Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sweet Dreams - The Messages in our Dreams

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”
"When you find a dream inside your heart, don't let it go. For dreams are the tiny seeds from which beautiful tomorrows grow."

In my blog post on 'Life Enhancing Dreams' I talked about how we direct our life through our dreams, desires and outcomes, explored the difference between dreams and outcomes and described how to integrate the head, heart and gut (enteric) brains to help you begin to create the life you dream about. In today's post however...

"Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions." 
"Dreams are illustrations... from the book your soul is writing about you."

I want to explore dreams and dreaming from a different perspective. I want to describe and share evidence and ideas about dreams as messages from our multiple brains; dreams as deeply intuitive communications from our heart and gut brains. But first a true and chilling story...

Dreams that saved a life!

In early 2011, Oprah Winfrey decided she wanted to run an issue of her magazine solely devoted to the power of intuition and how to tap into gut instincts. Her magazine editors and researchers began searching for true and verifiable stories about people whose lives had been saved by hunches and messages from their deep intuition. What they found are some amazing stories, and these are detailed in the August 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, but the one that really stands out is the experience of Trisha Coburn.

Trisha was 46 years of age and living a successful, healthy life, when one night she had an intense and disturbing dream that ultimately saved her life. In the dream she was standing at a barbed-wire fence and a group of frail and scary people on the other side were trying to tell her something in a language she couldn’t comprehend. For the next couple of weeks she had the same dream recurringly, and each time the number of people in the dream increased and looked more and more desperate. The dreams were so disturbing she would wake up crying. She knew something was wrong.

So Trisha called her doctor and scheduled a full physical workup. But the results came back negative and her doctor was convinced Trisha was healthy and over-reacting. Still the dream came back, this time with 100 people, all wailing, screaming and pleading in their strange language. A few days after that, the same dream occurred one last time, but in this dream the fence was empty, there was no one there.

This was so disturbing to Trisha she went immediately to her doctor again and asked him what he thought was the deepest place in the human body. After he told her it was the colon, she demanded a colonoscopy. Even though her doctor was against it because she had no symptoms and no family history of colon cancer, Trisha insisted.

And fortunately for Trisha, she listened to the messages from her dreams. During the colonoscopy the gastroenterologist found aggressive and fast moving cancer throughout her colon. Her life was saved. A message from her gut brain that all was not well, communicated via dreams, allowed her to find the cancer and have it removed before it killed her. The surgeon later told her if she’d waited another two months, the prognosis would have been grim.

What a chilling and powerful story about the power of dreams for tapping into your deep gut wisdom!

The gut dreaming...

Every night, as you sleep, your head brain goes through periods of what is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. REM sleep is a normal stage of sleep, occurs approximately every 90 minutes on average, and is associated with the act of dreaming. It’s believed by many neuroscientists and sleep researchers to be an integral part of the learning process and plays a major role in the integration of memory, experience and knowledge. A recent study at the University of California, using brain scans, showed that during REM sleep, memories are being reactivated, put in perspective and integrated. It was demonstrated that REM sleep acts like a form of overnight balm, soothing the emotional experiences of the previous day.

Fascinatingly, the gut brain also goes through a process akin to REM sleep, only in the gut this is known as RGM (Rapid Gut Movement) sleep. Approximately every 90 minutes, while you sleep, the gut goes through periods of RGM. It is suggested by some researchers that this is a time when the gut and head are communicating and integrating the knowledge and experiences of the day. It has also been noted by researchers that people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other inflammatory bowel disorders suffer from poor sleep patterns, experience abnormal amounts of REM and RGM sleep periods and report more intense and prolific dreaming compared to control subjects.

Based on these insights, it is likely therefore that dreams are important ways in which the gut brain communicates to the head brain and allows intuitions and ‘gut wisdom’ to surface into consciousness. As the esoteric wisdom traditions maintain, your dreams contain messages from your gut and heart. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is suggested the gut communicates about its state through dreams and when it’s infected with intestinal parasites the dreams have specificity about what sort of parasite exists in the gut. Ancient Taoist TCM texts say that, “When one has small intestinal parasites, one will dream of crowds; when one has long intestinal parasites, one will dream of fights and mutual destruction.”

Messages from the heart...

Now here are some more amazing and somewhat 'spooky' pieces of evidence about messages received from dreams. These however, are about dream messages from the heart and what is most fascinating is the level of specificity that must be contained in heart brain memories for the messages to contain such incredible details. I hope you find them as intriguing as I did when I first read them.

As described in my book 'mBraining', after a heart and lung transplant operation, dancer Claire Sylvia discovered that her new organs were not the only thing she inherited. As detailed in her fascinating biography ‘A Change of Heart’, one night, five months after her operation, Claire woke from a vivid and entrancing dream. In her dream, she met a man named Tim L. and formed a strong bond with him. As the dream unfolded, it became time for Tim to leave, and just before he did, Claire and Tim kissed and during the kiss, Claire inhaled Tim into her and awoke, knowing that she and Tim would be together forever.

This dream was so vivid, unusual and exhilarating that on awakening, Claire felt as if she’d finally integrated her new heart and lungs within her. She says she woke up knowing that Tim L. was her donor and that parts of his spirit and personality were now within her. This deep sense of knowing started her on a quest to find out who her donor really was and after months and months of frustrated research and searching she finally made contact with his family. And the kicker to the story… the donor’s real name was Tim LaSalle.

