Today I would like to explore ten fundamentals that support learning and adaptation.
1) Human beings are designed as self-organizing systems. We are each born with an innate ability to learn, and adapt to life. We each possess the instinctual ability to recognize, create, and maintain health and well being.
The ability to adapt and change is part and parcel of the act of self-organization. Change is inherent in the differences and potentials that drive a universe that is not at rest. The ability to adapt is the reward for learning.
2) A state of dynamic relaxation in which we feel alert and fully alive, supports our ability to learn. At such times we do just enough and nothing more or less, to perform in a graceful, efficient manner without inducing excess effort or tension.
3) The body as well as the brain in our skull, is intelligent, and we can consider the unconscious mind to reside in the body as well as in the brain in our skull. Recent scientific research by Dr. Michael Gershon and others show that we indeed have a second brain in our gut (the enteric nervous system). This is a concept that has been known in most every Oriental art form for thousands of years. Other research conducted by Candace Pert presents a model of a “mobile brain” that moves throughout our entire body. Her work leads to the consideration of the brain as a dynamic and ever changing information network that is present throughout our entire system. When we work within the models presented by Gershon and Pert, we can quickly understand that most of the system-wide activity of “our brain” takes place outside of our everyday conscious awareness.
We can indeed utilize and learn from this subconscious intelligence of the body, and this proposal forms the basis for an emerging field of study which has come to be called “Somatic Psychology.” Tapping into the subconscious intelligence of the body can positively affect how you feel about yourself, the amount of stress you experience in trying to keep up with an ever changing environment, and the degree of success you have in interacting with and adapting to the world around you
4) High-quality learning and adaptation are facilitated by utilizing two sources of organization and intelligence in a complementary manner – our somatic organization and intelligence as coordinated by our enteric nervous system (the brain in our gut), and our cognitive organization and intelligence as coordinated by the brain in our skull.
By tapping into our somatic organization and intelligence we gain a second source of information (a different perspective) to balance, contrast, and complement, the organization and intelligence of our rational mind. By tapping into the intelligence that is resident in the body people can rekindle their innate and creative learning abilities.
5) All of the various electro-chemical and neuromuscular reactions that occur in our body are systematic in nature and when taken as a whole such reactions can be considered to make up a somatic language.
Our ability to communicate in and understand somatic language is wired into our system at birth and forms the foundation of our memories, verbal communication, learned responses, and our ability to live and sustain ourselves. Our somatic language is at least as sophisticated, systematic, and complete as our native verbal language, and it does not use or require verbal language in order for our body to completely understand what is being communicated. Somatic language (the language of our body) is what allows us to make meaning out of our experience prior to learning our native tongue,
and it remains our primary meaning making language throughout the course of our lives.
6) Our memories and our emotions are seamlessly intertwined. Our body and all of its cells and tissues retain traces of our previous experiences. Our memories and our emotions are made up of bio-chemical and neuromuscular activities that form the basis of our consciousness, are habitual in nature, and affect our perception of our current experience. Long term memories are activated by our entire system, as a byproduct of our experience.
7) Much of what we accomplish when learning and adapting takes place outside of our conscious awareness and is orchestrated by the subconscious intelligence of our body (the somatic self).
Exceptional learners in any one particular field rarely know specifically what they do when they perform with excellence, they “just do it” by accessing the information network of their entire system.
In regard to the maintenance of our overall health and well being, we have limited conscious awareness of how we go about secreting enzymes to digest our food, the hormones that we secrete for various life sustaining functions, or the process we use to activate our immune system. A healthy person nonetheless effectively performs such tasks on a regular basis.
8) The personal difficulties we experience in our attempt to maintain a state of somatic-emotional balance are largely due to habitual patterns of holding excess energy within our system, and our habitual methods for organizing and utilizing only a selected portion of the incoming information that is available to us. When we hold onto excess energy we inhibit ourselves from rebalancing, reorganizing, and adapting, to meet the challenges of ongoing events, thoughts, and feelings. In the process, we inhibit our ability to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. When our somatic-emotional system supports a varied range of information organization and utilization, life moves through us in a continual process of change and rebalancing.
9) A system that is adept at managing complexity and diversity is a system that is open to learning from new information and distilling solutions from multiple realities. A diverse system has elements that are different in nature, kind, character, and quality. Diversity is ever present in the non-equilibrium environment that we live in, and indeed the ongoing viability of any system depends on a certain minimum requisite amount of diverse elements. A lack of diversity leads to a limited pool of information, alternatives, and solutions that will usually tend to be somehow incomplete, incorrect, and repetitive.
Complex systems are made up of diverse yet interrelated and interdependent parts. It is the ability of a system to embrace, comprehend, utilize, and unify the multiplicity of interrelated elements in a given situation that leads to high quality solutions and adaptation. In such systems, the concepts of “right” or “wrong” are less important than the correlation and complementarity of divergent sources of information. Robust systems thrive on complexity, and use it as an impetus for fostering generative compromises that enhance the overall integrity of the system. In unbalanced systems complexity tends to create a state of confusion and chaos.
10) When wanting to engage in high quality learning we will do well to “speak” to our self in a way that the somatic self can best understand rather than mainly relying on verbal instructions given to the cognitive self. The cognitive self strives to “correct what is wrong” and or “do what is correct” and in the process we tend to pay attention to “fixing” or improving specific parts of a total activity. When we pay attention to specifics, we tend to have internal dialogue and strive to correct separate “arcs” of activity, rather than paying attention globally to the overall activity we are involved in. We become pre-occupied with what we think we “should” be doing, rather than being fully engaged.
When wishing to learn a new activity or subject matter, improve our performance, or re-program the self, we will do best to communicate mainly via felt sense, images, and “the aesthetics of sound” (Volume, rhythm, pace, and resonance.). In short, we will do best to communicate primarily to the somatic self, while allowing the cognitive self to be somewhat passive. The language that your somatic self understands best, is NOT your verbal language. Once again, this is a premise that is central to Seishindo. We need to give the somatic self an active role in learning. In order to accomplish this, we need to speak more directly to the somatic self, and fully engage our pre-verbal experience.