The World is full of Sounds. Nature with its babbling brooks, barking beasts, buzzing insects and tweeting birds energizes. Waters that rhythmically wash the shores of oceans, lakes and streams soothe the soul. Winds that blow through fields, tress, rocks and sands refresh. All the systems of living things and their movements generate sound. It is evidence of the Beings that fill every Thing, every Where and in every Way.
When these systems hum along in cooperative sustainable and workable patterns, there is a harmony to these collective evidences of living. It is a balance that is blissful to contemplate and to experience. These systems also promote health and well being. We vibrate in resonant and sympathetic time to these sounds. They inspire our better natures to emulate their influence. This drawing along of our bodies and our beings to the tune of systems that work well is entrainment.
Conditions within systems change; it’s a truism. No vibration is eternally operating in the same cadence. Force, mood, scale and tone all shift. The soft sounds of bees, birds and beasts becomes more pronounced if more creatures are present. If they are hungry, mating or moving in large numbers, they inspire other responses. Awe, caution, respect and even terror are possibilities! Waters and winds in violent motion inspire the same. Cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes impact our systems. Cities flood. Fields and forests are made barren or burn. Evidences of our current life- our personal and collective environments- are dented or destroyed outright.
This cyclical remapping of the external terrain is both ageless and endless. Natural systems, like all systems, are always in flux. Always in motion. A catalyst such as a change in water temperature or wind speed appears. Direction, force and stress are applied. Other system components react by being displaced. Or dissipated. Or by intensifying. Or recombining in new ways. A new set of conditions prevail. Rains moving across the plans of Africa, America or Asia bring new growth. In arid deserts, the new growth is rare and a beautiful explosion of flora.
There is another kind of sound in the world. Machines, markets and the movements of mankind have all but drowned out Nature. These sounds may be soft. Or loud. Dissonant. Or seductive. But they are almost impossible to tune out. They affect the World that is Within each one of us. We become entrained to these vibrations too. Without conscious engagement, we become enslaved to them.
The time allotted to each of us will be spent in some state of being. Life can be done by default. Someone else sets the place where our focus is. We abdicate responsibility. And agency. Or- life can be done by design. We set the place where our focus is. We retain responsibility. And agency. In other words, we get to choose how we want to “do” life.
Consciousness, being fully present in the moment, is our superpower. It’s what gives us the ability to respond intentionally. It enables us to “do” life well by allowing us to access our higher faculties. Intuition, rational thought, spiritual discernment- these are all far more possible in the absence of a dominant lizard brain. Without anger, aggression, appetites for food or sex, depression or fear as the center of focus, executive function is accessible. We can respond. We can choose. When consciousness is not engaged, however, we are not fully present in the moment. We react. That’s when our “lizard brains” take over. And our executive function/ higher faculties get taken along for the ride.
Aggression, anger, fear, feeding, freezing up, fight or flight and sexual behaviors- the biological imperative, if you will- are all found in the limbic system and its component parts. These are excellent and necessary. If a tiger is chasing me, I’m happy for the “flight” part of my brain to kick in! If I’m about to spill hot coffee on myself, I’m happy for a quick catch that prevents the spill. But let’s face it- these responses are no substitute for engaged consciousness.
Okay, it’s important to be fully present. Fully conscious. Fully engaged. Otherwise, life just happens to us. It’s a default dynamic. The design dynamic promotes growth and learning through engagement. Something happens. Reaction or response are possible. Now- again- sometimes reaction is best! The need to prevent harm is key. But letting the lizard brain work in every setting is dysfunctional. Energetically and emotionally,, entrainment is then driven by the limbic system.. Executive function isn’t really online. Reaction is the dominant dynamic. To use a metaphor, the plane is on autopilot. Its capacity to overcome an event is limited by its autopilot.
The engagement of autopilot is the engagement of habit. The quality and consistency of habits developed to date comprise the limitations of the autopilot system. It is as individual in how it is constructed as is each fingerprint. It is as unique in how it operates as is each moment in time. Without the catalysts of agitation, anger or fear, the autopilot appears competent. But-ponder how sound is experienced in an aroused state. The internal autopilot is no longer humming along. It is reacting to shouted messages. “Danger!”, “run!”, “get ready to fight!”.