What an amazing story! Definitely worth reading. It’s also backed up by medical research that shows that severed vagus nerves can, after several months, reconnect and re-innervate the cardiac nervous system of the new heart. Obviously, in Claire’s case, her new heart connected strongly and was able to send messages in her dreams to help her accept and integrate her new heart brain.

Finally, here’s another heart chilling and incredible story from the literature on personality changes after heart transplants. In this example, an eight year old girl received the heart of a ten year old girl, but sometime after the transplant, the young recipient began to have vivid nightmares about an attacker and a girl being murdered. Concerned about her young daughter, the mother took her to a psychiatrist who became convinced that with nightmares so detailed and real they appeared to be genuine memories. The psychiatrist recommended they contact the police, and presciently, it turned out the ten year old donor had been murdered.

According to the literature, the recipient’s violent reoccurring dreams were so vivid and accurate, and she was able to describe the events of the horrible encounter and the murderer with such detail, police were able to apprehend and convict the killer. An incredible story that makes you wonder just how much intelligence and specificity the heart brain and its memories have.

Dreams as communications...

So it would seem that dreams can serve as messages from our multiple brains, that dreams can sometimes be deeply intuitive communications from our heart and gut brains to our head brains. This is probably why we say things like 'Sweet Dreams' when we wish someone to have a good night's sleep. What the neurolinguistics of this common saying indicates is that we are future pacing the gut brain to do a gustatory experience of  'sweetness' (taste is a key sensory modality utilized by the enteric nervous system - we have taste buds not just on our tongues, but spread throughout our GastroIntestinal system) and thereby send positive messages in our dreams rather than messages of fear and anxiety that can lead to nightmares.

As you know from my last post on the Prime Functions of the multiple brains, the gut brain is responsible for monitoring safety and threats, both external physical threats and internal ‘semantic’ or psychological threats. So if, before sleeping you put yourself into a hyped up vigilant state, if you ruminate over perceived injustices, or focus on upcoming fearful events, you’ll find that your gut brain will kick into threat monitoring mode and your brains won’t be able to do deep high quality sleeping. You obviously also shouldn’t eat rich and complex meals just before sleeping. Anything that disturbs or distracts the gut brain from calm sleeping can detract from how restful and ‘sweet’ your sleep and dreams can be.

Instead, as you lay in bed, just before drifting off to sleep, do Balanced Breathing and fill you heart with peace, love and compassion. Then breathe these up into your head and down to your gut. Fill all your brains with calm, peaceful love. Talk kindly and lovingly to your brains and ask them to do high quality and integrative sleeping. Directionalize your brains respectfully and then filled with warm feelings of safety, love and peace, gently drift off into a refreshing night of health-filled sleep. And pay attention to your dreams, especially the vivid and memorable ones. They are likely to be important messages from your multiple brains and you ignore them at your peril. Indeed, listening to the messages from your dreams just may save your life...

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Learn more...

If you'd like to learn more about how to communicate with and integrate your head, heart and gut brains, grab a copy of  'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff'. In it you'll find simple and powerful techniques for tapping into your intuition and using sleep and the wisdom of your heart and gut brains for integrated decision making.

smiles and appreciation,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Using the mBIT Prime Functions of the Head, Heart and Gut Brains

If you follow this blog you'll know that over the last 2 years I've been productively busy researching and developing a new field of personal development called mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) and time-binding the models and distinctions from this field into a new book titled 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff'.

The Prime Functions of the Head, Heart and Gut Brains

One of the key insights from mBIT is that each of your brains (head, heart and gut brains) has its own 'Prime Functions'. Each brain has a fundamentally different form of intelligence; they utilize different language, have different goals and operate under different criteria. In other words, your head, heart and gut have different ways of processing the world, of communicating, operating and addressing their own concerns and domains of expertise.

mBrain Prime Functions

Heart Brain Prime Functions
·        Emoting
·        Relational Affect
·        Values

Gut Brain Prime Functions
·        Mobilization
·        Self-Preservation
·        Core Identity

Head Brain Prime Functions
·        Cognitive Perception
·        Thinking
·        Making Meaning

About the head brain…

In many ways the prime functions of the head brain are obvious, they involve the mental cognitive functions of logical thinking and include the processes of reasoning, perception and how we make meaning. Thought processes involve mental imagery, language expression, abstraction and symbol manipulation. The main job of the head is to intellectually make sense of the world and to provide executive control.

About the heart brain…

The heart is the seat of love and desires, goals, dreams and values. When you are connected to something you feel it and value it in your heart. When you hear that someone ‘wears their heart on their sleeve’ you intuitively know that this does NOT mean that they are too logical. Instead, this is saying that they show their emotions, desires and intentions too obviously and readily. 

If you say something is heartfelt, you aren’t saying it’s intellectually concise. And when you look at the language patterns of the heart, they express notions of love, connection, kindness and their converse. The prime functions of the heart intelligence involve salience, affection and relational issues such as a deep sense of moral rightness as compared to rule based ethics.

About the gut brain…

Due to its evolutionary history, the gut brain is responsible at a core level for determining what will be assimilated into self and excreted from self. It must determine what is required to maintain health and wellness in the system and decide whether molecules ingested into the stomach will be absorbed or excreted. Indeed, research has shown that more than 80 percent of our immune cells are located in the gut, and the enteric brain is intimately involved in managing immune function.

