Éiriú Eolas
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Newsletter October 2011

Dear Éiriú Eolas family,

You might have heard us in our meetings talk of the importance of doing the breathing and meditation together as a group, and many of you have experienced reaching a deeper meditation level when practicing in a group than when on our own. You might have heard us mention the concept of limbic resonance, also known as the “empathic harmony” that arises when our limbic systems connect with each other, in a mutually enriching experience. The concept was first introduced in the book, The General Theory of Love, written by psychiatrists Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, in a scientific, yet very poetic style.

They posit that limbic resonance is vital for survival, especially for infants of the mammalian group. The authors cite a terrible experiment undertaken by a 13th century emperor of southern Italy, Frederic II, who in his unwise mind thought that he could find out the inborn language of mankind if he raised children who never heard a spoken word. He had women bathe, change and feed the infants, but no one was allowed to talk to them or prattle with them. The experiment did not produce any results because all children died before they reached talking age. In the 13th century this monarch proved (in such a horrible way) what the scientists of today are learning by experimentation and observation: that “children could not live without clappings of hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments”. It is the limbic connection with their primary caregivers that keeps them alive. As for the adult human version, it is our limbic resonances that keep us healthy, and banish one of the biggest stressors of our daily living: feeling lonely and neglected.

Below are some excerpts from the book, about the importance of our limbic brain in our mammalian evolution and our everyday interactions. We hope you will find them compelling enough to read the whole book.

Limbic resonance is one of the wonderful results of a group breathing and vocalising together, which is of course, what we do in group sessions of Éiriú Eolas. Increasing limbic resonance encourages the development of all that is best in human society: warmth of feeling, empathy, connection. We hope that those of you who are able to go to classes will make it a regular part of your life. For those currently far from a regular class, you still make another sort of connection with those practicing on Mondays and Thursdays. Thought and feeling aren’t limited by time and space!

Humanity’s second or limbic brain drapes itself around the first [reptilian] with a languid ease. Within its smooth curves, however, lies a company of neural gadgets with tongue twisting appellations. The limbic list sounds like the incantation of a magus: hippocampus, fornix, amygdale, septum, cingulated gyrus, perirhinal and perihipocampal regions.

Early mammals evolved from small, lizardish reptiles. The peculiar mammalian innovation — carrying developing young within a warm-blooded body rather than leaving them outside in eggs – had been established well before an errant asteroid rammed the planet and put the chill on the dinosaurs. […]

High school biology draws the distinction between reptile and mammal along somatic lines: mammals sprout hair rather than scales; they are self-heating, while reptiles rely on the sun to regulate body temperature; they give birth to babies, not eggs. But MacLean [father of the triune brain hypothesis] pointed out that this classification overlooks a major brain difference. As mammals split off from the reptilian line, a fresh neural structure blossomed within their skulls. This brand new brain transformed not just the mechanics of reproduction but also the organismic orientationtoward offspring. Detachment and disinterest mark the parental attitude of the typical reptile, while mammals can enter into subtle and elaborate interactions with their young.

Mammals bear their young live; they nurse, defend and rear them while they are immature. Mammals in other words, take care of their own. Rearing and caretaking are so familiar to humans that we are apt to take them for granted, but these capacities were once novel — a revolution in social evolution. The most common reaction a reptile has to its young is indifference; it lays its eggs and walks (or slithers) away. Mammals form close-knit, mutually nurturant social groups — families — in which members spend time touching and caring for one another. Parents nourish and safeguard their young, and each other, from the hostile world outside their group. A mammal will risk and sometimes lose its life to protect a child or mate from attack. A garter snake or a salamander watches the death of its kin with an unblinking eye.

The limbic system also permits mammals to sing to their children. Vocal communication between a mammal and offspring is universal. Remove a mother from her litter of kittens or puppies and they begin an incessant yowling — the separation cry — whose shrill distress drills into the ears of any normal human being. But take a baby Komodo dragon away from its scaly progenitor, and it stays quiet. Immature Komodos do not broadcast their presence because Komodo adults are avid cannibals. A lifesaving vacuum of silence stretches between a reptilian mother and young. Advertising vulnerability makes sense only for those animals whose brains can conceive a parental protector.

And mammals can play with one another, an activity unique to animals processing limbic hardware. […] What in the world do activities like these accomplish? … why do all kinds of mammals want to frolic, gambol, tumble and roughhouse? For a mute mammal, play is physical poetry: it provides the permissible way, as Robert Frost said poems do, of saying one thing and meaning another. By the grace of their limbic brains, mammals find such exultant metaphor irresistible.

[…]

The limbic brain is another delicate physical apparatus that specializes in detecting and analyzing just one part of the physical world — the internal states of other mammals. Emotionality is the social sense organ of limbic creatures,…, enables a mammal to sense the inner states and the motives of the mammals around him. […]
Within the effulgence of their new brain, mammals developed a capacity we call limbic resonance — a symphony of mutual exchange and internal adaptation whereby two mammals become attuned to each other’s inner states. […] To the animals capable of bridging the gabs between minds, limbic resonance is the door to communal connection. Limbic resonance supplies the wordless harmony we see everywhere but take for granted — between mother and infant, between a boy and his dog, between lovers holding hands across a restaurant table. […] Because limbic states can leap between minds, feelings are contagious, while notions are not. If one person germinates an ingenious idea, it’s no surprise that those in the vicinity fail to develop the same concept spontaneously.

Warm regards,

The Éiriú Eolas Team

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