–by Dan Siegel (May 26, 2014)
Oftentimes people hear the word mindfulness and think “religion,” but the reality is that focusing our attention in this way is a biological process that promotes health – as a form of brain hygiene – not a religion. Various religions may encourage this health-promoting practice, but learning the skill of mindful awareness is simply a way of cultivating what we have defined as the integration of consciousness. […]
We learn more effectively when we are physically active. Novelty, or exposing ourselves to new ideas and experiences, promotes the growth of new connections among existing neurons and seems to stimulate the growth of myelin, the fatty sheath that speeds nerve transmission. Novelty can even stimulate the growth of new neurons – a finding that took a long time to win acceptance in the scientific community. Neuroplasticity can be activated by attention alone, or when we participate in an activity that is important and meaningful to us, but if we are not engaged emotionally and the experience is less memorable, the structure of the brain is less likely to change.
Dissolving fixed mental perceptions created along the brain’s firing patterns and reinforced relationally within our cultural practices is no simple accomplishment. Our relationships engrain our early perceptual patterns and deepen the ways we come to see the world and believe our inner narrative. Without an internal education that teaches us to pause and reflect, we may tend to live on automatic and succumb to these cultural and cortical influences that push us toward isolation. Part of our challenge in achieving well-being is to develop enough mindsight to clear us of these restrictive definitions of ourselves so that we can grow towards higher degrees of integration.
Seeing the mind clearly not only catalyzes the various dimensions of integration as it promotes physical, psychological, and inter-personal well-being, it also helps us dissolve the optical delusions of our separateness. We develop more compassion for ourselves and our loved ones, but we also widen our circle of compassion to include other aspects of the world beyond our immediate concerns. With integration, we see ourselves with an expanded identity. When we embrace the reality of this interconnection, being considerate and concerned with the larger world becomes a fundamental shift in our way of living.
— Dan Siegel in Mindsight
On May 29, 2016 Kate Thomas wrote:
My entire life has been a personal experience of mindsight offering a higher degree of freedom.
Professionally, I have lived my life as an English teacher in all the traditional and non-traditional ways of being so … I consider myself a teacher of stories – the progress of humanity lies in the ability to listen and read and capture the meaning of other people’s stories, so that we grow in not only strength but in wisdom…
I of course, taught the Western traditional “canon” for my students, but on a parallel track I studied and brought into my teachings the other creation mythologies of other cultures, which of course, led me to Joseph Campbell and his theory of the collective human subconscious mind.
I taught the Renaissance “balance of human spirit” concept, which was taken from Aristotle and Plato in the ancient Greek philosophies: that (wo)man is possessed of 4 humours: spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual.
Greek Tragedy is based on the tragic flaw, which overpowers the human being, if not kept healthy.
Dan Siefel’s article, theory, truth…whatever one might call it, has been true through the ages. It sickens me that our human societies “forgot” the need to keep our spiritual side strong and healthy as it feeds the other 3 – there is a balance.
This mindfulness was captured and used by the power brokers on this planet and is still being brokered for dominance.
Louise Erdich’s new book LaRose, she narrates about the indigenous nation of Anishinaabeg, which claims the Great Lakes as its cultural home. The family storyteller, “…This ability to fly went back to the first LaRose, whose mother….& who had learned this from her father, a jiiskikid conjurer, who’d flung his spirit all the way around the world in 1798 and come back to tell his astonished drummers that it was no use, white people covered the earth like lice.”
The power brokers have pasted religion, taboos, sins, & sanctions on so much of what we now call “reality.” My conclusion, at least for today at this moment, is that we all must empower our degrees of mindfulness, allowing ourselves to practice a belief in a higher power if that serves, but always concentrating on this circle of compassion, which allows us to “embrace the reality of this interconnection, being considerate and concerned with the larger world.”