The prime functions of the gut are around protection, self-preservation, core identity and motility. Back when evolution was at the stage of complexity of sea cucumbers and worms, organisms only had a neural processing system of an enteric brain. This intelligence was used to detect threats and food in the environment and move away from danger and towards food. The gut brain maintains boundary detection and mobilization. In humans it is expressed as motivation, gutsy courage and a gut-felt desire to take action (or not).

Using the Prime Functions as life enhancing diagnostic tools

One of the most powerful and useful things you can do to gain more personal control in your life is use the mBIT Prime Functions as life enhancing diagnostic tools. Using the Prime Functions as a set of filters you can begin to track and change which of your multiple brains are operating in any given situation or context. Of course, all your brains and neural networks are operating all of the time, however, focus and control moves throughout your brains and knowing which brain is the prime controller at any point in time can really provide leverage for change.

Let me share an example from my own personal experience to make sense of this... I had been expecting an overdue delivery of the very first printing of my mBraining book, and contacted the courier to find out why the delivery was late and when I could finally expect to receive my books. I eventually managed to speak to a customer service representative of the global courier company used to deliver the books and was informed that due to various organizational issues, they would not be able to deliver the books to me for another 4 weeks. I got off the phone and found myself feeling both angry and incredibly turmoiled. The book was important to me and I had various commitments and timeframes that relied on having stock of the book on hand.

As I sat there fuming over the crap service of this big-named courier company, that promised swift and efficient service on their website and advertising, I realised that feeling angry and upset wouldn't help me or help resolve the situation. I stopped focusing on the issue for a second, and instead did an inventory through my body and noted where and how I was feeling and representing the issue. I noted that I felt anger in my heart region, tension in my forehead and shoulders, but most strongly and overwhelmingly, I felt the issue deep and viscerally in my gut. This told me immediately that I was representing the issue at a gut level and that it was a gut prime function that was driving my response. The gut is responsible for core identity and threat detection. I was obviously treating the book and the missing delivery as if this was a part of 'me' that was under threat. The gut brain was then communicating the message of threat to the heart and head leading to angering and repetitive negative cognitions and ultimately tension around the head and face region.

As soon as I realized that I was representing the book as if it was part of me, I was now immediately at choice. Did I really want to see the book as 'me', was it really part of my core identity, or was it just something I valued highly as a process and an artefact of the production of my creative abilities? Naturally, the book is not 'me', it's just something I produced. And as soon as I acknowledged that, and breathed the message of that from my heart, into my head, and down to my gut, everything shifted. I belly laughed, with a big smile of inner realization on my face. The anger in my heart dissolved immediately. And I was able to get a much more useful perspective on the situation. With a light-hearted attitude, I was then able to track down someone within the courier company who really wanted to help and delightfully my books were delivered within the week. Problem solved and done in a compassionate and creative way. By using the Prime Functions as a diagnostic tool and thereby realizing I was treating the book as 'me' I enabled a wiser choice in how I responded to the exigencies of life and that truly is life enhancing.

So I trust that from the above example you get a sense and idea of how to use the Prime Functions as filters and diagnostic tools. Start to notice where and how in your body you are representing and reacting to each situation. Are you fundamentally processing the situation with your heart? Your head? Your gut? And what prime function(s) are thereby being expressed by the neural network that has prime control? Once you've gained meta-awareness of how you are processing and creating your awareness and reality, you can then use the mBIT Foundational Sequence and Highest Expressions techniques explained fully in the mBraining book to produce a more generative and wiser response. 

So start now to notice how you are mBraining your life, which of your brains is operating in which sequence with the others, which is in control, which can provide the leverage point for change, and what prime functions are operating as you respond to and create your world.

with appreciation and smiles,

Monday, June 18, 2012

I give a shit! -- Scatalogical Marking and the Enteric Brain

“The world is not a problem; the problem is your unawareness”
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

I trust and hope that you find today's blog post fascinating, edifying and entertaining in equal measure :-) and I also hope you aren't easily offended by swearing or scatalogical language, as it's going to form the basis for what we are exploring here today...

Scatalogical Marking

In ethology (the study of animal behavior), scatalogical marking is the act that animals undertake to mark out or define their physical or spatial boundaries -- the space they consider to be 'theirs', that they own. To do this they 'scat' around their boundary by depositing their shit or by urinating. This marks out their territory and sends a clear olfactory message to other animals or rivals of their own species.

In mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) terms, scatalogical marking is an obvious manifestation of the prime functions of the gut brain. The gut (or enteric) brain is deeply involved in protection, threat monitoring and control, in spatial motility and in maintaining core self. In a sense, the spatial territory that an animal controls is like an extended part of itself and is crucial to both its foraging/food control and its threat/safety control. So the gut brain naturally uses the parts of the anatomy it controls (the bowels and bladder) to deposit strong messages about its domain. Notice also that the gut brain is strongly linked to the senses of taste and smell, so it's part of the language of the gut brain to speak and communicate with strongly smelling substances, and all animals (including humans) are attuned to this. [BTW, if you haven't already, grab a copy of my new book 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff', and you'll learn all about the prime functions and core competencies of the head, heart and gut brains and how they communicate and how you can align and integrate them for wisdom and success.]

