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The Tinkered Mind
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April 26th, 2019
Ecological succession is defined as the changes in species structure over time in a given place. Deserts can turn into grasslands given the right circumstances and grasslands can eventually lead to an even richer complex of species as we see in forests. The key to this process is that consequences of something living in a given place inevitably changes that place. For example when grasses are trimmed, as per the lunch of some herbivore, the grass also abandons some of it’s root structure in order to balance things out. Without the little green solar panel above, there’s not enough energy to run the systems of such a large root system, and so the parts of the root system that are left behind contribute to a richer soil upon which all the grass grows, and this soil, with time can grow rich enough to support larger species, like trees.
However, the desert is the fastest growing landscape on the planet. The succession process just described is occurring in reverse. That succession process is a good example of a virtuous cycle, and the process of desertification that we now have is an example of a vicious cycle. Both are very similar but one leads to a better place and one leads to a worse place.
Such a successional process may pose an apt analogy for the mind. We might think of the ideal state of a mind as one where it’s at rest with the body and primed without distraction for creating and exploring interesting ideas. Or as is often said, being in the zone. What conditions can we have an effect on in order to remove friction from our mind’s ability to slide into this zone?
Sometimes, it can feel like planting a tree in the middle of the desert and wondering why it doesn’t flourish.
What successional stages does the mind benefit from in order to flourish with the ideas that will make tomorrow better?
Could any question be more pertinent when reports of depression and anxiety are at record highs? The desertification that is occurring to our environment seems to have a twin process in the minds of the population that is suffering more and more. What first step is required to help slow the process and eventually turn the tide?
For an individual these questions are far easier to answer. While diet and exercise are jabbered about ad nauseam, both require a monolithic foundation in order to function properly: namely sleep.
To highlight the ecological allegory, sleep might be akin to the rain that nurtures the landscape. Perhaps no image is more evocative of this than the colorful super blooms that have occurred in California with the end of the drought and the return of the rains.
For the individual, everything becomes easier if sleep is dialed in, especially all the other things that a person can do in order to Level-Up their mental state:
For example just think about how much easier it would be to try and meditate after a good night’s rest, as opposed to just a few restless hours?
How much stronger does the body feel, and when results of exercise and good food and meditation are released back onto the brain, how much cleaner and smoother is our thinking?
Just as the species who live in some microenvironment change that environment, so to do our activities and our thoughts change the landscape of our brain. Lavishing that internal environment with everything it needs only makes it a better place to inhabit, and since there’s really no other choice about where and what to inhabit, it’s clear we need to nurture this space as much as possible.