Patterns- let’s decode. Shall we?

Today I am experiencing one of those beautiful synchronicities that life offers you. This morning I was reading a book titled ‘Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson’ and later in the day while surfing for something to watch I stumbled upon this video titled ‘ The brain that changes itself’ on Amazon. Let me share and elaborate how my little head connects the two and there’s also a bonus at the end. Have fun!

20140417_193035

Mastadon of IPFW, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I am only 10th page of the book I mentioned and I loved how the author talks about the different messages we decode everyday from our external environment unconsciously. How do we decode these messages? Via our senses i.e. sight, smell, hearing, touch. For most people only one of these senses is the dominant source of information. Our decoding of this information depends on our past conditioning to a large extent. For example: When you say or read the word ‘food’ , each one of us experiences this word differently based on our associations to the word food in the past. It could be an image, it could be a distinct smell, it could be texture or the clinging of vessels related to the word. While we are forming those experiences/associations in the beginning we don’t filter it out, we simply receive and save it in our repository. This then helps us to not have to go through this decoding process again when we hear/read the word food. This association becomes our default as we grow up and we never really challenge it. We assume that what ‘food’ means for us is what it means for everyone else in general. This assumption of sameness makes our lives easier for sure but this assumption can also limit our abilities to learn more and new meanings of the word ‘food’. As I write this, I can think of how so many individuals argue over the definition of what is and what is not ‘food’ which is a never ending argument for many. So remember that we as humans like certainty and we create these patterns which need to be used by default without being questioned so that we can then utilize our brain power on other important issues like performing on job, rearing children etc. This can also be called our need to maintain homeostasis. Some of these patterns are helpful but some of these limit us.  But can these patterns not be changed or should they be changed at all in the first place?

The answer to whether or not they should be changed depends on what life circumstances you are facing and if you are happy/content with where you are then there isn’t exactly an incentive/need for you to change anything. What’s fascinating though is that our brain and bodies are constantly taking in and processing information and in a constant state of change. Even the food we eat is nothing but information/data in a different form which is then processed by our bodies and provided to us in the form of energy.

The thought of the need to change our patterns is the connection to the video I watched. In the video they talk about the concept of neuroplasticity which is the idea that the brain is capable at any age to make new connections and therefore rehabilitate itself/heal itself. My main takeaways from the video:

  • Unless the existing pathways are blocked or rendered useless, we don’t look for new ones. Some researchers have worked with individuals who lost their ability to use parts of their bodies due to traumatic incidents/strokes/paralysis. When these individuals were brought into treatment, the doctors restrained the dominant/usable hand and began exercising the other hand making slow and gradual progress everyday. What’s profound is that the new pathways weren’t built until the old ones were restrained/blocked. More often than not in life, we create suffering for ourselves when the situations around us seem to be blocking/restraining us. For example, you are a waitress and the restaurants in our area have stopped hiring. We create pain when we say..’ What will I do now? ‘and we keep looking for the same type of jobs. What if we looked at that block as a push to find a new pathway?
  • In another study, a person who had been blind for 38 years was given a device which sent feedback to his brain using the tongue instead of sight and he could navigate a physical path with turns simply based on that feedback he was receiving via his tongue. The man reported that the feedback he was receiving formed a mental image in his brain which is the same as seeing it with the eye. The brain doesn’t distinguish between ‘how’ the input is received. This is exactly how fears are real to people. Using this imagery available to us we can imagine new outcomes which is then enough for our brain to establish those new connections. Techniques like Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive behavioral therapy help us rewire our brains.
  • Brain is a neutral receptor and storage house..so what are you feeding it and storing here on a daily basis? Meditation and mindfulness are two practices that help us become more aware of our unconscious patterns and bring those to the foreground for us to then work on them. In the same breath I would also like to mention that more than 90% of our body’s serotonin is produced in the gut region. More than one third of the microbes in our gut are not human microbes but microbes from the food we eat. So, the source of your food, the way it reached you, the soil it grew in, the way you cook it and the manner in which you eat your meals all determine who you think you areJ. If you are interested to read more on the mind and gut, please read Eat Wheat , The Mind-Gut connection and The Second Brain for the more scientifically inclined.

Relaxation using Five Senses and Elements

Image

Relax

One of the best ways to reconnect with yourself is to bring your attention back to your body. This will help you ground and center yourself. Lets explore the different ways we can relax using our five senses:

1) Touch- Feel better when you are hugged or someone moves their fingers through your hair? Skin is the longest organ in our body J no wonder then that as human beings we respond best to touch. Get a massage, pedicure, hugs, playful touch with an intimate partner. You can also try and identify fabrics that feel good to you and try to wear them or incorporate them in your linens. Examples of some fabrics could be velvet, satin, silk etc. You can also use stones/ crystals and rub it between your palms. Use of hot and cold sensations is also a good idea.

2) Sight- Soothe your vision with colors and images. There is a lot of research done around color therapy. My favorite colors to calm me are shades of purple and green. Reds/yellows and oranges are ‘activators’ or ‘energizers’. Shades of blue, white can also be calming. Neutrals when used with other colors can create a desired ‘uplifting’ or ‘cooling’ effect. Fill your phone/ laptop and surround yourself with images that bring your joy and happiness. These could be images of times that were happy for you or places/ scenery that creates that same effect for you. Personally I love images of waterfalls/beaches/meadows.

3) Sound- We are all familiar with what kind of music helps us unwind. For some it could be instrumental, nature based, trance-techno, world music or old classical melodies. Thanks to technology, we have apps that bring us our favorite instruments to our phones. I love using Pandora radio and have Jazz, Buddhist Monks music, ancient hymns/ chants,  bollywood music, enya etc on there. A lot of these are freeJ Sounds of nature seem to work for a lot of people. Singing along with a song or just humming a sound that comes naturally to you. Don’t worry about how it sounds to someone else, its for YOU!

4) Taste- Comfort foods! This is probably what comes to mind first and there is nothing wrong with using them in moderation. When I think of taste and what could be soothing/comforting I think of a dark chocolate square, spiced tea or green tea, hot chocolate, mashed potatoes etc. Eating fries/chips/pork chops etc can be added here however if you find yourself needing a lot of this, you may need to seek consultation with a health service provider. There is a lot of correlation between how we feel and what/how much we eat. Be mindful.

5) Smell- I love the smell of coffee brewing, fresh cilantro, first rain on earth.. I hate the smells of strong deodorants and perfumes. That’s just me. We associate a lot of memories through our sense of smell. Aromas from food can also be a part of this. I also know people who love the smell of clean linen and get a sense of ‘everything is ok’ by just smelling it. Oils of lavender, vanilla, jasmine etc are popular. Aromatherapy oils are easily available and not very expensive either. Apart from oils you can also use incense sticks and get the same desired effect. Using coconut jasmine oil for a hair massage will be two benefits in one activity.

The five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether can be incorporated with the five senses to create a relaxing experience. For example – sitting by a fireplace utilizes soothing via sight and touch due to warm feeling. Hugging a tree may provide soothing via touch, sight and smell of the earth.

Get creative, experiment and find ways to soothe yourself. These can also be used to distract yourself when needed. I cannot help but mention sex in here too. Sex seems to encompass all the five senses and definitely helps connect with the body. The key lies in knowing your intentionality and your sense of balance.

This is not an exhaustive list and will need work at your end to identify your tools for relaxation. While you are experimenting, you can also maintain a journal and record your experiences.

Have fun:)