Ramification: an accidental consequence that complicates things.
When our thoughts are subconsciously driven there tends to be many unintended ramifications. One thought leads to the next, makes a diversion, another subject or memory is added and before we realize it, our thoughts seem out of control or at least take an unintended (or apparently aimless) path. Endless loop thinking too is the result of thoughts going in circles by this ramification process: we search for a solution to an issue but our search may just end up back where we started.
How does this happen? Where or what is it in the brain that is driving this thought process? The answer lies within the intricate network of communication between sending and receiving cells.
Cells do not directly connect one with another. Instead there are junctions between them called synapses which are basically gaps. This applies to all the cells in the body including brain, organs, tissues, etc. A message is only delivered when the sending cell has enough electro-chemical force behind it – otherwise the message simply is not carried on to the receiving cells. Once the message successfully crosses the gap, the receiving cell transfers it on through electro-chemical transmissions to other cells. The key lies in this gap and in the messengers whose job it is to shuttle the information back and forth. When the message makes it across the gap, this is referred to as ‘activation’ and when they do not this is called ‘inhibition’. The chemical messengers in the gap are called neurotransmitters as their job is to transmit the nerve messages. The late Candace Pert dubbed neurotransmitters, “the molecules of emotion”. There are many neurotransmitters but the most important appear to be serotonin, dopamine and GABA. Serotonin is associated with well-being, appetite, sleep and many other functions – 90% of serotonin is in the GI tract. Dopamine is the ‘pleasure and reward’ neurotransmitter, driving us towards people, events or things in our environment that are attractive and modifies our behavior accordingly through a pleasurable feeling (chemistry) of ‘reward’. Addiction to behaviors such as over-eating, gambling, sex, is really addiction to our own bodies dopamine stimulation and not really to the behaviors themselves. GABA (gamma-amino-butyric-acid) acts as an inhibitor in the brain and nervous system, the body’s own tranquilizer. Medications in the benzodiazepine class are GABA mimickers and if used over the long term can have deleterious side effects.
The gap between our cells is analogous to the gap between our thoughts. Pause for a moment withthat awareness. (You are experiencing the gap when you pause).
As stated above, our thoughts, when subconsciously driven, tend to be self-propelling, one on top of the other. The consequence is a repetition and a deepening of perception and ways of thinking (like grooves in a record). This repetition reinforces learned ways of thinking and learned behaviors, world views, attitudes, beliefs, etc., that lie deep within the subconscious. This is why change is so difficult for many people. There is true imprinting in our cell networks referred to in previous sutras as the DMN (default mode network) the brain and bodies auto-pilot.
Behavior modification and other psychological approaches to change often help some but for others the challenge of changing deeply held belief systems can be a daunting project. Indeed, many of us struggle our entire lifetime with patterns we know are not for our highest good. There is also the effect of collective beliefs, beliefs held by religion, culture, science, medicine and society that influence us on a daily basis. This is actually quite dangerous because with the presence of almost instantaneous media our opinions and beliefs about life, about what gives us happiness, and the political, environmental, social and economic views of the world around us are constantly being influenced and manipulated by minds whose motives may not always be in our best interest (or the best interest of our planet). All this influences the gap – whether we know it or not and must be made conscious so that we do not blindly accept that which is unacceptable, false, harmful or erroneous.
For As He Thinketh In His Heart, So Is He. Proverbs 23:7
Why is it that some people heal miraculously? How do we explain the incredible changes we know the human body is capable of? Is it simply unexplainable? The answer is in the profound realization of the reality that ‘we are what we think’. And this takes us back to the gap.
There is supporting evidence that the DNA within our cells is informed by the neurotransmitters crossing the gap. The DNA carries the blueprint for the architecture of our body and for each individual cell. That means the messages, good or not-so-good, in terms of stress, well-being, etc. (literally what is happening in the gaps) determine the information that our cells receive. As an example, if we are experiencing stress and our neurotransmitters relay this message, the cells will respond and be effected accordingly. If we are experiencing well-being then too the cells will receive those chemical messages. This affects the health of our cells, organs, tissues, our immune function, including autoimmune, and to a degree, even the gene expression of whether or not certain genetic diseases are activated or deactivated. So how do we take a conscious role?
Again: The gap between our cells is analogous to the gap between our thoughts. Pause for a moment with that awareness. (You are experiencing the gap when you pause).
