Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brain-Body-Environment System

Brain-Body-Environment System

 

Notes and comments by Vinod D Deshmukh on the article: Kiverstein J and Miller M (2015), the embodied brain: towards a radical embodied cognitive neuroscience. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9.237.

 

The authors propose a new approach to cognitive neuroscience for a better understanding of the relationship between brain and mind (brain and mental activities). Instead of localizing all mental functions on to the cerebral cortex, the authors propose a broader perspective of considering the brain-body-environment (BBE) as a unitary system on the basis of dynamical ecological psychology.

 

Therefore, the mental activity is not strictly localized in specific parts of the brain but, it is a bio-psycho-physical manifestation of the whole BBE system. Then, the mental events become an intrinsic communication with signs and signal processing within the BBE system itself. After all, one of the definitions of consciousness is com (together) scire (to know) meaning knowing together. It is like a conversation between two individuals (or groups). So, consciousness is knowing together, between self and the other. The other may be another person, object, an image, an idea or just me. Knowing me or myself is truly our self-awareness.

 

The authors make two more specific arguments: 1) cognition and emotion are inseparable, and 2) emotion is a dynamic process involving the whole living body of an organism and the environment. They consider emotion as an action readiness on the part of an organism in response to the changing environment. The action readiness depends upon the context of organism-environment interaction, the organism’s level of vigilance and preparedness for the oncoming threat or an opportunity. The action readiness is guided by what matters to the organism and the context or the history of previous interactions.

 

Bodily arousal and valence (positive or negative core affect) both occur as part of the life-regulation, homeostatic and metabolic processes of an organism, a being that strives to resist disorder and disintegration in its interactions with the environment. An organism evaluates relevance of the surrounding situation. Determining situational relevance is a way of the organism to achieve behavioral equilibrium. It is coping smoothly with the environment. An organism never fully achieves equilibrium during its lifetime, as there is always room for improvement. As long as an organism has needs, desires and fears, it is always in a state of relative disequilibrium, a metastable state. All living systems try to reduce disequilibrium.

 

Action readiness improves an organism’s grip on the situation. Action readiness states can be positive or negative. They depend upon the spontaneously active, self-sustaining, interoceptive core affect network.

 

Basic emotions of rage, fear, lust, grief, disgust and care are associated with brainstem-diencephalon and limbic system connected to the autonomic, endocrine and immune systems. They are automatically regulated by the homeostatic and metabolic dynamic equilibrium. The intentional or voluntary self-control via frontal lobe happens in recursive loops between the cortical and subcortical systems. From the evolutionary perspective, the cortical-subcortical systems evolved together without any hierarchy.

 

Hypothalamus serves as a critical functional hub between the heavily connected cortical and subcortical neural networks. Hypothalamus is crucial for circadian rhythms as well as several neuroendocrine axis’ including the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis mediating behavioral distress and its relief and repose.

 

The authors argue another important point of pluripotency of cortical functional neurons. There is no one-to-one mapping of brain structure and function. It is usually many-to-many mapping. Therefore, we have to consider global variables, like composition of CSF and extracellular fluid, neurotransmitter levels, bodily arousal, slow wave potential and the current environment.

 

Behavior is context-dependent. What happens before is more likely to happen again, unless it is altered by intermediate variables including intentional action. There is magical membrane between brain and body and also between the body and the environment.

Vinod D Deshmukh, MD, PhD. March 10, 2016

Informational Waves in Awareness

Informational Waves in Awareness

Vinod D Deshmukh, MD, PhD

Every observed event creates an informational wave (IW) in a person’s brain-mind. In the brain, it looks like an electrochemical signal, which travels as an electrochemical wave. In awareness, it is a momentary experience, which may be conscious or subconscious with or without memory, a future recall and cognition.

Each IW creates an information/signal (attentional) vector, which specifies situational space-time and the observer-observed duality, followed by a stream of experiential events and individual mental reactions.

IW are analogous to electromagnetic and gravitational waves in the existential pond. Awareness matrix is like an experiential pond. In the spontaneous, pristine and unperturbed state of matrix-awareness (the experiential pond), there are no dualistic events and therefore no specific individual experience or personal space-time. But, it is a unique, ineffable, blissful, benevolent, and primordial self-aware feeling. It is our true universality, in which our limited individual personality is ever nested.

Vinod D Deshmukh, MD, PhD

February 16, 2016

Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology

 

Positive psychology is a field of psychological theory and research that focuses on the psychological states (e.g., contentment, joy) individual traits or character strengths (e.g., intimacy, integrity, altruism, wisdom), and social institutions that make life most worth living.

