Dr. Christopher Germer is friend and colleague of mine who grew up with a great fear of speaking. It wasn’t always easy, but over time he began to cultivate an awareness of the feeling of fear as it arose and practiced systematically relating to it with greater mindfulness and compassion. Chris trained his brain to have what I call “The Mindful Instinct.” What actually happened?
In a Chapter titled “Compassion is a Verb” in The Now Effect I share how this practice led to an experience that changed Chris’ relationship to his fear of speaking.
When many of us think about mindfulness, we might picture a common misperception of someone sitting on a floor in a state of peaceful meditation. Mindfulness is so much more than that. That is why I’m so happy to have my friend, colleague and Neuropsychologist Marsha Lucas, PhD, author of the newly released book Rewire Your Brain For Love: Creating Vibrant Relationships Using the Science of Mindfulness to show us how we can bring mindfulness outside of ourselves, to change our brains and improve our relationships.
Today Marsha talks to us about how our brains can actually rewire in relationships, where our relationships with our parents influence our relationships today and a practice that can get us started in rewiring our brain for love.
Elisha: I love the title of your book. Can you give us a few ideas on how we can actually rewire our brain for love?
“A man lies dying in a hospital bed. He has spent his entire life building for the future, doing what needed to be done to amass wealth and raise his status to a level he thought worthy. Now he has reached the end of his days and finds himself filled with remorse rather than satisfaction.
In his final moments, he turns to his doctor and says, “I spent my whole life stepping on people in order to get to where I want to be, and now there’s no one left for me. It’s only now that I realize it’s so simple. It’s who you love and how you love and the rest of it, the rest of it never mattered.”
That is a powerful lesson, yet he has little time left to make use of it.
He came to clarity at the end of his life; what if you could get this clarity now?”
I often write about the demanding and criticizing voices in our heads because they are so amazingly prevalent and I figure just about anyone can identify with that and almost all of us need support with them. Every day these voices arise out of habit, telling us “I can’t do that right,” “I’m never going to achieve that,” or “I’m not good enough.”
More often than not we indulge and get overwhelmed by these limiting beliefs or as Thich Nhat Hanh says,” we water the seeds of our own suffering.” The end result is we end up hating ourselves. But what if these voices were trying to help us in some way?
That may sound crazy, but really, consider it for a moment. What if these negative and limiting voices were looking after our best interest?
We all have them; they’re the most prevalent thoughts in our heads at times. Sometimes I think if our minds only spoke out loud we may not have any friends and we certainly wouldn’t want to be friends with ourselves.
It’s the inner critic that lives in our heads that is constantly judging ourselves and others. This inner critic doesn’t make us feel good and can keep us stuck in cycles of stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. So why do we let this auto-judge run rampant? The reality is most the time we’re not aware enough to keep it in check and even when we are we don’t know what to do about it.
Here’s one trick to get your self-judgments in check:
A while back I wrote the blog Neuroplasticity, Gratitude, and Your Mental Health: Food for Thought and thousands of people viewed it and were reminded of the really powerful effects of counting blessings over burdens.
This made me think of two critical elements that can help shape our happiness and success.The first is proactively looking at what it is we actually want in life. The second is looking at a key element that can help prime our minds toward the happiness and success we are looking for.
If you were sitting in a room and just outside you heard the waves of the ocean on one side and a jack hammer on the left side, assuming the decibel level was the same, which would your brain be drawn to?
If you guessed the jack hammer, you’re right. But why is it that our brains are drawn toward what’s annoying or negative more than what’s pleasant and positive? And how can we rebalance this automatic nature of our minds?
Throughout our lives we’ve been interpreting and making meaning out of all kinds of events. Every event by itself is just an event, but the way we see it, the importance we give it, how it weaves into the fabric of our cells makes all the difference. This meaning that we make then goes on to affect how we interpret other things, it informs the choices that we make and the behaviors that we conduct.
For example, if I were to get pulled over by the police for speeding I might think “the world is out to get me” or “I need to slow down.” I may miss the possibility that this may have saved me from an upcoming accident. Some people say life is like a blank canvas, go ahead and paint your masterpiece.
The problem with that statement is that life is not like a blank canvas because we bring all of our past experiences, woundings, traumas, and triumphs with us to the seat. These inform that immediate snap judgment that occurs beneath our awareness in any given moment.