A Month for Thanksgiving…On Finding The Silver Lining

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." — Melody Beattie

Dear Friends,

In Rick Hanson’s book, The Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, he states that… “Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Gandhi, and the Buddha all had brains built essentially like anyone else’s, yet they were able to harness their thoughts and shape their patterns of thinking in ways that changed history.”  How did they do it? Hansen points out that during our current stage of evolution, we humans are still “swimming against ancient currents” from our limbic system that will repeatedly make attempts to persuade us toward the negative. This propensity is a result of residue left over from times when the planetary conditions were much more extreme. We needed an internal alert system in order to survive— influencing us to always first consider negative outcomes in any scenario.

Neuroscientific studies have now repeatedly shown that the brain is “plastic”—which means that even though we are impacted by these “ancient currents” we are pre-wired to change how the brain operates. Therefore, we have the ability to ‘upgrade our operating system.’ The study of neuroplasticity posits that the brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity. In his bestselling book, The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge, M.D., states, “There are currently documented changes of people blind since birth who have begun to see; stroke victims incapacitated for years who have moved into recovery; people whose IQ’s increased, learning disorders completely overcome, and people with previously incapacitating thoughts and obsessions totally cured—all through neuro-plastic treatments.”

When I consider how Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, Gandhi, and Buddha conducted themselves, I imagine that they must have refused to let those “ancient currents” interfere with their divinely guided drive to operate from a foundation of compassion, loving kindness, and patience—for all beings—no matter what. With determined discipline (likely influenced by prayer, contemplation, and meditation practices)—they refused to entertain the negative.

Since I’m nowhere close to having that “Buddha brain”—how can I begin to approach it? For me, the best formula for transcending negative thoughts is to start by shifting my attitude to one of gratitude. Can I be alert to when dread starts to interfere with my peace of mind and use that feeling as a signal to shift gears in considering all of my blessings? When I do, I can instantly feel my outlook swinging toward the positive. And who knows, whenever I do create such a shift might I just possibly be creating another notch in my noggin for an upgrade in my own brain’s operating system? If you are inclined, please join me in the exercise!

Grateful for you,