A snowball on the tip of an iceberg. That is the way Timothy Wilson describes our waking consciousness and that image brings me a sigh of relief. No wonder the world is in the shape it’s in. We all think that our little “snowballs” are the smartest part of us. But apparently not. Recent brain research in the emergent discipline of Contemplative Science tells us that the newly named adaptive unconscious, with its 500 million years of knowledge, is the most knowledgeable intelligent part of our being. More good news… we can easily access that wisdom through mindfulness.
Whether through meditation, martial arts, creativity, yoga, tai chi, ecstatic dance or other practices, the veil can be pulled back between our daily consciousness and this deeper richer self. Once done it opens us to awareness and insights that we can and should trust. There is now scientific data to prove what contemplative practitioners have known for thousands of years. With the development of fMRI’s brain activity bears this out. Measurements show that even novice practitioners realize 15-20% more happiness, sense of connection and calm, while long term practitioners gain in a range from 700 – 800%. These qualities not only offer a sense of wellbeing to our living experience, but educators have known for decades that relaxation boosts learning and retention. Wisdom, happiness, wellbeing, learning and retention – sounds like a pretty attractive package to me!
Hakomi teaches the use of mindfulness in therapeutic modalities. Both the client and the counselor are “working” while in states of mutual, relational mindfulness.
What Shingyo Design Studio & Transformation Services and her flagship product Designing My Practice: Practicing My Design offers is designing while in a mutual state of mindfulness, accessing that cavernous inner wisdom. For those interested in creating wholly integrated work lives this is just the ticket. It is certainly not for everyone, but for some it is the ride of their lifetime. For some it is what they have been seeking and longing for all along – life enhancing work practices.
A dear friend has the following saying on his email signature line: Thoughts become things think good ones.
I have been pondering that saying lately, especially in light of the ancient wisdom of this adaptive unconscious and the snowball-size of the conscious frontal lobe. Perhaps it should actually read: Make space, notice what arises, it’s smarter than what you think.
It seems that we think we are thinking them, but perhaps by the time we know what we are thinking the original thoughts are long gone like the light years that it takes to travel to the moon or sun or stars. I wonder what this really means. Does it mean that we don’t really make them up? Are they are bubbling up from a millennial artesian well of consciousness? Do they think us? What would our role be then? How best to create the milieu into which they can most readily arise?
If we slow down, become mindful, pull back the curtain, it appears that we will know more than what we currently think we really know. Now that is something to think about.
Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy D. Wilson “According to the modern perspective, Freud’s view of the unconscious was far too limited. When he said (following Gustav Fechner, an early experimental psychologist) that consciousness is the tip of the mental iceberg, he was short of the mark by quite a bit – it may be more the size of a snowball on top of that iceberg. The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a good deal of high-level, sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jumbo jetliner is able to fly on automatic pilot with little or no input from the human, “conscious” pilot. The adaptive unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner. It is a necessary and extensive part of a highly efficient mind and not just the demanding child of the mental family and the defenses that have developed to keep this child in check.
“Nor is the unconscious a single entity with a mind and will of its own. Rather, humans possess a collection of modules that have evolved over time and operate outside of consciousness. Though I will often refer to the adaptive unconscious as convenient shorthand, I do not mean to characterize it as a single entity, as the Freudian unconscious typically is. For example, we have a nonconscious language processor that enables us to learn and use language with ease, but this mental module is relatively independent of our ability to recognize faces quickly and efficiently and our ability to form quick evaluations of whether environmental events are good or bad. It is thus best to think of the adaptive unconscious as a collection of city-states of the human mind and not as a single homunculus like the Wizard of Oz, pulling strings behind the curtain of conscious awareness.” Pgs. 6-7
Shambhala Sun, March 2012, The New Science of Mind “It was a technological breakthrough that radically transformed the science of contemplation. A breakthrough that changed the way we understand the workings of the brain. That revealed the neurological basis for the ancient art of mind training.
“It was called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, and it allowed scientists to observe and measure – in real time – changes in brain activity as subjects experienced different activities, emotions, and mental states. It was a scientific bridge between mind and brain.
“Using this new technology, neuroscientists discovered that the brain was not immutable after early childhood, as previously believed, but could change structurally and functionally over time in response to environmental stimulation and mental processing. The brain was not fixed but plastic. For thousands of years contemplatives had claimed the mind could be trained. Now the theory of neuroplasticity gave it a scientific basis. fMRI technology gave scientists the chance to watch it happening and measure it.”