[The Dancing Doc]
Cultivating the Mind – Mind Matter Connections
By Sharon Montes, MD
“I awoke at the train station. As long as I kept my attention on the present moment I was fine. I became stressed when I turned my attention to the future.”
Paraphrase from This American Life, radio interview with David MacLean, author of The Answer to the Riddle Is Me
When I sat behind my computer screen to write this column, I thought I was going to write about winter as the time for rejuvenating the nervous system with an emphasis on quiet, meditative activities to cultivate lovely qualities of mind. Instead, we will explore a definition of “mind,” different locations of the embodied brain that connects us with mind, how mind is a reflection of energy and chemistry, and how we can use mindfulness to nourish our being.
What exactly is the “mind”? What comes to your mind when we talk about our mind? Before we can have a meaningful conversation about nurturing or cultivating our mind, we have to have some shared idea about what we think the “mind” is.
One of the best definitions of “mind” is developed by Dr Dan Siegel:
Mind is a regulatory process that can be monitored, measured, observed and modified. This definition is further clarified by adding that the mind regulates the flow of energy and information. (http://drdansiegel.com)
Wow! I love this. Once I found this definition, I could continue a conversation. Please notice that this definition does not clarify the location of mind or include the word brain. Let’s leave the conversation about localized and non-localized mind for another time and focus on an embodied connection with mind, the brain.
Often when we think of a mind-body connection, we see the brain tissue inside our head. Let us expand the vision of embodied mind to include a couple other brains. Please expand your vision to include the “brains” that lives in our heart and in our belly. Research has shown that the heart-brain creates a much larger electromagnetic field than our head-based brain. This electromagnetic field has not only been measured, but has been shown to influence and be influenced to others. (One website that distills some of this research is: http://www.heartmath.org/free-services/articles-of-the-heart/energetic-heart-is-unfolding.html)
Moving to the belly-brain, we talk about chemistry as the property that connects and influences. Author David MacLean had a loss of “mind” and sense of self that was triggered by taking an antimalarial drug. Much of the chemistry that affects our quality of thought and emotion originates in our belly. Although in different places, the belly-brain and the head-brain both develop from the same embryonic tissue. The belly-brain actually creates a greater amount of neurotransmitters than the head-brain. In fact, 95 percent of our serotonin is produced in our belly. We are finding evidence that the types of bacteria that line our intestine can predispose us towards emotional resilience or depression. What am I doing when I prescribe an antibiotic for a child? What are we doing when we offer our “mind” processed, dead food? It further emphasizes the importance of the food we offer our mind/body brain as providing the building blocks for chemistry that promotes a good quality of mind.
When I think of food I actually think of more than the physical food that I put in my mouth. One of my daily mindful practices is to pause and ask myself “What am I hungry for?”
While sometimes the answer is food – a flavor or texture – more often the answer is to be nourished by something else. It could be quiet alone time or connecting time with people I love. It could be sleep or dance. It could be time learning a new skill. It could be music or art. Frequently, I am hungry for more time outside connecting to earth and sky. Sometimes it is just pausing and letting the moment unfold being open to receiving what shows up when I align with “mind.”
Earlier this week I reached a state of overwhelm….. paper, projects, information, people. I completely lost touch with my alignment and center. Life offered much more than I could gracefully dance with. YIKES…..stress! I opened my office door to find my fluffy white-furred black-eyed dog, wagging her tail and holding a ball in mouth…..asking to PLAY. Immediate reset; there was the answer to my question not consciously asked.
OK now. As we look at unity showing up as the five elements. What are you hungry for?
Water – deep listening, being heard, stillness, wisdom, patience, a bath, drinking more water, more sleep
Wood – clear vision, order in thoughts and environment, movement, creativity, learn something new, bitter flavor
Fire – to touch or be touched, connection with self and others, laughter, humor, play,
Earth – gratitude, giving and receiving abundance, remembering the sweetness of life, grounding connecting with the planet, singing, savoring the gifts of the senses
Metal – respect, rhythm, releasing, inspiration and awe, integrity
Yours in the dance with 10,000 things
The Dancing Doc
Sharon Montes, M.D. – practiced and taught family medicine in medical schools for 17 years. Former medical director of University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Sharon Montes is currently living in Loveland, Colorado, joyfully dancing with 10,000 things and preparing to open a Lifestyle Medicine practice. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org her blog site is http://drsharoninfo.blogspot.com/