Health is individual and we humans are all so different. One born with a congenital disease or other genetic disorder, an impaired or disadvantaged physical or mental body may consider themselves quite happy and healthy; while another with no outward physical or mental impairments or social disadvantages are engaged in constant struggle with states of high anxiety, depression and hypochondriac fears with resultant misery. Factors beyond the given inherent individual physical and mental states may also have an affect on health. Individual health is influenced by others with whom we co-exist. Others will often increase or decrease our levels of stress directly influencing our capacities to live in the world. While health and well-being typically go hand in glove, health and well-being are both directly and profoundly affected by the immediate culture and health of the world around us. No living entity freely exists in and of itself but is always a result of what has gone before. Therefore, the concept of wholeness in health is dependent not only upon developing good habits, attentive life-style and pursuing healthy models of self-care, but must include how perspectives may be responsive to change; in effect, to develop resilience and flexibility to adapt.
Neuro-psychology and the cognitive sciences concern how well we tend the environment inside of us. They are grounded in the fact that emotions and thought are both physical, not just mental; and that there is no greater freedom than the wholeness which comes from developing a skillful way of seeing. These are truths which are often overlooked in policies, practices, regulations and standards can add clarity to guidelines and frame our moral actions. They give meaning to living in the immediacy of the world and remind us that we are simply another species on earth like any other, all connected in the web of life.
Many health decisions have a direct impact which are considered the cultural norm and affect us in the long-term — whether children are vaccinated or not, whether antibiotics are over or under prescribed, whether a tonsillectomy or other elective surgeries are considered preventative or cosmetic, whether local religious customs are perceived to increase risk factors of illness or have an impact on birth control, even whether or not government rule of law or policy should govern childbirth. These are acculturations which affect the health of individuals and the health of communities as a whole. While it is quite biologically natural for us to create behaviours, ideas, laws, and trends that are perceived to benefit society; a majority of cultural factors are not biologically-based adaptations.
It is one thing to talk of the many oppressive acculturations which groups historically have used to justify suppressing others, from the totalitarian and the political to the individual abuses applied by a prevailing cultural ideology. Yet it is quite another to self impose abuse due to self-held cultural perspectives. Many internalized cultural views are simply detrimental to health, especially when they are pitted against appearances and well-being. From college alcohol poisoning and social media perpetrated suicides to anorexia nervosa and bulimia, these are culture-based problems which wreck havoc on health, especially in youth. Nowadays, it is easy somehow to culturally to view our biological body as separate from who we are and how we think. If you think you are separate or superior to the natural world, it is but a mere short step to also lose the value and importance of being aware of the psycho-spiritual role of the physical body.
As a species, we create cultural perspectives to help us adapt and adjust, position and parlay our social order. But the difference that set us apart from other species is that we homo sapiens create artificial systems and beliefs which have no biological benefit. They are culturally-created artifices which are bereft of any connection to living in the natural world; in a word, they are acculturations that have no inherent soul.
Breast augmentation, liposuction, skin lightening and western eye-rounding is more often more a result of a society with an excess of options fueled by a gluttonous economy than it is to liberate the physical in some way. As vanity, they are perspectives essentially created disconnected from the immediacy of the world, illusions which serve to alienate us not only from our biological nature, but from change itself.
Expanding on our knowledge through education of how we create acculturations will tend to open, widen and deepen our perspectives on what is essential. So how may that be accomplished? Easy, through developing a skillful way of seeing connection in the world. And there is no better way to do just that than through physically embodying experience.
Samana ~ namaste
A primary focus in the practice of PyM is to increase energetic flow within the body. Similar to health on earth, maintaining body health is dependent on sufficient fluidity throughout its flow systems. Almost 80% of the human physique is all or part of a fluid medium. Movement in general including breathing stimulates flow in the various fluid systems. The more we move, the more circulation and flow through the organs and the more energy is generated. This cycle increases capacity to move in the future if physical training is also directed to build strength and endurance. Conversely, flexibility and balance may also be enhanced as ligament and tendons, the stabilizing bands of connective tissue which attach to bone and/or muscles are ‘juiced’ by stretch and movement.
