Note: I will not be defining the “I” in this post because it is beyond the scope of what I’m writing about. This is why I keep it in quotation marks throughout the post.
This month in my practice the discussion that’s been on the table is the brain. And the “I.” And their relationship.
Often “I” is in some state of consideration about itself or about its relationship with all things non-I. Often “I” is exploring questions about what to do next on its life path, how to express itself to the exterior world while in conflict or how to determine and maintain its sense of value or meaning. In other words, the “I” is a contemplator, finding understanding through consideration.
The brain, on the other hand, is a processor. In the majority of the brain, which is subconscious, information is coming in at high speeds from all the different systems of the body for interpretation. The brain organizes and processes this information and distributes instructions that allow for all the needs of all the body systems to be adequately met at any given moment. In other words, the brain is a problem solver.
Our existence is rooted in the body. We know we are here because we have input from our senses that go directly to our brain and orient us to ourselves, to our surroundings, and to other people. Without these inputs we would be unable to function. Something we do every day, like walking, would become impossible. We wouldn’t feel our foot touch the ground as we take a step. We wouldn’t know to bend our knee and shift weight to the other foot while in stride. And we would promptly fall to the ground.
We obviously take all of this for granted, the continuous loop of information going back and forth between our senses and our brain. And for a good reason. Our attention needs to be elsewhere.
“For age is opportunity no less than youth, itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
We often forget that an aging body has the ability to accomplish the same functions as a youthful body. It retains the ability to regenerate itself, to perform life-sustaining physiological functions, and to learn and adapt to an ever-changing environment. The goal of an aging body is the same as that of a youthful body: optimal functioning through the constant pursuit of health.
In a single day the body is asked to perform all the physiological functions that keep it alive, manage the stresses coming from its external environment, and navigate the emotional ups and downs of human life. Each one of these things is challenging for the body. All three are often taxing. The body is built to manage stress under the assumption and condition that the stress it is subject to is temporary and there will be a time during the day when the stress will end and the body will be able to rest and recover.
The body is a magnificently intelligent vessel that we have the honor of living in. It will manage whatever we put it through for days, months, years, even decades. I’ve now been working with human bodies long enough to see that the body will always put 100% of the energy and effort it has available into sustaining life and subjective life style at any given moment. It will do this until it just can’t anymore, until the resources are so low that it has to stop.
Brainbow from Harvard’s Center for Brain Science
The strongest, life-supporting boundaries are semipermeable.