Head on over to check out the other wonderful entries and a link to my second blog; which focuses on how neuroscience principles can help us reach our potential.
So, the flu has turned into a cold that just won’t leave. I’m taking another day off work.
Thus, I’ve spent a lot of time on the first 4 Bardic Gwersi of the OBOD course and equally as much time playing ragnarok online; getting my mage up to wizard, levelling my assassin cross, questing my thief up to rogue and killing Anubis with my priest. –nods- Oh, and making a homunculus once my merchant became an alchemist.
The Memory of the Library
However, I’ve also been reminiscing a little. Remembering.
I used to read so many books. I was a prolific reader and remember getting to Junior school at 7 and being told I could only read books with the orange stripe on the spine.
You WHAT? They’re books. If I CAN read them, why CAN’T I read them?
I read one book; which I still remember to this day [though now I search for it on Amazon, I can’t find it]: something like “The Pink Shoe”. About a girl who wanted these ballet shoes which were in the shop; then they weren’t – they’d been bought,. And she came home and cried and then her parents gave them to her, for they had bought them for her birthday. It had a yellow cover and probably 50 pages; 10 lines to a page. And I hated the story; but before I was “allowed” to read the “big kids books” I had to summarise the story to the teacher. Within the reading hour I’d finished it and they “didn’t believe me” so said to pick another book with an orange sticker.
If I could go back to that day and talk to my 7-year-old self; I would go to that teacher with Whale Adventure by Willard Price and get my young self to read it to the teacher because that series became my new best friend; as soon as I was free of that one book about the slippers (I appealed to a second teacher and was allowed run free among of all the books; including non-fiction).
To this day, I have more non-fiction books than novels; and even a range of books on books/authors [Oscar’s Books: A Journey through the Library of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Wright comes to mind].
However; aside from my love of reading and my novel-a-week which I read alongside nonfiction books [when I reached the scary adventure bits of the novel, I had books on Planets for “lighter” reading], I wasn’t what I’d consider “scholarary”.
My grades weren’t particularly high; except in specific subjects such as English and Algebra. I don’t even remember being curious as a child.
Yet, that intuitive nudge still happens. Based on my German aunt, my ease of learning Latin and my Irish grandfather; I began learning German and Irish language [though had to give up Latin due to a timetable clash at school]. I still get that urge to re-learn Latin and now have very basic British Sign Language skills.
I’m doing a Masters, I spent much of my teenage-life reading self-help books and trying to find my totems; to define myself. seem to have had this lust for self-scholarship – to be a sage in myself, of myself. I began blogging, took psychology at A-level, began meditating and found Paganism.
Similarly, Pagan podcasts are wonderful things for me; I’m tempted to try book-tapes or the modern equivalent; except I have to be fully engaging to follow them, and sitting doing nothing is uncomfortable for me, unlike holding a book or scrolling the mouse.
So there is this inner sage; this will and desire to be able to speak a couple of languages at least mildly well, to get back on track with the amazing mathematical and linguistic ease I used to find, to devote more time to my MSc than I did my BSc, to be able to debate rather than argue and to get a PhD at some point before I die [for no reason other than to say I’ve done so (although having seen the stupid hat the PhD graduates wore at my graduation, maybe not). :P]
A Goals List
Traditionally this would consist of things like “Re-learn 50 words of Latin” or “use the dictionary.com’s word of the week twice in conversation or poetry”, but then I saw this picture in a post over at Sonja’s blog and got inspired.
So, in keeping with my iii/ii/i challenge, my scholarary to-do list based on this post looks like this:
And I’m aiming for 5/7 of those a day. My new “5-a-day”, except called “Scholar-Seven” just so that I don’t forget to aim for all seven.
Are there any other “inner scholars” reading this? How do you nourish her/him? What could you bring back into your life?
Next year I’m aiming to look at the neuroscience behind habits. I wondered if this had any relation to my lack of being able to form them.
However, as I investigated this claim; I thought about my main attempts at changing habits.
– minimising swearing to only when angry – i.e. when I feel they are appropriate and powerful to use.
– Waking at 8am
– Exercising daily
– Getting “back into” doing meditation/yoga/reiki
And though the habits don’t often stay put for long, I don’t think I have a hard time actually changing these things. And I’m not sure that you do either.
Respecting the Situation
For me, the motivation comes form the situation.
While at University, I want to wake by 8am to make the most out of my day – of living in the sunniest town in Britain and of the work I’m doing there. To get the lecture notes printed in time or to be awake enough to deal with adults who have mental illnesses – they’re time-consuming aspects of the word I’ve chosen to do. They are a strong motivator. Without my lecture notes; there’s little point attending the lecture, and if I can’t support and answer questions when I co-run group activities; I shouldn’t be there.
