Recently I wrote an article on Abundance in which I explored what it actually means as due to overuse in certain circles there are many misconceptions about the term. I summarised by saying that in fact it is a mindset that we can choose to adopt or not. Lynn Serafinn in her book The 7 Graces of Marketing argues that abundance is our natural state of being. I suggest that one of the reasons that is not the case at the moment is that it can be particularly difficult to maintain because there is such an emphasis on negativity in our environment. A good example of this is the lack of good news stories in the media. For more read my article on that.
I wonder if choice is oversimplifying it as recent research means that we now understand a great deal more about the triune brain. You will see as I share some of these findings how the research helps to explain why human beings can be so contradictory. How despite receiving reasoned argument to the contrary, people can go on believing and behaving in way that to an observer from another planet would just seem weird.
Let’s look at the brain so that I can illustrate this point more clearly. You have three brains in your skull: the lizard (reptilian) brain, the dog (limbic system) brain, and the human (neo-cortex) brain. The oldest brain is the lizard brain which emerged a couple of hundred million years ago and that is when lust, anger and aggression appeared on our planet for the very first time. Lizard brains are small and simple and control breathing, vision and bodily movement. Then about 100 million years ago, mammals appeared and with them came something much more complex, which we can sum up as love and loyalty. The limbic system grew on top of the lizard brain and interestingly dogs have two brains. Evolution did not get rid of the lizard brain because it performs basic bodily functions so well; rather it added a more complex layer. This layer is what enables dogs to form positive emotional attachment to humans. Then much more recently around a few hundred thousand years ago, poetry, art, language and reason appeared at the time apes evolved into our ancestors.
Now that we understand a bit more of how human brains are wired, let’s explore what that means. With the emergence of the human brain, we gained mathematics and music; we also got deception and politics. We could redefine this by saying that with the human brain we created the possibility of Machiavelli as well as Mozart. Furthermore the human brain (neo-cortex) is semi-independent from the lizard and dog brain, which means it runs its thinking programmes whilst the older brains run their emotion programmes. Whilst it is more complex and has the added advantage that language resides in it, the neo-cortex cannot control the limbic system and the reptilian brain because emotions are found in the two older brains. Just imagine for a moment that you had an elephant and you were trying to get it to move. You could not force it to move because it is far stronger than you. The only way you can get it to move is if it has a desire to move. In other words change is only possible when we engage our emotions as well as our thinking brain because they are very powerful.
Here’s another way that you could frame this conundrum. Our reason can understand that burning fossil fuels is not good for the environment because it leads to climate change. Politicians, who understand how the triune brain works, will stir up fear-based responses in us so that they can mobilise the lizard and dog brains and wash over our reason with waves of emotion. The net result is that they will then get the public support they need to fulfil their intention to bring large-scale fracking into the UK for example. An exercise you can try is to imagine you are an alien from another planet and be an observer on the current debates that are being had in the media about the extraction of shale gas. How balanced is the reporting? How is each side portrayed? What are the tactics being used, some of which are very subtle? Seth Godin in his post Quieting the lizard brain wrote
resistance grows in strength … as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change… and risk. He goes on to recommend that as the lizard brain is here to stay our job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it.
In my view that response is only scratching the surface. Fortunately scientists have discovered that there is a way to better integrate our three brains through practising mindfulness meditation which rewires and harmonises the triune brain. It takes time so you need patience and perseverance but it works. This was backed up in a recent BBC report which shared some amazing facts on mindset. Mosley, a medical journalist, who wrote the article, undertook some tests which showed he was more prone to an “Eeyore” disposition. Professor Elaine Fox and her team measured the levels of electrical activity on the two sides of his brain and found that there was more electrical activity in the right frontal cortex. This is associated with people who tend to have higher levels of negativity and anxiety. After seven weeks of doing mindfulness meditation, Moseley felt much calmer and returned to Professor Fox’s lab for more tests. The results were extremely encouraging. So the conclusion he drew was that even in later life it is possible to change your outlook.
To conclude, mindfulness not only provides you with a tool to harmonise your three brains and rewire them; there is a strong likelihood that doing the practice regularly will lead you to having a sunnier disposition; and at the very least decrease your stress, which means that you will have greater creativity. What is exciting about these discoveries is that the more you understand about how you operate and the tools you have at your disposal to enable you to be in flow more of the time, the greater ease you will have in your life. It is also one of the main reasons that I incorporate mindfulness into everything I do with my clients. I would love to hear your thoughts on this article below.
Kate Griffiths is a qualified coach, speaker, community leader and writer, who is fascinated by the power of conversation. She teaches business owners, leaders and teams how to communicate effectively to build stronger relationships and thereby improve the possibilities for innovation and collaboration.
Kate is also the Community Relations Director of the 7 Graces Project, a thriving community and emerging social enterprise. The aim of the 7 Graces Project is to provide an educational alternative and business incubator for a new generation of ethical, community-focused businesses.