It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
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Feed the mouse.
To simplify a complex process spanning 600 million years, your brain developed in ways that are loosely related to the three major stages of vertebrate evolution:
Since the brain is integrated, avoiding, approaching, and attaching are accomplished by its parts working together. Nonetheless, each of these functions is particularly served and shaped by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it.
In this three-part series, the previous JOT – pet the lizard – was about how to soothe and calm yourself. This affects your brain as a whole, including its most ancient structures and the management of perhaps the first emotion of all: fear. This JOT continues the series by focusing on how to help you feel rewarded, satisfied, and fulfilled – in a word, fed – which also engages your brain as a whole, with a particular focus on its subcortical regions that emerged mainly during the mammalian stage of evolution.
When you feel fed – physically, emotionally, conceptually, and even spiritually – you naturally let go of longing, disappointment, frustration, and craving. The hungry heart gets a full meal; goals are attained and the striving for them relaxes; one feels lifted by life as it is. What a relief!
Feeling fed also helps you enjoy positive emotions such as pleasure, contentment, accomplishment, ease, and worth. As Barbara Fredrickson and other researchers have shown, these good feelings reduce stress, help people bounce back from illness and loss, strengthen resilience, draw attention to the big picture, and build inner resources. And when your own cup runneth over, studies have found that you’re more inclined to give to others; feeling good helps you do good.
Last, consider this matter in a larger context. Many of us live in an economy that emphasizes endless consumer demand and in a culture that emphasizes endless striving for success and status. Sure, enjoy a nice new sweater and pursue healthy ambitions. But it’s also vitally important – both for ourselves and for the planet whose resources we’re devouring like kids gorging on cake – that we appreciate the many ways we already have so, SO much.
In everyday life, draw on opportunities to feel fed – and as you do, really take in these experiences, weaving them into the fabric of your brain and being. For example:
Right now – having read this list just above – let yourself be fed . . . by knowing that many many things can feed you!
Then, from time to time – such as at meals or just before sleep – take a moment to appreciate some of what you’ve already received. Consider the food you’ve taken in, the things you’ve gotten done, the material well-being you do have, the love that’s come your way. Sure, we’ve all sometimes had to slurp a thin soup; but to put these shortfalls in perspective, take a moment to consider how little so many people worldwide have, a billion of whom will go to bed hungry tonight.
As you register the sense of being fed, in one way or another, help it sink down into yourself. Imagine a little furry part of you that’s nibbling away at all this “food,” chewing and swallowing from a huge, abundant pile of goodies that’s greater than anyone – mouse or human – can ever consume. Take your time with the felt sense of absorbing, internalizing, digesting, There’s more than enough. Let knowing this sink in again and again.
Turn as well into the present – the only time we are ever truly fed. In the past there may not have been enough, in the future there may not be enough . . . but right now, in what the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh calls the Pure Land of this moment, most of us most of the time are buoyed by so many blessings. Falling open and into the Now, being now, fed by simply being, by being itself.
Join Panache Desai every morning and for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.
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