Posted by: renaissance2wellbeing | June 15, 2010

Understanding Our Brain and Mind! (June ’10)

            Understanding Our Brain and Mind

It all matters: everything you see, hear, watch, say, and think. Therefore, be the gate-keeper of your mind and choose carefully what goes in.”
– Maurice Lavigne

Can you believe it, we’re half-way through the year, on the periphery of another summer. It seems like yesterday we rang in the New Year. If you recalled my January newsletter, “A New Year, A New You: Change for the Better”, I outlined what was needed. The list included nutrition, supplementation, exercise, stress management, and changing our beliefs and perceptions.

Having covered most of these subjects, we are now left with the last principle, which are our beliefs and perceptions. As you may recall, I put these subjects in two categories: extrinsic, that which happens outside the body (nutrition, supplements and exercise), and intrinsic (stress, and our beliefs and perceptions). Additionally, I noted that 80% of illness is due in part from stress. Since most stress derives from the mind, we need a closer look at the workings of the mind. Remember that emotions are the body’s response to the mind (thinking). So the question is, where and how did we get these thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. To answer this, we need a two pronged approach:

  1.  Understanding the mind: conscious and subconscious.
  2.  Understanding the ego, consciousness.

Think of it as building a house: the mind is the foundation, and the ego/consciousness the house. This month’s newsletter looks at the mechanics of the mind.

                        The Placebo/Nocebo Effect

Getting back to January’s newsletter, I noted that our beliefs and perceptions make up fifty percent of a pie chart in regards to well-being.

The Circle of Health Pie Chart
  • Nutrition 15%
  • Vitamin and juicing 10%
  • Exercise and stress management 25%
  • Changing your belief systems(thinking & perceptions) 50% 

That in itself is an important aspect that cannot be overlooked. For example, if we have a health issue or an illness and believe that we cannot overcome it — that by its self can be the difference between getting well or not.

The Placebo and Nocebo effect

It is like the placebo effect which is often used in drug trials, to test their efficacy. Two groups of people are used in the trials — one group takes the drug, while the second group takes a placebo or dummy pill (sugar/chalk). Neither group knows which is which. Often the results reveal, those given the dummy pill had the same benefits as the ones given the real pill. It was their belief that made the difference.

The opposite side of the coin is called the Nocebo effect. For example, if you were diagnosed with an illness like cancer, and told that it is not curable — that belief in it self can be the difference between healing and dying.  The cancer may not kill you, but your belief will. So, a physician should never tell a person, nothing can be done or there is no hope. There have been countless cases of people on their death bed, getting well, call spontaneous remission or spontaneous healing, just by changing their beliefs.

Click here to view an excellent documentary about this called Placebo, and its remarkable effects.

We cannot overlook the innate power within, to heal. But to tap into that, we need the correct mindset: thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.  Remember, happy, positive thoughts, strengthen our biology and negative thinking weakens it.

Becoming proactive and having the right beliefs, is the key to making positive changes in our life. Unfortunately, most of our minds have been programmed and conditioned by the past. Having been inculcated with misbeliefs, misinformation, disempowering remarks and negative thinking by our peers, has fettered our road to success and well being. Never questioning the veracity of their comments or words, but believe them as gospel truth. So the question is, when and where did this happen.

Lets look at the researcher of Dr Shad Helmstetter

Dr Shad Helmstetter discovered that most youngsters in the US between the ages of 6 to 18, are instilled by well meaning but misinformed adult figures, (parents, teachers or others) with such beliefs as:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You’re not smart enough
  • You will never amount to anything
  • No point wasting your time doing that; its not going to get you anywhere.
  • If you want anything in life you must work hard for it
  • Life is a struggle, get used of it

Furthermore, the inculcation of self-defeating, negative comments told to a youngster between the ages of six and eighteen is 148,000. Conversely, the amount of positive, empowering remarks is 4000. As an example, it’s been postulated that by the time most people reach the age of seventeen, they have heard “no you can’t” about 15,000 times and “yes you can” about 5,000 times. Which belief do you think has a better chance of sinking into your subconscious? Formed beliefs about ourself are often based on what others repeatedly told us growing up.

