I took a walk yesterday along the Clackamas River, and decided to do some mental and physical pruning along the way, surrounded by fallen leaves, thriving mushrooms, high riverbanks, and tough tree buds preparing for spring months away. As I walked through the chilly damp air, my body heated up and my vision cleared. The sweat evaporated in a mist similar to that of the clouds enshrouding the forest, and I felt lighter and more focused as my tension followed the mist, joining the fog to condense into droplets that fed the rushing river below. Very slowly and with loosening motion I unfurled and felt hunger. This finally felt like autumn.
According to this article in wikipedia, the act of mental and emotional maturation is a deeply physical process at the neuron level:
Despite the fact it has several connotations with regulation of cognitive childhood development, pruning is thought to be a process of removing neurons which may have become damaged or degraded in order to further improve the “networking” capacity of a particular area of the brain. Furthermore, it has been stipulated that the mechanism not only works in regards to development and reparation, but also as a means of continually maintaining more efficient brain function by removing neurons by their synaptic efficacy.
- Abitz, Damgaard et al. (2007) Excess of neurons in the human newborn mediodorsal thalamus compared with that of the adult, Oxford, Oxford Journals  (Licensed under a Creative commons license)
- Chechik, Gal & Meilijison, Isaac. (1999). Neuronal Regulation: a mechanism for synaptic pruning during brain maturation Isreal:Stanford Journals  (No license specified)
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On my drive home, I stopped at a bar for some soup and coffee. In it I found this bit of advice, tucked away in a reading corner:
“If you have assumed a character beyond your strength, you have both played a poor figure in that, and neglected one that is within your powers.” -Epictetus, from The Golden Sayings of Epictetus in The Harvard Classics, Vol 2. (1959)
Time to recognize limits, so that one may thrive. Cut off the dead bits that may have looked good once but now only harbor disease. Find the core of your vitality. Yep, it’s autumn.