Heaven in the brain: the fascinating relationship between the Moon and neurotransmitters

Following an exploration of chronobiology and the anthropo-bio-cosmic relationship, we tried a method to increase cognitive performance and productivity based on the synchronization between the mind and the Moon

Man comes alive through the qi of heaven and earth; It matures to the rhythm of the laws of the four seasons.

The Yellow Emperor Classic

When Pythagoras was asked what time was, he replied that it was the soul of the world.


For the ancient man it was an incontrovertible fact that his life was linked to astronomical processes and seasonal cycles that marked the stars. Not only depending on heaven and earth - and their relationship of creativity and receptivity - to harvest their food, but also to cultivate a healthy and virtuous life physically and mentally. Man, as part of the earth, also receives from the sky the energy that allows him to grow. This was part of a cosmogony that has as its cornerstone the vision of the microcosm as a mirror of the macrocosm: a perennial natural philosophy that we find present to a greater or lesser extent in all ancient cultures. Modern man, not without arrogance, sees in this a trait of primitive magical thinking that rational thinking has surpassed. Stripped of this spirit, the medical paradigm of Western man does not take into account the influence of environmental factors and much less cosmic. But today we know, from our own experience, that modern western medicine is very good for attacking and removing acute conditions, but it suffers when it comes to curing and not only relieving the symptoms of chronic diseases (the diseases of time ). Traditions of ancient medicine, for example spagyria (plant alchemy) or acupuncture, heal by balancing and awakening the body's self-healing processes; Modern allopathic medicine "cures" by suppressing symptoms with drugs that generate side effects in other systems and organs, because these are not conceived as closely interdependent. There are, however, signs of greater openness to holistic systems within western medical science, especially from recent findings in epigenetics, and particularly in chronobiology.

As we saw in a previous article on chronobiology, there is a relationship between the particular quality of time and human health and its willingness and ability to perform certain tasks. In other words, not all moments are equal, and performing a certain action at a given time can be counterproductive or, in the opposite sense, doubly profitable, being catalyzed by the energy that prevails at that time (the universe as aikido process). Being aware of this, of the changes, of the cycles and of the different qualities of the moments, is already an important step to harmonize the body and the mind, save resources and store energy.

After this theoretical approach, let's continue with a practical application of chronobiology with the intention of verifying that this relationship between man and the cosmos is not only poetic analogy but energy correlation.

The praxis of the Moon

A few weeks ago we were able to interview Dr. Mark Filippi, whose somatic method is described in Present Shock, by Douglas Rushkoff, a media analyst who is perhaps the most legitimate heir to Marshall McLuhan. Rushkoff used the Filippi system, based on a connection between the phases of the Moon and four basic neurotransmitters, to maximize his performance by writing his book (a kind of walk-the-talk, since one of the topics in Rushkoff's book is the importance of becoming aware of the effects of living connected to the Internet 24/7 and abandoning natural cycles). Rushkoff explains how he worked with this method in writing his book:

I used the first week of the Moon to organize the chapters, do interviews, and talk with friends and colleagues about the ideas I was working on. In the second and most intense week, I locked myself in my office, with a definite task, and managed to write most of the book. In the third week, I edited what I had written, read new material and jumped into any section that called me, trying out new ideas. In the last week, I reviewed the structure and difficult passages and reprogrammed the nightmare that is my website. My own experience is that my productivity increased by about 40%, and my peace of mind during the whole process was completely transformed for good. Although this is anecdotal for anyone else, it certainly convinced me to remain aware of these cycles from now on.

Filippi describes his system, in its broadest conception, as an awareness of "the relationship between the inner world and the outside world." This based on an internalization of the quaternary aspect that governs the cycles in nature: four seasons, four moon phases, four quarters of an hour, four elements, four phases of breathing, etc. Four is an essential part of rhythm and measurement. "Four is a constant in the way things are organized in nature and how we absorb information, dividing it into groups of four, " Filippi explains.

