Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thoughts on the Eve of July 4

I had a lengthy late lunch with a friend yesterday. He is hearing voices again.

This friend is wired a little differently than most folks, and although the voices he hears come from a place located on this side of psychosis, he most certainly does live in an extrasensory place where shamans and other-worldly spirits are quite real. His way of living is not pathological, but it is by no means a common life, either.

Frankly, this territory is also my time zone, and this is probably why my friend wanted to have lunch with me. I never ridicule such things, having my own set of spiritual guides who regularly commune with me.

The lunch conversation got me thinking about the source of this non-traditional intuition that is so very real for some of us. One thing led to another and near the end of the day I found myself reading some interesting material from the main-stream scientific world on the role of chemical neurotransmitters on brain activity and thought processes. This is my life, one foot in the world of science, the other in the world of mystery. I have come to see them as merely different languages for describing the same thing.

One article I came across suggested that human perception is governed by a complex interaction of neurotransmitters of two types: inhibitory and excitatory. Among the inhibitory elements are chemicals such as seratonin and gaba; the excitatory elements include chemicals like epinephrine and histimine.

I have another very smart friend, once a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, who would roll his eyes at the vast oversimplification of this thought, but the suggestion of this article was that human beings experience peace and the sensation of well-being when the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters exist in balance and operate in harmony. Dis-ease and neurosis and spiritual crisis exist during times of imbalance, when either the excitatory or inhibitory energies are overloaded or do not interact freely.

On some level, this all seems to follow the premise of simply physics, where gravity and centrifugal force balance one another; where heat and cold dance together; where water condenses into a solid one minute, then evaporates into vapor again the next. When natural processes are thwarted, the planet itself experiences something like neurosis.

What this suggests to me, on some level, is the all our human foibles are simply normal manifestations of natural forces. Agitation and unhappiness one minute may simply be the process of energies balancing themselves and returning to equilibrium. Excitation is what awakens us from sleep and causes us to create and build and destroy; natural inhibition is what causes us to relax and reflect and enjoy.

So maybe our intuitions and obsessions and even hallucinations are, on some level, nothing more than manifestations of universal energies doing what they do naturally. Perhaps the only thing we need do to experience peace is to relax and let nature drive the train.

I told my friend to listen to his voices. They're speaking for a reason.


G said...

This reflection fits in with the Buddhist understanding that our body & minds do not belong to us but instead belong to nature with its "manifestations of universal energies", as you put it, Mercurious. Learning to truly relax equals learning to let go, doesn't it? This is what great teachers such as Ajahn Chah have emphasized to us for millennia.

As to hearing voices, however, some discretion is required, isn't it? Whilst your friend sounds fine, not all voice-hearers have such benevolent 'inner speakers'. Having worked in a psychiatric hospital for over a decade back in the UK, I can say that many such voices push the hearer into very dark places where they suffer greatly and cause much suffering to others. Sometimes it isn't so good to simply follow nature...

Great, stimulating post.
G at 'Buddha Space'.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps the only thing we need do to experience peace is to relax and let nature drive the train."

Oy. Always with the surrender.

Trouble is, you're right. The only real option is to let nature drive the train and fighting that fundamental truth is the source of much of our misery.

Give your friend my best.

Michelle O'Neil said...

"Oy. Always with the surrender."

Too funny.