Recently, a scientific study has indicated that the human brain is capable of entering a variety of altered states if given “magic mushrooms” (psychedelic drugs !). These findings may seem obvious and expected, however, I do believe that both the philosophical and practical extrapolations are extremely interesting, and, if handled in the right manner, potentially life-changing.
Most importantly, the study indicates that a number of otherwise “unavailable” brain states may come into play. Philosophically, to me, this translates into that a number of personality traits and skill sets just await our personal discoveries.
Our experiences in life both create and define our lives and personalities, and, importantly, vice versa ! The magic mushroom implication here is that our lives, skill sets and types of experiences could be so many other “personally unthinkable” things. You are so much more than you think you are. At least, potentially. It is there, in your brain !
We do indeed learn so many things during our lives, and we can further develop and refine the skills we already master. Brain-wise this corresponds to entering either new or known brain trails / patterns and to strengthen these trails. The more trained a brain pattern is, the better you master the particular skill on a subconscious level. This is probably the brain equivalent to the 10.000 hours training principle. The cultivation and repetition of a particular skill/brain trail is indeed the cornerstone of all learning and personal development. It starts when we are infants and if you are a wise parent, you buy your baby toys targeted for brain development.
We can all benefit from the brain sciences, babies, children, teenagers, adults
We humans are both blessed and victimized by the (limited) number of brain states known to us. It may not necessarily be enough to “think positive” or in a new manner to change habits, to break diseases (including depression) or alter unwanted personality traits such as compulsive eating (or – disorders), low self esteem or what have you. It may require a magic mushroom, metaphorically speaking, to get in contact of these new states. This line of thinking support the essence of various of the New Age philosophies/schools, the practice of meditation (indeed, the powerful healing states of meditation are well described) and personal development stuff such as NLP, the latter being firmly based on the brains connection and involvement in our human experiences as a whole. Below is a list of suggested activities (“safe mushrooms”) to explore.
1. NLP – Advanced tools for self development; [short into to NLP]
2. Meditation and self-hypnosis – Your body’s own healing and relaxation methods and states
3. Go into therapy. You send your car to a garage when it needs fixing. You need healing of your soul. We all do
4. Get a personal Psychological Profile (eg. the extremely detailed Identity Blueprint) to identify relevant “issues”
5. Physical exercise – Creating hormones and BDNF to grow your brain [eg. by running]
6. Study something new to you, eg. the works of an artist, a new language, some unfamiliar music (preferably classical)
7. Off-line activities in the Nature
8. Do Charity ! Help someone without asking anything in return. Just help !
9. Love. Yourself. Your family. Your friends. Life itself. Odds are you have this one chance. Love deeply !
In the Trails of Brain Science
Without going too much into academic references I do believe that all of the above suggestions have been “proved” scientifically to do good things for your brain and thus for your potential to explore new assets in yourself. There are actually a number of tools and activities that you can exploit that have even closer bonds to Science. I will list a few below and also add some book suggestions. I am pretty sure we will be hearing a lot more on the said issues in the years to come, the art being how to take real advantage of the ever increasing outputs from the areas of brain research and the related disciplines.
A. Use drawing tools like mind maps to capture and explore your ideas, concepts and universes
B. Use brain targeted music and programs like the Monroe products (eg. Hemi-Sync music, Mind-Food tools) [youtube it !]
C. Read up on the latest scientific findings within the vast field of brain research, popular books include
C1. “Making a Good Brain Great”, Daniel G. Amen
C2. “Change your Brain, Change your Body”, D.G. Amen
C3. “Super Brain”, Deepak Chopra, Rudolph E. Tanzi
C4. “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman
C5. “smart thinking”, Art Markman
These books reveal the latest on issues like learning, problem solving, creativity, smart habits (including eating and sleeping habits) and a lot more, all based on our current knowledge on how the brain and the mind work. As stated by two of Daniel Amens brain-centered principles: “Your brain is involved in everything you do” <alas the Title of this post>, therefore “when your brain works right, you work right”. These principles convey one of my core intentions with this post, however, YOU must make the difference for you ! Every change and experience in your life resides in your brain. You decide your moves and the World is not to blame (but of course some people live under circumstances where these thoughts are simply not possible to exercise due to extreme poverty, war, diseases,”regimes” and the like).
