Saturday, March 17, 2012

Feed your soul: feed your seahorse.

  I listened to Kathryn Schulz's talk about the gifts that emerge from being wrong.

     She notes interestingly that  the feeling of being wrong and the feeling of being right feel the same. It’s not until we know that we are wrong that the feeling of wrongness overtakes us.  And it’s this fear of being wrong that freezes us into doing nothing, or sends us to blaming someone else, or lashing out sideways because we have been duped into a corner and hurt. 

     We’ve been taught that being wrong is wrong. We aren’t taught that being wrong teaches us something. That we will be wrong, and we will be right, and that is the nature of life.

     I had a poster of a dog swimming in my old classroom, with Picasso’s quote:

     I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

     Or:  I allow myself to be wrong, so I can learn.

     I thought it was a good mantra for a classroom. Of course, they say we teach what we need to learn. Ahem. Ok, I suck at being wrong.

     Many times we decide our rightness or wrongness in comparison: this feels different than before, for better or worse, so this might be right. Or this might be wrong. Often times if something feels difficult or uncomfortable we can coax ourselves into condemning it into wrongness. We can think that easy things are right, and hard ones are wrong, but what if hard is fear and easy is cowardice? How can you know the difference? How unbiased, unguarded, unscarred can you see?
Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway.
John Wayne

     How can we react to the moment and proceed? How can we refocus our perspective on what we have in front of us while leveraging the wisdom of the past but not be crippled by it? Well, not with baby hippopotamuses but with our own hippocampuses.

   See, a scientist who was able to label our reality took a look at the squiggly, curly things in our brain and said: Hey, that looks like a seahorse. To make it official, he used Latin, and thus the hippocampus was named.
  Seahorses’ eyes look independently.

    Maybe that scientist knew what he was talking about. The seahorse’s eyes are willing to see the whole picture, not just rely on tunnel vision, or blind spots, or what lies behind them. I wonder if they are willing to forget their bad nights every morning, too? 

   But let’s talk hippocampuses for a moment and what they do: 
  • helps you learn a new skill
  • is involved in forming new memories
  • helps provide context for new experiences,  link different but related experiences together, and somehow ties emotional connections into all of that as well. [source link]

  • In Visonary Craniosacral, Hugh Milne offers that the hippocampus “interprets the importance of sensory information for the brain, and decides what is important enough [fun, interesting, euphoric enough] for long-term storage in the cortex. It places new eligible information into storage memories, and helps organize retrieval systems for the information by cross-associating and “contextualizing” information with flags such as scents, emotions, and images” (57). 

      And drum roll, please:
  • The hippocampus is one area of the brain where we know new cells can be created..  and there is evidence that  damage and shrinkage can be reversed.

We can teach our seahorses new tricks.

     Wait. Seahorses are determining what we remember; what we deem as euphoric; what we react to? What we let slide by?  Yes. Our squiggly friend plays a prominent role in determining our reality; our hippocampus is our filter. Imagine all the lint that is not letting in the light.

     The hippocampus flags the importance of past events partly by their emotional intensity, which is a valid reason that can make many of us skittish or repeat-seeking, especially the deeper the hurt or the higher the joy. I believe our body serves to protect our Consciousness. If we are unready to process things, the body says, “Here I’ll store it here.”  Maybe in the hips, which leaves a little less room for flexibility, but you’ll come back right? And release it when you are ready? You’ll stretch it out. You’ll start again. Right?

     Or maybe here in your sacrum. Or there in your spleen. Lots of room in the large intestine…Because when you are done with the shock, the body hopes, you’ll let it go. You’ll forgive and forget and move on. Right? 

     What happens when we don’t let it go? It stays.

     “Ah, hippocampus, we have no more room here in the low back, we are shutting down 15% mobility, and we are now running at 78% of heart capacity.”

     “Oo-kay,” hippocampus records.

     “So,” the ego interjects, “if we can just steer clear of the past in the present, it would be much appreciated.”

     “Ah, ok, Thanks. Let me sort through our files here and I’ll keep us clear of repeating that.”

     “But, wait. The Universe moves in spirals. We are never in the same moment twice,” our Spirit whispers. 

     “Nevermind that,” says the hippocampus. “Orders are orders. We are steering clear and I have the list of 103,243 signs so we are never getting anywhere near that again.”

     And that is how we see the past in a future that has not happened.

     Are we doomed?
No. Remember, the hippocampus “is one area of the brain where we know new cells can be created..and there is evidence that  damage and shrinkage can be reversed.”

      We can rebound and grow from being wrong rather than slinking and shrinking away in fear.


      Through stopping the constant identification and projection, by taking ten minutes a day to just sit and breathe. 

      No really. That’s it.  

      Need validation? Here is more of what scientists say:

          Basically, when you meditate, the grey matter of the hippocampus grows, which “because these areas of the brain are closely linked to emotion," Eileen Luders, lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging says, "these might be theneuronal underpinnings that give meditators' the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way."

So feed your seahorse and you feed your soul.
     It has nothing to do with hippopotamuses, and nothing to do with being wrong. It has everything to do with you facing you.

    Why is it the simplest things?  I guess because the truth is simple and beautiful like a seahorse. 

    Seahorses exert little energy, go with the flow, use their tails to anchor to the earth (ok, seaweed), while exuding beauty and wonder.  

    And do you know how seahorses sweep other seahorses off their tails? Not through past projection, hurt or manipulation, but through “elaborate dances” and a flourish of colors; the male shows the desired female his “empty [kangaroo-like] pouch” saying, “Hey. I’m unattached and ready. I’ll carry the eggs.” And when human controls don’t interfere, or “when kept in mated pairs, they will greet each other each morning with a short dance and display."
    Maybe seahorses do know how to greet each day without expectation or fear of failing, yet with a vision to be open and show their appreciation. 

     Nothing wrong with that.

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