Listening to negative beliefs from an early age makes life a struggle. It creates lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and not pursuing our goals. Additionally, we repeat them in our mind, such as:

  • no point applying for that job, I’m not going to get it
  • I will never succeed
  • Life is a struggle  
  • If I ask this person out on a date, they will turn me down

In relation to our health, we have the beliefs:

  • I’m a victim 
  • only medicine can help me
  • I will never get well from my illness
  • There is no cure for my ailment   

           Our Neck-top, Lap-top — the Amazing Brain

The grandfather of neuroanatomy Sir Charles Sherrington noted, “The human brain is an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern, never an abiding one, a shifting harmony of sub-patterns.  It’s as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance”.  

Whether we believe it or not, our brain or “Neck-top La-top” is much better than we give ourselves credit for.  With its 100 billion neuron or brain cell capacity, and as the mathematician John Von Neumann once calculated, the brain can store 280 quintillion or eighteen 0’s after it, bits of memory, that being a conservative figure.  

When it comes to human beings, what differentiates us in comparison to other species is our brain — not its size — but the size of the frontal lobe. Looking at this lump of tofuy matter, one could never grasp the depths of its capabilities.  

In additon to 100 billion neurons or brain cells, it contains about a hundred thousand miles of blood vessels. These neurons are capably of performing about 10 quadrillion operations per second. The capacity of our brain is virtually unlimited.  Our brain has 100% retention and it is just the recall or remembering that is the problem, as our memories lie so deep in the unconscious. We can learn seven facts per second; as long as we live, with sufficient space for more, and our brain can improve with age provide we use it efficiently.

Our brain is able to make an unlimited number of thought patterns throughout our life. Pytor Anokin of Moscow University compared our brain to a “Multidimensional musical instrument that could play an infinite number of musical pieces simultaneously.” The capacity of the brain is virtually unlimited, and most importantly, we are gifted with unlimited potentiality.  

However, the brain, the most highly complex form on the planet, does not create consciousness. It was consciousness that created the brain. Consciousness enters this world through the brain, as water enters your shower, through a shower head.

The brain and thinking are form, a tiny aspect of consciousness, whereas consciousness is formless. I will discuss this further in next month’s newsletter. 

                    Different levels of Brain Activity

Now, let’s look at the different levels of brain activity. Part of brain function is that it generates electrical activity, which can be measured by an EEG machine (encephalograph). There are different levels of vibrational frequencies of EEG — high and low levels, and we give them different names. These names are different frequencies that are related to different mental states. The adult brain moves through different levels of electrical activity throughout the day. In a new born infant, because the brain has not fully developed, cannot express these different levels.  

The Different Levels   

Delta

Delta is the lowest level of brain activity, and is usually associated with unconsciousness or sleeping in the adult brain. For a new born infant, it starts out at this level for the first two years. However, the fetal brain is not unconscious or sleeping like the adult brain, as it has not yet fully developed its nervous system, or integrated other bodily functions. In the nascent stage of life or first couple years, it’s taking in information, but unable to respond. It’s as if it were behind a plate glass window, observing the world, unable to respond.  

Theta

The next level is theta. For the developed brain, it’s the state of imagination, creation and is called twilight revelry. When you wake up in the morning and are half asleep and awake, and the radio goes off — you mix the dream world with the real world.  

Additionally, as a child reaches the age of two to six or seven, its brain activity primarily functions at the theta level. For a child, it’s the stage of imagination and creation. A child in this brain state, is mixing the real life world with the fantasy world, like, when its riding a broom stating, “it’s a horse” — to the child it is a horse — they are mixing the dream world with the real world.  

Alpha

From theta we move to the next level, Alpha or calm consciousness, for a person, when they are relaxed. When the child reaches seven, it ramps up to the Alpha level. At this stage, consciousness becomes part of the child’s life, after the age of six. Implying, for the first six years of a child life, its brain frequency is lower than consciousness. Which may not sound correct, but here is why nature did it for a very important reason.  Consciousness requires thinking about things; like comparing, thinking and putting pieces together.

