We all want to have a deeper understanding of how our brains work; after all, the brain we are born with is the brain we must use. So it behooves us to understand exactly what this thing in our head does and exactly how it does it. And let’s agree that we innately crave new things in our lives, new understandings, new information, and new ways to do and be in the world, in other words, change. So let’s take a look at some revolutionary understandings surrounding the brain.
Our brain has developed over time in layers — as nature never abandons something that works — and so it builds upon it. It began with the reptilian-survival brain, the first and oldest structure. When born into a world full of threats (think sabre-toothed tigers), it makes perfect sense that this part of our brain developed first to survive these threats and perpetuate our species. So this part of your brain, having hundreds of thousands of years of practice, has become extremely adept at making decisions that keep you alive. This is good, because the alternative is death.
There is only one problem with this: 99 percent of our sensory experience is first filtered through our lower, survival brain. It receives all sensory information below the conscious threshold, which means you are not consciously aware of what this part of your brain is thinking or doing until it makes a decision (think instincts). This part of your brain is also responsible for the stress response, dictating how often it’s used and where vital blood flow, oxygen and metabolism are routed. We all know how harmful stress can be for us, and this part of your brain — being in a constant state of hyper-vigilant alertness for threats in your environment — makes biological choices for you in which you have no say. And the kicker to all this is that the logic governing these choices is sameness equals safety.
That’s right. You have a part of your brain constantly trying to make you do the same things over and over and over again because you simply survived. This part of your brain is not responsible — nor does it care about — your happiness, reaching your goals, finding out who you are or what you are meant to do. It literally only cares if you survived until the next day — so with its logic, it then says, “Success! Now, let’s duplicate that.” Can you see how this has affected you? Any pattern that keeps playing out in your life over and over is linked into a dead-end, neuro-synaptic loop by this part of your brain.
So the question becomes, how do we release the lower, survival brain’s hold? The answer lies in the other higher structures of our brain, primarily the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is the newest evolutionary part of our brains, and has been said to be the brain’s executive center or “CEO.” It is responsible for our highest states of being up to and including the classical enlightenment experience. Since discovering that the vast majority of people use this portion of their brain the least, researchers have been plumbing the depths of what it’s responsible for and what are its potentials.
Through this research Dr. Andrew Newberg discovered that “Awakening is primarily due to a fundamental change in brain function with a shift in brain dominance to the prefrontal area. There is a shift of the brain’s command center and the individual wakes up to a higher level of consciousness and to a new reality, which seems to be even more real than the old one.”
So what has been revealed is that states of consciousness and views of reality permanently change and expand when different, more-evolved portions of our brain become activated for extended periods of time. It’s likely that we have all heard of neuroplasticity by now, and the fact is, we can all rewire our brains. Dr. Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, says, “The brain can change (rewire) itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age.”
So with this new knowledge of the role/function of the different structures of the brain, we come to an obstacle. In order for the most-evolved structure of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) to fully come online and become humanity’s default brain state, it needs three things — energy, blood flow (metabolism) and oxygen — so it can start rewiring our brain via neuroplasticity.
The lower survival brain is currently hijacking these three things to feed its own structures and patterns. In the past this was good because it led to the survival of our species, but times have changed and there are not immediate survival threats in our modern world as there were hundreds of thousands of years ago.
It’s time for our lower brains to stop being our default-brain state, unconsciously running our lives in circles of sameness. Enough is enough.
With the vastly complex issues facing us as a culture and as a civilization, we are quickly reaching a cognitive threshold. This was addressed by Rebecca Costa in her book The Watchman’s Rattle, where Costa also noted the solution to this cognitive overload we are facing: “Insight is a spontaneous, effortless organization of chaos. There may be millions of facts and possibilities, but the brain is capable of producing a single, and often the only, correct answer.”
Insight is unpredictable, non-linear thinking that breaks the mold and solves the problem. Insight is a biological function of the prefrontal cortex that can be cultivated. It was Einstein who said, “You can never solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” By metabolizing the structures of the prefrontal cortex, it affords us permanent new levels of consciousness and cognition that create the conditions for the insightful emergence of solutions to our personal, familial, cultural and worldwide problems.
In short, we must discover a way to shift out of the lower brain into the higher brain. This is paramount to humanity’s future.
Learn how you can activate your higher brain and see a mind-blowing demonstration in Minneapolis! Register for Higher Brain Living’s marquee event from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9, at the DoubleTree by Hilton – West End, 1500 Park Place Blvd., Minneapolis, MN 55416 (Terrace 3 & 4). The event is free if pre-registered, $97 at the door. Pre-register at www.higherbrainlivingevents.com/mn/