Now I’m home for the holidays – I’m alone from 7am to 4pm with two cats; and I don’t have much to do if I look at a daily workload. If I factor in the fact that I’ve come home to rest; to catch up on the much-needed sleep – is it any wonder that I’m now not waking until 9am some mornings?
From April 23rd I’ll be back in Brighton for my final term as an undergraduate. I’ve got plans to do 5 training days; volunteering 20-35 days, buddhafield festival, a 2-week course, a 6-week group, run the meditation society, pass two exams, finish 2 essays [4k words] and hand in my dissertation. Oh. And I’ll be editing novel #2 while writing novel #3.
Those are strong motivators and I hope to be keeping my morning routine at the top of my list. Without those motivators; I don’t have a routine and my days lose their structure.
The Mind – A Block
I used to suffer with depression. I won’t go into it but let’s just say the idea of tapping my face and saying I was going to have a good day sounded RIDICULOUS to me.
And having tried EFT a few times; I still don’t find it helpful.
However – using language such as “this technique is ridiculous” before you have tested it in this individual situation is a massive block. I found that this belief that it would be a waste of my time caused a massive lack of motivation to try it.
Mantras did not help me with my OCD. I told people that they were useless.
However, when it comes to staving off panic attacks and coming out of depression, I found that focusing intently on times when I felt positive did help. That telling myself that I was safe and allowed to have a panic attack if I needed was useful.
Faking a smile didn’t help; but wording my bad mood as “Not well but it’ll pass and I’m healthy” had such a different effect compared with the simple “not well.”
The only reason I couldn’t implement these techniques was a lack of motivation based on cognitive beliefs.
I understand this is different for everyone; however what I feel people forget is that we change. You are a different person biologically and mentally to the one who began reading this blog post. You have more of some chemicals, less of others and different pathways in your brain have now been used.
I’m not saying that I’m amazing at learning habits and you’re bad/good at it; nor am I saying that this will work for everyone. However, just because something didn’t work five years ago with one problem does not mean you shouldn’t try it again; with a new subject.
Clearing the Blockage
This is something I cannot do for you. I wish I could. I’ve tried to get my friend to give some of the scientifically-evidenced therapies a go before disclaiming that they don’t work.
You can decide that nothing will help you; and you’ll be where you are for a while.
You can equally decide that it couldn’t hurt to try it. And in fact, even things you’ve tried will change.
Hypnosis, an odd encounter
In 2008 I went along to a hypnosis screening. I believed in it. I didn’t know much about it, but I had a solid belief that something would happen.
I sat in a room mainly thinking “what, that’s not true. What are you on. I feel nothing.”
As far as I remember, I responded to 3 of 10 prompts. One of those was because everyone was doing it and I thought that’s what they wanted.
This year, I was sent an email. All people who’d done the screening were put on a database and when students or lecturers need certain types of participant for hypnosis studies; they could use this data.
I emailed back saying I was in the low category but sure; I’d do the study if eligible.
I was politely told that I was down as a mediumly-susceptible participant.
I did the study, didn’t feel much. I can feel the involuntary first prompt without hypnosis; so I was happy to take part.
However, a couple of weeks ago I took part in another study. By now I’ve done a course by a lecturer who knows a lot about hypnosis and gave us all an induction session.
During this study though, I watched three episodes of Shaun the Sheep and got paid £10 to take part. It wasn’t bad. I was given TMS [transcranial magnetic stimulation] which was supposed to do something for about 3-4 minutes after TMSing was stopped.
I did the same 6 requests about 4 times. 1, 2, 3, 4,5 ,6 gap to watch Shaun and be TMSed again. Then 1 2 3 4 5 6 and so on. Final go. No TMS – not for 15 minutes or so now. Normal conditions now.
I lifted my arm. yes yes it’s now rigid and I can’t move it blah blah I’m hungry now, this is tiring. And yes I can ben- woah.
I could not bend my arm. I laughed nervously. I could see it.. there’s nothing there. I actually couldn’t lift my other hand off my lap to feel it. He asked me to put my arm down. I did so.. and it bent. No problem.
I know how hypnosis works. I’ve had lectures on it, studied papers on it. I knew I wasn’t that susceptible. Yet, I had that experience. It felt so real I was actually rendered speechless.
Sometimes what we think just isn’t true anymore.
(sorry for the long-winded title)
Now that I’ve finally got up the post about the non-scientific Reiki and energy healing; I guess it’s time to pick up the science behind pattern-changing yoga. This is something wonderful called Shivanata.