Who gives a shit?

Now this is all very interesting, but really, who gives a shit? (so to speak) -- What has this got to do with you and with enhancing your life???

Well, as we evolved higher functions and more complex brains, our gut brain not only became responsible for physical territory maintenance, it was also co-opted for 'semantic' territory maintenace. With our complex head brains and advanced language centers and frontal lobes, we have evolved to be semantic and meaning binding creatures. We live and create our lives and sense of self through the processes of abstraction, symbol manipulation and linguistic meaning. We construct our complex world views through language, beliefs, values and the semantics of identity. And all of this forms our 'semantic territory'. So guess what... when someone transgresses your semantic boundaries, when they 'shit' all over your values or beliefs, when they act like 'turds' or 'assholes' and threaten the meaning you are making in your life, it typically 'pisses' you off and gives you the 'shits'. Indeed, if they piss you off enough, you are likely to haul off and beat the 'shit' out of them, either physically, emotionally or intellectually.

Now isn't that fascinating. Our common parlance reflects the scatalogical marking we do within our semantic territory. And this is a direct example of cognitive linguistics, of how the metaphors we use in our every day language are deeply embodied and reflect our underlying unconscious processes.

The reason I share this with you is to begin to attune your mind and ears to mBIT Predicate Tracking -- to noticing and listening for words that indicate heart, gut or head processing and the prime functions of each of those neural networks. Knowing which brain is functioning within any element of human behavior puts you at choice and control for leveraging generative change. And that is certainly life enhancing!

I give a shit!

Courtesy of my good friend and colleague, exquisite cartoonist, corporate speaker and organizational leadership guru, Colin James, I'd like to share the following cartoon that Colin drew for this blog post.

It highlights the idea that each of us has things that we give a shit about, and that we metaphorically mark our semantic boundaries with respect to. And based on this idea, here's a little exercise that I'd like you to play with...

So I'd like you to take a moment, and think about something that you 'really don't give a shit about', something that you could care less about, that really doesn't affect you in any meaningful way. For me its football and other organized sports. I really don't give a shit about them at all. If football was outlawed tomorrow, I wouldn't lose a jot of sleep over it. Wouldn't care less. It's neither a value for me, nor part of my identity. Once you've thought of something you don't give a shit about, I'd like you to get a sense of how that feels within your body, what your visceral experience of it is, in your heart, chest, gut, torso etc.

Now moving on with the exercise... I'd like you to think of something you value, something that's important to you, you care about, but is not part of your identity. In other words, something that you like, but if you weren't able to get it anymore, or if you lost it, then it wouldn't particularly rain on your parade. For me its my drive day car. I like it, I value it, but you know, if something happened to it and I had to replace it, I wouldn't be bothered. A car is a car. No probs. So take a moment, reflect and come up with something you value but that isn't vitally important to you. Once you've done that, notice your felt sense around it. Where do you feel and represent this within your body? For most people, it will be in your heart region. Notice this.

Now, think about and focus on something you really give a shit about, something that is vital to your sense of self. Something that defines you. For me, an example would be my motorbike. As I've written about in this blog, I believe motorbikes are Life Enhancing Devices (LEDs). So for me, my bike is like an extension of my self. I love it. It's linked to my core values. So think of your equivalent, and as you bring it fully to consciousness, notice where in your body you feel and represent the meaning of this. For most people this will be felt viscerally in the gut. You may also feel some heart response due to the values and desire for this person/place/thing/process. But the core feeling will be in the gut.

When you experience something as core to self, the gut kicks in. Your enteric brain has a prime function around core selfing and protection of core self. The ability to notice this and become mindful and aware of where and how you are representing things is key to being able to shift and control your life. I'll speak more about this in upcoming blog posts, and of course, the mBraining book teaches you cool techniques for powerfully utilizing this. But for now I really wanted to bring to your attention the notion that semantics and meaning are embodied and that various functions and aspects of these are processed preferentially and differently in each of your brains.

You can begin now to notice over the coming days, where in your body you are feeling and processing each experience and work out whether you are representing something as core self or just as a value. Notice what figuratively (and sometimes literally) gives you the shits, pisses you off or impacts you viscerally. Notice what stinks in your life (so to speak) or conversely smells sweet. And start listening for scatalogical marking in the conversations around you and in your own internal dialog. Mindfulness is life enhancing, as is choice and control. And control starts with awareness!
“Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.”
Stephen R. Covey

with life enhancing appreciation and smiles,

Sunday, May 27, 2012

mBraining - Compassion, Creativity and Courage

"In the 700 year old Soka Gakkai Buddhism teachings of Japan there is a mystic truth known as the ‘Buddha state’ or ‘Buddha wisdom’ that acts as a reservoir through which anyone can take control of their lives and fulfill their greatest dreams. According to these ancient spiritual beliefs, this state of wisdom involves a melding of Compassion, Creativity and Courage."
 mBraining, Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka
The highest expressions: A powerful insight

Years ago, whilst researching esoteric wisdom practices, I came across a powerful insight from the Tibetan Bonpo tradition. It suggested that a person could be considered to have truly lived a wise and beneficial life if they’d mastered three core competencies: Compassion, Creativity and Courage.

