The year was 50,000 B.C.; a Paleolithic woman, alone with her children, steps out of her cave and immediately picks up scent in the wind. There were beautiful wild flowers blanketing the landscape around her as a brilliant red and golden sunrise exploded in the sky. The lake that spread out before her reflected the luminous red and golden sunrise as a million diamonds danced on the rippling water, a sublimely colored display of sacred geometry in motion. The grace of spirit was all around and yet the beauty of this landscape escaped her awareness.
Hers was a brain built for survival, not reverence. The scent that she picked up in this pristine beautiful corner of the world was not the sweet, aromatic fragrance of the wildflowers all around her, in fact she didn’t even notice that exquisite sweet smell, because her sense of smell was tuned to notice the scent of predators in her environment. She felt no wonder or gratitude for the beauty all around her; she was being automatically prepared to notice only ‘threats’. Flowers weren’t important, the warring tribes to the east and the saber tooth tigers in the valley below were. Her environment required constant monitoring for danger around her and the constant threat of starvation required that she stay focused on surviving another day by finding food to eat.
Fortunately for her, and since there was no other options, the unconscious structures in her primitive brain were always preparing her to do battle with her world. Her life had no real sense of purpose or meaning beyond survival, for in this hostile, predator-rich world, she would be lucky to make it through her third decade of life.
Fifty Thousand Years Later...
Fifty thousand years later a 21st-century woman (or man) – maybe you – steps out of her suburban home and the same unconscious primitive part of her brain senses a thousand little tigers and countless warring tribes in her environment. She is also being prepared for survival.
Her tigers are different; her tigers are the demands and complexities of the modern world, the plumber she is waiting for – a cell phone tucked between her shoulder and her ear – to fix the dishwasher and relieve her of the dishes piling up in her sink. The late-arriving plumber is sure to make her late to an important work meeting. More tigers, in the form of an angry boss and poor performance review, a consequence of the meeting she is sure to miss.
Rushing in traffic she slams on the brakes as yet another tiger cuts her off as she misses her exit. She arrives late hoping the meeting will end before she has to pick up her children at school… worrying about money while ruminating about how she is going to go about making dinner tonight… rushing home with her kids yelling over the radio in her coupe, which is blasting an ominous warning of elevated terrorist alerts, on the evening before she has plans to fly down to Phoenix to visit her sister.
Tigers, tigers, and tigers – the lower brain perceives them everywhere – below the conscious threshold we are being prepped for battle, even in our modern lives! The shapes and sizes and actual threats are much different today, yet the Stone Age brain between our ears is the same.
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Our modern woman is locked into the same survival structures in her brain that the aforementioned Paleolithic woman was. She doesn’t notice the beauty all around her. She feels no wonder and awe for being alive at such an amazing time in the history of our species. She just has to get through the day. No purpose, no meaning, only survival. She doesn’t even realize the staggering improbability of her birth and that it took billions of years of evolution (spirit in action) to accomplish the exquisite masterpiece, the crown of creation that sits atop her shoulders.
Unlike the Paleolithic woman, this 21st-century human has a higher brain designed for transcendence. Newer areas of her brain, when awakened, can fill her with gratitude and awe and wonder at this marvelous world. However, her new brain is rarely if ever awake because the unconscious lower brain that is trying to unconsciously protect her from falsely perceived danger in her world, is eating her alive!
Of particular importance is that even in our modern lives the most basic and usually fear-based human drives (perpetuated by the oldest lowest primitive brain) are often still influencing if not dominating all areas of our lives. Unconsciously directing us back into fight, flight, freeze or fornicate, thus co-opting – for survival purposes – our beliefs, thoughts and behaviors while creating an internal and external personal and cultural environment that reinforces the dominance of the old lower brain mechanisms.
I believe we now have created negative feedback loops between the lower brain and its associated internal and external environments that lead to circular habituation between the lower brain and the life we create as a result of lower brain dominance. In effect the primitive yet powerful fear-based lower brain system predisposes our perspectives, behaviors, relationships and even rational thought processes to be directed towards fear-based survival, and round and round we go.
Humanity’s Challenges and Lower Brain Dominance
Humanity’s challenges are at least in part due to lower brain dominance and generally speaking the self-help industry has not had a good understanding of, or had many effective tools for changing the physiological component of our thoughts, behaviors and relationship to life. Our rampant addictions to food, sex, power, drugs, alcohol and social media all create lower brain reinforced habituated loops designed to keep our lives the same.
The inability to heal physically or change destructive behavior, violence, depression, the degradation of the environment, failing educational and financial systems, the inability to sustain positive life changes, are all signs of a world trapped in the grip of the lower primitive brain. Our personal future as well as the future of humanity is currently locked up in latent higher brain potential.
Why ‘Self-Help’ Seldom Helps
Sameness = Safety
So here we are, the 21st-century human, having won countless victories for humanity that have made life better for many, and yet recent research shows that we moderns are not very happy. We are stressed out and overwhelmed in life, we do not feel engaged in our careers, we are lacking deep spiritual meaning, and according to recent end of life research we die full of regret for what we did not do with our life.
What about you? Does your life feel stuck? Do you ever feel as though the world is stuck and you’re stuck in it? Do you feel like there is more to life than you currently experience but you’re not sure what it is or how to get it?
Perhaps you know what it is that would make your life meaningful but you still spin your wheels and true fulfillment always eludes you. Does it feel like the demands and complexity of life leave you feeling powerless? Do you see problems in your life and challenges in the world but feel like they are just too big, complex and ‘out of your control’ for you to make a difference?
Ever wonder why you start out on a new path, have a good plan, set inspiring goals, but still have areas of your life that don’t improve? Maybe some of these areas do improve for a brief duration but ultimately always return back to the same old patterns? Sound familiar?