The fluid systems of the human body are considered to be in six major categories. The systems are separated by placement in the body or by differences in their properties, particular function, or by their chemistry characteristics which transform with movement. The health of each fluid system whether circulatory, interstitial, intercellular, cerebrospinal, lymphatic, or synovial all support and feed the cells of the body. They are also all connected. The individual signature of the heartbeat sets the pace of blood flow through the capillaries. Breath moves not only the blood circulatory system and digestive system but the cerebrospinal fluid along the spinal column with diaphragmatic movement. Simple movements of arms and legs may also act as a pump to move fluids and work to nourish the organs by their flow. In the spine, cerebrospinal fluid and the lymph drainage systems are especiallyt stimulated by movement of interstitial fluid, as is the synovial fluid in the joints which facilitate drainage into intercellular fluid and through tissues. Furthermore, even the slight expansion and contraction of the cranium in the sutures of the skull is yet another pumping mechanism. The list goes one, suffice it to say, movement connects all systems. The human body stops adding fluid to cerebrospinal system when our physical growth is complete around the age of 24. While all fluid systems tend to slow down with age; for the cerebrospinal fluid — the only mechanism by which to keep the fluidity of the spine juiced and flexible after 24 is through movement.
Space between cells also factors into how mammalian fluid systems flow and maintain the health of cells. This is because cell density can have a direct impact on cellular reproduction rate. Researchers have found that the gel-like matrix outside cells which surround and capture all our cells like to have their space. Cells linked together in the extra-cellular fluid have better cellular function in a spacious environment rather that a crowded, cluttered environment. Flow of fluids with movement causes our interstitial tissue pond to provide space for cells to divide, grow, die to renew youthful health. Movement and contraction followed by stretch opens spaces within our bodies. Researchers have found that in a constricted environment, cells grow more slowly and can even stop cell division. Although tissue structure, mechanical forces and cell growth and regeneration are poorly understood as regulators of cell behavior; mechanical induction and distortion through movement, compression and stretch does keep cells and whole tissues in a certain shape. It makes sense to assume that such actions make it easier for cells to continuously divide and differentiate in how to regrow.
Tugs and Prods on a Cell, Not Just Genes, Determine Its Fate in the Human Body, S. Piccolo, Scientific American Magazine, Oct. 20 2014
Well you might ask: How do I emulate an octopus? Primordial Yoga is all about becoming a different kind of animal through movement and thought. But our bodies are so different you may well remark…an octopus has no bones and we are chock full from our spine to our toes. Octopuses have eight flexible, light curly highly sensitive arms, we have two… or four limbs with which to propel us through water. The octopus is also rather elastic, they have the ability to compress and squeeze their bodies through tiny spaces. They even carry two-thirds of their brains in their arms, now how different is that from us! A world apart.
Indeed different we are. However, one of our greatest gifts as humans — is our ability to emulate other animals. Consider it a talent or attribute which makes us quite different and unique among other species. How did this happen in our evolution? Well, some scientists say natural selection has favored the functional capabilities in us that promote our abilities to render more accurate efficient copying… of ourselves initially, of course, but our brain capacity has carried the talent further in our imaginings to height of embodiment level. Those cognitive abilities which may spur an organism to copy or co-join in a behaviour often is picked up by the next generation, learning from their predecessors by copying also. Certainly other species — i.e. primates, birds and cetaceans typically teach the new generations all tried and tested tricks of feeding and survival. In our imaginative human ability though, better visual perception and fine-motor tuning in our evolutionary development has kindly fostered a bit more yet in us. Add empathy and Voila! PyM!
We not only have greater neural connections between perceptual and motor structures in our brains to help us and others translate and match a visual performance by moving in a corresponding way, but more. Additionally, our complex cultures also have worked to infuse us with the imaginings of others, thereby reinforcing our innate capacities and abilities. If you have viewed the French movie which protrays the travail of Molière. In the film by that name, you may well remember the scene where Molière, played by Romain Duris, is teaching acting skills whereby he demonstrably acts out a horse. Not just any horse ~ but a spirited stallion – Incroyable!!
A kinesthetic perceptual practice such as PyM is attempting just that. Emulation and embodiment directs the sensorimotor body in motion to play a part in the formation of a concept through abstract thinking. There are limits however, without water to emulate the octopus movements it would indeed make the prospect much more difficult, if not almost impossible. Although I did see a full-grown man in New York City once bend and flex himself into a lucite box only 18 inches square, a feat well beyond what I thought possible.
What really separates us from other species is the ability to visualize and re-create entirely fictional stories to aid us in the copying, and further, perhaps the interest or motivation to “get under the skin” of another. This may even be seen as empathy. To stand in another’s shoes has always been the shortest road to changing perception and often one’s own inner perspective. So how may we emulate an octopus? Author Thomas Suddendorf would likely use what he describes as “nested scenarios”, the second of the two key features that created the human mind from his recent article Inside Our Heads, Scientific American, Sept. 2018. Thinking of creating the scenarios as an internal theatre whereby to bring situations to life by merging all the elements into a single narrative is fine. However, the imagined scenarios do not live in the immediacy of submergent water where octopuses live, they are in the head. Better to have both if possible.
