Neuroscience and neuroplasticity. Surely these are the buzz words of the moment. I seem to be seeing articles in the paper or online about the brain's ability to change, no matter your age or circumstance. There've been heaps of shows on TV of late as well - I tuned into Todd Sampson's "Redesign My Brain" a few weeks ago and was fascinated by some of the techniques he was shown and by what he was able to achieve in a fairly short space of time. And I try not to miss Michael Mosley each week talking about different aspects of health, last night he investigated different ways to keep fit and burn calories, (that was after his episode entitled "Pain, Pus and Poison" - yum, it was actually a doco about the discovery of penicillin).
Why I'm writing about this is because last weekend I attended a workshop in Melbourne held by Dr Joe Dispenza on Understanding the Power of Your Mind. Dr Joe first came to prominence in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know. Here's a brief outline of what was covered in the conference:
The science of changing your mind
Why you keep repeating the same patterns in your life
Why change is so difficult for most people
How disease is created and how you can heal many physical conditions
How to break unwanted emotional states of mind
The common thread underlying spontaneous remissions
How to create a new personality and new personal reality
How to access your subconscious mind
How neuroplasticity and epigenetics are the key to changing your destiny
The power of mental rehearsal to change your brain and body
How understanding different brain wave patterns can demystify meditation
The neuroscience of creation
The quantum model of reality
Heady stuff ... literally. I had attended a weekend workshop held by one of Dr Joe's trainers here in Sydney last July and had made many changes to my daily routine and had some amazing things happening on a regular basis but seeing Dr Joe in the flesh was definitely something I had wanted to do, so when the conference was announced I was quick to sign up - think I booked it way back in December!
I have sat here and tried to put into words what I learnt over the weekend and I found it impossible to paraphrase, so I have found an interview Dr Joe did with Nova Magazine in 2011 and I'm going to use what they've written, as they have direct quotes from him (the benefits of having a tape recorder handy!).
"If you can’t think greater than how you feel, you’ll keep creating the same conditions in your life," he says. "Ninety five per cent of who we are by age 35 sits in a subconscious memory system." Our bodies have memorised who we are, and how we think and react has just become a habit. This is why so much of disease appears to be genetic, because we are relying on our hereditary circuits and we develop the habit of being our genetics. So the question is, "How can we change?"
"If you can hold your attention on a future possibility and you can make that thought more real than anything else, you can make that thought an experience," Joe tells me. If we can make our brain work differently, we are changing our mind.
"As you begin to think about a new way of being, the brain looks like it is already having the experience. If you can emotionally embrace that event, ahead of the experience, to look like the event has happened, then the universe organises the events in your life to reflect your thoughts and emotions."
Finally, I ask Joe if he has a message for NOVA readers. At the beginning of each day, he says, ask yourself: "What is the greatest expression of myself that I want to be today? Next, remind yourself of what you don’t want to be and get conscious of that. Then give some time to thinking about and mentally rehearsing how you do want to be. Do this on daily basis and the effects will be profound."
To me, the last paragraph is the most important. This is a practice that has become part of my life over the last year or so and I can attest to the benefits of thinking in this way. I'd add that Dr Joe constantly reminds us to add gratitude to the mix, in other words, be grateful for being the greatest expression of yourself, be grateful for the life you have created in your meditation, as if it has already happened. Couple that with becoming aware of when you spiral into your negative thoughts and interrupting them, again and again and again, so that eventually the thoughts stop coming (or at least reduce in frequency and by that time you have learnt to recognise and change them pretty quickly) and you're on a path to more happiness, calmness and control.
Sounds pretty easy doesn't it? Let me tell you, it takes WORK. There are times when you don't want to meditate and you can't focus. And there are challenges that come along the way, almost as if on purpose, trying to get you to spiral into your old ways of thinking. Those old ways of thinking are comfortable, you know how they feel and you recognise and feel "safe" in them and it's easy to slip back there. Changing how you think is difficult, radical and confronting. But the benefits are so worth the effort.
Here's a brain map Dr Joe put up on his Facebook page the other day, might give you a little peek into how his brain works. Pfft, I don't think anyone can get a peek at his brain!