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,