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Pick Your Brain

Have you ever noticed how you can react to the same situation in different ways, depending on the day? It is most easily apparent in your close relationships. One day, the way your husband loads the dishwasher annoys you so much you go behind him and re-load it; the next, you don’t give it a second thought when you see bowls in the top rack. Yes, there may be other factors at play, but it ultimately boils down to science.

One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Joe Dispenza, talks about having two minds: one is survival and the other creation. These are defined by different brain wave patterns. In addition to the brain waves, certain chemicals are created and circulate through the mind and body. This is what creates these states. We need both to survive, but in this modern world, the survival brain is constantly activated by morning traffic or a new credit card bill in the mail, instead of a lion chasing us for its supper every once in a while. Therefore, we spend most of our time living from the survival mind and have little connection to the creative mind.

When operating from survival, the chemicals created in this state naturally cause us to perceive our reality in a certain way. If a lion is chasing us, our focus becomes hyper-vigilant on our surroundings in order to find the best escape. Our heart races, blood pools to the extremities in the fight-or-flight response. The body ceases any restorative tasks in order to focus on the survival of the moment. All of this works in our favor when we’re on the run, but when the stress is confrontation with coworkers, dysfunctional family relationships, worrying about the numbers in our bank accounts, coupled with staring at screens indoors all day, this beneficial survival state creates poor health in the mind and body. We see it every day in epidemic mental and physical disease, acts of violence, broken relationships, and suicides around us.

Yet we have also experienced the state of creation. It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be actually creating something to be in this state; however, all new ideas, projects, art, writing, music, and play requires the creation mind. Think about it. If a bear is chasing a caveman, he won’t be concerned about drawing on the wall of his cave. However, once he gets home safely, he can relax and easily switch back to the creative mind, where he might feel like making some cave art.

Reflect on your own life. When can you see that you are in the creative mind? It could be something as simple as cooking dinner or rearranging furniture, or something traditionally creative like sculpting, making music or art. When you’re in that state, time disappears. You feel relaxed yet energized by your task. In this state, blood is concentrated more around the internal organs, creating better functioning of all the body’s systems. There is also more energy available for repairs and healing. You may get new insights or inspired ideas that suddenly come out of nowhere. From this state of being, when you do think about a problem in your life, it doesn’t feel so heavy and absolute. You may even come up with a new solution to a long-standing issue.

What now? Now that you can see how you’re operating, is there anything that you can do about it, aside from renouncing your life to go live in a cave? You can find ways to train your mind and body to be more often in creation instead of survival. Aside from joining an art class, try meditation. It is the best way to retrain your brain to bring the brain waves down into a creative, relaxed state.

Maybe you’re groaning as you read this; I understand. It’s like talking to someone about going to the gym when they’ve never gone. It just doesn’t sound fun. When I teach meditation to new students, I give use the example of getting in shape. When someone joins the gym, they know it’s going to hurt for awhile as the body gets used to the exercise. If they stick with it, it gets easier, even enjoyable, and they also see the benefits when they look in the mirror or go for a run. Meditation is the same. The first time you meditate, it’s going to feel like you’re doing it wrong, you’re thinking too much, or it’s not working. Those thoughts come from the more active survival brain waves and chemicals. It takes time to retrain the mind to shift into creation. This is why it’s called meditation practice.

If you are new to meditation, I invite you to start with just five minutes a day, preferably right when you wake up. This is the easiest time as the brain is not yet in its fully awake, active mode, so it’s easier to get to the sweet spot from there. When you wake up, sit up and begin.

It’s also easiest for beginners to listen to a guided meditation. This gives the mind something to do. I recommend the app Insight Timer. You can search for thousands of meditations, by duration and also flavor: morning meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, etc. When you grab your phone to meditate, go straight to the app; don’t check your notifications until after you’re finished.

If prayer is a part of your life, pray first and then set an intention for your practice. Maybe you’d like to bring more peace into your day. Or maybe you intend for your practice to benefit the greater good, or perhaps you want to dedicate it to a certain person, that they receive good energy. Or you can just go straight into it.

Once you’re done, pause for a moment before you begin your day. Breathe. Feel your body. Relax. Intend to remember how this feels throughout the day. In the evening, look back on your day and see if you were able to bring more awareness of how you were being. If you are consistent with this, you will see results. You will bring more presence and peace with you. You will not react as much as you used to, and you will begin to respond instead. You will have more patience and tolerance for yourself and others. You will make space for more creativity in your life. Your personal changes will ripple outwards, affecting your relationships and changing your life for the better. This is how we change the world, one person at a time.

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