Awareness is a hardwired gift. It may cause us to frown when we see another frown, find food when our stomach growls, smile at a baby, or hold the door open for another. You may or may not remember telling yourself to do these things. You just did it, because on some level you were aware, which led to your response.
Intentionally practicing mindfulness allows us to tune into varying depths of our awareness, beyond those that are on automatic pilot. This deeper level of awareness gives us the flexibility and buoyancy to self-correct, helping us to better serve and navigate ourselves and our community.
Just as a plant is hardwired to grow, given proper sun and light, so are we wired to grow and thrive. Did you or your caregivers select the day of your first real steps? They were surely the sun and light that fed your efforts. But when your developing brain and body were ready, you did the work — aware only of your efforts, not yourself.
Along with this beautiful innate drive of ours to thrive, according to David Korten, we are hardwired to care and connect. We have an instinctual desire to protect our brood, and this includes ourselves. Brain studies show positive emotions such as compassion, and the act of helping another, triggers the brain’s pleasure center and benefits our health by boosting our immune system, reducing our heart rate, and preparing us to approach and soothe.
Our brain and body already have this magnificent and efficient hardwired dialogue, according to Nick Oza. This dialogue enables them to regulate our internal homoeostasis,” (keeping us alive), or bliss (feeling alive!).
“What fires together wires together,” is a concept first described by neuroscientist Donald Hubb (1949). It describes what researchers now call neuroplasticity, the process in which your brain’s neural synapses and pathways are changed as a result of environmental, behavioral and neural influences. In Richard Davidson’s June 2010 webinar, he explores studies on the long-term effects of mindfulness on the brains of long-term practitioners (10,000 hours or more), indicating positive structural and functional changes.
While practitioners meditated on compassion, MRIs showed synchronicity in their brain rhythms and activation of the insula, the area of the brain that monitors how our body is doing. This activity results in optimal dialogue between our mind and body. Intentionally practicing mindfulness, according to Daniel Siegel (2007), rewires, or strengthens, our positive neural circuitry pathways, and optimizes the brain’s dialogue between our thinking and feeling systems. It creates that approach and soothe state toward ourselves and others, even in times of stress, and helps us to find that “sweet spot” of well-being.
Pairing our innate drive to thrive with the subtle, but powerful gift of awareness, gives us an assertive, yet calm sense within ourselves and among our community because it feels familiar and authentic.
When something good happens, stop, notice it, inhale it, feel it and be fueled!
Siegel, Daniel, MD., (2007). The Mindful Brain. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Mom and baby photo available from Shutterstock