Here’s the rub, can you be conscious if your brain has no data in it — the answer is no, because there is nothing to think about. Consciousness is not involved for the first six years, because it is downloading the system with data.

When a child reaches six, consciousness kicks in, there is data to operate conscious thinking processes and there’s something to think about.  

Beta

Finally, the last and highest level of brain activity is beta. When the child has reached twelve, it ramps up to an even higher level of brain activity called beta, which is focused schoolroom consciousness. Which is why, there is a change from elementary school to junior high school. Because beforehand, the brain does not operate with focus consciousness — after 12 it does, as we go to a higher level.  

To Review  

The first six years of a child’s life is predominantly in the delta/theta brain states, which are very low levels of electrical brain activity. What is interesting is that these levels of brain activity are associated with clinical hypnosis, referred to as the hypnogogic trance.  

For the first six years the child is at this sublevel of consciousness, and unlike school learning, the child has only to observe and experience the world, and everything is downloaded into the subconscious — it is in a super-learning state. It’s as if a child has a video-camera attached to its head, and what it sees, hears, smells is downloaded. Its perceptions of the world are downloaded.  

Furthermore, the intelligence of the child is very active at this point, as an example — a child of three years can learn three languages simultaneously, whereas a child of eight or nine would find it difficulty to learn a second language.  

Examples of what a child observes and downloads  

During this time its perceptions of the world are formed. It observes how parents respond to the stimuli of the world.

  • How parents respond to each other: mother to father, father to mother.
  • Traits or habits parents have are observed and downloaded.
  • A male child would look at the mother and see how a woman would relate to this father. In addition, this young male will actually gather an idea of the kind of woman he will actually look for when he’s older.
  • A female child will focus on the mother and see how she responds to the father.
  • The child will notice the difference of how parents talk to other children and adults.
  • Or an adult talking to a person in authority, such as a police officer/judge, as opposed to another adult.   

All of this occurring in the first six years of a child’s life, it learns all the nuances of life, even before we are really conscious. This is a programmable life of beliefs and perceptions, enabling us to fit into society very quickly, because we can download all the rules without consciously thinking about them.  In essence, we’re being hypnotized by the world we live in.  

Perceptions and Misperceptions of Life  

It is at this point in life we acquire our perceptions of life. However, it is also when we acquire our misperceptions of life. To give an example: a child is playing in the back garden and comes across a garden spider. It asks its mother what it is. If the mother is deftly afraid of spiders, she may drag the child away, telling the child that spiders are dangerous and keep away from them. On the other hand, if the same spider shows up in another garden and another child asks its mother what it is — she would say, “Oh, that is a garden spider, it’s not dangerous — but some spiders are.” Same situation, two different outcomes — two different beliefs and perceptions downloaded into the child’s subconscious. One child believes that spiders are dangerous — the other differentiates before making a judgment.    

What we’re beginning to recognize is that we acquire our ability to respond to the world, not from our own personal experiences, but the patterns and experiences of others around us, which we refer to as our teachers (parents, family, teachers, community and people in authority). We accept their experiences and beliefs, and those are downloaded into the subconscious mind. Furthermore, these are the programs that operate from the subconscious mind, that run through our life, but were mostly unaware of. The subconscious brain is where we hold our beliefs, attitude, habits, and perceptions.

Recent cognitive neuroscience findings tell us that on a daily basis, we operate from the subconscious mind anywhere from 95 and more closely to 99% of the day. Meaning, we are repeating the same behaviors (good or bad) on a daily basis, often oblivious to them.  

Important: Most of the information in the subconscious mind was patterned around other people when we were growing up.  Additionally, it’s not even our own behavior, and may not support us in our endeavors and goals. When we hear comments from well intentioned, but misinformed people, such as:  

  • You don’t deserve that toy
  • You’re not good enough for this or that
  • You don’t deserve things
  • Who you think you are.
  • You’re not smart enough
  • No point wasting you time doing that, you wont get a job from it
  • You’re as sickly child  

When a child hears such statements before the age of six, it does not have a learned experience but a download into the subconscious.  The subconscious mind is a habit player and will play that program for the rest of its life. What a child hears before the age of six is not thought of in their conscious mind — the conscious mind is not even working at that time.  

