Navigating the Brain: Lessons from the Hawaiian Navigators

Iwas watching a program on the native navigators from the Hawaiian Islands (and it is a stunning place. Now on my list of places to visit.

As I understood it, these navigators actually used a process very related to the brain’s functioning and why our brain and CARE work:

1) They learned the patterns of waves in and from different directions and destinations so they could recognize each one.

This is essentially what our brain is doing when it learns something new. Our brain activity is really a series of interacting 3D waves -- imagine dropping a stone into a pool, then dropping another one a few feet away. You get a ripple of waves from the first one and a second, different, set of waves from the second.These sets of ripples meet in various places.

Let the ripples settle.

Now imagine dropping another stone in the same place as the first one. Drop a second stone in a different place than last time. Again, you have two sets of waves that meet, or intersect, but in a different pattern than the first time, since they are starting from different places.

The stones are like the events and sensory experiences and physical sensations and thoughts and feelings you have. The waves are how your brain "processes" this information, how it gets "coded". So the intersecting waves -- the places they meet -- are how your brain learns to recognize what you are experiencing.

Just like the Navigators learned to recognize the patterns of waves coming from different directions, your brain learns to recognize the patterns of your life experiences and your ways of thinking and feeling about them.

 2) They “felt” the intersecting patterns when away from land so they could locate themselves relative to the interactions of the waves.

What's important about this is the Navigators didn't use a conscious method of calculation like most western civilizations -- like the modern GPS and more traditional navigational systems using latitude and longitude or the star patterns. Instead , they used a form of nonconscious processing -- a sense of familiarity of how the rhythms of the ocean "felt".

Our brains process information the same way. Although you may tend to think of your brain's activity as being all the things you are aware of, there is actually much much more going on below your level of conscious awareness. Not only that, but the "familiarity"  - the recognition - always comes before the conscious awareness. In fact, we often end up creating stories around what our brains have sensed to explain what comes to consciousness. For example, our brains recognize the pattern of a angry shouting "father" and we respond to an irritated boss by backing down and getting quiet. We consciously explain this by rationalizing that "it wasn't the right time" to bring up our point or request. The explanation -- that we honestly believe is the True one -- only comes after our brain "alert".

(Some of that information and pattern recognition comes from the heart's brain, but that's another story...)

3) The intersecting wave patterns are actual “entities” to be recognized. And this is exactly how our brains work as well – we “translate” the intersecting wave patterns into something we are familiar with and respond to that familiarity.

What's unique about the Zengar CARE model of neurofeedback is that  the feedback to the brain is about these intersecting patterns and the kind of activity  that happens during the meeting of the waves.  Imagine that one of your stones was a big, honking, boulder. It would make quite a turbulent splash. Neurofeedback gives the brain information about that splash and helps it to actually decrease the amount of turbulence generated by the event. Of course, in our brains, it's not a boulder, but it can be something that generates quite a bit of turbulence in our brainwaves -- that angry, shouting father for instance -- and helping our brains to detect and respond differently to that turbulence can change the entire resulting "interference pattern" of the brain waves that follow.

By changing the turbulence, we change the pattern. By changing the pattern, we change our "habits of mind" -- the way we see and interact with the world. By changing our habits of mind, we change our lives.