Filippi's method is a continuation of the work of Irving Dardik, Joel Robertson and David Goodman, who, each in their field, have developed a theory about the oscillations in the physiological, emotional and mental performance of the human being. “My ecology emerges from the confluence of Goodman's four-phase model and Robertson's ideas about performance. I also know that there is a correlation with the acupuncture system [this is the lunar acupuncture system described in Yellow Emperor Classic ]. ” Particularly the history of this correlation between the Moon and the neurotransmitters originates from Goodman, who in recent decades has carefully collected information about dreams and emotional states in a journal of his own and from different subjects of study. Goodman suggests that there is a pattern: “Four natural emotional changes arise. I have reported these since 1996 as: ascending liabilities, ascending assets, ascending liabilities and descending assets ”. The idea that these emotional cycles are linked to the Moon comes from the book Body Time (1971), by Gay Gaer Luce, where the following hypothesis is proposed:

A calendar survey of the symptoms of healthy people will probably reveal that a surprising amount show oscillations in weight, vitality, optimal performance, pessimism, appetite, sleep; oscillations in brilliance and dullness, determination and apathy, volubility and imperturbability, malaise and robust well-being.

Indeed, Goodman documented the presence of these oscillations, which related to a dominant secretion of neurotransmitters according to the moon phase. With this he laid the foundations to explain why people go through different moods and cognitive abilities without changing their habits: there are cyclic environmental factors that regulate the production of our neurotransmitters. This is important since some people after feeling depressed or especially anxious for a few days do not take long to rummage through their medicine cabinet. It is necessary to point out that Filippi's system differs from the order that Goodman established, however, after repeatedly testing it, it has been shown to be consistent and yield positive results.

Filippi's somatic method is not only based on synchronization with the lunar cycle, but on a general synchronization of cognitive processes, internally and externally. Here, however, we will concentrate only on the connection between the lunar phases and the neurotransmitters. The basic correspondence is:

-First lunar week: acetylcholine

-Second lunar week: serotonin

- Third lunar week: dopamine

-Four lunar week: norepinephrine (or norepinephrine)

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that travel in the synaptic space carrying information from neuron to neuron. Most neurotransmitters are synthesized from the amino acids present in our food, but we also know that environmental factors influence the conversion of these neuromedial molecules. A well-known example is the decrease of serotonin in winter due to the lower exposure to the Sun, which produces the seasonal affective disorder; we can observe here an effect of a literal nature, the sunlight becomes serotonin, which keeps us animated; The darkness depresses us. There are numerous neurotransmitters, but both Goodman and Robertson and Filippi identify acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine as the dominant ones in terms of their influence on mood and psychophysical performance. "They are different flavors of coherence, " says Filippi, "and the four come to you all the time, but one is the main one at a certain time."

Some people seem to have a greater inclination towards one of these four great domains. “What is your tendency? "What is your predominant way of showing yourself in the world, " says Filippi. "Know your soma, so that you can adopt a strategy of refinement of the areas in which you have some natural deficiency."

You can follow certain indications to balance a deficiency in the production of neurotransmitters, without having to take antidepressants or seek permanent highs through things like sex and extreme sport. For example, Joel Robertson, in his book Natural Prozac, tells us that listening to Bach is a way to provoke the secretion of serotonin: it gives us an energetic calm. We can also make reforms to our diet. Another way is simply to be aware of the lunar calendar and the peaks and valleys that we follow in the course of 1 month (or the cycle we determine, since some of us might be a little outdated). This allows a kind of neurofeedback: if we see ourselves reflected in the mirror of the cosmos, a downturn in our performance will not be received with frustration, but accepted as a regeneration process in which we are participating collectively. An external tide that becomes internal.