Creating Mind Maps is an incredibly effective way to use and train your brain, to learn and innovate. Check up on the books by Tony Buzan. You find my Mind Map on my London Marathon 2005 here.
Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance Man
For me, the ideal of brain and potential utilization reached its very peak with the life and works by the great masters of the renaissance, ie. artists like Bernini and Michelangelo and the universal genius Leonardo Da Vinci.
A sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci, the ultimate brain of all time
There is actually a book on peak performance called “How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci [by Michael J. Gelb]” and it is very much similar to mind mapping and to utilizing all your senses and putting a variety of skills into play (at the same time). Kind of the same goes for the De Bono Six Thinking Hats approach to brainstorming and problem solving forcing you to approach the same problem from six different angles (it’s fun to do, actually !). You find similar “advice” in the famous Disney Principles, or, to change the game slightly, in LEAN or Six Sixma approaches to optimization within production systems and organisations. The common denominator for all these things is: applied pattern recognition (plus, perhaps, rigor and systematic). Pattern recognition is en passant one of the key skills in playing chess and playing chess may in fact increase your overall IQ according to recent studies.
The reason I mention this in this section of the post here is based on the thought that patterns and brain usages are (or may be) similar to or “transportable” from one type of thinking/skill to another. Like my oldest son is a “genius” with a ball in any type of such sport (soccer, table tennis, basket ball, etc.), just the same ease Leonardo had with the arts, with sculpturing and with “the sciences” (which he founded in many ways).
In conclusion: strive to make your brain work beneficial to several areas of your life. Take your pride and talents from one set of skills and apply them (if possible) to other, perhaps for you, new areas. If you can learn one language, you can learn ten. If you ever learned anything, you can learn again. Your efforts (and, obviously, in some countries your opportunities) define the limits. Not your brain – it is (for all practical purposes) limitless ! Just imagine, your brain can make up a picture of Mick Jagger sitting on the moon in a pink tuxedo with Scarlett Johansson on the left and Megan Fox on the right them all listening to “Over the Rainbow” sung by Elvis on his old days. Tell me: your brain just produced exactly that, yes ? See ?!
Visualisation, Peak Performance and Running
It has been known for quite a while that visualization is a powerful tool for eg. athletes with respect to their *physical* performances / skills, this again translates into sets of “activated” brain patterns in these individuals. One might even speculate that it may be the very availability of these particular brain patterns that provide the assets to these athletes, and if you extrapolate, that particular skills have their corresponding brain patterns.
You could speculate that a “talent” for something is a natural or maybe even a genetically given preference or availability to a particular brain pattern / sets of neurological trails. It may be such that certain patterns by default are just not available to everyone, explaining why some few are “naturals” and most of us not. However, this is where the implications of the Magic Mushrooms become so interesting: the default can be circumvented ! It requires, however, brain work.
In some contexts brain work is actually achieved “by proxy” by the body’s physical movements. Babies learn to walk during numerous repetitions of the copied behavior of their parents or siblings, and what actually happens is that the brain patterns connected to “walking” are being established and sufficiently strengthened until the skill of walking is mastered.
Babies also train speech long before action [according to this brain research study]. The same can be said about so many other physical skills, including running. It is thus tempting to speculate that one could dramatically improve ones running abilities / performance by eating Magic Mushrooms in the metaphorical sense: can we get reach of “new” brain states that unlock such awesome running skills ? I think the answer univocally must be : Yes ! Indeed, this is what much training of eg. running style is all about: finding and enforcing the brain trails to support an efficient/desired running style. The alluring thought here is whether we by visualization/pure brain work can discover mushroom running states which we then afterwards can transform into actual movements ? I take delight into thinking so. Obviously, we would need to bring our body into the shape to be able to carry out this awesome running and this shaping could itself require various kind of work such as weight loss, training if core and leg muscles etc. The point is: the mushroom awesomeness is there, available if you go for it and put in the hours. Your brain decides.