When we experience the quiet-neutral-silent conscious state of presence we are in pure potentiality – the gap is in pause mode between thoughts. In this pause we are the essence of our being – the absolute unified field of consciousness – the divinity within – superconscious. From this depth arises impulses of intelligence, the same intelligence that keeps the universe and its process’ in perfect order – this is what is meant by ‘all knowledge is within’. Out of this depth our true identity as divinity bubbles up to illumine our mind and consciousness. The impulses create a dynamic flow of information we perceive as inspiration and spiritual awareness and eventually appear at the surface as our ‘enlightened thoughts’. Learning to access this depth, to consciously experience this, is the objective of superconscious meditation. Learning to do this will effectively change the outcome of what is occurring in the cellular gaps – we can reset and change the course of the trajectory of the chemical messages within the gaps. This is done by ‘being’ in the gaps between our thoughts.
How to Proceed
First, Do An Inventory
As a practical exercise ask yourself: What thoughts are habitual? i.e., what thoughts or attitudes keep making it across the gap? Worry? Anxiety? Doubt? Fear? Anger? Depression? Pessimism? Resentment? Jealousy? Lack of faith or trust in yourself? or Life?
Second, Read Through the List of Virtues
If any of the virtues listed at the end of this sutra resonate for you then pick just one (or two at the most) for your practice.
Third, Try This: Take the Message Into the Gap
Get a mala, or prayer beads, usually made with 108 beads – most bookstores carry these. The tradition of 108 beads is open to interpretation – once when Paramahansa Yogananda was asked by one of his students how many rounds of a certain practice to perform, he replied, “Oh, one hundred and eight.” When asked why he said, “It sounds like a good number!”.
The best time to practice is at the point in your meditation session when you are experiencing the greatest degree of quiet and stillness (but anytime will suffice). Use your right thumb and right middle finger to grasp the bead next to the beginning bead, and mentally repeat just one time the virtue/s chosen from the list. It can be helpful to synchronize the mental repetition with your breath – try it with inhalation or exhalation and see which feels better. Then pause for a brief moment in the silence – this is the GAP. Feel as if the quality of the virtue is bubbling up from within you to the surface just as bubbles arise from the depths of a still pond, creating ripples that reverberate throughout the pond. Let it ripple through every cell of your body and through your entire being. Let the ‘pond’ reach stillness again and then move to the next bead and repeat the process. Continue on in this manner for 108 beads.
Grasp a bead and mentally repeat one time a chosen virtue such as, ‘Happiness’, experience the ‘ripple’ effect, pause and rest in the stillness for a few seconds. Move to the next bead and again mentally repeat one time, ‘Happiness’, pause and rest in the stillness, and so on for 108 repetitions moving from bead to bead.
Pause momentarily in the gap in between repetitions but for no more than just a few seconds otherwise it will take quite some time to get through 108 repetitions and the mind may begin to wonder if given too much time in the gap. One second for the mental repetition of the virtue with a five second pause would make the total time approximately 11 minutes to get through 108, which is reasonable for most people. So just do what feels natural and comfortable. When you feel like you have experienced the quality of the particular virtue or just feel ready to move on, reread the list, see what resonates and try others. The evidence of whether or not this practice is working will be in your daily life -are you more aware of the virtue? Is the gap still maintaining habitual patterns or is the virtue now more and more in your awareness?
This practice is not just ‘positive thinking’. It is much more than that. Neither is it reprogramming. When you do this practice on a regular basis you are allowing your soul qualities to arise to the surface – they are already there, no need to program. The practice is simply a way to consciously access, acknowledge and to open up a way for these virtues to manifest. At the level of the cells of the body, you are giving information to the gaps – creating the chemical equivalent of the chosen virtue. This chemical equivalency will saturate your cells with the positive energy associated with the virtues and unblock those areas that are not in line with the purity of your soul. Eventually old habitual negative patterns and the associated chemistry will be altered with diligent practice.
In summary, it is the simultaneous gap between our thoughts and between our cells where there is a temporary pause. The gap can even be recognized between our breath – at the point where inhalation pauses and turns into exhalation. The trajectory after the pause can take either a positive or negative direction depending upon the ramifications of the content of our subconscious mind and the effect of these ramifications on the chemistry (neurotransmitters) within the gaps. Within the pause is divine presence – a silent connection to the depth of our being and contains unlimited potential – to grasp this is to grasp the key to breaking free from the past and therefore to changing the future. We can take charge of this by being observant, being present, and being conscious of our thoughts and of the gap. It is a subtle awareness and requires keen perception but by following all the practices outlined in these sutras the gap becomes more and more accessible.
List of Virtues, Qualities and Attributes