3 – Adaptation – lets get together


So the key take-away here is: Belief’s act like instincts, changing our actions and the way we communicate, we are free to the degree that we can choose. Belief robs us of choice, and keeps us in damage control within our relationships.

Where we have been and where we are going

In “aliveness” I discussed why feeling fully alive enables greater wellness and enjoyment of life. In “attunement” I covered how we learn to relate to each other and where it goes wrong. In this post I will touch on why our biology evolved in a way that made stories so powerful.

Biological Advantage

According to Historian, Yuval Noah Harari, from about 70,000 years ago, Sapiens began to gain an advantage over other species (including other species of humans) by working in larger groups. This was made possible by our ability for more nuanced communications. Yuval, suspects that the ability to gossip about each other’s behavior increased the levels of trust and predictability. In this way, “stories” enabled us to work together in groups larger than our own direct experience of each member could enable.

Stories also gave us the ability to share and remember more detailed information, beyond what was available in the present moment. We began to pass information about past events that were likely to repeat and create harvesting and survival strategies for the future. As soon as we can accurately predict what is likely to happen we can use energy more effectively, by being prepared.

Non verbal cues speak loudly

The words we choose form only a small portion of our overall communication. We only use a small portion of our brains to process words. Voice tone, pitch, and timing can change the context of words. Non verbal cues including body language, eye contact, blink rate and of course facial expressions make up a great part of the messages we send and receive.
We are also very sensitive to detecting the tension in other peoples bodies, stiffening, was always a precursor to potential danger. When all the signals a person is sending line up congruently, it is more likely they will act predictably.

Learned Behavior

The high tide will leave shells, seeds and organic matter in a nice concentrated line that attracts crabs, birds and other creatures. When we know that we can harvest very effectively by just showing up at the right time. We can save energy. It is normal for species to develop both biological systems and behaviors adapted to new possibilities in their environments.

What was unique for Homo sapiens was our ability to hold a concept in our minds that was free of any external signals, (evidence). We could create ideas or pictures in our minds that did not have to conform with the reality of that moment. We could remember what had been and guess what was going to happen. This helped us to further develop specialized skills and talents that increased our value as individual members within our tribes.

Skill or Instinct

Our survival and chance to reproduce was enhanced by the value of our specialized roles within these tribes. The concepts we held in our minds gave us a biological advantage while the repetition of skilled actions formed new procedural memories, (those actions that we can do automatically).

Procedural memories are not the only things we can do automatically, when we receive signals of a potential threat, our bodies automatically tense, produce adrenaline, divert blood flow to our skeletal muscles and prepare us for a life threatening situation. This happens in the old part of our nervous system which is hard wired to produce fast responses, it happens before we have a chance to override or cancel the reaction.

Language enabled us to pass detailed stories, which when adopted as beliefs, also cause us to react automatically. Depending on how much emotion was assigned to them, stories allowed us to update our natural instincts.

Humans became adapt at both developing refined motor skills and at formulating powerfuly motivating stories.  How those stories affect our automatic nervous system will be the topic of the next post – Information Biology.

Research notes: Much of this is my own conjecture, and as such, will change along with my experiences. The amazing work of Yuval Noah Harari, gave me the insights and the confidence to present it this way.

4 – Assimilate – Information Biology


So the key take-away here is: All life is enabled by the transfer and utilization of energy. Contraction and defensiveness is supposed to be temporary, as it limits growth and creates stagnation, (higher entropy). Expnansion and receptiveness enable greater situational awareness, allowing for more effective use of energy. Beliefs that cause us to react in predictable ways often cause us to restrict the way that energy and information move through our bodies. We call this stress, it not only kills our cells, it keeps us acting out our learned fear management strategies. Freedom is about choice and it is not possible from a place of fear.

Measurement before management

In previous blogs I claimed that our base drive was to feel safe, and that we felt most alive only after this was achieved. To feel connected, we need to feel the way something other than self responds to us. We are the most receptive to sensation when we can relax. We relax to the degree that we felt safe and valuable within our “groups”. The way we learnt to transmit and read signals defines how we come to see ourselves in these groups. I endeavored to explain why, these signals, when triggered by stories, can influence our actions at the level of our instincts. In this post, I will look once again at the role of signals. There is a tendency to think of mind as seperate from body, as though we can use one to control the other. Far from being fragmented,  the way our biology interacts, expands outwards through ecologies and into economies.