Although Mark Filippi's system has the virtue of incorporating multidisciplinary new scientific findings, personally what gives me the most confidence is that it coincides in spirit with the observations made by the great classic of Chinese medicine: The Yellow Emperor Classic (Huangdi Neijing ), for some the bible of acupuncture. In the text attributed to the Yellow Emperor, it is said:

At the beginning of the crescent moon, the qi and the blood originate as essence, and the defense qi begins to move. When the Moon's disk is full, the blood and qi are full, the muscles and tissue firm. When the disc of the Moon empties the muscles and tissue diminish, the ducts and vessels become depleted and the defense qi is lost.

Physical appearance exists by itself. That is why one follows the seasons of heaven to regulate blood and qi ... One follows the sequence of heaven and times of abundance and exhaustion. The position [of qi] is determined in observance of the celestial bodies by moving [the position of their] light.

Some will see superstition and magical thinking in this indication that serves as a guide to modulate the intensity of acupuncture treatment; others (including me) will see a sample of ancient wisdom here, since this method continues to be applied with empirically endorsed results after more than 2, 000 years in China and numerous other countries where Chinese medicine is practiced.

The qi in Chinese medicine is a term that is generally translated as energy or air, but also has the connotation of "information" that can be directed in the body (with the dao-yin) to reprogram organic functions. Although obviously it is not the same, for practical purposes we can substitute qi for the different neurotransmitters and discover a similar pattern, which, on the other hand, is literally marked by the same Moon: more light is more energy and clarity. As in heaven on earth, and as in heavenly bodies in the human body.

The four neurotransmitters and the four lunar phases

With the interest that this method can be studied in a simple and practical way, let's review the particular effects of the different neurotransmitters and the classification made by Mark Filippi in his somatic system:

Philosophical — Acetylcholine-New Moon / Growing Quarter:

The first week of the lunar cycle corresponds to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and a filial inclination. “When we are sailing in acetylcholine, we become more sensitive, more apt to group activities and more emotionally receptive, ” says Filippi. This week is characterized by a lot of energy but not so much concentration. Rushkoff notes that in the week of acetylcholine "people have good energy and vivacity, it's great to introduce them to new ideas." Acetylcholine is neurologically associated with memory and learning (drugs that suppress acetylcholine receptors affect memory and learning). The new moon is the time to start new projects, to plant plants but also ideas, images and intentions and harness the ascending energy.

Ontosomatic — Serotonin — Crescent Room / Full Moon

The second phase of the moon, which goes from the crescent room to the full moon, corresponds to serotonin. This week you have a lot of energy and also a lot of mental concentration so it is ideal for creative work. This is the week in which Rushkoff wrote most of his book. Filippi recommends finding a solitary space to take advantage of these moments of lucidity in which our muse accompanies us. Serotonin participates in numerous organic functions, including a major role in digestion (so many gastrointestinal diseases are treated with antidepressants), but it is mostly identified with regulating mood. In the week of the growing room we feel full and full. This state, however, can overflow and unfold us if we do not find that reflective space to channel our energy. In other words, although many people may feel the attraction of using (and squandering) this energy socially, it is a time of work and personal cultivation.

Ecosomatic — Dopamine — Full Moon / Waning Quarter

Dopamine week is a week of distraction and entertainment, of getting involved in social and ecological activities, with an empathic quality. Dopamine is neurologically associated with experiences and stimuli that produce experiences, pleasure, reward and excitement. In the week of dopamine we can loosen and enjoy what we have done.

Exosomatic — Noradrenaline - Waning Room / New Moon

The week in which we enter the phase of “flee or fight” ( fight or flight ), a defensive state in which we instinctively protect ourselves (since we have fewer reservations). There is a lot of analysis, but little inspiration. "It's a hyperbinary, unidirectional and aggressive state, " says Filippi. Rushkoff jokes that it's like the mentality of Barack Obama. A partial return to the reptilian brain. If we do not squander our energy, it will be easier to overcome this week of nervous fragility.

