The Healing Journey
A Journey towards Your Potential
After a therapeutic education, which provided a lot of background knowledge about neuroscience, I started digging deeper into the structure, mode of action and function of the brain.
As the control centre of neuronal information processing, the brain plays a decisive role in our yogic understanding of spiritual growth. Also, it is the interface to the hormonal processing of information that controls and sustains basic functional and behavioural patterns, as well as our emotional experience.
This understanding was the beginning of my healing journey.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Many of us will have learnt that the brain is full grown at the age of 21. After that, all connections are established and no change is possible.
This included learning:
What was not learnt at a young age will not be learnt later. Of course, this premise also applied vice versa: What was learned at a young age is indelibly anchored in us.
Luckily, our brain is different to dogs and research has come to more differentiated conclusions:
Our brain has the ability to create neuronal connections and put others to sleep: live-long.
The catchword for this is neuroplasticity, i.e. the ability of the brain to shape and change itself.
Neuroplasticity and Yoga
Core areas of our yogic understanding have worked successfully for centuries with several aspects that has scientifically been proven by the discovery of neuroplasticity:
Through yoga, we deliberately influence the activities of the brain and consciousness, and thus of the body, leading to the experience of altered mental and/or physical condition.
In this observation, the brain is the centre of information processing:
No matter if we work with physical exercises, meditation, mantra, pranayama or aspects of Yogic Lifestyle, all threads come together in the control centre of the brain. The brain sends signals to the periphery, so that we move our muscles for the physical exercises, which in return send signals both during and after their activity. For meditation, the brain not only transmits positional instructions for eyes and hands, but also instructions for the repetition of mantras, and equally receives immediate feedback from the corresponding sensory systems or brain areas.
Especially in Kundalini Yoga we find a multitude of specific meditations which demonstrate the relation to the brain, for example meditations for the development of the frontal lobe, which ensures appropriate behaviour and the development (or change) of corresponding behaviour patterns; meditations and Kriyas to strengthen the nervous system (of which the brain is the control centre) and Kriyas to balance the activity of the brain hemispheres.
Again and again: Demolish the motorway, create the trail.
Neuroplasticity allows us an expanded understanding of the effects of yoga.
Every activity we perform with a daily regularity over a longer period of time (no matter if it is a 40-day meditation or a change in diet) leaves neuronal traces. Only small effects at the beginning, disappearing quickly – as if we were walking across a meadow. When we turn around, we see that our steps have bent blades of grass. After a short time, however, the grass straightens up again and the traces disappear. The more often we follow that same path, the stronger the traces in the grass: A trail is created which becomes wider and safer with each repetition of the meditation. At some point an asphalted expressway is created, which in turn becomes a four-lane data highway.
Since our brain primarily adapts to a constantly changing environment and processes a large amount of data for this purpose, it prefers to drive a sports car on the motorway for data transport rather than making its way through the jungle with a machete each time.
This has advantages and disadvantages:
Once you have a motorway in your brain (i.e. a stable neuronal connection that has grown over a long period of time), you have to consciously invest a lot of time and effort to unpack the machete. On the other hand, once we have installed stable, beneficial programs and anchored them in an emotional positive way, nothing disengages us easily from our healthy programs.
Order and Growth
Kundalini Yoga helps us in two neuronal domains:
On the one hand it helps to bring stability and order to our inner system. Thus a feeling of safety and security, tranquility and peace to our inner world, so that we (again) feel structured, centred and “homelike”.
Is our inner system in balance, Kundalini Yoga helps us to recognise old, worn out behaviour patterns and to replace them with patterns and programs finding better solutions to the demands of our environment and its challenges.
Cognitively we can understand that programs learned in early childhood are neither suitable to respond adequately to the challenges of adulthood, nor to reflect all the experience and knowledge of our present self. Emotionally, however, these early programs often reflect our successful or unsuccessful approach to handle fear (which is largely determined by the conditions of our environment) and is deeply rooted within. This makes a change of old programs difficult as they are deeply interwoven with our self-image.
For a sustainable update, several ingredients are needed:
1. Clear the Subconscious and Purify the Negative Mind
The subconscious, in which all thought garbage and emotional turmoil is deposited, must be released regularly from negative emotional anchors, which work as food for the old programs, confirming our protective and control mechanisms.
Scientifically not yet sufficiently determined, it is assumed that the brain organises itself comparable to a mind map. The centre of neuronal connections is an emotion.
This emotion determines the corresponding program: If, for example, no successful mechanism for overcoming fear has been established in early childhood, it will make you cautious, depending on the individual experience possibly uncertain or temporising in own action.
2. Identify and Over-Write Worn-Out Programs – Train the positive Mind
Without a preceding purification, the positive mind will do what it does best: affirm, confirm, consolidate; in the example the cautious, the insecure, the hesitant, the wait-and-see.
In order to carry out a successful update, all bugs and viruses of less successful mechanisms must be identified and quarantined before a sustainable and successful reinstallation can take place, which in turn must be ironed into the brain folds by regular repetition: Jappa. Jappa. Jappa.
3. Awareness for Shaping the Future – Awakening the Neutral Mind
Beyond the Negative Mind with its protective function and the joy of the Positive Mind in affirmation and reinforcement there is the Neutral Mind, without which we cannot quieten the troubled water of our inner life. When it has cleared, we recognise the soul treasure that is the stable base of alignment for future spiritual growth.
This growth is vertical: It lifts us out of the thicket of what we have learned, experienced and taken over. In the moment of the decision for change, we leave the level of best possible survival and stretch up:
„Longitude and latitude are given to everybody. Altitude and attitude are given by Kundalini Yoga.“
(Yogi Bhajan in „Master’s Touch“, Lecture of July 20, 1996)
Our brain functions as it can by means of the connections made. Depending on what we have used our brain for, connections have been established with which we respond to the challenges of life.
Important experiences made during childhood and adolescence often turn into stable neuronal highways on which we find ourselves at 180km/h – unconsciously, as if steered by an inner program that is activated particularly quickly by certain perceptions or experiences. Once on this highway, our path and goal are pre-defined: what is going on in us, what we think, feel and ultimately act upon.
Only when we become aware of the program and recognize it, we have the opportunity to set the indicator, change lanes, slow down and leave at the next exit.
We identify such programs more easily when they begin to hinder our development and unfolding. So it takes a certain adjustment pressure and therefore suffering to use the brain’s ability to change. If that is not available, we arrange ourselves a niche in the comfort zone of easy life.
However, changes in patterns of thinking, perception and behaviour are possible, habits can be changed. Even programs learnt in our early childhood and adolescence, having shaped our self-image for a long time, can be changed for the better!