Conclusion  

Up to the age of six, we are like vacuum cleaners, sucking up life’s experiences, whether good or bad; not conscious of them or saying, “this is right and that is wrong.” Furthermore, it is not our experiences we are taking in but other peoples, and if these are not good or beneficial to us, can be a detriment, defeating and self sabotaging later in life.  

Being a parent carries great responsibility in the nascent years of a childs development. What you say and don’t say, may have a profound effect in the development of the child for years to come. Remembering, that the early years are the foundations on which the adult is built upon, good or bad.  Next we look at the mind: conscious and subconscious.  

Food Focus: Fruit                                                 

A healthy lifestyle is the key to longevity, optimum weight, abundant energy and balance. By using fruit to satisfy our taste for sweetness, we can leave behind the use of chemical, processed and refined sweeteners. Fruits are easy to digest, are cleansing and cooling and are great for those who are overstressed and overheated from excessive mental strain or hot climates. Fruits are filled with fiber and liver stimulants, which act as natural, gentle laxatives. Whenever possible, buy fresh, locally grown fruit as opposed to imported fruits shipped from far-off places. This keeps you eating in season, and more in harmony with your environment and climate.  

Eating raw fruit in summer months is highly cooling, while baking it in the winter months neutralizes the cooling effect. Fruit in the form of juice is a great choice for cleansing the body, but be aware that juice rapidly raises blood sugar levels, leading to an energy crash soon after. Frozen, whole, pureed or juiced fruit can make great summertime cool-down treats. Try frozen grapes, banana-coconut smoothie popsicles or lime juice ice-cubes in iced tea!  

Whether you are having fresh fruit for a light early morning breakfast, a midday snack or evening treat, enjoy nature’s sweetness and whenever possible buy organic. Here are a few summer fruits and their health benefits:  

Apricots: Great for lung conditions and asthma; used to help treat anemia due to their high copper and cobalt content.  

Bananas: Help to lubricate the intestines, treat ulcers, detoxify the body, and manage sugar cravings; are rich in potassium (which helps hypertension).  

Cherries: Slightly warming in nature; increase overall body energy, remedy arthritis and rheumatism, and are rich in iron, which improves the blood.  

Grapefruits: Treat poor digestion, increase appetite during pregnancy, alleviate intestinal gas and reduce mucus conditions of the lungs.  

Papayas: Tone the stomach, act as digestive aid, moisten the lungs and alleviate coughing; contain carpaine, an anti-tumor compound.  

Raspberries: Benefit the liver and kidneys, cleanse blood of toxins, regulate menstrual cycles, treat anemia and can promote labor at childbirth.  

Recipe of the Month: Fruit Nut Smoothie  

Prep time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2 servings  

Ingredients:  

1 banana

1 tablespoon of ground flax seed or chia seed (omegas 3 fatty acids)

1 cup almond milk (homemade)

1 cup berries (e.g. blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries)

1 cup diced melon

1/2 cup walnuts

2-4 ice cubes  

Directions

1. Mix in blender for 1-2 minutes and serve.

Note: You can add other ingredients for added nutrition such as a spoon full of bee pollen, coconut oil, flax seed oil, spirulina powder or a scoop of protein powder.  

  Understanding the Mind: Conscious and Subconscious

As previously noted, our mind has been conditioned by past, in addition to the collective cultural mindset inherited. Especially those first six years when our habitual perceptions of life were learned through repetitive actions, and downloaded into the subconscious.  However, certain things did not have to be learned and came in our genetic make-up, which are instinctual behaviors from thousands of years of evolution.

Instinctual Behaviors

Certain things required no learning, such as instinctual behaviors. Instinctual behaviors require no thinking, but are a stimulus response. Instincts are provided to humans through the genetics we acquire at birth. For example, if you put your hand in the fire — you do not have to think about removing it — you withdraw it immediately. That is an instinctual response, and requires no conscious processing.

