This section describes how to use the willful process of Meditation to assist one in learning. It also describes the role of neural plasticity in the development of human consciousness. Man has the capacity for going beyond instinct; learning and making further abstraction based upon pattern recognitions, and acting upon them.
The willful process of meditation is geared to knowing the self. It is by nature a process that stimulates the developmental and integrative aspects of consciousness in all cases. It is the capacity for learned behavior that is mostly built in and not foreign to your neurophysiology. It is the processing ability of the hindbrain centers that gives you the ability to alter your perceptions, to modify what your neurological filters allow you to focus upon and to alter your perceptions of and discernment of new patterns in the envionmental expression of the physical phenomena of your world. It is the willful expression of your frontal cortex that allows you to set new goals and lends you the drive to achieve those goals.
How then do you create a new reality? How then do you shift your paradigm? How then do you accomplish your new goals? How do you utilize the ability to learn and the ability to bend neural plasticity to create new behavioral expression?
The thalamus is the switching station for everything that comes up from below (the hindbrain, the hypothalamus and the RAS) into the cerebrum and from the cerebrum into the rest of the body. It is the filter that the CNS uses to diminish and focus the content which makes it into your consciousness. It allows you to screen out that which you do not wish to pay attention to and thus to remain ignorant about. Being ignorant means that you do not give sufficient validity to that portion of the information that comes to you and thus you "screen" it out. Meditation affords you the chance to willfully check your flitering and to reset that which is going to be screened out.
Hallucinogens do this without any preparation on your part and accounts for the consciousness expansion attributed to them. If you are unprepared to deal with this filter re-setting as a willful process, the benefits that might be accrued from the filter being suddenly removed most likely will not be integrated. This is why all "primative" cultures that utilize hallucinogens, as a ritual in the rites of passage into adulthood, make elaborate preparations in advance with the individuals involved. These cultures accept that society promulgates "truths" that are not of personal experience. These cultures incorporate a process for the acquisition of "spiritual" knowledge that then becomes an extention of the personal experience of the initiate into the fabric of their society.
An example, of a western center for renewal, was at the Elysium Fields outside of Athens. For many generations, one family prepared (for a fee) the initiate to receive, as a culmination of many months of self preparation, an experience of profound consciousness expansion. Many of the prominant members of Athenian society through the decades participated in the rites there. This center was destroyed when the power of the early christian church in the area became influential and strong enough.
Through the process of meditation, you once again become as children: drinking in all that comes to your experience in the interaction with your family members, your work, your play, your physical environment. Once again you decide what input to disregard and what to pay attention to. You find out just what motivates you, what makes you fearful, what gives you joy and what makes you unique. You decide what you are going to become by what you now allow yourself to focus upon, learn about and to integrate. This is genetically predisposed and you see your predispositions. You model those whom you wish to emulate, you absorb the resonances of your family and partner, you integrate the aspects of their beingness into yourself without dimishing your sense of self. Yet you are able to see what is you and what is not you. If you chose to alter what has been you and embark upon a new path of filter processing, you need to know what is the real me and what you are capable of doing and what you seek to acquire and intregrate. You learn to set the stage for new synaptic pathways and connections. You persevere and allow the new connections to become stable in your beingness. You learn to allow yourself to change your filtering according to what you want to become in the immediate future. Even more important, you learn what is real and what is mere socialization!
The hardest part of changing is the inability of those around yourself to allow you to change. Now they do not know "you" anymore and they have to get to know you again after they had pigeon-holed you and "knew" you. Sometimes it is easier to go away and make new friends. This is what breaks up couples more than anything. Some people are so afraid of change, so threatened by the growth in another that they become belligerant. They are so afraid of loosing control over the other person that they begin to resort to any number of means of violence and oppression: physical, emotional and mental. Thus this pathway is frought with peril. Another reason that it is usually done in the setting of a religious retreat.
Learning is intimately involved with being able to focus on the task at hand. For this reason, it appears that some component of anxiety or perhaps a drop-dead event attached to the need, desire or will to become one with that which is to be learned is required. This is more or less the two-by-four that hits the mule on the head to get its attention. Once that attention is obtained, the next question to be answered is the depth of knowledge to be acquired and the persistence needed to follow through. Inevitably, it is the context of the learning environment or shall we say the necessity behind the motivation to learn the task at hand which is the most relevant. You make this decision everyday of your life. You pay attention to and learn what you want, need and desire to learn. If you set up the proper mental mind set for the process, concept or behavioral attribute to be learned/acquired; you will seem to encounter those experiences and interactions which lead you to deal with the processes of learning/acquiring that particular skill. Thus you have adjusted your thalamic filter to sensitize your sensory input to the noticing of "new" information to be processed and integrated.
How long do you have before this exciting and challenging set of learning experiences becomes routine and a bore? How deeply do you want to become involved in the process of learning about the "it"? What drives you to the learning process, what is the source of your motivation? Do you "have" to learn it, or do you want to learn it? What are you getting at is how long does your perseverance last? When it no longer lasts to focus your attention, the learning mind set associated with the "it" to be learned passes away. All this is obvious. However, your true path in life as to what is to be assimilated, learned and integrated never fades into oblivian. It merely deepens in content, experience and understanding.
The Locus Ceruleus
The "blue spot" (ceruleus means blue) located in the upper Medulla Oblongata is the seat of fear. The greatest test of learning and the modification of neural plasticity as a result deals with this center. As it is your fear that "freezes" your behavior, it is a lifelong struggle to overcome your fears and to develop to the maximum of your potential. The only way to become truely "fearless" is to confront each event, emotion or thought that keeps you imprisoned in your own mind. Fear has its place in our behavioral repertoir. It is a vital aspect of our beingness. But as each aspect of our beingness needs to be in harmony with the whole of our beingness, so fear needs to focus your attention, have you think about what transpires and formulate a solution to the issue at hand. It is when fear becomes magnified in your mind out of proportion to its need, that you "freeze". Being frozen in the vast majority of cases means that you will not continue your development. You have become stuck forever at the point where you have frozen. This may be a physical development such as learning to dive from the 5 meter tower, an emotional development such as learning to socialize with the opposite sex or a mental development such as a fear of mathematics. In any case, you will not grow and develop past that point which your fear has "frozen" in your behavior.
How then do you shatter this "frozen" barrier? The first step is to realize that the emotional beingness of your mind has coupled with a physical, emotional or mental trauma. Second, you need to come to grips with that trauma which has occured. What are the circumstances of the trauma, the persons involved and the outcome which has led to your denial, pain and frustration? Lastly, you learn to dissociate your emotional beingness from the remembered trauma. At this point you may again put yourself into the same circumstances as before, with careful preparation beforehand, so as to learn to better deal with the issue that caused you to freeze up. This is where make-believe role playing plays a big part in becoming fearless!
The Walking and Standing Meditations prepare you for the emotional dissociation required. The Sitting Meditation takes you deeply into the workings of the psyche and allows you to bring up and deal with all the emotional garbage that you carry around on your shoulders and inflict upon the others around you. You learn to dissociate your beingness from the traumatic event. You learn to ground the disruptive energy and smooth your beingness. You become "dispassionate" concerning this event and others like it. Now you are able to view the event as a learning experience and to work through all the aspects of the event that lead to the one thing that caused you to "freeze". You learn to face your fears and to overcome them by being calm, thinking through the possibilities and reaching out to create new realities. Again patience with yourself and the others involved is necessary. Patience and perseverence further!
The Art of Meditation