I’ve written this review post about 15 times in the past year; never quite making it to publish. I am an affiliate for this one, because I believe that EVERYONE can do it and would benefit in some way from it. So. Here goes.
Used For: Just over a Year so far
Price: 72$ or £45
Shivanata, or Dance of Shiva, is a dance based on principles of yoga and neuroscience.
Yes; I did say neuroscience.
If you’re not interested in science; please skip the next paragraph. For those people who want the background information, here we go.
The Science [an analogy]
If you cross a field; at first it’s hard going and you trip over the molehills while falling down the surprise ditch and weave around the dog poo and broken glass. It takes effort and time to watch out for danger and keep in line with your destination – a tiny gap in the fence at the other end which takes you onto the pavement.
After walking the route for 5-days a week, for 2 years; the grass is flattened where you walk; the molehills are squashed down and you automatically hop over the ditch without even thinking. It takes you 5 minutes less time to get across the field than it did before.
In your brain, there are little pulses of energy which travel down wires. In between two wires; there are ditches. If they use the same route enough; the neurotransmitter is increased; creating a bridge at the ditch so you save time; not even having to jump over it.
Shivanata strengthens these connections. It makes you walk the paths over and over. And each time you use the path; or move your arms – it flattens a molehill and adds another clump of mud to your ditch-bridge.
Shivanata uses mental [numbers], spatial [planning movement] and physical [limb movement] energy. The brain usually does one, or two of these at a time. Not three. By using all three; you’re strengthening the wires between those three areas of your brain. The wires cross the “corpus callosum”.
In biological terms, this is called Long-term potentiation; if you’re interested in looking it up. It creates new bridges/synaptic ends and keeps the synapse-growth chemicals in large supply.
In a nutshell: Shivanata strengthens the wires between left and right brain hemispheres. This means the two sides communicate faster and more efficiently.
This has some pretty awesome side-effects.
The Results [positive side-effects]
Core strength. As it’s a yoga dance; you’ll gain physical fitness. My arms are stronger and toned thanks to this process. I can even stand up for a while without back pain; which is something I couldn’t do before.
Cognitive Skills. Because you’re creating stronger and faster connections across your brain, it allows you to do things faster – problem solving, learning, fast reactions & memory.
Brain Health. Every day something like 6,000 neurons [wires] break down due to the aging process. The synapse-growth chemicals deplete with age. Long term potentiation causes the wires to add new bridges [in case one wire breaks, you can still get to wire B via half way up wire A if the bridge at the end breaks]. If you can help add new bridges as part of your life; you’ll be healthier than lost who’re only losing.
Bing Insights! This is something that isn’t scientific. Except that every practitioner I’ve ever spoken to gets these moments of “Bing”. I assume that in making these connections; it allows our brains to connect two previously unrelated ideas and make a strong link. People have had £1,000 ideas because of this practise.
Habit changing. The main aspect of this process is that it helps you to understand yourself, and your habits. This makes it easier tochange those habits. To build new bridges and strengthen new wires – the new habit’s path.
Why Havi’s Kit?
- DVD by Andrey Lappa
- Mp3’s about sustaining your practise
- Help sheets
- 2 eBooks
- Access to the SECRET LAB -dun dun dun!-
In order to keep strengthening Different wires; you need to mix and match the levels. If you master a level; you’re wires are at optimum for those movements and habits. So step up a level. If you want the brain-building effects, it’s important to challenge yourself and get things wrong. If you’re able to do it without mixing it up; you’re no longer helping your brain or challenging your muscles.
The whole process of getting it wrong, mixing the planes and how to forget earlier levels is talked about in Havi’s kit. These are not included in the DVD; which in my mind makes it almost useless without her addition if your goal is habit-changing and brain-rewiring.*
Because of this, you can never finish it. It really will be a practise you can do for decades. I’ve been doing it a year and Level I is easy, bits of are Level II do-able and the ideas of Level III are so far beyond me. There are 8 levels… Havi is one of only two people in the world to ever reach level 7.
Practise can be done in 30 seconds if you wish; but the more time you spend on it; the stronger your results will be. Doing 3 minutes every time I boil the kettle helps my day flow so well.
However, I did find the positions very hard at the beginning. Please stick it out. It’s such a good practise and the challenge shows you that it’s helping. If you’re struggling; it’s re-wiring your brain and strengthening your arm muscles.
Also – the DVD doesn’t mention that you’re not meant to get it all right. So it can be challenging to stand there getting it wrong while he’s standing there getting it all right. Gosh darn!
