Questions about how we can tap into our brain’s amazing capacity to change
What is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is the term used that explains our brain’s capacity to grow and change over our whole lives. The brain can reorganize itself over our whole lifetime! Check out this informative VIDEO.
What is Positive Neuroplasticity?
Rick Hanson, describes it this way: “The mind is what the brain does. All the information in your nervous system is your mind. Your mind – like any information – is not physical: you can’t touch it, but it is still real. The brain represents your mind. Therefore, all mental activity – your thoughts and feelings, joys and sorrows – requires neural activity.
Neurons that fire together, wire together.
Repeated patterns of mental activity require repeated patterns of brain activity.
Repeated patterns of brain activity change neural structure and function.
You can use your mind to change your brain.
To change your mind for the better. To benefit yourself and other living beings.”
Really simply, our brains are changing all the time. They are shaped by what we focus on, over and over again. For example, if we focus on the many good parts of life, our brains start to notice those good things more and more. Becoming more positive is actually one of the best ways to stay engaged in life on all levels.
Aren't I too old for this?
No, our brain continues to be shaped by what our mind focuses on, all life long! Our brains are being influenced by happens around us, whether we do this in an intentional way or not. Whatever we pay attention to over and over again gets stronger. The good news is that we have a choice, moment to moment, about what we focus on.
Why would I spend my time and resources on this?
This human life is a precious gift. It will end one day for all of us. While we have time and energy to make simple changes in ourselves in the direction that helps to relieve our suffering, recognizing that we have that choice is a gift. It’s like, if we’ve been lugging around a suitcase and one day, realize it doesn’t have what we want inside, now’s the time to repack with what we do want. In life this might be more ease, more connection, more appreciation and gratitude. Instead of hauling around baggage that doesn’t really fit our needs anymore.
Is Taking in the Good just another name for Positive Thinking?
No. Taking in the Good is a way to live more mindfully and not get ahead of ourselves or linger in the past.
Taking in the Good is about connecting in with ourselves – our mind, our body, our nervous system. We pause for a few moments and start to notice that there are lots of life experiences that are good or neutral. The sun shines, the toilet flushes, the car starts. These everyday things are so easy to overlook and take for granted. When we get curious about the feeling of the warm sun on our arm or the breeze against our face we notice the good things. We stop for a moment and feel the soothing breeze. Our attention brings us back to the present moment. We feel soothed. It’s a real experience we’re having.
Positive Thinking is more like wishful thinking. Some examples from my past trials and tribulations are thinking someone will change when s/he understands just how much I care about him/her. Or if I just sit here long enough thinking positive thoughts, all the actual suffering in the world will go away. This is more of a mental construct that isn’t connected into the present moment.
Is Taking in the Good whitewashing reality?
Along with waking up and recognizing that we are connected to other living beings comes a responsibility to do what we can to bring about more compassion. Becoming more compassionate requires strength. Being present for someone else’s suffering is courageous, just as is being present for our own suffering.
We have more compassion for others as we have more compassion for ourselves. Taking in the Good helps us refuel our inner supplies with the aim of being of more genuine benefit to others.
In this practice we are not denying the tremendous suffering that is happening all around us. We are learning how to embrace it with an open heart and steady mind.
Isn’t it selfish to focus on the good?
There is scarcity in the idea that I’m being selfish if I take in good things. We ask things like, “What about other people that are having such difficulties? How can I take in the good when others are struggling?” Many of us have been taught this growing up.
There are so many good things that are naturally occurring in the world around us.
Simple everyday experiences of good things slip by unnoticed. These good things are around us even during really hard times. Leaves appear in springtime. The stars appear at night. Someone expresses care for our pain. We are happier for our friend’s happiness.
Taking in the Good is a way to become more resilient, to let someone’s negative words roll off our back more easily, to speak openly about our needs. There is enough good for everyone.
What exactly is “drop by drop?”
Drop by drop is an image of how our brains start to form new neural pathways. Our brains learn by doing. Like, each time we feel love for our pet, neural pathways in our brain fire up. Each moment we feel connected, or happy, or relaxed, and take it in, supports our brain in learning.
Moments really matter. Moments of taking in the good really matter. A moment is like a drop. Then another. Gradually a little trickle, eventually a course starts to be set.
How come Taking in the Good brings up discomfort some times?
Some of us have come from loving families. Others of us had challenging experiences in childhood. Life is hard at times for all of us. Maybe at some point in our lives we had needs that didn’t get met. Instead of a surplus we ended up feeling a deficit inside. Feelings and thoughts about ourselves like not feeling worthy or deserving or good enough, or being too hard on ourselves or on our loved ones formed inside.
As we take in resources that soothe those places where our needs haven’t been met, we’ll touch up against the tender and hard places.
Our aim is to touch the tenderness ever so gently. If we get overwhelmed with difficult feelings, it’s best to just drop the practice and come back to it when we feel better. This becomes a lived experience.
I have difficulty “feeling” anything. I feel cut off from my body. I always have.
Our body is an ally, doing its best.
When our body doesn’t seem like a safe place we might experience feeling cut off from it. This can be from injury, trauma, neglect or other reasons. If there has been trauma it means that we’ve felt alone in a tough situation.
Our body is like a mirror of what’s going on in our nervous system.
If there are places where we feel cut off from our body, we can experience what it’s like, drop by drop, to become present. Usually having support, being with a skilled practitioner for this is really important, since we didn’t have that support at the time when the body didn’t feel safe.