 

Positive affect is the internal feeling state that occurs when a goal has been attained, a source of threat has been avoided, or the individual is satisfied with the present state of affairs. The tendency to experience such states is called positive affectivity.

 

Martin Seligman, in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1998, emphasized the concept of “Positive Psychology.” He defined good life as 1) a pleasant life full of positive emotions, 2) an engaged life with creative engagement, and 3) a meaningful life filled with meaning and purpose.

 

Positive Psychology emphasizes six core domains: 1) virtues and character strengths, 2) happiness, 3) growth fulfillment of capacities and development of higher self, 4) good life, 5) thriving and flourishing, 6) positive functioning under conditions of stress, and 7) nurturing gratitude, forgiveness, awe, inspiration, hope, curiosity and laughter.

 

Is not meditation a way to a good life and positive affectivity?

 

References:

  • The APA Dictionary of Psychology (2007).
  • Positive Psychology: An Approach to Supporting Recovery in Mental Illness. B Schrank, T Brownell, A Tylee, M Slade. East Asian Arch Psychiatry 2014; 24:95-103 Theme Paper.

I for Infinity:

A new alphabet & vocabulary

 

I         Infinity (Infinite Reality), I, I-am, I-see, I-feel, I-know, Ipseity, Insight

J         Jiva (Living being), Jagat (World), Joy

K        Kindness, Knower, Knowledge, Known

L        Love, Life, Letting-go

M       Mind (Aham-Vritti), Matrix (Attention, Alertness), Meditation, Mindfulness

O        Om, Other, Outer

P        Peace, Presence, Primal, Proji-self, Phasic alertness, Psyche

Q        Quietness, Quest, Question

R        Realization (Self), Rest, Right

S        Self, Selfless (Awareness), Soul, Spirit, Stillness, Silence, Serenity, Solitude, Spontaneous, Substratum, Sphurana (Wellspring), Source, Sink, Synchrony, Synergy, Superconsciousness, Speech, Space, Sacred

T        Turiya (4th State of Consciousness), Truth, Time, Timeless (Awareness), Transcendent, Transient, Thoughts

U        Universal, Unconscious, Understanding

V        Vigilance (Tonic Alertness), Virtue, Voice, Vector (Attention, Conscious Mentation), Voluntary

W       Wisdom, Wonder, Wellbeing, Words

X        X-factor, X-axis, X-body

Y        Yoga, Youth, You

Z        Zen, Zero, Zest

A        Atma-Sphurana, Atman (Self), Arousal, Awareness, Attention, Akash (Nonspecific, Multimodal Space), Aham-Vritti, Anger, Anxiety, Aging

B        Brahman (Absolute), Being, Bliss, Blessing, Body, Breathing

C        Consciousness, Continuum, Compassion, Cognition, Conscience, Core, Creative

D        Divine, Discover, Depression, Death

E        Energy, Ego, Existence, Experience, Emotion, Eco-Spirituality

F        Freedom, Feeling (Existential), Fear, Friendship

G        Goodness, Ground (Self-Awareness), Gnosis, God

H        Heart, Happiness, Holon, Homeokinesis

 

The word list started with the letter ‘I’ because all thoughts start with the primal ‘I’ feeling-thought or Aham-Vritti. When the Aham-Vritti (Wave) with all of its associated mental phenomena and experiences subsides, what continues uninterruptedly is Atma-Sphurana or the continuous, blissful, holistic, infinite Self-Awareness-Energy-Being (Primal Ocean).

It will be good to learn and appreciate this new alphabet & vocabulary.

 

Vinod D Deshmukh

November 23, 2013

The Container and the Content

Amsterdam I 042113 860

The Container and the Content

 

I am within my Self; my Self is within me.

I am in Nature; Nature is within me.

I am the content; I am the container.

I am known; I am the knower.

I am conscious content; I am consciousness-itself.

 

There is another way of looking at self, others and events in one’s environment. Look at the whole situation as a single moving scene and one is an integral part of it. One is playing a role in the scene, but one does not dominate the scene. One is not the center of the scene. Most of the time, we give too much importance to ourselves and much less to others in the scene, not unlike our old geocentric view of the cosmos. All events are contents of the same collective consciousness.

 

The body-mind-ego is an integral part of the changing situations or scenes. One watches them like a play, an evolving story, but always an evanescent one. After all, it is but a day-time story, just like a dream at night. One plays one’s changing role diligently and then lets it go from moment to moment. Like a good actor in a drama, one returns to the ever-present, ever-potent, and ever-scient selfless presence, and just dwells in that state. New wisdom-insights may dawn spontaneously in such a state. It is the state of natural primal bliss.