However, the subconscious mind is where we hold our beliefs, attitudes, habits, and perceptions, learned through repitition, over and over again.

The Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind is not just a database of instincts, but a repository of all our habitual learned perceptions, misperceptions and beliefs in life. Additionally, the subconscious mind represents almost the entire operation of the brain, in that consciousness was an add-on in evolution. Before consciousness existed, the brain carried out all the functions we attribute to the subconscious brain — it was a reflexive behavior.  

Still, many organisms are totally reflexive, because it’s a stimulus response mechanism dealt by their brain, and they may not have conscious centers understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing, or what they’re doing.  

Important to Remember: the subconscious mind is a million times more powerful a processor of information than the conscious mind, the little add-on piece we call the forebrain.  

Learned perceptions and experiences repeated over and over again, are downloaded into the subconscious mind, the most salient example being, learning to walk. Even though walking was a conscious action initially, it involved the switching on and off of numerous muscles to keep us balanced and upright. Because the amount of muscles involved was so vast, the conscious mind could not handle them. Once the mechanics of walking is acquired, it is downloaded into the subconscious mind and stored.  Since one does not have to be conscious of walking, all one has to do is set the intention, and walk.    

The subconscious mind contains automated programs that require no conscious contribution, except for intention. In that way, the subconscious mind is a very powerful processor of information. Basically the subconscious mind is equivalent to a voice recorder. I record a program in it, and that program will play forever, until I rewrite or install a new program.  

The Conscious Mind  

The subconscious mind works and learns through repetition — it works in tandem with the conscious mind. The conscious mind is the crowning achievement of human evolution — it is connected with free will. It is the creative mind — it is the volitional mind and is associated with our identity of self, physically and spiritual. It is a unique mind in that we can create anything, live-time, brand new. It is a mind that enables us to have our unique experience of the world.  

Conversely, the subconscious mind is not creative at all. It is equivalent to a tape player, in that I record a program in it, and that program plays forever, until I rewrite the program.  

Important: Even though the conscious mind is very creative — it works live-time, and can control most functions in the body. Even those we thought were involuntary, such as the ability of yogis who can control heart beat, blood pressure and body temperature. Moreover, it is still a limited processor.  

To give an example datawise of the capabilities of the two minds:

  • The conscious mind can process about 40 pieces of information per second.
  • The subconscious mind is capable of processing 40 million bits of information per second.

Meaning the subconscious mind is a million times more powerful a processor of information than the conscious mind.  

The Crux of the Subconscious, Conscious Mind  

Having said that, the subconscious mind is equivalent to a voice recorder, it is important to note that there is nobody in it. This is crucial because the subconscious mind may have many programs that are damaging or destructive, even creating health issues. The problem is there is nobody in there to say, this is a good or bad behavior or program.  

We record a behavior, and any time a stimulus shows up that is associated with that behavior, we immediately make a playback of exactly that behavior. Basically, this is a self- operating mechanism once we’ve programmed it.  

Reverting back to the conscious mind — free will — and its ability to observe behavioral programs— at any time it can say stop — I don’t like that program, play another program. In that regards it is powerful.  

Nevertheless, if I have programs in my conscious and subconscious mind, inevitably the programs in the subconscious mind will overpower the programs of the conscious mind, because it is a million times more powerful.    

More importantly, whatever the conscious mind is not focusing on, will be managed by the subconscious mind. 

Most people live their lives through the programs of repetition, and do things repeatedly, day by day. The average person’s attention span is lost five times per minute, as their mind jumps from one situation to another, like a kangaroo. But if your mind is not paying attention, or in the present moment, then everything is run by the subconscious mind. The problem with this is, if there are programs in the subconscious that are self sabotaging, you may not be aware of them.  

