I am always amazed that my dog will follow the path through the woods at a local park, even when the path is barely visible. She veers off occasionally to find a new smell or do her business, but mostly stays on the straight and narrow.
This park has become more popular of late, and a path that used to go straight up the hill was getting worn and unstable. The water would pour straight down the hill in a hard rain with nothing to stop it’s destructive flow.
A group of people went to great effort to cut a new path up the hill with switchbacks to slow the water. It does take longer but is a more pleasant walk, with stable footing.
This makes me think of samskaras,a sanskrit word that the West has come to know as neural pathways. These are like roads through your mind that your thoughts and actions follow. The ones that are used get a lot get bigger, like 285. The others fade into the background, a la Hwy 29 to ATL.
I am an extremely habitual person. I go through pretty much the exact same routine every single morning so I won’t forget to do something that is important to me. I also enjoy the repetitive nature of it all, the predictability. Knowing how deeply my habits run, it would behoove me to pick them carefully.
I think often of the paths that I have formed in my mind. The automatic reflexes to stimuli, reactions to words of a certain tone or volume, to believing I can control what is going on in the world around me.
My old paths have also grown worn and unstable, so I’m in the process of breaking new ground through my mind, making new samskaras. It does take a good bit of effort but I can already see the rewards enough to make me want to keep on walking…
Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, Sharon Begley
She was a Newsweek science writer who followed the Dali Lama’s yearly conferences on how Western empirical studies proved the wisdom of Buddhist mindfulness practices. The brain is capable of growth and change in a much larger way and for far longer than originally thought.
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Jill Bolte Taylor
After suffering a massive stroke on the left side of her brain, Jill Bolte Taylor spins a personal narrative about living through a stroke and the insights gained through the experience. Very readable and fascinating!