Personally, I don’t use the DVD much. I use it to get the basics and then I write out the numbers or look at the patterns in the information sheets. I find the DVD too fast to begin with and I live in a house with people who’d probably think I was crazy doing yoga-brain-training. However, it’s very useful to see an actual person doing the moves; especially with the vertical plane. Some of the diagrams don’t make it clear where your arms should be; I remember thinking Vertical position 1 was impossible – until I saw how he moved into and out of it. Then it became second nature.
If you have the DVD, by the way, you can upgrade to get Havi’s kit without the DVD; making it cheaper for you to access the extra goodies.
There are so many other reasons – I haven’t begun to talk about what’s in the eBooks or how we get 15% off her book when it’s finished or how I incorporate it into teaching meditation and dance. But this post is getting long and rambly now, so I’ll just leave you the link and say that this practise has helped me to revise for exams, make connections in essays, understand my own patterns & become physically fitter.
It’s challenging, never-ending, gives brilliant results and for everything you get; it’s so under-priced.
What more could you want?
If you buy directly from this link, I get a little bit of money to support my own practise. Thank you so much for that.
*This is just my personal opinion and the DVD is certainly amazing as a yoga/dance practice.
I’m a scientific theist. A pantheist and half an animist; in fact.
I believe in souls; that everything is made of conscious energy and that there is a higher power aspect of that consciousness. My terms of theism can be summed up as:
Pantheism – “god” is everywhere/thing.
Animism – non-human entities have a spiritual souls
Manifest – see here for my thoughts on manifest deity.
However, I’m also a scientist. I took a course on quantum Physics; where I found myself able to believe [with ease] that the universe is nothing but energy; that particles can be in two places or states at once and that string theory has a lot going for it.
My psychological and neuroscientist training tells me that our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviour are the result of chemical neurotransmitters; much like electricity down wires.
I’m sceptical of homeopathy and even a little sceptical around chakras [there being somewhere between 7 and 90 depending who you listen to].
Science meets Spirituality
However; in college I took a course which gave us a basic understanding of the history, ethics & philosophy of science. And we were asked to find something that wouldn’t be considered scientific; to analyse it for scientific “worth”.
I chose to look at the possibility of energy healing. I was already working with Auric energy and doing distance healings. I believed in the energy of the molecules in our body – blood moves via kinetic energy and we let off heat [thermal] and so on.
I knew we were energetic beings.
Two books I found particularly useful were The Field (by Lynne McTaggart) and The Biology of Belief (by Bruce Lipton). They outlined the physics of energy found in our biological bodies and discussed how we can alter our biology via thought. If I visualise a tiger behind me; I can increase my heart-rate. If I imagine a warm fire; hear it crackling in my mind; I can stop myself shivering in the cold.
Our minds and bodies are connected.
Therefore; it made sense to believe that by focusing on body parts with the intention of healing; directing energy to them – I could alter that chemistry as well.
Reiki isn’t a specific fix. If you have a bad back; doing Reiki on the back won’t specifically help that. However, having a couple of Reiki sessions will help the body to use its energy well. It may well send that increased energy to your back; especially if you and the practitioner are both focusing your mental intent on that area.
Even the most sceptical scientists [like my other half, who is a medical student] agree that relaxing the muscles in the body; thinking positive and loving thoughts can resting will lower your heart-rate and blood pressure. This in turn, allows the nervous system to focus on healing instead of on keeping your heart rate steady or keeping your mind focused on your work.
With tarot and rune readings, I’m focusing my mental intent upon the insight. Our brains filter out 98% of all information we receive. When you wlak down the street; youdon’t notice every persons hair colour or car make and model – you only keep the information that is important – the hole in the pavement you mustn’t fall into and the people you mustn’t trip over.
With insight readings, I’m calling upon the information subconsciously picked up. I’m being presented with options and I apply them to my knowledge.
If I get offered a promotion and want to know if I should take it; I turn over the 3 cards meaning:
Present: Step Back
This does not mean I can forsee the future. It does not mean that I must step back from the promotion. It’s a nudge saying “Hey, have you looked at the big picture? Are their other options?”
It asks “Have you got all the details – are you CLEAR on the terms of the contract?” and “Have you been happy in this job? Could you still be?”
In this way, the runes and cards are just a little checklist saying “have you thought about this?” Often, it’s something I haven’t thought of – allowing me to be proactive in my life decisions.
If you’d like my thoughts on other topics, please leave a comment. For the next 4 weeks, I have a discount going in the shop; so trying out my insight and healing packages is even easier.