That’s fine, if there is danger. The problem comes in when the autopilot moves to react before we can choose to respond. What if the threat is a friend breaking plans with you? A lover breaking up with you? A child choosing not to obey you? Reaction is tempting. Your lizard brain is demanding that you DO something. You were taken by surprise and now you have to solve the problem. You send your friend an angry text. You throw your lover’s belongings out on the front lawn. You tell your child “no play dates… forever!”.
This reactivity is going to rob you. Your friend? Well, it’s going to cost you an apology, at least. Maybe some embarrassment. Worse, if you’re in the habit of reacting instead of engaging consciousness in order to respond, you might double down on what you texted. (Because that’s how you really feel, right? And you don’t want to be fake.) If you later regret the reaction, it’s going to be harder to overcome the shame and the hostility in the space.
Your lover? Maybe you don’t care, because the relationship is over. But you might regret it and feel some shame. Or defensiveness. Especially if the anecdote makes the rounds of your social circle. Perhaps you will feel hesitant about settling financial matters between the two of you, such as a shared apartment or auto lease. If there are children, pets and close family that you share care of, it’s going to make an already difficult situation much more complicated and unpleasant.
Your child? This one’s easy. You know that you’re not going to be able to forestall socializing long term. It’s unrealistic and unsustainable. It’s just a matter of how soon you are going to apologize and how much you are going to have to take back of your general remarks and lecture. But- what if you double down here? After all, maybe your kid has been difficult and you just don’t want to admit that you were wrong. The cost of that is simply that your child learns not to trust you. It’s a form of dishonestly that most kids would find impossible to overlook, long term.
So, reactivity comes with a high price. Sometimes a very high price. It’s good to be able to override your autopilot. It’s good to be able to do it appropriately and effectively. We all want to run if a tiger is chasing us, I think. But we don’t want to react by running if we’re faced with a difficult conversation with a friend, a lover or a child.
In order to override an autopilot, you have to be able to hear your own consciousness as it speaks.
The pilot must wake up. Consciousness must engage. The flow of the five senses must be mediated through the instinct for self preservation found in the lizard brain. But it must be managed by the intuitive, rational and spiritual faculties. When the pilot monitors the autopilot system and overrides it, as needed, executive function is online.
In order for the pilot to monitor the autopilot system, as well as external conditions, he must be able to fully discern the state of things in the worlds Within and Without.
Autopilot systems and executive function systems are built through a collection of experiences, evaluations of those experiences and engagement with the conclusions drawn to date. Building capacity in the executive function system is accomplished through focus, intent and is iterative. An experienced, seasoned pilot can far better meet the demands of some flight situations that the autopilot system. Taking readings from instruments is a function of both the autopilot and the pilot. However, the pilot has access to intuition, reason and spiritual discernment that the autopilot clearly does not.
We need conscious engagement in order to use our executive function rather than our autopilot systems. The higher faculties are thought to reside in the prefrontal cortex dorsolateral cortex and prefrontal lobes, at least in part. These somewhat comprise our thinking brain. Intuition or “gut feelings” reside partially in the enteric nervous system, also called the second brain. Hundreds of millions of neurons connect the two. Much is still to be learned about this, but there is a level of complexity, cooperation and cyclicity that impacts our consciousness, intuition and mood.
The totality of our Mind resides everywhere and nowhere with respect to our physicality. Everything is in motion for as long as we are living. Systems within systems within yet more systems act on one another. In turn, they are acted upon. The gut is influenced by the brain. The brain is influenced by the gut. The inner life is influenced by the outer life. The outer life is influenced by the inner life. Human beings are, in essence, fully conscious tools that act on the self and on others. If Michelangelo’s masterpiece David had carved itself in marble between 1501 and 1504 AD- that would be us!
We assess and act on the self, others and the world around us. Often, we write, think or speak long before we take on the task of embodying some new goal. That’s a way to discern how we want to engage. Our consciousness needs focus and intent in order to act.