"The heart is a sensory organ and acts as a sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember and make independent functional decisions."
Dr. Rollin McCraty

After deeply exploring the neuroscience behind the heart, gut and head brains, completing a huge body of behavioral modeling research and then factor analyzing the core competencies of the three brains, I was fascinated to notice that the Bon insight highlighted a key and generative competency from each brain:
  • Heart brain – Compassion
  • Gut brain – Courage
  • Head brain – Creativity
As I continued the mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) research I discovered very similar advice from other spiritual and philosophical disciplines. Although slightly different words were used (e.g. kindness instead of compassion, bravery instead of courage, etc.), they all conveyed core competencies that were similar in their qualitative nature.

I therefore became even more curious and intrigued by these three Tibetan Bonpo core competencies and began to look for structures that could explain the consistency of these prescribed core competencies across so many different philosophies, practices and cultures. The question became: “From an mBIT perspective, what is so special about these competencies?

I discovered three key qualities that make these competencies particularly generative. First, if you look them up in the Core Competencies Framework from Chapter 3 of my book 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff', you’ll notice they’re all highly coherent states. Second, in actual practice, these ‘virtues’ are neurologically integrative by their very nature. Each of these competencies requires the engagement of the other two neural networks in order for them to fully manifest in behavior. This is explained in more detail in the book. And third, the behavioral modeling research found that the interdependent and integrative nature of these three competencies enables the emergence of a higher order level of consciousness and way of being. In other words, they collectively enable and facilitate the Highest Expression of a deeper more integrated 'self'.

Subsequently, these three competencies became what we respectfully call the mBrains’ ‘Highest Expressions’, and I’d like to suggest that of all the competencies each brain evinces, these ‘three C’s’ (Creativity, Compassion and Courage) are the most generative and defining of them all. They’re certainly the most integrative to work with for attaining greater levels of wisdom and personal evolution. Indeed, from our behavioral modeling and action research work, we’ve found these three competencies, when aligned together are able to produce a synergistic magic that is incredible to experience.

"Courage and compassion are two sides of the same coin. Compassion without courage is not genuine. You may have a compassionate thought or impulse, but if you don’t do or say anything, it’s not real compassion."
Daisaku Ikeda

In upcoming blog posts, I'll explore each of these highest expressions in detail. But until then, may I highly suggest you grab a copy of the book and begin to explore these key competencies in your own life. How can you align more wisdom in your life through Compassion, Creativity and Courage? How can you amplify Compassion in your heart, your thoughts, your life and your actions? How can you creatively Create a life that is more brilliant, more enhanced and more generatively wise? And how can you motivate more gutsy Courage and action into your world?

What would your life look like if you lived through these highest expressions? And how life enhancing would it be for both yourself and the people you love?

life enhancing thoughts,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

mBraining - Balancing your ANS

As you know... Over the last decade, the field of Neuroscience has discovered we have complex and functional brains in both our heart and gut. Called the cardiac and enteric brains respectively, scientific evidence is emerging that these neural networks exhibit intelligence and wisdom. In my book with co-author Marvin Oka, 'mBraining', I've described how to communicate with and harness this intuitive intelligence of your multiple brains, and in the post below, I'll share one of the ways you can begin to control what mode your brains are operating in.

The role of your Autonomic Nervous System

In order to do effective mBraining -- to work powerfully with your multiple brains (head, heart and gut brains) -- it helps to understand the role of your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and how it affects the quality of the way your brains function.

For example, your heart brain may be attempting to fulfill its prime functions in a particular situation by emotionally expressing either sadness or joy. These are two very different expressions that are based on the same prime function. What accounts for the difference? And what can we do to shift from a debilitating expression to a more empowering one? To answer these questions, we need to look to your ANS.

Your nervous system has two major divisions, the voluntary and the autonomic. The Voluntary System is mainly concerned with movement and sensation. The Autonomic Nervous System on the other hand is responsible for control of involuntary and visceral bodily functions. The functions it controls include:

•    Cardiovascular
•    Respiratory
•    Digestive
•    Urinary
•    Reproductive functions
•    The body’s response to stress

It’s called ‘autonomic’ because it is operates largely automatically and outside of conscious control. It’s divided into two separate branches — the sympathetic and parasympathetic. These two branches work in a delicately tuned, reciprocal and (usually) opposing fashion.

The sympathetic system can be considered to be the ‘fight or flight’ system. It allows the body to function under stress and danger. The parasympathetic system is considered to be the ‘feeding and fornicating’ or 'rest and digest' arm. It controls the vegetative functions of feeding, breeding, rest and repose. The parasympathetic system also provides constant opposition to the sympathetic system to bring your total system into balance or homeostasis.

In times of danger or stress, the sympathetic system, which has a very fast onset and response, kicks in and gets you moving to handle or resolve the situation. The slower acting parasympathetic system begins to operate after the danger has passed, and brings you back to a normal state. Without the opposing function of the parasympathetic system your body would stay amped up, burning energy and fuel and eventually exhaust itself.

[BTW: an easy way to remember which of the two systems is which, is to remember that ‘para’ means beside or beyond, and therefore the parasympathetic system works beside or beyond the sympathetic to bring it back to alignment. So just remember, sympathetic does fight/flight and the parasympathetic kicks in beyond the stress to bring you back to normal.]

Why is this important?