 

Raman Maharshi once said that abiding as the Self is like discovering and repeatedly returning to the cool and quiet shade of a giant tree from the scorching heat of midsummer, where most people wander in thirst, desperation and panic. Eventually, one does not even leave the healing shade of selfless presence. I had used a similar expression, “It is like being under the canopy of the infinite, अनंताच्या सावलीत.”

 

Chitta-Vritti Nirodha and Neti-Neti point to the same state of selfless presence. The journey starts with the narrative self, then to the focused, interactive self and finally to the innate, selfless presence. That’s how all journeys begin and end; all waves rise and fall back to the same timeless infinite ocean of awareness, which is all of us together in one ineffable wonderful reality. We just have to realize the great wonder that is within and all around us, all the time.

 

Vinod D Deshmukh. October 22, 2013

Recent Blogs

Amsterdam I 042113 860

 

My 75th Birthday

 

On behalf of our family, I want to thank all of you for joining us on this happy occaision. I also want to thank Sunanda, Abhijit and Sujata for organizing this party and taking care of all the details.

This party was supposed to be a surprise for me. But, because of the transparency between Sunanda and me, I could see on her face that something was going on. So, finally she acknowledged and I happily joined the planning committee. Now, I get to play both roles, the host as well as the guest.

I started thinking about my 75th birthday. I thought, “What’s the big deal?” But then, 15 years ago, I had my 60th birthday party at the River City Brewery. Many of you probably remember that. It was again, Sunanda and Abhijit, who did the wonders. Ashwin and Rahul came all the way from Boston, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Then, I had my 70th birthday party at Abhijit’s home, this same beautiful place. That was also a great surprise and a lot of fun.

Then, I started thinking of my current age. 75 years is old age, when you look up from below, but, it is “just a kid’s age” when you look down from above. I thought of tweaking the number 75. May be it is 57 or even “17.5.” But, it did not feel right. Now, it feels fine and I am happy at 75.

So, what is one’s life-span any way? As a matter of fact, this exact  question was asked by the great Gautama Buddha to his disciples, in one of his assmblies. Various answers came from his disciples:  60, 75, 80 or even 100 years. Buddha’s profound answer was that your real lifespan is just one conscious moment; rest is all memory of the past and imagination of the future. To me, that is absolutely true. In, that case, all of us are of the same age, the NOW age. We are all living and conscious of this precious moment. So, this Life is an even-playing field for all.

One other way to look at one’s age is to realize one’s connectedness in life. Sunanda and myself have been married happily for the past 51 years. We have three wonderful sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and six amazing grand children. So, if you add the ages of all family members, my immediate family-tree age comes to over 400 years. And also to that, if you add my whole family from India and all of my friends including all of you, then my Human age becomes several thousand years like the 4000 years old, giant Sequoia tree, still thriving in the Red Wood Forest of California.

In order to appreciate the common heritage of all life on earth, please read an article in this month’s National Geographic on “Genes Are Us. And Them.” Life on earth is about 1.6 billion years old and we carry genes that are common with so amny animals and even plants. We share genes with Baker’s yeast (18%), Wine grape (24%), Roundworm (38%), Honey bee (44%), Starlet sea anemone (54%), Chicken (65%), Zebrafish (73%), Dog and Horse (84%), Cow (85%), Mouse (88%) and Chimpanze (90%). The whole of Life-Tree is like the Sahasra-Purusha as described in the Purusha-Sukta of Rig Veda. All living things are connected to each other, by elements through our genes and also by the energy-awareness-being of that ageless Sahasra-Purusha.

The whole point of this is that with such a holistic perspective, all of us are ageless like the whole Humanity itself. Humanity and Life-at-large have continued in some form or the other, as far as and as long as we know. So, there is no need to fear the end of life, but to LIVE NOW fully with an appreciation of all the wonders of this amazing One Life. Not individual, but our Universal aspect continues. We have to learn to relate to that Universal Reality.

सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म तज्जलानिति शान्त उपासीत ||३:१४:१||

Sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ Brahma Tajjalāniti śanta upāsīta.

 

All this is Brahman. Brahman is Tajjalāna (tat-ja-la-an) “That (tat) from which the phenomenal existence (experience) emerges (ja); That in which it merges (la); and That in which it breathes (an). One should meditate on it with Serenity.                                                             Chāndogyopaniṣad 3:14:1

 

Then, I thought of the rate of aging and human growth. Can you believe that our youngest grand daughter, Sona, has just doubled in age; that’s correct, from 1 year to 2 years! What a quantum jump it is. Her brain and especially her vocabulary have doubled or even tripled in size. Unfortunately, my vocabulary is slowly shrinking; that is just a part of aging well. In a way, it is good forget the negative and the hurtful. Why carry the burden of the painful past. We have to learn to stay positive, like the  Buddha advised us to stay cheerful and joyous (Mudita), friendly (Maitri), comapassionate (Karuna) and equanimous (Upeksha).

