Blog : Change

Why the Right-Brain Matters

Why the Right-Brain Matters

Through patient and animal studies, it has been discovered that the two hemispheres of the brain see and respond to the world in divergent manners.

Why is it that an organ whose job it is to communicate divided?

The left hemisphere sees things narrowly and focused, while the right views the whole. This was advantageous to us as a species because it allowed us to break down tasks and learn complex sequences, while at the same time being aware of our surroundings.

Where you can begin to see hemispheric differences isn’t necessarily on an everyday level, where the brain works in concert for most functions, but over time in the dominant world view. It is akin to a large ship that shifts its course. Turning just a few degrees alters its direction dramatically over time.

You can mark throughout history which hemisphere took the lead (for instance, an expansion of the right brain’s way of being in the world during the Renaissance with a shifting towards the left during the Reformation and The Enlightenment).

There had, in the past, been a correcting force – like a pendulum that swings and arcs back in the other direction. However, something is amiss lately. There is no longer a system of negative feedback (the correcting mechanism that shifts the direction of the swinging pendulum).

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been swinging further and further to the left, and the further we swing to the left, the less likely are we to find an “escape route.” This is because our external world, which used to have the capacity to return us to the right, is becoming more and more dominated by what is essentially “left.”

We are now living in a world that is a mirror of a left-reared society and notions associated with anything other than what is “left” are seen as trite and not-to-be-trusted (dare I say “intuition” should be trusted!).

How do we begin to reset the balance?

We begin by practicing returning information to the right-hemisphere, where it can again be viewed within context and a whole. And, yes, this might initially seem strange, silly and weird. It will certainly feel different.

Can we begin to relax our yearning for certainty, even just a little, so that we can sit with the necessary tension of dichotomies? Can we begin to find moments of pause and stillness so that we may receive that which is unsought? Can we dare to be courageous enough to be seen as naïve so we can alter the direction of where we are headed?

Thanks to Iain McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, for inspiring this article.

 

*If you enjoyed this article, you might like our upcoming Imagination Retreat, where you’ll take a deep dive into your own creativity and imagination and enjoy just the right combination of activity, personal exploration, pampering, and beach time – all in an idyllic, naturally gorgeous oceanside setting.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

How to Bust Out of a Rut in 3 Easy Steps

How to Bust Out of a Rut in 3 Easy Steps

Feeling uninspired at the job? Bored with your relationship? Daily grind got ya down? Don’t panic! It’s normal to get stuck in a rut every now and then. By definition, a “rut” is “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” Here are 3 simple ways to breathe life back into a situation that has lost its oomph and bust out of that rut!

1) Switch up your routines.

Doing everyday tasks a little differently helps awaken your brain to the present moment, fresh perspectives and creative solutions. So go ahead and put on your right shoe before your left; brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand; alter your commute; and once you get to your destination, be sure to open the door without using your hands!!

2) Bust a new move.

If you’re a ballerina, take a tennis lesson. If you haven’t shaken your groove thang in twenty years, hit up You Tube for a ‘how to crunk dance in three easy steps.’ Gym rat? Take a Yin Yoga class. Our brains grow by trying new things. When you challenge mind and body in new and uncomfortable ways, the growth is exponential. That narrow rut won’t be able to hold you.

3) Send out an SOS!

Ruts thrive in isolation and the notion that you have to handle everything on your own. You may convince yourself that it’s more hassle to involve others even as the rut seems to close in around you. Start with a trusted friend. Tell them you’re stuck in a rut and ask them to help you shake things up by planning a surprise day together where you do something out of the ordinary. Take it to the next level by being blindfolded during the car ride. Letting go of being in control, trusting another person, and engaging some of your lesser used senses will catapult you of that rut!

There are countless little and large ways to ease or thrust yourself out of a rut. An easy way to remember the rut remedies are: wake up, shake up & join up. Ask yourself the following 3 questions: “what tweaks to my routine wake me up to the present moment; what new movements (or sounds or colors) can I make that will shake up the dullness of my comfort zone; and, who can I call on to help me reconnect with my aliveness and creativity?” Go forth and bust a rut, and let us know how it goes!

* If you liked this article, you might like our retreats.

 

Camille-Headshot-1 Camille Bianco MA, NCC

Camille Bianco MA, NCC earned her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology & Art Therapy from Naropa University. She began formal training in Art Therapy and Meditation in 2000 and continues to incorporate researched-based creative expression and mindfulness approaches into her professional consulting practices. Connect with Camille on Goolge+.