The reason you want to know about the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is because they innervate the heart, gut and head. There are major connections between the head brain hemispheres, the cardiac brain, the enteric brain and these sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the ANS. And as the two ANS components work in opposing ways, the dominance of one or the other leads to very different modes of processing throughout our multiple brains.

In the gut, parasympathetic activity enhances intestinal peristaltic movement promoting nourishment during quiescence, whereas sympathetic activity inhibits such activity during times when physical exertion requires catabolic (energy) mobilization. Parasympathetic activity generally slows the heart, whereas sympathetic activity accelerates it.

You’ll notice here that a powerful functional principle of opponent processing is operating for autonomic control across your total system. Your brains can function in ways that are sympathetic dominant, parasympathetic dominant, or some combination of the two, but that each of these systems typically opposes the other.

So what?

The really interesting thing about these sympathetic and parasympathetic activation processes is that while they normally operate in opposition to each other, they don’t always have to. In certain circumstances they can operate in patterns where one, the other or both are dominant in chronic patterns. What you’ll also see shortly is that when your brains are operating in sympathetic or parasympathetic dominance, they have access to differing psychological qualities and core competencies.

Physiological coherence – balance between the systems

The diagram above summarizes the four modes that your system can operate in. In the top mode, when your two systems are in balance and harmony, when you are in a powerful state known as physiological coherence (more on this coming up in a future blog post), you are able to respond optimally to the world. This mode is connected with feelings of joy, happiness, peace and relaxation.

Sympathetic dominance

In the next mode, your sympathetic system is dominant. This is the stress and danger response and in this mode you have access to competencies that typically serve you to respond via fight and flight processes such as anger, aggression, defensiveness and avoidance. It can be linked to lifestyle patterns of stress, such as taking on too much work, or worrying excessively about things you can’t control.

Parasympathetic dominance

In the third mode, your parasympathetic system is dominant. As we’ve seen above, this is the mode that quietens and settles your neurophysiology. It’s normally designed to bring you back to homeostasis after a sympathetic dominant experience. However, in certain circumstances parasympathetic dominance can be chronically activated and lead to withdrawal, depression, despair and down regulation of all your vital functions. People in this state have essentially given up and are living with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Poor diet, toxic metals and chemicals in our food, water and air can lead to issues of parasympathetic dominance.

Parasympathetic over-dominance can also activate in acute stress situations as an overreaction to an intense sympathetic response, and lead to what is called parasympathetic rebound. This leads to the ‘freeze’ response and in really extreme cases can cause the heart to stop completely and result in death. This is what causes people to literally die of fright, fear and shock.

Mixed dominance

In some cases, a person can have both sympathetic and parasympathetic systems operating in high states of activation. When these are in relative balance, the snapshot that the person presents is somewhat similar to the first mode described above. However, with this mixed dominance mode, the system is in what’s called a ‘meta-stable state’ and can flip rapidly from one state to the other. The two systems are in effect maxed out and fighting one another. So the dominance can rapidly oscillate from one extreme to the other. Some researchers suggest this mode may be associated with bipolar disorder and involve rapid changes from a manic phase to deep depression. Certainly this mode is not a healthy one and is representative of diminished control in the system.

|| Cool Fact: The sympathetic and parasympathetic dominance of your ANS controls the operating modes of your three brains and influences the core competencies they evince.

So the mode in which your brains function is determined by the state of your ANS. For example, neuroscience research over the last decade has shown that the head brain's processing mode is influenced by sympathetic and parasympathetic dominance so that the left hemisphere is dominant when the nervous system is under parasympathetic control, and the right hemisphere is dominant when the sympathetic arm is in ascendance. And the two hemispheres, left and right, have very different ways of processing, thinking and responding to the world. When you shift dominance from one to the other you shift into a very different state of mind. Equally, the heart and gut brains respond and process very differently depending on ANS mode.

What you can learn from this

What you need to know is that Autonomic Mode is the controller of your state of being and the controller of the competencies and functions you are able to express. And the most generative and life enhancing mode is when the two arms of the ANS are in balance. There are simple and powerful techniques for bringing your ANS into balance, and that's what you'll learn in my new book 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff'. So if you haven't already, pop over to the CreateSpace eStore (or Amazon for the ebook version) and grab a copy.

with life enhancing appreciation,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

mBraining - Digest this idea...

Here's some interesting food for thought... A fascinating TED talk 'How do we consume data?' by technologist JP Rangaswami, who muses on our relationship to information and offers a surprising and sharp insight: we treat it like food.


Now if you've read my and Marvin's new book, 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff', you'll know that our gut brain is deeply involved in assimilating knowledge and information. The following story explores the neuro-linguistics of this.