Bring Running to your Mind and your Mind will make you run !
So – how ? Well, you could start out by studying videos teaching a particular running style. You could read up. You could take notes and make personal posters to remind you of the new stuff. Mushroom posters, running motivational posters. Your first thought each morning should be on your running style, and your last one each evening. The more your mind focuses on reaching your goal, the closer you get to it. Use your mind to create your Reality, NOW and your Future. This applies to Running as to everything else in your life.
Your Brain, Your Health, Your Spirit and God
During the reading of the above you might have thought “but I believe in God”, or “I am a spiritual person” or “I believe in Science “only”" or whatever, so all this does not apply to me.
David, Transfiguration of Christ; coronal section of human brain
From Paluzzi et al., Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2007
Well: Wrong ! Brain research has indeed established that “believing” is a brain-state itself, a very healthy and positive one by the way [A.Newberg, M.R.Waldman, "How God changes your brain"], and that the brains of believers change such that the objects of their beliefs become as real to them as “real” verifiable experiences/objects. The mentioned book also points out that religious extremism damage the brain and leads to destructive behavior. (Just take 5 minutes think about the content of the last sentence and what it actually means and implies !)
Did Michelangelo hint the God-Spirit-Brain connection in the Sixtine Chapel ?
Surely, “healthy” and “constructive” are the key-words we like, and what could be more important to any person – and thus families and whole communities – than a prosperous health, both mentally and physically ? Again, your brain is the key player, and you may by the powers of your brain and will-power govern your daily health by meditation, and, in case of disease, apply your mind to heal via the Placebo Effect [J. Dispenza, "You are the Placebo"]. It is time to step up to the fact that our minds can heal, and that disruptive, non-constructive behaviors may be the results of brain-damages, literally, and thus need treatments as such. The latter has been proven over and over again at the Amen Clinics by capturing and analyzing thousands of brain SPECT images (cf. the books mentioned above). Healthy is (involving) a series of brain patterns and so is unhealthy. Same goes for the experience of “God”.
Disclaimers and Conclusions
Please note that I am not trying to reduce neither Religion nor diseases to “a brain thing” only, I am just pointing out that our brains a involved no matter what and that we can benefit from this knowledge itself.
I am also not prescribing ”development” as an exquisite positive by definition, indeed, in many matters of life just keeping a blissful status quo is just fine ! Change should be initiated by your own motivation and desire, which again can be propelled by either lust or need. If you have already found the brain states and activities that bring grace and happiness to your life, you may need no change. At the end of the day, authenticity may prove to be one of the most important things in a persons life and well-being, casting ropes to the psyche, feelings, aspirations, sexuality and personal, unique life-stories and fates.
Ok, to wrap it up: this write is a somewhat long “brainstorm” (!) / series of associations upon the mentioned Mushroom Study, and the key point is this: your brain can take you to new places. You may add; if so desired. Indeed, identifying what you want and what is good for you is a key and life-long process. My speculation on the Mushrooms is: your goal/state may be completely out-of-box with your current normal thinking. Or it may be applying your skill-set from one area in another (a touching and telling example is found in the movie “The Blind Side” where the All American football player Michael Oher sets on fire when protecting [the "other" skill-set] his team).
The Blind Side: Michal Oher finds his transferable skill. What is yours ?
I believe we will hear a lot about this in the future as the research in these matters continue to evolve and refine our understanding of the magnificent human brain. The techniques of tomorrow is already here, perhaps in somewhat rudiment forms, it is up to us to utilize them, both for our personal endeavors and for out loved ones, colleagues, friends, people we meet, communities. Striving for a better tomorrow will benefit the entire mankind and the future generations to come.
The Force is within us all – our brains.