The Driving Example  

Take for example driving a car. Originally, learning to drive a car seemed like a formidable task. In addition to listening and implementing instructions from a driving instructor, and other factors as:

  • Getting used to the size of the vehicle
  • Controlling the vehicle,
  • Remembering to look in the mirrors
  • Taking in what the driving instructor is telling you
  • If it was a stick shift, getting used to the gears and clutch.  

Overall, you may have felt overwhelmed by all of the information you had to learn and download into your subconscious mind. For some people it can be overwhelming — they never pass the test and give up. 

Once the information is downloaded from constant repetition and practice, you do not have to remember how to drive — it comes naturally.  

Now, after driving a few years, you are driving along with a passenger, talking away, and it may dawn on you, “I don’t remember driving the last few miles,” I was caught up in the conversation. I was not paying attention.  

If you were speeding, driving too close to another vehicle, on the phone, you may not be aware of these unsafe driving behaviors, because you were not paying attention.  

Most people have a limited attention span, and their conscious mind is constantly wandering like a hyper active dragon fly— they are rarely here, because they are always somewhere else. If they are doing something that is unhealthy, unproductive, or destructive they may not be aware of it. Basically they are operating from the subconscious mind, and oblivious to its many programs, many that are sabotaging their life.  

Conclusion: Rewriting the Programs of the Subconscious Mind  

The key points here are, whatever the conscious mind is not paying attention to will be managed by the subconscious mind. What cognitive neuroscience reveal is that only 5% of the day is self reflective of what we’re doing in our lives, and the other 95%, we are running from automatic programs in the subconscious.  If we have bad behaviors from childhood we may not be aware of them, because we are rarely present.  

If we go through life and feel that life is not giving us what we want, that we are not good enough or will not succeed, this is a conditioned program from the past. However, when that thought arises through the conscious mind we can say, “that is not true, I can get what I want in life or I will succeed at x or y.” But then the subconscious mind which has a program saying the opposite— now there is a conflict. The conscious mind says I will succeed and the subconscious says no — who is going to win — the subconscious, as it is a million times more powerful, and contains a program from the past saying otherwise, “you don’t deserve this or that.”  

Then you say, “I will affirm to myself”, (specifically to the subconscious mind) that “I deserve this”. But after some time you are not succeeding. Then you start blaming parents, family, teachers, the world and god, for not giving you what you deserve. Here is the problem.  

The Process of Rewriting the Programs  

You can affirm all you want to the subconscious mind, but the problem is there is nobody in there. As previously mentioned, the subconscious mind is equivalent to a voice recorder. You record a program, and it is downloaded into it, and will play your entire life. In order to change the program you have to go through a process, as you would if you we recording a new program. You have to hit the record button.  

Just talking to the voice recorder or giving it information does not change the program. It records experiential behavior, and plays them back, and it does not have dialogue or consciousness attached to it. 

In order to install a new program you have to go back to the level of brain activity in which you installed the original program, which was the theta brainwave state, because it is below the level of consciousness.

This is the brain wave state induced by clinical hypnosis — the hypnogogic trance.  Similarly, clinically hypnosis is one way of rewriting the programs of the subconscious mind, being in that wave state.  

Furthermore, there is a whole variety of healing modalities that are collectively called energy psychology.  These are a new version of psychology in comparison to the physical, chemical conventional psychology — which are more akin to forms of super-learning. You can reprogram a belief /perception you have for years, and change it in a short period of time.  

Such forms of energy psychology include:

These allow us push the record button and change those programs. When we hold misbeliefs and misperceptions about ourselves that are not true, it is an impediment to reaching our goals. Often we give up and settle for less.  Rarely do we realize that early conditioning was the cause of this. We took for granted what our peers taught us, believing it was true, only for it to be an encumbrance to living the life we hoped for.  

Now we know, we must question the veracity of our beliefs and perceptions. Remembering that our mind is conditioned by the past, one must ponder what information we got that did not support us in our journey, and is self sabotaging. Being present, enables up to catch those negative and disempowering thoughts as they surface, and squelch them as they arise. Through mindfulness and meditation, or through energy psychology, enables us install new, empowering beliefs, culminating in living the life we strive for.

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