If you want to know what literally ‘is going on in your head’ then reading Dr. Fred Travis’s book Your Brain is a River, Not a Rock is a must. Written by the leading researcher in the field of Transcendental Meditation and brain neurophysiology, the book is packed with the latest findings in neuroscience and yet is easy to understand and enjoyable to read.
Transcendental Meditation for ‘brainiacs’ – what’s happening inside our heads
Dr. Fred Travis begins by asking the reader to do a series of exercises. The fun tasks demonstrate the extent to which our perception of reality is created just as much by what’s going on within as by what is happening outside of our heads. Having convinced you with first-hand experience that reality is not just ‘what’s out there’, Dr. Travis goes to deepen our understanding of the brain’s fascinating characteristics.
Throughout the book the reader is given a well formulated, easy to grasp overview of how interaction between brain and experience shapes our world – from infancy to childhood, from adolescence to adulthood. The accounts of children’s developmental stages not only provide evidence for the central argument of the book but also, without imposing, offer gentle yet powerful nudge for parents in the direction of understanding their children at any age much better. Father to three daughters, Dr.Travis illustrates some of the points with delightful personal anecdotes.
Brain is a river, not a rock
The central argument of the book is that our brain is, literally, in an unceasing flow. Even as grown-ups, our brain retains amazing plasticity as 70% of our brain connections change every day.
To have the reader really ingest this idea Dr. Travis uses real life examples ranging from how the brain enables the blind to learn the Braille to how stroke patients’ unaffected brain side can be ‘forced’ to take over command of the affected limbs. Dr. Travis also describes how the brain of London taxi drivers – who need to master the challenge of navigating all parts of the huge and chaotically planned city – differ from those of the city’s bus drivers who only need to follow set routes.
Yet the book does not constrain itself to merely describing the scientific findings. Your Brain is a River, Not a Rock also maps out a way in which each of us, if determined, can induce changes in our neural circuits. In short – how each of us can change the way we see the world.
As Dr. Travis says: “The brain controls what you can see and do today; and in turn what you see and do today changes the brain for tomorrow. It’s a feedback loop that we can control.”
How you can make your river-brain calm and clear
Dynamic brain is first and foremost a responsibility. No longer can we hide behind the excuse of fixed genetic resources or formative events which, long ago and for good, made us who we are today.
We influence and change our brain every single day. Dr. Travis talks about the neurological impact of our food and beverage choices, sleeping habits, alcohol, nicotine and drug consumption, environment and stress levels.
Meditation enters the picture when Dr. Travis discusses whether it is possible to reset the functioning of a brain which is running havoc as a result of perpetual stress response. The answer to the question is that yes, Transcendental Meditation practice which provides the experience of safety, wholeness and fullness can accomplish such a feat.
The reason for this, as Dr. Fred Travis explains, is that Transcendental Meditation brings about restful alertness – a condition in which “sensory content is dampened and ultimately stopped, while the wakeful circuits from the brain-stem are accentuated.” It is explained in the book that ultimately, as a result of consistent practice of Transcendental Meditation, the immovable inner silence becomes a predominant basis for one’s self-identification; conversely, the constantly changing outer activities leaves less and less of a mark.
An this calm and happy brain just looks at the world with much more loving eyes.