Finding Peace in How We Use Our Brain

I’ve had peace on my mind the last few months. The peace of being ok with failing a goal. The peace of letting things go as situations change. The peace of changing my mind and not needing excuses. The peace of finding what to focus on next when the list seemed endless. The peace of being joyful while acknowledging yes, there is so much to be angry about. The peace of moving forward a very old shame as if it happens everyday.

Especially the last one brings to mind an old Hasidic tale my Sufi teacher would tell. It’s about a young man who was struggling because he had planted seeds in his garden and could not figure out why they would not come up. He had done everything he was told. He had planted the seeds, covered them up and watered them. Every day, he dug them up to check if they had started growing and every day he noticed they were not and became more and more discouraged.

Ha! No wonder his seeds were not growing, he was not leaving them space alone in the dark to sprout in their own time.

How often do we do this to ourselves? Keep digging up something that is trying to grow within us and shining a judgmental light on it or maybe digging up something that makes us sad or lamenting on and on over that last failure. When we can remember to pause and bring whatever response we find arising within us back to the big picture of that situation, we can more naturally come to this place of peace. For instance, I have had a lot of frustrations with training our dog Lucky to stay in his yard over this past year. One event was particularly traumatizing in which he was only out of my sight about 15-20 min. He began severe tremors and twitching about 10 min after arriving home, after a $900+ vet bill, it turns out he must have ate some severely moldy food someone tossed outside from a home nearby. Recently, he disappeared for 8+ hours on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. All day, we are listening to the gunshots of hunters all around us bringing down that deer for the season, and wondering if he would be killed. When he finally showed up well after dark, his stomach was bloated and we got to deal with frequent diarrhea for a good 4 days. When he was gone that day, I imagined finding him a new home. When he is here, I see how unreal that is. Touching him brings all of this about our relationship back to the big picture which I can access only from my right brain. Here I can go back to the beginning, to all the dreams planted when we first committed to making him part of our family and to how much we enjoy his presence in our home. I can access what is not working from a distance, remember the hundreds of days each year he is no trouble at all and be open to trying new solutions. In the biggest picture, I am at peace with enjoying his presence here for now and also aware that this situation is not fixed. A day may come when we have to let him go for his own safety and our sanity.

There are infinite ways to find peace within yourself for any given situation. They can all be referenced somewhere in our basic Focusing skills. I have also found it helpful to think about the neuroscience aspects of Focusing and practice Right-Left-Right (R-L-R).  Every situation begins with it coming to our attention via our body-sensory system feeding an awareness into our Right brain. Maybe we become aware we are hungry. It’s essential of course, that we visit the Left side of our brain about any situation because this is where everything we already ‘know’ is stored. If we did not do this, every situation would seem new to us and we might eat something that makes us sick or is not even food. So here we have R-L in my meme above. Very often we eat from this place, something we have eaten before. It is not necessarily essential to bring what we know about satisfying hunger back to our right brain. In fact, this is how we function in many of our daily situations, we choose certain foods, this much of it, shop at that store, etc. because somewhere along the line we learned this choice worked for us. It’s very easy to stop here and sometimes, when our goal is to do what we know fast, it can be peaceful. Many times though, we will not experience a sense of peace about what we just ate. Instead we feel like we are spinning our wheels in judgments, fears and disappointment (some people might call this a monkey brain experience). In our story above, it is like the young man digging up his seeds every day just because he wants to know that they are growing and each time, becoming more disappointed.

And so how do we know if we’ve brought an awareness about hunger back to our Right brain for the R-L-R cycle? A quick synopsis can come from noticing if you did this action with an agenda in mind. Our Left brain always needs a purpose for everything and uses that to rationalize it’s suggestions. Our Right brain would bring us mindful enjoyment as we smell, taste, touch, chew our food. Here are more qualities our Right brain brings to any situation: flexibility, possibility, integration, wholeness perspective, context, personal, empathy, more complex emotions than anger and fear, metaphors, non-verbal understandings, ok with not knowing, open to a new idea here. For instance, it is only by bringing a situation back to our Right brain, that we might find the understanding that we are not really hungry. Maybe we are tired or nervous and something in us has found food to be helpful. We only learn this by pausing to do R-L-R. We might still decide to eat in this moment and with this increased awareness of pausing to check back with our body if we really are hungry now in this situation, we likely are more open to changing this dynamic at times. Something new is brewing around our food choices now.

I wonder if reading this has brought to mind something in yourself that seems to lack the wider perspective peacefulness brings? You might practice the pause of bringing back whatever you are doing to this situation freshly by remembering R-L-R. Let me know if you are able to use this in your life. If you would like to learn more about exercises like this for using your brain to expand your sense of peace, reach out and contact me about Guided Sessions or Focusing Classes that could meet your needs.

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