Poiesis or:  How I learned to Tolerate Change “and Love the Bomb”

Poiesis or: How I learned to Tolerate Change “and Love the Bomb”

(For those of you who understand the title and photo reference, I applaud your superior taste in film.) 😉

We recently had to move. We were given just over two weeks’ notice that our old office needed “unforeseen renovations”. Gulp, cringe, yikes. We made it through these last two weeks intact and grateful – but, not without some cursing and deep breathing. It reminded me of what I discuss with clients almost daily: being receptive to change (and learning to “love”, or at least tolerate, “the bomb”).

Poiesis,

roughly translated from Ancient Greek, means art or “to make” and was originally a verb. It is also the basis of our modern day word “poetry”. I’m going to attempt to explain why poiesis is important in learning to tolerate change. The poiesis in which I’m referring is poiesis as described by Nietzsche and Heideggar, as opposed to Aristotle (who ranked poiesis last in terms of “knowing”) or Plato (who likened it to madness). It is a “bringing-forth”, the “blooming of the blossom” (Heidegger), or when something moves away from one thing to become another.

Nietzsche goes on to explain the relationship between Apollo and Dionysus, both sons of Zeus in Greek mythology. Apollo is the god of reason and the logical, while Dionysus is the god of chaos and the emotions. The content of all great poiesis/art is based on the interplay between these two forces. It is the relationship between them, not necessarily the rivalry, which elucidates that harmony can be found within chaotic experience, which also could be described as change, creation, or a coming forth.

If we compare life (an innumerable series of changes) to an art piece…

and us to the artists responsible for this artwork, the role of the artist (framed within Dionysian poiesis) is not to impose a pre-existing form upon matter (logical, rational Apollo), but to allow the material to find its own shape. And, unless I’m willing to let go of preconceived notions, I cannot be open to what will arrive. This though is generally downright scary, and we often respond to fear by trying to predict and control it. However, it is through the experience of surrender to a process, a kind of ego-death and chaotic fragmentation, that a new form is found. Furthermore, the artwork in the making cannot be predicted, and it is only afterwards that it makes logical sense. As Stephen Levine so poetically states, “If we are not willing to undergo the experience of coming apart, we will not be able to experience ourselves as fully alive.” The Apollo/Dionysus relationship is not either, or (logical/rational/control versus chaos/emotion/instinct). Rather, there can be “productive chaos”, in which new structures emerge – necessary for the continual formation of this art piece called life.

How does this relate to constructing and moving offices in less than 3 weeks?

Did I often try to impose ego and sheer will, determination and control on the process? Ah-ha. (I am a Taurus after all.) Did it help? Well…we were able to get a lot done in a small amount of time. Could I have predicted the outcome of where, how or what our new office home would be? Nope. Did I have to surrender to the process of becoming (poiesis), the chaos of being in-between? There was no other choice. Did something new and wonderful arrive, which goes far beyond my pure assertion of will? Absolutely. Could I have saved myself a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety by “letting go” of preconceived notions a bit more? Yep! One of my many lessons through this process is that of wu-wei, or non-action according to Taoist thought, an acting that is also a surrendering to what is taking place –the both, and of Apollo and Dionysus and a yielding to what arrives.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

 

Gas Tank Compassion

Gas Tank Compassion

As a therapist, I’m constantly asking people to practice compassionate curiosity about the places that scare them. I believe that people are inherently good and intelligent. That’s why I’m so interested in those moments where we find ourselves acting “out of character” or doing something that we know falls short of our values. Fortunately, I have frequent opportunities to observe and experiment with this in my own life.

Just the other day, I noticed a wild impatience rise up in me at the gas pump.

I was running late. My tank was near empty. I had somewhere important to be. Each of the ten pumps at the station was mysteriously operating at an impossibly slow rate. Initially, I blamed the station attendant, but he was engaging with such kindness, that it was hard to stay mad at him. I thought of the owner of this broken-down establishment and how he’s probably taking advantage of the people in this far- from-affluent part of town. I didn’t get much satisfaction from that either. I had neither a short supply nor a delay in the pumping out of rationales to fuel my anger. With a death grip on the handle, I counted in rage: one drop, pause, two drops, pause.

Then I remembered: in breath, pause, out breath, pause.

