one hour to another, turn that structure into something different than it was.’
In 1950. British biologist J.Z. Young contended that the brain may well be in a constant state of flux, adapting quickly to any new demands. He conveys ‘There is evidence that the cells in our brains literally develop and grow bigger with use, and atrophy or waste away with disuse. It may be, therefore, that every action leaves some permanent print upon the nervous tissue.’
In 1968, pioneering neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, at age 26, made some astounding discoveries in his experiments that confirmed the insights of those before him that, finally, in 1983, caught the attention of the neurological community. ‘Looking back on it’, he shares, ’I realize that I had seen evidence of neuroplasticity. But I didn’t know it at the time.’
Neuroplasticity shows how ‘plastic’ the brain is and how it can rewire and change. It reveals that we are not hard wired in the way it was once was perceived.
An incredible paradigm shift has resulted through the efforts of these neuroscientists and psychologists that actually puts power back into the individuals hands to affect our lives and make the changes we need , to live the life we want to live. These new sciences validate every mystical/spiritual teaching on the planet that has stated that we carry within us the power to choose and create our reality. I love it how science is now proving true everything it has been trying to disprove for centuries. It’s a time of great freedom and liberation.
Old excuses for not changing our behavior and habits are no longer valid. We can learn new tricks. We can rewire our brains. We can choose to create new beliefs/neuropathways that support the life we want to live and who we want to be, and let go of old ones that no longer serve us. What is needed is the desire and commitment to change through consciously choosing how we think, see and what we believe, rather than running on old, outdated ‘programs’.
It has been scientifically proven that we have a window of a quarter second, physiologically in the brain, to choose how we respond or react to internal or external stimuli. Each time we harness that quarter second we affect change in the neuropathways in our brain, which means we also change our body chemistry.
With every thought and every feeling a chemical reaction occurs. Stressful thoughts trigger the fight or flight mechanism which then secretes cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, which are toxic to the body when repeatedly stimulated. Thoughts that invoke a feeling of safety, beauty, love or positivity in turn release happy endorphins such as oxytocin, which encourages the natural healing processes of the body.
To understand that we can affect our body chemistry through thought is revolutionary for our modern age. For the most part when we are caught in a funk, depression, anger, despair, self doubt, etc., we feel powerless to those states, as if we have no control or possibility to affect change in any way other than to drink, do drugs or medication, or to numb ourselves from reality.
I’ve been there myself. I spent several years fighting to get my life back in a time when I was overwhelmed by pain, confusion and depression. I got through it by applying this knowledge and other wisdoms that supported that basic understanding. I chose to not take medication, I trusted the processes of healing, rewiring/refocusing and I knew I could do it without, and I did.
That’s not to say that for some medication isn’t an important intervention, it is, and can help to create a bridge where there is too great a gap. Sometimes we need assistance, a Band-Aid or a crutch, to keep us upright, there is nothing wrong with that, but the crutch and the Band-Aid are not going to create the changes needed to heal. We need to take action to create change. These wisdoms, both from science and mystic/spiritual sources, are tools to help us heal and reclaim our life back and to guide as governing laws of creation so we can create the life we long for. It is possible; applying what I learned gave me back my life, which is why I seek to share what I can.
As many others, Hawaiian teachings reflect the same observations as the sciences, they just have a different interpretation and way of piecing it together to guide us in the realms of relationship and self realization.
IKE – I am aware. The world is what I think it is. All systems are arbitrary; all knowledge is not taught in the same school.
MAKIA – Energy flows where attention goes. Thought is energy and forms reality.
KALA – I am free! There are no limits. All things are possible.
MANAWA – I am now! Every moment is the moment of truth. NOW is the only moment of power! Now is the only moment where the action is and I can affect reality.
MANA -All power comes from within! The strength to change dwells within everyone.
Imagine growing up with that as guideline to living.
All truth shares a common core, whatever name we give it, that’s how you can tell its truth, its universal. Diversity of interpretation is good and important; it gives the color, fragrance and flavor to being alive. In essence, it’s a source of joy and celebration of life, when we let it be. To connect to the sameness, while honoring the diversity, in each individual, faith, culture or belief is a key to peace, resolution and transformation.
It’s obvious that focusing on differences as a ‘bad thing’ and trying to claim one right way to live and be, puts us in a mess, creating conflict, personally and globally. Now, we have the opportunity to learn some new tricks, open ourselves to new ways of being and perceiving, knowing with absolute certainty that it is possible to rewire our beliefs, change our minds and how we see ourselves and the world. We can regain the driver seat in our lives and move towards embracing vitality and love as our natural state. It’s a matter of choice and practice. Aloha.
“The greatness of human beings lies not in their ability to change the world, but in the ability to change oneself.” – Gandhi