Knowing in your gut

It is known from ancient Chinese historical records that the great sage Li Shizhen, a famous physician from the Ming Dynasty, was a skilled medical practitioner with a great love for medical books. Now, it’s said that in his home town there was a rival physician who was both incompetent and ignorant, but who owned a huge collection of medical books he used to show off his supposed wealth of knowledge.
As the story goes… one day at the end of a long and wet rainy season, the rival doctor ordered his servants to lay out his collection of medical books in the courtyard to dry. Pacing back and forth in front of the collection he primped and preened in an all too obvious display of both himself and his knowledge. 
Passing through the courtyard, Li Shizhen stopped, loosened his clothing and dropped down next to the books. The physician, seeing Li Shizhen laying with his belly exposed to the sun, rushed over and asked, “Hey, what are you doing there?” 
Li Shizhen responded, “I also want to get some sunshine for my books.”
His rival asked, “But where are your books then?” 
Li patted his belly and said, “All my books are in here.”
Li Shizhen’s humorous yet insightful rejoinder tells us a lot. It talks deeply about how true knowledge depends not on how many books you own, but on how much knowledge you have digested. Now isn’t that interesting…

It is a common expression to talk about ‘digesting an idea’. You often hear people say things like “I need to digest that fact,” “I can’t swallow that notion.” What’s that about? Why is knowledge and understanding linked linguistically and metaphorically to gustatory experience? What’s going on here? As you’ll see, these are not just figures of speech.

Deep insights from neuro-linguistics

In the early 1970’s, John Grinder and Richard Bandler based at the University of California, and drawing on work from a diverse range of fields including General Semantics, Transformational Grammar, Ericksonian Hypnosis and Systems Theory, created a powerful synthesis they called Neuro Linguistic Programming or NLP for short. Using the methodology of Behavioral Modeling (more on this below), NLP developed models for human communication, learning and behavioral competence amongst others.

Science Digest reported that NLP: “could be the most important synthesis of knowledge about human communication to emerge since the explosion of humanistic psychology… It may be the ultimate behavioral engineering tool.”

NLP provides a set of models, skills and techniques for thinking and acting effectively in the world, through which you can change, adopt or eliminate behaviors in yourself and others. Most importantly for us, one of the many principles that NLP provided is the insight that how people use language is a direct representation of what is happening in their neurology. As NLP points out, “very little of human communication is metaphorical, language is a literal description of deep unconscious process.” What this means is that we can listen to natural and common expressions and unpack the underlying neurological processing represented within.

In terms of evidence for multiple intelligences outside of the head brain, common expressions such as:
  • “Listen to your gut wisdom”
  • “Trust the intelligence of your heart”
  • “Follow your heart”
  • “Use your gut intuition”
  • “Trust your gut”
  • “Be true to your heart”
  • “My gut is telling me there’s something wrong”
  • “Deep in my heart I know”
  • “Go with your gut response”
These expressions all indicate in their neuro-linguistics that intelligence, wisdom and intuition are occurring in the regions of the heart and gut. This is a powerful insight and backs up the message from ancient esoteric traditions.

Cognitive linguistics
In 1980, at the University of California, two young linguists published a book that rocked the field of linguistics to its core and created a whole new and exciting field called Cognitive Linguistics. In their book, ‘Metaphors We Live By’, Professor George Lakoff and Dr. Mark Johnson demonstrated that much of language and thought is grounded in metaphor and that metaphor and associated aspects of mind are embodied. What does this mean?

When Lakoff and Johnson claim that mind and language is ‘embodied’ they are saying that human cognition depends on and deeply uses the sensorimotor system and emotions. An example might help explain this more simply. According to Lakoff a statement such as “She gave me a warm greeting” is based on an underlying conceptual metaphor that ‘Affection is Warmth’, and that this cognitive concept is embodied in an actual physical experience and a corresponding neural network mapping. We literally feel and experience affection as warmth. So the linguistic expressions we use to communicate and make sense of our world are representations of our ongoing unconscious experience of the world. As Lakoff puts it, “We are neural beings. Our brains take their input from the rest of our bodies. What our bodies are like and how they function in the world thus structures the very concepts we can use to think. We cannot think just anything — only what our embodied brains permit.”

[BTW: Notice the similarity here to the powerful ideas from NLP, cool hey, science meets the progeny of behavioral modeling.]

Lakoff and Johnson’s insights and theories were initially controversial and at first hotly debated throughout the halls of linguistic and psychological science. However, in the intervening period since 1980, and with the use of brain imaging tools, neural network simulations and other powerful technologies, the ideas from Cognitive Linguistics have been largely proven out. Metaphor and cognition really is embodied. And in the case of our example above, researchers at Yale University recently found that subjects holding a warm cup of coffee in advance were more likely to evaluate an imaginary individual as warm and friendly than those holding a cold drink. This of course is predicted by the conceptual metaphor that affection is warmth.
"Thought and language are largely metaphorical and embodied. Our language deeply represents underlying neural and behavioral processing."

Ok, that’s interesting, but really… so what? Well, here’s what’s really cool and useful about this: you can use what’s called ‘linguistic corpus analysis’ to unpack and infer the underlying neurological processes and competencies that are being referenced by the words people use. You can take common expressions and parlance, folk-wisdom if you will, and use it as a tool to guide behavioral modeling. And this is one of the many methodologies we’ve employed to create the new field of mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) and to discover what the core competencies of the gut and heart brains are.

And linking all this back to the TED talk above, you can see and hear the connection of how we process and consume knowledge -- we digest it, chew it over, use it as food for thought and learn by assimilating it into our core selves and our lives. When an idea doesn't sit right, we feel it in our gut. And this really is a deep and important insight.

with appreciation,

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Aligning your multiple brains - mBraining

"You have a brain in your head, heart and gut. Generative wisdom comes from aligning your multiple brains through their highest expressions."

