“We must deliver ourselves with the help of our minds… for one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for the one who has failed to do so, the mind will remain the greatest enemy.” – Bhagavad Gita
The brain is designed to engage novel information and then store it as routine data. When you stop learning new habits, or changing old ones, you start living in only routine. Life becomes a series of hardwired reactions to common stimuli, and evolution ceases. Repetitive thoughts are like a computer program that runs all day in the background of your life. Since you are the one operating this computer, you may change or delete any program at will. This is done by constantly monitoring your thoughts- especially automatic thoughts that are harmful. It is interesting when you do this to notice how many of your automatic thoughts are not true, yet we believe them automatically out of habit. Question your deepest held beliefs- especially those that place the blame on someone or something other than yourself. Are you really helpless, or is there a solution? There is no such thing as an uncontrollable thought.
Repeated conscious thoughts soon become habitual. Remember learning to drive- every action took focus, but after enough practice, the same actions take no conscious thought at all. Your thoughts became natural and habitual. Any of us, at any age, have the power to learn something new and process it, forming new synaptic connections. Even though your brain may stay the general same size, it is constantly changing, growing and breaking down – all at the same time. The brain literally records each thought and experience, through association of new and shared neural pathways, as well as hormones, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. Emotions and feelings each have their own neural network, and are a huge part of how we record a memory. Memory is simply the process of maintaining synaptic connections.
Our thoughts matter.
Our thoughts literally become matter.
Start asking yourself some “what if” questions. What if I stopped being an unhappy suffering person? What if I no longer worry, feel sorry, or hold grudges? What if I changed? What do I want to change about myself? What characteristics do I want to develop in myself? Who do I know that seems happy, and why are they happy? How do they behave? What would I have to say, do and think to present myself as a happy person to the world and to myself? How does the “me” I want to be act and behave?
Form the picture of who you want to be, then take time each day to rehearse this new you – this process is similar to the mental magick we learned earlier, and you can work these systems together. Mental rehearsal stimulates the brain to grow new neural circuits, changing the way you think in a physically demonstrated way. Memories are stored in the brain as clusters of neurons known as neural networks. These memories all have emotions tied to them, and this is how we use visualization and emotion to raise occult forces. The forming of these networks is how skills develop, how conscious and unconscious behaviors are demonstrated, and how all forms of sensory information is processed.
In 1995, 4 groups were asked to participate in a study involving the effects of piano practice on building neural nets. The first group was taught a specific sequence to practice 2 hours a day for 5 days. The second group practiced 2 hours a day, but were taught no sequence- they just played randomly. The third group was shown the sequence taught to the first group, but never played piano- they instead rehearsed the sequence in their mind using the imagination. The forth group was the control group- they did nothing at all.
At the end of the study, the experimenters used transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure any changes in the brain. They found that the 3rd group, which only rehearsed mentally, showed almost the same development of the same part of the brain as the 1st group which practiced the sequence on piano. The randomness of the second groups practice did not stimulate any neural networks repeatedly enough to make any measurable change, and the control group showed no change as well.
Through mental focusing, the third group was able to engage the same neural paths in the brain to fire repeatedly, and as a result, the neurons grew closer together and developed stronger connections. This process is called Hebbian Learning- nerve cells that fire together, wire together. Repeatedly fired neural nets will grow stronger, more enriched connections with each other. This process demonstrates that the brain does not know the difference between mental and physical rehearsal- between imagination and “reality.” By choosing to avoid thoughts and memories attached to negative emotions, you can avoid activating those neural nets- resulting in a weaker connection to thought-forms that hold you back. Use it or lose it – nerve cells that no longer fire together, no longer wire together.
It is interesting to note that mental rehearsal can affect the rest of your body as well as the brain. An experiment involving a group that lifted a weight with one finger and a group who imagined the same exorcise showed almost identical increases in strength of that finger (30% versus 22% increase). Well, what if you injured your leg and couldn’t walk for some time? Visualizing yourself walking and using the muscle could help you walk again quicker by building the necessary muscle before you even had the chance to walk on it. The more vivid your imagination the better this works- another reason why we start with the skill building exorcises of visualization and concentration. It is not just enough to think, “Brain, rebuild my foot!” You have to visualize it happening to get the correct message out.