Sensing bodies of all living beings causes evolutionary pathways to develop by the heightening of sensation (nerves or otherwise) to changes in the environment. An aspect of natural selection whereby the evolution to relate or interact with the immediate surroundings, other entities or forces in the nature stretches to meet those demands. So might we ~ as part of living in the immediacy of the world. Even though compared to the octopus whose two-thirds neurons exist in nerve cords in their arms, we live in our brains although tuned to the changes within from without.
Sense, flex, imagine.
Given all this…well you may ask how does one emulate an octopus? For me, while some may choose to amble along the bottom easefully perhaps aided by a current keeping one’s knees bent and arms light, in this motion you may have learn to free dive for any given amble. I choose to emulate the flight of an octopus where he/she might suddenly dash away. Head lunges forward out of coiled arms and loose legs which straighten purposefully in a jump or jet followed by glide. I do it to the side as a modified side stroke: coil, jet and glide; coil, jet and glide. Works for me with the octopus image in my mind, might work for you.
Pym is about the evolution of life. Can we recognize ourselves in others? It is through our shared evolutionary path that we have common bonds such as emotion development, the same cell structures, genetic encoding with DNA, nervous systems and other systemic symbiotic functions with all our sister species through our shared history together. We have travelled down long evolutionary pathways together, either by tumble or slide and often integrating and reintegrating with other species; diverged, lended, reinforced and redirected only to build, discard and rebuild again evolutionary elements biologically weaving them together in highly varied and dynamic creations through the generations. Myriads of complexities held both within and without.
The evolutionary path has been symbiosis at its finest ~ As the Buddha says — loving kindness, compassion for others, taking joy in other’s joy, equanimity, there comes …the Great Peace. Should we recognize ourselves in others? Sure. There are those darn pathogens as in most species (perhaps all), but they amount to nothing the good ones cannot handle, as we optimistically say in America.
The bottomline is to survive somehow, yes to maintain, advance, and interact in evolution. Protection, opportunity and exposure all to compete for resources play a part in species adaptability; often a determining role. Research shows that flexibility and genetic malleability from within the generations can advance a species consistently. But species strength comes from no better a place than the innate ability and creativity to work with others. To build together is the strength that improves chances for survival and pushes advancement…in the long term ~interaction and symbiotic maneuvering is rather essential for continued and creative life. There is vitality generated by the interplay with others, is there not? Similar to the Great Peace professed by the Buddha, there is the Great Vitality.
As we study how species survive and thrive all the way to abundance, the research often reveals principles of checks and balances which govern systems balancing and rebalancing over time. This is important research. We may learn. It is better to say that we, as a species, must learn.
Evolutionary principles may be applied to just about every issue we face – from war to immigration, traffic patterning to physics, etc. . The more we tease out these complexities of nature we may also apply those “natural” methods to our issues. The result is that often we come closer to a self-perpetuating, sustainable or natural harmony , a goal in itself. But chaos also has its place in shedding the old established habits and taking on new, better solutions. Remember, let it flow. War or gangs have scattered the populace of other countries, let them seek new horizons. . If the interior balance becomes imbalanced as a result, seek new solutions to handle the new imbalance. We have spent decades, centuries and millenniums displacing other species, yet we have found ways to lead our species into economic prosperity. However, if the human species cannot extend compassion for others to a compassion for other species to live as they were born to live, all are impoverished.
The first step to seeing is to perceive ourselves as just another species blessed to have evolved on our planet earth. Granted, we are a species that is considered blessed as a “higher” species; if only by the brainy advantage of our ability to emulate other species. Although the confines of our understanding of other species reside in the astonishingly different abilities with which they may interact in their particular environment. Yet in the fields of movement, anatomy and behavior we are rapidly breaking down those separated comprehension boundaries.
It amazes me that we are close to emulating the stirrings of life itself. What then? Will it take centuries for people to acknowledge that earth truly gave us life through its heat, light, minerals and asteroid debris? Will it be as long as the time it took for us to believe that the earth is round and revolves around the sun? Life began as a single cell with primitive RNA coding for reproduction. We are a package of around two trillion cells assembled in a very precise way. The journey was amazing ~ to go from a single cell, from RNA to DNA, to multi-cellular, to sensory creatures ~ surviving, morphing, multiplying, creating, discovering all the while evolving with other species.
Call me by many names
tête à tête
Recognizing self in others