Three Practices to Remedy Your Conditioned Brain Responses
The majority of clients connecting with me at the moment are experiencing anxiety and/or depression. Anger is another common emotion emerging at deeper and deeper levels of the psyche too. All emotions can be talked about in a similar vein in that they are a vehicle of communication as to how the inner psyche is reacting to a situational experience. Your job as a Being becoming more conscious of your evolutionary nature, is to look at the emotions you are experiencing and interpret the message contained within so that you may respond skilfully to the situation at hand – as opposed to letting the emotion carry you away in an unconscious, conditioned, or kneejerk, reaction.
Emotions are a retort of your sympathetic nervous systems’ fight and flight responses. They carry a message that has been conditioned into a patterned way of response. If we remain unconscious to our innate patterns, our kneejerk responses continue to upset us, anger us and move us deeper into our pathologies. Someone on a path of consciousness knows these conditioned patterns can be changed and engages in practices to become aware of these patterns so that they may remedy them.
We grow through our emotions, not with them. Equanimity, or balance, is the key state of being that one must seek to consistently experience.
So the first thing we want to do, should one really want to transcend the upset emotions can cause, is to quieten the mind. This means you want to eat peaceful food, preferably a vegan live food diet, or at least a diet where you have 50 – 80% of your dietary intake as live food that’s come from the ground; and Organic where ever possible. The ingestion of animal products means you are ingesting the consciousness of that animal…. and generally this will mean you are ingesting the fear and anxiety of that animals’ state of wellbeing at the time of death, as well as its life experience. Just imagine the kind of emotions you are ingesting if you are eating an animal that has been kept in constrictive conditions with a poor quality of life. That is stress, fear and anxiety you are ingesting… and therefore becoming. (I won’t even go into the fact that if the worlds meat-eaters decreased their consumption by 10%, they would free up enough resources to save 50 – 60,000 children from dying of starvation each year… check out Gabriel Cousens for more on those statistics).
I could also go on about food and get into the consciousness of excessive sugar from processed foods and alcohol… and in another blog, I certainly will! For now, just know that you are [the consciousness of] what you eat…. So make the majority of the foods that you eat be that which comes from the ground, and is organic, pure and raw (cooking your food destroys the enzymes and can result in your eating dead, lifeless food which contributes to dull energy and lethargy). And if you can’t do 80% or more live food… then just go for 51%.... and start by just adding raw food in. Don’t deprive yourself by taking the food you think you love out! Just add more and more raw food in and in time you will sense and feel your body wanting more and more live food in your diet.
The next thing you want to do to still the mind, is to spend time in quiet contemplation, or meditation, and watch the mind. Watch the stories it makes up and the dramas it ponders. Watch its conditioned responses. Remind yourself that your thoughts become things – so you have a certain degree of control over the reality you experience through the consciousness of your thoughts.
Create some spaciousness in your mind that gives room for the stillness required for your consciousness to evolve.
A still mind comes with still breath. So if your breathing is shallow and short or has a hyperventative quality then your mind is hyperactive and volatile also. The two go hand in hand. So the next most important thing to do is BREATHE calmly and deeply in your everyday waking life. The effect on your mind will be calming and provide you with the space required to respond more skilfully to situations which can allow you to over ride anxiety and other emotions that arise. So breathe consciously.
I see emotions as having a vibrational energy. Anxiety and anger has a faster vibration to it than depression… which is a denser, heavier energy. Depression can provide a lethargic quality, whereas anxiety can create a more manic quality. So with a still mind we can now slow the vibration of emotions down in order to understand their origin and the message they are bringing. Anger can be volatile so it can have a fast, explosive vibration. Often the slower (denser or heavier) vibrations of depression, grief, fear and unreasonable love lay beneath the faster vibratory emotions such as anxiety and anger, or even the apparently positive emotions of excitement and passion. So when we unravel the message of the emotion, we often find depression, grief, unreasonable love and the like lying beneath, still requiring attention.
But as with all emotions it is the neural pathways of the limbic brain that are activating a chain of events. Our limbic brain, or the brain that houses our reptilian responses, is one of long term conditioning. This means that it is therefore can be slow to re-program and we have to bring an intense amount of conscious awareness and mental clarity to it in order to change its patterns. Our patterns of relating to one another – especially our parents, off-spring, siblings, partners and the like shape our mind over years of conditioning the limbic brain. This conditioning creates sensory experiences which in turn create neural pathways that light up a pattern of behaviour as a conditioned response that effects the emotions we experience.
So neural pathways are patterns whereby stimulus activates a pattern of behaviour. Each time the pattern is evoked it gets stronger so that over time only part of the pattern needs to be evoked in order to stimulate the full pattern of behaviour – or the full emotional reaction.
This has huge repercussions to the mind of an unconscious being. Just a couple of triggers in a link of pre-programmed events needs stimulating and the next thing you know old patterns of behaviour irrelevant in the current context are busting forth in a seemingly uncontrolled manner.
Our limbic brain took time (perhaps even lifetimes) to become programmed the way it has. And so it takes time to reprogram new responses – and this reprogramming takes consciousness. This is why we need to pay attention to the mind and realize that it has patterns running in spite of us. Once we learn about our own conditioned responses we can act to change them by creating new pathways through the patterns of the mind.
As evolutionary creatures living in an evolving cosmos, it is vitally important to take time for introspection and to get help in the form of therapy. In this way we become conscious of these patterns and see they are merely patterns we have learned over the years, and that we can change them to more skilful, conscious responses. We need to grow up and out of our family patterns, we need to grow through childhood conditioning and we need to evolve past the reptilian fight and flight responses of our ancestors. In other words, we need to take control of our minds and our emotions and stop letting them control us…. Put more simply, we need to take responsibility for who we are and stop blaming our past.
So what practices can you engage in so that you become aware of these patterns in a way that you may then remedy them? I have three suggestions to kick off with:
Therapy, for at least a span of time (others would suggest a life time), helps us learn how to observe and change the workings of our psyche – in this way we move from dysfunctional relationships with ourselves and others to a place of deeper compassion and a better relatedness for self and others. In addition to therapy, a sitting practice teaches us to still the mind and observe its ways so that we over ride our conditioned robotic tendencies and awaken to the idea that we are eternal beings deeper than thought. (As a side note, meditation alone, without the help of a therapist who them self has a sitting practice, can mean we meditate our way deeper into our pathologies. A suitable therapist will help you integrate the shadow states that meditation often doesn’t alone remedy). And thirdly, because the body/mind complex is One and awareness, or consciousness, is embodied, we need some kind of body/mind awareness practice like yoga, tai chi, qi gong or something similar. A physical practice is imperative and anything at all is better than nothing.
Fleshing your life practice out into these three areas is an invaluable practice on many levels. Physically you’ll experience a healthier body which will automatically generate a healthier mind. Emotionally you’ll experience greater balance and an even temperament. Spiritually you will gain a greater sense of the picture that lies beyond the skin encapsulated self.
As evolving beings we have much depth and many a dimension to awaken to. Just as we learn about the external world, we need also to learn about the internal world. It is in going within that we learn more about who we are, than what we see of ourselves in the mirror.