I conceded to do this simple (and probably useless) meditation one time before I would tear out of there to find a normal gas station. At the pause on top of the in breath I could not help but feel a fullness in my lungs. This led me to notice discomfort and tightness in the area beneath my ribcage called the celiac plexus. It’s the “pit in the stomach” feeling. There I was, reconnecting with my “brain in the gut” or enteric nervous system (which houses 100 million neurons and more than 90% of the body’s serotonin, among other big wig neurotransmitters.) The brain in my skull had been determined to ignore the fear in my gut brain, because I had to be somewhere important and do something important. I certainly did not have time to feel scared.

It was too late. I had to exhale and pause. On the exhale I felt a release of tension. In the pause I felt emptiness, and in that spaciousness, I felt fear. In the pure experience of fear, I had no need to avoid, eradicate or change anything. And, surprise, surprise, it did not consume or derail me. By feeling in this stripped-down kind of a way, self-compassion and loving-kindness naturally arose. I felt empathy for myself, and that’s when everything opened up.

I became aware of the woman beside me who was laughing and speaking powerful words of wisdom. I felt gratitude and gentleness arising in my heart and mind which made me much better prepared to do that important thing I had to do. Previously, I had been expending a great deal of mental and physical energy in not feeling fear. Whenever I deny or squelch a feeling, I’m also cutting off full access to my cognitive and interpersonal resources. When I acknowledge what is alive and present, even when it includes discomfort, I allow space for that inherent intelligence and resourcefulness to emerge. When the brain in our skulls works in harmony with the brain in our guts and we approach our pure experience with curiosity and compassion, we are smarter, fiercer and freer to shine.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Photo by Geoff Livingston

Camille-Headshot-1

Camille Bianco MA, NCC

Camille Bianco MA, NCC earned her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology & Art Therapy from Naropa University. She began formal training in Art Therapy and Meditation in 2000 and continues to incorporate researched-based creative expression and mindfulness approaches into her professional consulting practices. Connect with Camille on Goolge+.

Integration & Flamenco

Integration & Flamenco

The written history of flamenco only goes back about 200 years, but there are oral accounts of flamenco that are much older. There is much debate about “what is true flamenco.” My aim is not even to attempt to answer that question, which is a very slippery slope indeed. Rather,

I would like to share with you what the spirit of flamenco means to me and why it helps explain the concept of integration.

Flamenco originated as an art form in Andalusia (southern part of Spain) as an expression of the cast-aside, the Gypsies (Gitanos), Sephardic Jews and outcast Moors. It began as song (cante) – more like a call or cry – and percussive rhythm, often a wooden cane beating in time on the floor. Only later, were the guitar and dance incorporated. Flamenco is ever-evolving and still finds itself making headlines. (Click here to read a recent example of the fluid and contrasting nature of flamenco and how it is being used as political statement.)

Flamenco is many divergent things…

and one, admittedly, includes polka dots, large skirts and dancing for tourists for money. For me, however, flamenco means not only living with, but celebrating, dichotomies. It is recognition and incorporation of many different parts, the crux of “integration.” Integrating is about bringing multiple pieces together in some sort of unified fashion – even if that “something” is in flux.

Flamenco is – no joke – about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It kicks my butt regularly, yet I am still dedicated to being a student of its many mysteries. I know it will take a lifetime and beyond to learn, and I’ve become okay with that. I’m forced not only to think about, feel, and hear the complex rhythm (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12…) all the while moving my feet, legs, hips, arms, hands and head – optimally with duende (this is an entire other article, but roughly translated means “authenticity/spirit”). Flamenco is fiery and fierce, yet also has moments of surrender and true softness. I love that it makes fun of itself. It is first and foremost music, then movement. I come up against my many resistances while learning it. To name just a few of these inner obstacles: the “analyst” that keeps a safe distance from things that might feel uncomfortably true,  the perfectionist who has a hard time letting go, the timid part that would rather stand back than take center stage, the part that is quick to judge and the one who wants to quit. But, I don’t. I keep coming back for what sometimes feels like torture. It is a genuine type of therapy for me.

I practice facing these parts, learning from them and inviting them all in.