Praise of the Moon (and a personal argument in favor of the Moon)

The Moon in the symbolic systems of antiquity ruled the water. We know scientifically that the Moon controls the tides, coordinates menstruation and affects ovulation, urine retention, and correlates with episodes of diarrhea and cardiovascular problems. The human being, as we were taught in school, is mostly water. That compound water that is blood carries oxygen (energy potential), nutrients and neurochemicals to different parts of the body. It is conceivable that the force of the attraction of the Moon exerts an effect, even if it is subtle, on this distribution system. In the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor it is said: “On the earth there are streams, rivers, and oceans. In humans there are channels and meridians. All of them with mutual influence. "

We appeal here then to contemplate the possibility that, although at first it is very subtle and difficult to perceive, our productivity and general well-being can be easily improved by following a practice of lunar harmonization, a kind of meditation distributed over 1 month, whose foundation is simply to observe the time (what Pythagoras called "the soul of the world") and the particular effects that it exerts on our organism, suspending the disbelief that we are independent and are separated from the other natural processes, that we are in a river apart, that runs alone, without influences. Play with the idea that animated Chinese philosophy: we are, like the emperor, the son of heaven. You really don't have much to lose.

When we live in a world that has lost synchrony, which is out of tune, it is appropriate to remember William Blake's phrase: "I must create my own system or I will be enslaved by another man's system." William Burroughs in The Revised Boy Scout Manual proposes as a first step to regain control of reality "proclaim a new era and develop a new calendar." Rushkoff updates: "If you don't know how the system you are using works, it is likely that the system is using you."

There is, of course, a more traditional and safer alternative to creating your own autonomous system. Leave the system imposed by the mainstream of society and find, in balance between individual observation - the knowledge of oneself, "Know thy soma", says Filippi - and the observation of nature, an integral system. One of the millenary systems that has best survived the passage of time - because it is an organic reflection of time itself - is the lunar calendar. The words month, menstruation and moon, in English, all have the same root (measure). The Moon is an old clock of light and water. Both the Chinese and the Hebrews continue to use a lunar base to give coherence and structure to their lives; the Maya, in their amazing astronomical perception, also developed an important lunar calendar; There are innumerable ancient cultures that ruled their lives by the Moon. The lunar calendar, in addition, has an advantage, it can be experienced in the body (that old internal clock), something that many women have proven, regardless of whether or not it is legitimized by science.

Remember, perhaps as an incentive, that the Moon in the Tibetan mandala of the Wheel of Life is what signals a possibility of escaping the illusory cycle of suffering and reincarnation; It is a symbol of the liberation of the imposed system. Meditating Buddha points to the Moon. Imagine this paradox: a more coherent temporal experience is what leads us to the timeless, to what is no longer subject to impermanence and mutations.

After 2 months following a lunar protocol in my work and activities, my impression is that the Filippi system (which also coincides with the Yellow Emperor's advice) has a certain coherence, that is, it fits elegantly to the effects of the Moon in human biology, although it allows certain interpretations and variations depending on an individualized adaptation. I feel greater energy and greater concentration when the Moon grows and a dangerous fullness in the full moon (which can be spilled and drained if a kind of tensegrity is not practiced), a subtle decrease in cognitive function and a greater apprehension in the phase dwindling (which, however, can be alleviated if one relaxes and is not obsessed with the energy lost: then there is a small and quiet death at the end of the lunar month).

After all, the calendar should not become a dogma or a chronobiological determinism, but rather a template that allows us to better organize our activities and catalyze the vibrant quality (the qi) of time. The fact of observing the effects and correlations between the different phases and seasons of nature and our body and mind is probably the main virtue of this exercise of health cultivation through energy and emotional regulation. It generates the effect, which we should not dismiss as secondary, of creating bodily awareness of our relationship with nature and the cosmos. That amazing sense of belonging returns to us: our actions make more sense and depth when they are linked to the processes of the universe.

Author's Twitter: @alepholo

Read here the first part of this series: Chronobiology or the importance of living in sync with natural cycles