Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Harmonious Feeling of Oneness

This BBC article is the first I've seen which talks about how there are apparently two mostly independent neural networks in our brains. The suggestion is that usually one or the other predominates our consciousness, but that, at least in the case of Tibetan Buddhist meditators, the activities of the two networks can be balanced. 

He says the brain appears to be organised into two networks: the extrinsic network and the intrinsic, or default, network.

Dr Josipovic has scanned the brains of more than 20 experienced meditators during the study.
The extrinsic portion of the brain becomes active when individuals are focused on external tasks, like playing sports or pouring a cup of coffee.

The default network churns when people reflect on matters that involve themselves and their emotions.

But the networks are rarely fully active at the same time. And like a seesaw, when one rises, the other one dips down. . . 

. . . Dr Josipovic has found that some Buddhist monks and other experienced meditators have the ability to keep both neural networks active at the same time during meditation - that is to say, they have found a way to lift both sides of the seesaw simultaneously.

And Dr Josipovic believes this ability to churn both the internal and external networks in the brain concurrently may lead the monks to experience a harmonious feeling of oneness with their environment.

If this hypothesis proves out, it seems to me it could be part of the explanation of the state a music maker can sometimes enter when the ego falls away and the music seems to flow on its own. I've been talking to music friends about this and here's a great note I got from Billy Brockman, a friend I knew as a child and who went on to make a living as an electric guitar player. Billy is now proprietor of Charlottesville Music.

Time would definitely slow down. It gave me the ability to transfer what was in my head (and heart) to my fingers more easily. The ability to "play what you hear." It's analogous to a batter being able to "see the seams rotating" on a fastball. The ball is coming to the plate at 90 mph, but to a hitter "in the zone" the ball appears to be traveling slower.

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