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,