William, our 3 year old grandson loves playing with his Toy-Story Big Buzz and he excells in show-and-tell on the Skype, whenever we chat with him from Shanghai, China. Elsa is talented in drawing and painting and she likes to get dressed up in a pretty pink costume like a beautiful princess. Amelia is studious. She is our Chinese and Music teacher. She is also good at playing soccer.

Now about Jayan; If you see some place that is way high-up and that is hard to reach, then be assured that Jayan has already climbed up there and he is ready to climb down without anybody’s help. He is very agile and good at rock-climbing and most sports.

Rohan is already behaving like a Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon like his Dad and Ashwin kaka. Just last week, he tested the range of motion of Sunanda’s left shoulder joint, when he noticed that she had stopped using her shoulder sling. She had a major shoulder-repair surgery, performed by the best shoulder surgeon in town, our son, Rahul. Some times, I joke that so far as the excellence in orthopedic surgery is concerned, Rahul stands out as the best in the Western Hemisphere and Ashwin as the best in the Eastern Hemisphere of this good Earth.

All six of our grand children are growing fast and well. Whenever we interact with them, they amaze us by how much they know and understand. I was recently surprized and humbled. I was typing on our ipad, “pbskids. c o m” for Rohan to play. He politely pointed out, “Aba, you don’t have to type all that; you just press this “.com”  key and there it was. He was right, of course. I was humbled and learnt something new. Remember, it is good for a 75 year-old grandpa to learn from his 6 year-old grandson. Learning never ends, at any age. Life is for learning. We feel very blessed to have six amazing grand children. They are the love and joy of our lives. They make us feel happy and young, every time we play with them. Life is good, even in these 70s!

We are truly proud of Abhijit, Ashwin and Rahul and we consider ourselves very fortunate to see them grow into highly professional, good-natured and compassionate gentlemen. We are also very proud of our loving daughters-in-law, Juliet and Sujata, who are also highly professional and caring of their families.

Come to think of it, I am not the only one who is growing old. All of us are getting old, day-by-day. Oliver Sacks recently published an essay in The New York Times, called, “The joy of old age (No kidding).” One of his line that struck me the most was, “One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, beauty.” He also said, “I am looking forward to my 80th birthday.” I am also looking forward to my 80th birthday. All of you are cordially invited on July 31st 2018, at this same beautiful place, Abhijit’s home.

Thinking of the beauty of Life, Nature and Mind, I would like to share with you a new poem that I wrote a few days ago. Hope you will enjoy it.

 

Shoreless Ocean with a Timeless Song

 

We were in the Florida Keys.

We went on a glass-bottom boat ride,

At the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park.

It was a clear, Sunny day and

The visibility of water was sixty feet deep.

When we reached the Molasses Reef,

The Ocean had put on a new colorful face.

Sometimes, it looked turquoise blue,

Othertimes, it was brilliant blue-green.

The Ocean was teeming with marine life,

From giant staghorn and brain corals,

To large schools of colorful fish, including

Parrot fish, Yellow-tails, and Blue-angels.

All this wonderful life was happily contained

In One Beautiful Ocean.

Last week, I was playing Chess

With Rohan, our six year old grandson.

I was showing him some of the strategies

That Bobby Fischer wrote in his book on Chess.

Then, we played a real game.

Rohan asked me to play “easy to medium.”

At the end of the game,

He checkmated my poor cornered King,

with his powerful and triumphant Queen.

He was so excited and jubilant

With his first big win against Aba.

I was also proud of his sharp and focused mind.

All of these loving moments were happily contained

In the One Ocean of our Mind.

This morning, I was doing Pranayama & Dhyana.

I was aware of the changing postures of my body.

I witnessed my inhalation and exhalation

And the quiet pause in-between,

When I experienced that unique foundational stillness.

I was aware of quietly counting breaths,

And noticing any random thought that passed by.

During these quiet periods, I could clearly hear

The unique sound of inner silence, which is known as

The anahata Nada, Nada-Brahman or

The transcendental sound of Avalokiteshwara.

I was aware of my present state of energy-being,

With a sense of ease and at-homeness with my Self.

Nothing was lacking in this serene, holistic field, as if,

The whole existence was blissfully contained within It.

In this shoreless ocean of awareness is

A sweet, whispered song of an endless Spring.

That silent song is clearly present,

When the listener, listening and silence,

Are fully integrated in one holistic reality.

That is the shoreless ocean with a timeless song!