Getting organized, cells before cell-phones

The basic roles of protection, accumulation, energy production, reproduction and organization all exist in single cell organisms. In multi-cellular organisms these functions can be delegated to specialized cells or groups of cells.  As the complexity of the organism increases, cells become tissues, and tissues become organs.

The more funky a creature gets,  the more advanced the intercellular communication that is required. Cells start to develop specifically to create, modify and transmit signals. The most advanced of these cells being the neurons that work in neural networks. Systems of neural networks become brains which work together with the endocrine system to send electrical and chemical, (such as hormones and neurotransmitters) communications throughout our bodies.

For all our complexity, we still need to push food, air and water, through the tubes and spaces of our bodies, we must still harvest and use energy effectively if we are to survive and reproduce. We must interact with each other and other species sustainably if we are to maintain an environment that continues to support complex life. Its still all about energy and accurate data transmissions, which I would like to take a closer look at in a latter post – “Swelling mistakes”

Mind Space


When the Noise becomes the Signal

To remain safe, effective and competitive a life form requires real time data from its surroundings. It must match its internal organization to the dangers and opportunities that are currently present. We know that organisms have the ability to learn from experience and, (to varying degrees) can imagine or forecast benefits of acting or investing energy in new ways.

The development of an advanced pre-frontal cortex allowed humans to form groups, assign specialized tasks and work together towards achieving common goals. More importantly, it enabled us to create stories that implied powerful concepts of advantage and fear. Those who behaved one way we’re sure to benefit and those who did not, well, they were in a different group anyway.

This ability to co-ordinate into large groups and delay instant gratification led us to create civilizations and develop technologies. We went from harvesting our food directly from nature, to trading it for goods and services with other humans.

Humans went from being organisms that required information about events in their environment (so that they could feed and breed), to organisms that needed to be able to influence the perception of others, while selecting which perceptions were safe to embody for themselves. To a large degree we left the realm of experiencing nature directly, to experiencing the reactions of other people and altering our actions to match.

Perception and Values

We learned to trade goods and services for energy, pleasure and survival. This new twist on the old reality shifted our survival focus. From the repeating patterns in nature, to the emerging themes in our cultures. Perception became nine-tenths of reality, because what was perceived by the group to be valuable, became valued. Increasing the perception of value, in some cases, became more profitable than increasing inherent value. To anchor these valuations at the level of the instinct, below the rational mind is to create a habitual market. As humans became the source of energy, new harvesting strategies were needed.

Freedom in Focus

I am guessing that most of you will of long ago realized that freedom is about choice, and that you can only choose that which you can see as a choice. Focus determines what we see, and what we hold in our “vision”.  There is competition, not just for our attention, but for our belief. Our belief’s guide our emotional responses, our internal signaling, our biology. Mind and body are inseparable, which is why focused movement is such a powerful tool for releasing non-useful stories. We will get to that oneday…

We can maintain our freedom to choose, to the degree that we can maintain our focus. Yet we find ourselves slipping off, into replaying past events or imagined futures, without choosing to. To understand freedom, or at least to save a great deal of energy, understanding the role of stories and of self valuation may be helpful.

Research notes

For an in depth look into how life’s quest for biological advantage drives the evolution of our cultures, I recommend reading chapter 2 of “Self comes to mind” by Professor Antonio Damasio. Without his 30+ years experience and wonderful insight, this concept would still be circling in my head looking for a way out. He has nailed it, magnificently.

Perhaps less obvious, though also helpful, was the explanation of military strategist John Boyd’s work on the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide Act) by Brett and Kate McKay offering a western look into strategic processing, (an interesting counterpart to Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Moyomoto Musashi’s book of 5 rings). Without time bobbing around on my SUP, and helping others to “re-inhabit” their bodies more fully, on the water, this would be less clear.