14th Dalai Lama, Dharasmala, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are 3 things I look forward to in January: blooming hyacinths, stillness in life and house and the Mind and Life Talks. His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with the world’s top scientists, going on year 26, live stream from here.
Right now I’m watching a conversation about brain development, childhood discipline, neglect and training, and the Dalai Lama is teasing the speaker, who really wants to talk about neuroplasticity. A religious and political leader who chooses to use his influence to cultivate theoretical discussion about the forefront of our understanding of mind-brain science is simply inspiring and inoculates me against cynicism for at least half a year. Which explains why I’m here watching the talks live on a Friday night. Geek out.
Discussing what happens to neurons and dendrites – particularly in early development – under stress, how their growth is stifled and stunted, and the relationship of stress to vigilance and emotion, I am reminded how crucial my practice of yoga and sitting meditation is to my peaceful life filled with hyacinths, hugs and humble quietude.
Having experienced profound trauma in my early life, I’m keenly aware that my
Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
brain fits into the categories being discussed. Diagnosed more than 2 decades ago with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yoga, meditation and tai chi were crucial in putting my life and insides together anew. They are not, of course, panacea, and occasional “tune-up” visits to a therapist for EMDR, talk therapy and guided meditation are incredible tools. My life with this history has been an incredible teacher for me. I have been constantly reminded of the value of silence in life as well as the need for teachers and community to provide a context for practice.
The Mind and Life discussions help me understand myself and reinforce the value of my practice. More than that, though, they make me hopeful and optimistic about the future. Scientists sitting down to explain complex research – their life’s work – in lay terms to a passionately interested leader who expends his resources to bring them together, and a whole youtube channel dedicated to making these discussions freely available: I find comfort in this set of facts, in the caring and careful attempts to understand ourselves and in the reminder that I have a practice that gives me tremendous power to heal intergenerational trauma – mine and others. Time to go sit. See you on the mat.