The parenchyma, have you heard this beautiful word before? It is the dress and substance of our brain; this mighty gland, this super active tissue field in our head.
It is made up of billions of neurons and glial cells. The latter have become superstar in neurology lately as they are the knights, the protectors, feeders, repairers/rewirers and connectors of our nervous system.
Glia (meaning ‘glue’ in Greek) actually make up 85% of our brain cells!
Scientists always thought there was no lymphatic system in the brain. How could there be? How would the brain, this almighty structure, cope with microbes and bacteria?
But not only is there a lymphatic system, called glymphatics, as it is operated by glial cells, but there appears to be, as per a latest survey (see http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/tantalizing-evidence-brain-microbiome), an actual brain microbiome, just like in the gut, as bacteria (possibly travelling from the gut) have been found in some of these glial cells, the astrocytes…another great word.
We mirror how we see the world don’t we? And it is fascinating how science reflects the external subtle shifts that are noticeable in the outside world structural/systemic history: from top down to bottom up and now circular, at last sealing the loop of reciprocity that is everywhere in nature.
The brain is coming down from its pedestal to re-connect and become part of the whole body story. Wow!
Of course, it is still to be regarded with all the awe it deserves, it is after all quite a remarkable system, and one we know actually very little about according to scientists who are currently mapping the brain (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMYJn2-1u2Q)
This was the subject matter of a fascinating biodynamic craniosacral post grad workshop I recently attended, Ged Sumner’s “the Brain in Depth” with Body Intelligence Trainings.
One of the neuroscientists on the panel of the Architects of the Mind, Douglas Field, (see you tube link above, well worth a listen by the way even if the title is very ott!) tries to demystify the brain as a ‘super computer’ at one stage stating that the brain is, like the rest of our body, “made of cells and what are cells? They are bags of sea water… Billions of bags of sea water.”
As I hold a brain like a cradle, I perceive this fluidity, the super morphic abilities of these amazingly simple and super sophisticated structures, super connected and wired, ‘glued’ together and bathed by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blood and brine.
The cells communicate through exchanges of cytoplasm, like a “squirt gun”, says Field and they also use “brain waves” to “couple neurons together”…something scientists are beginning and trying to figure out.
Ged Sumner talks of CSF — what the founder of craniosacral therapy William Garner Sutherland considered to be “the highest known element” in the human body — as a “cytoplasmic fluid, similar to the rest of the brine bathing the brain cells”.
Granted when our hands hold the sparkles of this elixir, it does feel super potent, and magical, indeed. This very often triggers another phenomenon in the whole body, as the nervous system hits a still point, revealing a whole array of reorganising. It is the most beautiful dance to witness from our therapeutical back seat.
As evolution tells us, we were amphibians and came from the sea before ‘landing’ as mammals. So this brine bathing our brain, our cells, could well be a remnant of our lives at sea. And let us not forget that William Sutherland also noticed while observing the bones of a skull that the edges of a sphenoid and the petrous part of a temporal bone were “bevelled like the gills of a fish, to allow for respiration.” This subtle observation would later lead to major findings around the motility of bones, organs and the fluid rhythms at play within the whole body.
I recently watched two BBC documentaries about the only indigenous tribe that survived the conquistadores, the Kogis (watch freely here https://www.taironatrust.org/)
The Kogis are the descendants of the great Tairona civilisation which were contemporaries of the Incas and Aztecs.
For them the Earth is a person and they see themselves as its guardians and act accordingly.
They call their home, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in Colombia, the “heart of the world”.
According to them the universe “is very large and we see very little of it. Se, the darkness, is the mother and father of everything,” explains Mama Shibulata. “We were left objects, maps that show us where to connect with the darkness. These places, or nodes, are called esuamas.”
The Mamas are Shamans that have actually lived in darkness for the first 9 to 18 years of their lives to learn to connect with the spirit of everything.
Their intuitive understanding of all that lives and their perceptive abilities are far far greater than any of us could even imagine.
“The world of Se, the dark world we cannot see, is linked to the material world in places which must not be damaged,” the esuamas.
They add that these sites are “threaded together” and when we see them on a map in the film Aluna, they are the mouths of estuaries, rivers that connect to the hinterland and the lakes high up in the mountains. A whole system of fluidic homeostasis whose optimal state is highly dependent on the ‘health’ of all these ‘esuamas’, these nervous epicentres of a kind.
Just like in a brain with its capillaries, arteries and veins, its astrocytes ensuring the communication between blood supplies, interstitial fluid and neurons and all the other glial cells…everything has a key role to play that works in a reciprocal loop: there is a flow in and a flow out.
The Kogis understand that about the Earth too, how it is not only the flow downward of rivers meeting the ocean that matters it is also essential that the integrity of these meeting points is maintained because it will affect the whole water/land/sky cycle and hence life high up on the mountains.
They see how the snows on the highest peaks have disappeared, how the lakes have dried up and how the industrial activities destroying these special nodes have damaged the whole habitat. Everything is interconnected.
In the same brilliant documentary, world renowned astronomer Richard Ellis is questioned about the interpretation of the Universe by the Kogis and he’s asked about this ‘darkness’, which astrophysicists call dark energy, “a recent discovery, a property of space that we haven’t yet understood that makes the universe accelerate. It is a mystery,” Ellis adds. “It fills all space. It could take another 100 years before we can understand what’s going on.”
This mystery is at play in our nervous system too. There is so much we do not know. We are only now really considering the concept of circularity, of reciprocity within our own systems, never mind our home planet and the Universe at large.
When I hear Ged Sumner say, “neurons need stillness more than any other cells in the body”, when I feel the bioelectric charges characteristic of neurons, I am reminded of stars in the still, vast, dark cosmos.
I sense that this darkness the Kogis talk about is not just out there, in the Universe. We are part and parcel of this universe, created by the same forces, and with the same elements. We could indeed learn so much from their radically different grasp of reality, one that intuits rather than discovers, proves and experiments.
As Arkan Lushwalla says, “Indigenous people and their communities are consciously inside the energy that circulates in the Earth and the Universe, communicating with these greater bodies.” (Deer And Thunder, 2017)