As an ex-scientist who worked in the field of signal transduction, it is no surprise that I now engage holistically in an area which is substantiated by the hottest scientific research that identified molecules of emotions as significant factors involved in the perception and regulation of our emotions. Everything that our brain perceives gives rise to these molecules of emotions, the neuropeptides of pain or pleasure. These neuropeptides and their receptors were originally discovered in the Limbic brain (the brain that gives rise to emotions), thus coining the term 'Molecules of Emotions'. The work of Dr. Candace Pert (author of the book, Molecules of Emotion) has been ground breaking in establishing the paradigm that the seat of consciousness or the mind is mimicked by the body. This important discovery has given rise to a new phrase: the body is our subconscious mind!
What is the implication of this finding? It means that we can no longer just train our minds if we want to see a shift in our consciousness but we also have to train the body! We can identify this in our lives where we have tried very hard to have 'mind over matter' and exert 'will power' to make a change, and after a while we revert back to the old pattern. This is because we have not worked on our second brain, the body to make a shift. Suddenly words like ‘cellular memory’, 'memorized emotions' and 'body work' take on a new meaning!
How is the mind-body connection maintained? The mind is the conscious self. The conscious has the ability to choose, consciously. The body is the subconscious mind. There is evidence to suggest that our gut is our second brain as it has the same peptides and receptors as those found in the brain. Whereas the mind reacts consciously, the body reacts without choice, hence subconsciously. ‘The body never lies’. The unconscious includes both the mind and the body. This includes our behaviours, thinking patterns, belief system, how we react to a situation. Thus our conditioning is made up of all 3 elements. The biggest influence on our conditioning is our PAST. The past consists of our environment, personal experiences and behaviours that served us in that moment. As a child, our experience in our first six years influences how we will live the rest of our lives. These include the personal experiences the child has, and the beliefs he/she is exposed to through parenting, and the educational system. All these become the lens with which we see the world. Of course, it does not mean that we are stuck in this reality. We have a 'choice' to consciously change our conditioning and therefore change our mind-body connection and therefore change our lives, our personal reality.
When the human genome was sequenced more than a decade ago, people were afraid that their genetic destiny would determine how their life would be. In other words, the genes would determine if you got cancer, diabetes and all the life-threatening diseases. People reconciled themselves to their fate believing there was nothing they could do to change this reality. And then came the field of Epigenetics where the environment in the cells determined which genes would get activated. Suddenly, people had a choice, our bodies have a choice. The placebo effect is for real!
MINDFULNESS and the Brain:
Mindfulness lets you become aware of the unconscious and the subconscious, bringing it to light, to the conscious. So that one can do it differently. So how will we use mindfulness to connect with where we are in our brain?
When we experience overwhelm, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, it indicates that we are stuck in the Reptilian brain, in the fight, flight or freeze mechanism.
Through mindfulness you can get in touch with your body emotions. By allowing them to be expressed, you release them. By suppressing them, you store them.
The pre-frontal cortex affects self-regulation, decision-making, and attention processes.
Mindfulness deliberately places attention in the present moment, activating the cortex through an observational process. Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation support optimal pre-frontal cortex functioning. The more you incorporate mindfulness and its meditation into your daily experience, the more you will be training your brain to recalibrate, balance, and control. Instead of being drawn into the past or future by activating your reptilian or emotional brain, you can stay in the present moment by functioning from the prefrontal cortex, the seat of presence and creativity.
The pre-frontal cortex is already functional in children as young as 4-years old. Thus the implication of teaching them Mindfulness from an early age takes on a new significance!
It is important to reflect that the lower brain structures usually focus on the past or the future. Mindfulness Meditation can significantly increase pre-frontal activity and result in a quieting of your overall mind and specific lower brain structures.
We are living in a technologically-driven era that consumes our attention, often producing a multitasking frenzy of activity that leaves people 'constantly doing', with no space to be and just breathe. It is causing the younger generation, our children and teenagers, to get accustomed to high levels of stimulus-bound attention, flitting from one activity to the other, with little time for self reflection that the brain needs for proper development.
Now, more than ever, with our hectic lifestyle schedules, and the incessant commentary in our minds, it is time to 'consciously make some time' to sit in 'Thoughtless Awareness' and connect with the present moment. To wake up from a life on 'automatic' and develop a sensitivity to the novelty in our everyday experience.
1.Molecules of Emotions. Candace B. Pert. 1997
2. The Biology of Belief. Bruce Lipton. 2005
2.Train your brain: how to reduce anxiety through mindfulness and meditation. ReWire Me, Feb 15, 2015
3.The Prefrontal Cortex: Functional Neural Development During Early Childhood. Satoshi Tsujimoto. Neuroscientist August 2008 vol. 14 no. 4 345-358
4. The Mindful Brain. Daniel J. Siegel. 2007
Tripty Hirani is a mother, wife, a Holistic Counsellor who runs her own practice. She loves to read and write, go for meditative walks in the bush and practice compassion and mindfulness at every opportunity.