There are two methods to changing the physical structure of your brain- learn new things, and experience new things. Both of these methods will produce new neural nets, as well as strengthening or weakening older neural nets depending on their level of involvement. Also the numbers of different neuro-receptors will change, so your brain will have more or less receptor sites for various neuropeptides. If you fail to learn new things and engage novel experiences, then you will fail to make new synaptic connections. This is the equivalent of living out your pre-determined genetic destiny (using only the network you are born with) without ever evolving. The brain is not static, but forever changing based on the decisions of the operator. The operator is the soul, and this is where science and magick meet.
Since memories are so tied in with emotions, memories involving specific emotions are wired in patterns pertaining to that emotion. For example, everyone’s network for the emotion of love is wired differently, depending on that person’s view of love, and their experience of love. A child in an abusive family will form a different network for love then a child in a healthy family. Future memories of love will get tied into this network- future relationships or marriage, or family relationships will all work their way into this network for the emotion of love. The idea of love will evolve as more experience works its way into this idea, and all future experiences will be shaped by the inherent viewpoint from the individual’s neural network. People experience life in different ways, because they are wired to perceive it differently.
Most people make decisions based on how the experience will “feel,” according to similar past situations. Every thought and experience releases chemicals in the brain called neuropeptides, which allow you to feel what you were just thinking. When you think happy thoughts, your brain releases happy feeling chemicals – usually dopamine. In this fashion, your thoughts literally and instantly become matter! According to the Hebbian Learning model, neural nets that wire together from common thought patterns will have more receptor sites for the chemical feeling associated with that thought – and this can result in habitual preferences to use the stronger, richer nets. For good or bad, we are shaped by our experiences. Our perception of joy, fear, pain and beauty are sharpened or dulled by the way we rub against time.
For example, suppose someone lives in a repeating pattern of thoughts and feelings of insecurity. It is easier for them to use the neural nets associated with feeling insecure because those nets are more plentiful, and wired closer together. Besides that, the nets have more neuroreceptors for chemicals associated with insecurity, and those nets crave to be used. Your brain and body can actually become addicted to neuropeptides the same way it becomes addicted to drugs like cocaine or opium. Once your cells start producing extra receptor sites for specific peptides, your body will try to meet those same requirements for peptide production and chemical continuity. This is why many people make the same mistakes over and over again- the insecure person in our example may be addicted to the rush of peptides associated with that feeling, and unconsciously creating situations that produce those thoughts and feelings. This is why it is so important to monitor and control your thoughts- you can actually control the way your body grows and develops (also known as a state of being). Over time, your cells can actually build a chemical tolerance, becoming desensitized and need more of the same peptide to produce the same rush as before. So now the same person has to fret more, worry more, and in general think more and harsher thoughts of insecurity to feel the same.
When your cells reproduce, the new cell will be made based off of what receptors and peptides are used the most. If the same receptors are used over and over, the DNA will start to wear out and break down. Healthy cells and DNA can only be maintained in a state of evolution and change – if the DNA becomes over-used, it will start to produce “cheaper” proteins. This, along with water deterioration, is why we age. Our bodies are made of proteins. If the cells produce extra receptors to maintain a chemical rush, they start to produce less of the proteins for maintaining healthy skin and bones, as well as other important proteins. This is one of the ways stress wears down your body and health. The expression of life is the expression of proteins.
Sadly, many people stuck in habitual thought forms will choose situations and relationships that help them repeat the same feelings of inadequacy. This turns into a love based off of chemical dependency rather than true chemistry, much like two addicts sharing their habit together. If you have noticed yourself stuck in the same relationships over and over again, constantly wondering why you can’t find a better date- maybe you should look at the only constant in that equation. What kind of people are you attracted to and why?
Often times, change does not feel good, and is uncomfortable. This is similar to withdrawals from drugs. Your body is used to feeling a certain way, and even though there might be a better option, you’re used to life as it is now, and the future is uncertain. Most people are content as long as their lives run smoothly – no matter how boring or repetitive it gets. Sure there might be something new to discover, but what if I don’t like it? Best leave it alone, and be happy with what you got.
Now, it is comforting to know that the physiology of the brain related to the emotions goes both ways. If you find yourself stuck in thought patterns that hold you back, you need to start creating new patterns that bring you joy, inspiration and new experience. Fall in love with a new idea of yourself that you want to create – love is the most powerful motivator. Fall in love with the future you. The “You” that you’re creating. By falling in love with something that hasn’t been created yet, you are free from past emotional attachments – because there are none. The new you has not been experienced yet; that is still to come. Remember a past experience of new love- you would do anything to spend more time with that person- to meet any obligations. That is how you should treat this process of creation. The side effect of this creative process is joy =)
an excerpt from my book Creating the Universe