And then there are those moments when it all comes together – left and right, light and dark, absolute freedom from thought, feeling and time, a complete surrender of my body to the invitation of the music.  I’m dancing – not just the right steps, but I’ve become a part of this continual flow of the art form of Flamenco. These moments are rare and come with numbers of hours of dedication, but they happen. This is integration for me.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

 

Quiet the Analyst & Honor Your Shadow:

Quiet the Analyst & Honor Your Shadow:

5 fun and safe ways to express your “wild thing”

What is your Shadow, and how can you honor it? In Jungian psychology the Shadow is an unconscious aspect of your personality. The conscious ego does not fully identify with this aspect of self. However, our Shadow is often the seat of creativity and recognition and integration of our “darker side” can actually be freeing and revitalizing.

While the Analyst in us – the part that wants to “make sense if it all” and interpret the meanderings of our minds and psyches – means well, it isn’t always helpful. Sometimes it is important not to “tame” these “darker” parts, but rather to find healthy, fun and appropriate ways of expressing them. Here are 5 ways to express your inner wild thing:

1.       Howl at the moon

I mean it. Go outside. Feel your feet on the earth and take time to moon gaze. If you want to make a sound – do it. You might be startled to hear yourself and – dare I say it – even enlightened by these sounds, be it guttural or simply a whisper.

 

2.       Messy your hands

Grab some acrylic paints or chalk pastels and simply play with mixing the colors using only your fingers. Absorb yourself and delight in how the colors mix. Notice how your fingers slide over the paper when covered with this media. Don’t worry. It isn’t “supposed” to be anything. It is just fun.

 

3.       Dance unabashedly

Put on a tune that you can’t help but move to. We all have at least one. I’m a little embarrassed to admit mine. They are The Lion Sleeps Tonight (listen to the original Zulu version) and, yes, ACDC Thunderstruck. Find a clear space where you can move as much as you want to. Let go. Your body will do the rest – if you let it. My inner head banger deserves to be let out on occasion, if only in the confines of my home. (This song actually came on during my partner’s and my first date. He said it was a “high risk” move to begin to head bang to it, but I literally could not help it. I’m glad he didn’t judge me – too much – for it.)

 

4.        Free write

This can be a bit tricky for people. It is finding time to disengage from our internal critic and allow ourselves to just write – about anything. There is absolutely no thought about grammar, spelling or punctuation. Our 8th grade English teacher would hate this. You might even notice that your penmanship looks different. That is a good thing. You have tapped into a different part of your brain.

 

5.       Go on an adventure

It can be in as little as 5 minutes or much, much longer. Take time to not have an agenda and see what you might experience and learn. Have fun!

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

 

 

Mindfulness and Growth

Mindfulness and Growth

As a counselor and art therapist, I am honored to work with people who are seeking greater happiness, improved health and well-being and more fulfilling relationships and careers. I often describe my job in the following way: I help people cultivate the optimal conditions for growth and healing to occur. While the conditions are unique to the individual, one of the most powerful practices that I teach is mindful awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Consider for a moment something you do habitually that you would like to change.

Have you been meaning to eat more whole foods? Perhaps you feel you deserve a loving relationship and want to stop dating people who mistreat you. Another common experience is to wish you can “let go” of anger or resentment you feel toward the person who wronged you. Despite your strong will and determination, you find yourself pulling into the donut shop, calling your ex, or seething at the mere thought of that person who brings out the worst in you.

Before we order that donut…

dial the number or vent to our friends about how awful that wrong-doer is, there is a very crucial moment. There is a moment of discomfort. Within this moment of discomfort resides great opportunity. The opportunity is to experience the arising and dissolving of that discomfort. When we bring our objective awareness to present moment experience, we notice that a feeling or sensation that seemed to have no end actually does have a life cycle, however brief it may be. It will likely arise again later that day or with the very next inhale. With regular practice of mindful awareness, it has been shown that those moments “in-between” increase in duration. We will notice anger or craving and then notice no anger and no craving. As such, the practice begins to poke holes in experiences that had felt solid and lasting. We begin to experience (not just in theory but in practice) spaciousness even in tight places.

By applying objective awareness to pure experience, we liberate ourselves…

even for just a micro-moment, of any punitive and shaming inner dialogues that, while well-intended, actually impede growth and change. Approaching even the least appealing aspects of our experience with an open-minded curiosity carves out a little space that wasn’t there previously. From this more spacious perspective, we can see new options and choose to act in ways that are more aligned with our values. People report feeling more calm, confident and competent in handling the inherent challenges of life. After nearly twenty years in the field of personal growth and development, I can say with confidence that mindful awareness is one of the most empowering tools that I both practice and teach.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

 

Camille-Headshot-1

Camille Bianco MA, NCC

Camille Bianco MA, NCC earned her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology & Art Therapy from Naropa University. She began formal training in Art Therapy and Meditation in 2000 and continues to incorporate researched-based creative expression and mindfulness approaches into her professional consulting practices. Connect with Camille on Goolge+.

