December is an interesting month for most of the modern world as people get together with their families, eat a surplus amount of food, and exchange gifts or perform other religious acts. This holiday is quickly followed by an entire week of shopping deals, in which people are likely to participate considering they are still in the "money-spending mood."
Humans have sought to explain reality since of the dawn of our species. Our thirst for the answers of the unknown is the driving force behind all innovations and advancements. When answers could not be found, we developed religion to fill in the gaps. Over time, we proposed the scientific method to measure the material world and interpret it through an empirical lens. In modern times, both spirituality and science are believed to be polar opposites with one being "faith" and the other being "realistic." Today, I want to challenge both perspectives to answer the life-long question: what is real and how real is real?
Interest in mindfulness meditation, yoga, and related practices have skyrocketed throughout the Western world. Although meditation has been documented to have its origins in the Indian Vedas (1500 BCE), the oldest scripts of Hinduism, some argue that the practice could have existed as far back as 2600 BCE, where the Hindu deity Shiva is portrayed practicing Tantric Yoga (below). Only recently, with the help of medical technology, have scientists been able to discover the effects of meditation far beyond its psychological and spiritual background. We are now beginning to understand how this ancient practice effects humans and the mind on a biological level.
The brain is the very center of our humanity, personality, and sense of being, yet we know almost nothing about its massive complexity. With the help of advanced technology, scientists have been able to map and analyze the brain down the individual neurons that determine our every thought and function; however, intelligence, with its companions consciousness and memory has remained hidden despite everything.
Every day is a new chapter full of characters, challenges, curiosity, and adventure. But as we write this book, the pencil gets smaller and smaller. Some of us create with longer utensils, while some of us do not, but we aren't in control of this. What we are in control of is how we take care of our pencil and what we tell it to write. If you were to look back on your story, would it be one worth reading? Regardless of your response, know that reading this means your heart is still beating. The truth is we're all dying as our pencil gets smaller and smaller, but how many of us have truly lived? You are the author of your life, the creator and the destroyer of ideas, the living and the dying.
The brain is the most mysterious and highly complex device in the known universe, being composed of over 100 billion neurons, each with 10,000 or more possible connections, forming an astounding 100 trillion connections called synapses. Unlike other body cells, neurons never touch each other; instead, they are separated by gaps only 20-40 nanometers wide (to put this to scale, a piece of paper is roughly 100,000nm wide). Remember, these numbers don't include the neurons that exist within your body, some of which being as long as the distance from your head to your big toe!