Why Don't We Change?
A great many heart attack sufferers do not change their diet and lifestyle even after a physician has told them in no uncertain terms, ‘If you do not change you will die soon!’ If we don’t change with the motivation of imminent death, how can we possibly change just to create a better life, realize our full potential or find our true purpose and give our gifts to the world? Surely as compelling as these things are, they are still less motivating than impending death.
So why don’t we change? The challenge is what’s lurking below the conscious threshold, that old lizard brain of ours that does not want to change, even when we logically know that change really is in our best interest; however, the lower brain just doesn’t work logically.
Once the old behaviors get wired in and habituated by the lower brain, they become very difficult to change. Finding your purpose and creating an extraordinary life don’t motivate the lower brain’s unconscious programming.
Automatic behavior becomes hard-wired into the brain through a process called ‘myelination’. Everything that happens in your life has a representation in your brain. Specific behaviors in our lives correlate with specific physiology in our brains. Each time we repeat a behavior our brain wraps myelin (white matter) around the nerve fibers that fire when we take that path. Myelin accelerates the propagation of the nerve signal down a particular neurological pathway. Myelin thickens in representative areas of the brain each time we replay the same story in our life.
Once our Stone Age woman’s brain has registered safety associated with the path to the east, it continues to direct her down that same path, each time thickening the myelin material and building her brain in such a way that this particular pathway becomes a default, wired into automatically determining her behavior in a perceived hostile world. The important thing to realize is that as this pathway becomes a default setting in the brain it becomes habituated in her life. She will pass by many alternative pathways that may lead to a better life because sameness equals safety. The unknown is risky and now her brain won’t even let her go down another path.
Survival Based Brain
I hope by now you see where this is going. We (you and I) have this same survival based brain, now the ‘lower brain’ in us moderns, still trying to create sameness regarding our survival. However, we now have a higher brain that seeks transcendence and liberation. The newly evolved slumbering higher brain provides us the desire for a new life, but that old lower brain has its grip on and continues to habituate our old life.
Sameness equals safety. The unknown paths are avoided for the ‘sure thing’– the path that was already established as safe and led to survival – even if merely subsistence, waking up alive, is success to our lower brains. And since this brain is the oldest, and has existed the longest and can’t deal with the complexity of modern living it always reverts back to what it knows has allowed it to wake up alive.
Look at your life now, are you happy with your relationships, physical fitness, finances, career? Are you living a life of purpose and meaning? None of this matters to ancient survival brain strategies. Whatever your life looks like now, even if you are miserable, has led to your survival and your lower brain has habituated those life strategies. We may have bursts of passion, or moments of higher brain clarity and visions of changing areas of our life, we may have the best intentions and create great strategies to do exactly that, but alas, that old primitive brain wants your life to remain the same and it cycles you back into your same old life…because…yes you know, sameness equals safety.
Below the conscious threshold lurks the sameness generator and it overpowers your less established higher brain and higher potentials. The lower brain is addicted to the struggle, it’s the only territory it knows and feels safe there. There can be no growth, evolution or progress in your life if the lower brain’s grip isn’t loosened. All growth, evolution or progress requires change and the lower brain fears change and will dig in to stop it.
What good are most self-help techniques in the face of a million years of survival-based brain function that does not want you to change?
Why Health and Wellness Care Rarely Lead to Health and Wellness
According to research up to 90% of all medical doctors' visits are associated with stress. Stress and stress hormones (mediated through the old brain) have now been demonstrated to be associated with every major symptom, condition, or disease, including the major killers: heart disease and cancer. The blood flow and energy required to fuel the defensive systems in your body, which ‘protect you from a predator’ must come from somewhere.
There is generally a finite amount of blood and energy in the human body if the lower brain is reacting to the environment defensively, which research demonstrates is happening nearly 24/7 in modern culture. Blood supply is diverted into our defensive systems so we can fight, freeze, or flee in the face of a tiger (even if this tiger is traffic on the freeway). If a tiger is coming, you need larger amounts of blood supply and energy directed to the areas of your body needed to protect you, but this comes at a price.
This routing of blood and energy needed to protect you in the short term isn’t available to heal you in the long term if the lower brain response doesn’t dissipate. In addition to blood and energy diverted away from the higher brain it is also diverted away from the digestive system and immune system. Your immune system keeps you alive. It intervenes to keep a simple cold from taking over your body and killing you (as happens in immune-compromised cases such as Aids).
Your immune system fights and stops cancerous cells that are growing in your body (we all have cancerous cells inside us, the reason they don’t usually turn into cancer is that a properly functioning immune system finds the early cancer cells and destroys them before they proliferate), and it needs adequate fuel to do so. Even low-grade stress (lower brain mediated) compromises immunity, so it is not difficult to see why health and healing are severely compromised by lower brain stress physiology, or why turning on the higher brain and releasing the stress response also results in increased healing and immunity.
©2018 by Dr. Michael Cotton. All Rights Reserved.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, a division of Inner Traditions Intl.
Source Code Meditation: Hacking Evolution through Higher Brain Activation
by Michael Cotton, D.C.
Providing a simplified step-by-step guided process to SCM, Dr. Michael Cotton explains how to shift energy out of the lower “survive” brain into the higher “thrive” brain to bring confidence, clarity, and empowerment for transformative change in all areas of life. Distilled from the world’s most comprehensive philosophy, Integral Metatheory, SCM offers not only a way to create the brain state necessary to change the mind, but the crystal clarity needed to use these advanced meditative states to actualize your potential and live your destiny to the fullest.
About the Author
Michael Cotton, D.C., is a leading theorist in the evolution of consciousness, culture, and the brain. The creator of the Higher Brain Living technique with more than 30 years’ experience in personal and cultural transformation, he holds a doctorate in Chiropractic.