Creativity & the Brain

Creativity & the Brain

Why and how does creativity affect the brain?

It feels different when we are in a “creative flow” and this is due to the structure of the brain. The brain is divided both vertically and horizontally. There are three distinct, but interconnected, hierarchies of the human brain that evolved overtime. They are

1) the brainstem (our “lizard brain”),

2) the limbic system (our “mammalian brain”) and

3) the neocortex (what makes us human).

The brainstem is like our autopilot. It controls the things we don’t have to “think” about such as balance and heart rate. The limbic system is the source of our emotions and instincts, and the neocortex is only in the brain of higher mammals. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), at the front of the neocortex, is responsible for cognition and reasoning.

Our brain is also organized horizontally and is divided into two hemispheres,

connected by the corpus callosum. The left hemisphere specializes in language, logic and facts. It is linear and conscious. The right hemisphere is the seat of emotion and is non-linear. It is beneath consciousness. One of the extraordinary aspects of creative expression is that it bypasses rational thought and logical assumptions.

Creative expression

targets the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain, which are visual, sensory and emotional in nature. (The right prefrontal cortex is deeply connected to the limbic areas of the brain and is central to affect regulation.)This allows art and imagery to circumvent psychological resistance, which is typically analytic in nature. The Arts (in all their forms) also allow for the externalization of these very inner experiences and gives them shape and form outside the body and mind. Creativity gives expression to that which cannot, because of the structure of the brain, be spoken. This, in turn, provides opportunity to re-imagine concepts of self and identity. Scientists have also discovered that the very act of creating – integrating the brain both vertically and horizontally – reduces anxiety, depression and pain, decreases blood pressure, strengthens immune functioning and improves attention and concentration.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

Balance is Not an Achieved State…

Balance is Not an Achieved State…

It is ever shifting.

I grew-up in the mountains of Idaho, so I am going to give a snowboarding analogy; however, this can be easily translated to surfing or longboarding which are staples in this paradisal climate. While snowboarding, I didn’t find one position atop the board and stay there. With every variation in the terrain, I had to alter my balance by flexing a hamstring or lowering a shoulder. After years, this can became second nature and I didn’t have to think about the many components that went into balancing. At first though, it was painful and full of falls and bruises (and some more expensive doctor’s visits).

What would you include in your Personal Wellness Plan to practice an “ever shifting balance”?

Perhaps you want to re-evaluate your Personal Wellness Plan quarterly or whenever you feel a major shift in the “terrain” of life. A good starting point is to begin each day by asking yourself, “What does Wellness mean for me today?” and let that guide your actions and interactions from moment to movement.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

 

 

Pause & Reflect

Pause & Reflect

Some of you may know that I was in the hospital in late May due to complications with Shingles. I thought it was a pesky bug bite, but when it started to spread down my face, scalp and eye I knew something was wrong. I went to the ER hoping they could help relieve the pain, itching and swelling and send me on my way – all the while thinking I was going to be back at work the next day. I was very wrong. It was four days later that I was released and though feeling bruised and tried, very grateful for my health. Why did a relatively young and in good health person get Shingles? Stress they told me. This is from a person that talks about the benefits of balance each day. And, yes it had been a stressful period, but I thought I was taking time for ever-so-important self-care. While in the hospital bed I had bit of time to reflect.

What I realized is the self-care I practice each week is all very busy –

swimming, yoga and dance. Rarely, if ever, did I stop to simply pause and reflect. Even before bed, I try to get caught-up on my professional reading. So, I am learning the importance of stopping.

Even in the cycle of creativity (Paul E. Plsek)

in the second phase, imagination, there is a period of “time in”. It’s a moment of spacious emptiness and it is crucial to inspiration. ‘Time in’, coined by Professor Tal-Ben Shahar who is a leading researcher of Positive Psychology, means allowing ourselves not to know. It means a time of silent reflection. It’s a time when we allow the mind to be a blank page. It is being, rather than doing. This is my lesson and goal – to remember to pause.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!