- Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
Noticing Our Nourishing World, Gut Feelings and Fractal Patterns
French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot coined a single word to describe a wide range of geometric structures or patterns found throughout nature, including trees, coastlines, our own branching blood vessel tree, the layers of tissue in the small intestines, and the neural network of our brain. The term is “fractals,” and it describes the richly-textured self-similar shapes existing everywhere. A tree is an example of a fractal. Each branch resembles a smaller version of the trunk. Even the leaves have tiny, branching veins which are self-similar to the branching trunk. A tree is visually complex, but it is made up of one simple branching pattern. The self-similar structures, patterns, processes, and information inside and outside your body share similarities with nature. You are an integral part of the pattern that forms the natural world––held by it, included within it, and safe to explore the opportunities it provides for learning and growth.
You can become healthier by simply appreciating or observing the beauty of natural scenes and by recognizing the fractal patterns they contain. People recover from major surgery far more quickly when placed in hospital rooms with windows looking out on natural scenery. By looking for and recognizing patterns, you can easily create your own stress-reducing exercises and see how you fit into the whole.
Which patterns and images make you healthier? Where is your community? What are you contributing to it and to your own life?
Your brain––that intersection between mind, body, and spirit––contains nerves branching like the limbs of a tree, and due to this fractal design, you can communicate with others and consciously perceive the world around and inside yourself. A healthy brain can process information in a way that “fits” a personal landscape shaped by attitudes, previous knowledge, and experience. Each time you encounter something new, you change the contours of your nervous system; you change “the fit.” Each time you notice something different, you extend the life of your healthy brain.
Do you notice differences or changes each time you reevaluate and reinterpret the experiences in your life?
Adapting and Absorbing
A defining feature of a healthy body, mind, and spirit is adaptability––the capacity to be consciously aware of and respond to unpredictable situations, puzzling feelings, or stress. The rich, complex fractal nature of our bodies and brains suggests that we are perfectly designed to enjoy life and the endless number of complex relationships in this universe both comfortably and safely.
The loops of the small intestines have a fractal structure, similar to the mesmerizing contours of nested Russian dolls. Inside these loops lining the intestinal walls are tiny villi, or loop-like structures which increase surface area. Found on the villi are yet more, even-tinier bumps that further increase the roughness of the walls, and on these bumps are . . . well, you get the picture. Complementary medicine and nutritional approaches, such as a gluten-free diet, help restore the fractal nature of the digestive system’s surface area. Our broader life choices influence our gut’s ability to make its choices.
All this surface area exists to catch the abundant sensory information within our gut, the place where important decisions are made about what to absorb and what to pass along to the large intestine. It is also the place to which we refer when having a “gut feeling,” an intuition, or bringing to consciousness added information with which to make choices. Perhaps healthier, more fractal-like guts help us create our own intuition fitness centers, accessing the wisdom of our subconscious mind while maintaining good boundaries.
What was the last “gut feeling” you had? Did you follow it? How did it feel? What change did you notice?
Fractal patterns invite us to look within and beyond perceived limitations, to broaden our view of the choices we have, and to see how we can influence the pathways of our lives and how they are all connected.
The great naturalist John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
What are you hitched to? Which pattern are you trying to pick out?
Fractals describe the irregularly-shaped objects in our natural universe—gnarled, rough-barked pine trees, dark smoldering rain clouds, the contours of the Peruvian Andes, California’s coastline. These shapes are self-similar down to the smallest levels which, it turns out, are too small even to measure. But they still provide texture to our reality. According to quantum physicists, the smallest thing is not even a thing; it is a process, a wave, a possibility.
Do you see the infinite texture of shapes, processes, and choices spread out before you like stars pulsing in the sky? Do you hear them calling, “Look at me!” ”Pick me!”? Can you see the vital parts of the whole?
Aldo Leopold said, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, unity, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
I leave you with this puzzle: What in your life, your work, or your message tends to preserve the integrity, stability, unity, and beauty of your world? Have you found what you are waiting for?
A Free Audio: Noticing the Nourishing World Meditation (replay from July 25, 2011) with Kimberly Burnham. Listen in on a guided meditation for the Messengers of Change Energy Circle.
About the Author
Kimberly Burnham, PhD experiences personal and professional successes in her private practice, after ten years as the director of VisionIMT. She enjoys miracles and facilitates healing for clients with macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and other nervous system disorders. She is the author of Our Fractal Nature, a Journey of Self-Discovery and Connection (ISBN: 978-1-937207-01-4) and a chapter, Fractals: Seeing the Patterns in Our Existence in “Pearls of Wisdom: 30 Inspirational Ideas to Live Your Best Life Now” ,an anthology of inspiration with Jack Canfield, Randy Davila, Marci Shimoff, Chris Attwood, Janet Attwood, Kimberly Burnham, Marcelle Charrois, Barnett Bain, Michelle Manning-Kogler and other thought leaders.
Become empowered by your fractal nature! Our Fractal Nature guides you through concepts and fun exercises to shape your personal healing potential to fit your needs. Tap into fractals to find new energy resources and expand self-awareness. Learn to recognize fractal patterns in your life, select the seed for each beginning, and surf life’s rhythms so you can choose to live in a friendly universe!