As you know, my colleague Marvin Oka and I recently launched a new book called 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff', and I'm pleased to be able to tell you that the print version of the book is now available at Amazon CreateSpace: Get your copy here

I'd like to share with you some of the key insights and findings from the book and from our last 2 years of behavioral modeling research on the multiple brains and how to align them and harness their intelligence, intuition and wisdom.

Aligning your multiple brains

We have three separate intelligences operating in our bodies and these can end up in antagonism to each other, can have various patterns, habits and learned propensities, and can be aligned or not aligned. How our brains communicate and operate with each other is vital for success and happiness. It can be life denying when our brains fight each other or ignore each other and alternately, it is incredibly life enhancing when our multiple brains work harmoniously together to produce generative wisdom in our lives.

So how do you know when your mBrains are NOT aligned?

In our action research and behavioral modeling work we found that the following clues will often alert you when your brains are not aligned or integrated:
  • You experience internal conflict within yourself between your thoughts, feelings and actions
  • You’ve not acted upon your dreams, goals and plans
  • You do unwanted behaviors or habits and don’t know why or have difficulty in stopping
  • You find it difficult to make a decision(s)
  • Something within you is making it difficult for you to motivate yourself to take action
  • You sabotage yourself from achieving your goals
  • You chronically experience disempowering emotional states such as frustration, depression, anger, anxiety, etc.
  • You suffer from chronic health issues, especially those to do with the heart or gut region

So any time you find elements of these experiences in your life or behavior, then it's time to reach for the mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) Toolkit and use the mBIT processes we've detailed in the mBraining book, to repattern how your brains are working together to support you and enhance your life.

The mBIT Roadmap

One of the models we’ve developed during our work is the mBIT Roadmap. It is an explicit framework that outlines a clear developmental path when working with your three brains to bring them into coherence and alignment and produce generative wisdom in your life.

Alignment and integration of your multiple brains requires a number of steps and functions. To start with it needs communication between your three brains and this must be performed in an optimal sequence. The three brains need to then be brought into congruence and this is done through what we call the ‘Highest Expression’ of each of your brains’ prime functions i.e. through Compassion, Creativity and Courage. All of this needs to be facilitated within a framework of wisdom, and there are specific steps and techniques to do this.


Assuming you have recognized the need and value of aligning and integrating your three brains, the first step is to establish communication with your brains and facilitate communication between each of the brains. Remember, each brain speaks to you in different languages and in different ways as related to their prime functions. In order to facilitate communication with and between each of the brains, you’ll need to develop the skills detailed in the mBraining book and that I'll introduce you to over upcoming blog posts.


This is about alignment between the brains. The flip side of this is to eliminate any conflict between the brains, and ensure they are in agreement and supporting each other in their functions toward a common agreed outcome. In order to facilitate this, you will need to work with NIE’s (Neural Integrative Engagements) and NIB’s (Neural Integration Blocks) — more about this in the book and in upcoming blog posts.

Highest Expression

Now that all of the brains are in alignment from the Congruence stage, you want to ensure each neural network is functioning in its most optimized state. We call this optimized state the ‘Highest Expression’ of each brain’s intelligence. Note that there isn’t a single, definitive Highest Expression for each brain that is universally true for everyone in all contexts. However, we have found that the following generative set serves as a powerful foundation from which you can start to explore, apply and work with the majority of life issues.

The Highest Expressions of the three brains are:
  • Head brain – Creativity
  • Heart brain – Compassion
  • Enteric brain – Courage


This is the payoff for working with your three brains to get them aligned and integrated. This stage is about the practical applications of mBIT to the issue(s) you are working on. Wisdom is not a specific thing but rather an emergent quality that is the result of harnessing the perspectives and insights from all of your brains when they are functioning at their Highest Expressions of intelligence.

The wisdom that emerges from aligning and integrating your three brains is now applied to your issue(s) in areas such as decision-making, action-taking, problem-solving, harnessing your intuition, reflection and learning, etc. Remember that a major contributor to the emergence of wisdom at this level is not simply due to the Highest Expressions, but comes from aligning and integrating your brains in an optimally effective sequence which we have called the mBIT Foundational Sequence and I'll describe that in a later blog, or you can check it out and learn about it in your copy of the book.

Wrapping it up

So in summary, the mBIT Roadmap is a simple yet powerful framework for aligning and integrating your three brains. It enables you to quickly harness their intelligence for wiser and authentic living at your highest level of being.

The mBIT Roadmap provides a structure for the process of:
  1. Establishing communication with your three brains
  2. Aligning them so each is fulfilling its prime functions congruently as appropriate to the task-at-hand
  3. Ensuring each is operating from its Highest Expression, and
  4. Applying those Highest Expressions for greater wisdom in decision-making and action-taking

I hope you've found this as fascinating and intriguing as we have as we were discovering and researching it. Once you know how to, and are skilled in, aligning your multiple brains, life really starts to flow more easily and things that were previously difficult become so much easier. You are no longer fighting yourself or undermining your deep intuitive intelligence. You open up to the inherent wisdom of your deep inner self and become one with your core values and core authentic self. You also open up new possibilities in how you are creating and authoring your life. And that is truly life enhancing.

So do yourself a favor, and if you haven't already, pop over to our CreateSpace eStore for a physical copy of the book, or for a copy of the kindle ebook (and you can read it on the iPad too with the free kindle reader app). And check out our website: for more info on our fascinating work on mBIT and mBraining.

smiles and appreciation,