Written by Judy Martin for Forbes.com
Is the brain a verb or a noun? One of two questions, Deepak Chopra M.D. tells me, that would stimulate an e-mail exchange between he and neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D. leading to the co-authoring of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being.
In layman’s terms, through self-awareness and conscious intention, we can train our brain to transform our lives whether at home or at work. In the intensity of our current tumultuous times, getting a handle on our thoughts might be the very currency needed to consume the chaos and boost creativity.
Stress, Work and the Brain
Hurricane Sandy, LIBOR, and Newtown. A pervasive undertone of stress and even sadness has crept into the holiday season. And that emotional impact can’t help but follow us through the door of the workplace. But how do we handle the stimulus? That is very much a process of our mind, consciousness, and as you just read – the workings of the brain. It’s the meat of the latest research in neuroscience; the neuroplasticity of the brain. It’s the ability of the brain to heal or restructure itself and form new habits after training.
I sat down with Chopra in an interview, high above the sensory overload of New York City. Pleasantly focused without concern for the crazy media-filled day ahead of him, we chatted about our Super Brain. Here are some excerpts from my discussion with him, followed by a video with a few nuggets from the interview over at WorkLifeNation.com.
You’ve been writing about the mind/body connection for three decades. Why write about the brain now?
As a doctor, I saw intuitively that people’s state of mind had to do with their health and well being, but now neuroscience show us that to be true. It makes sense. How can there be a mind/body connection without a mind/brain connection? The key thing though, is that we are not our brains, we are the users of our brains. Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you.
With neuroimaging there is now the ability to look at the functionability of the brain in a new way. What is the significance of this science in how it reflects how we can restructure our brains?
Neuroimaging has now allowed us to track every thought in your brain. We can see which neural networks are activated and we can also guess which neurochemicals are activated. For example, serotonin, dopamine, opiates, oxytocin, these are not only neurochemicals that enhance the experience of self-esteem and happiness, but they also modulate the activity of the immune system and fine-tune it.
What’s the best way to encourage the activation of those chemicals that influence happiness, calm and spark the “parasympathetic” nervous system associated with a more relaxed aware state of being?
Meditation makes the entire nervous system go into a field of coherence. Your entire brain in meditation goes into what is called “phase and frequency locking in.” All the neural networks adhere together synchronistically. And no other experience other than meditation does it quite that way. Being more aware creates responsibility. What does responsibility mean? It means the ability to respond. The more conscious you are in your ability to respond, the more creative you’ll be.
In the workplace, amidst expanding technology and uncertain economic conditions, employees and managers are on edge. Is burnout around the corner?
The sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is on overdrive. If you continue to be in overdrive you will crash with physical exhaustion or illness. However it would be a mistake to attribute this to our work, or to technology, or the demands of our life. It’s our responsibility really, whether we feel stress or not. Stress is not in the environment, stress is not in you, it’s how you and your environment interact. It’s like the waves on the ocean. If you are a skillful surfer than every wave is almost an exhilaration, if you’re unprepared than every wave is a disaster.
Those waves can come at a tsunami-like deluge in our work-life merge. What are your thoughts from a neurological perspective on multi-tasking?
Your conscious brain cannot multitask. If I’m speaking to you and checking my I-Phone at the same time, I’m doing neither. This is why our society is frazzled; this misconception that we can consciously do more than one thing at a time effectively. Most neuroscientists I’ve spoken with agree on this, you have to parcel out your time. And, there are many techniques to manage stress, meditation is only one. Mindful awareness of your body, your breath, transcending reactivity, imagination and visualization etc.
Creativity and innovation are huge profit drivers if you speak with today’s CEOs. Using these techniques I would assume, can bring the Super Brain you write about, into play.
Being more aware, creates responsibility. What does responsibility mean? It means the ability to respond. The more conscious you are in your ability to respond, the more creative you’ll be. The baseline brain is the automatic brain, which is more or less a bundle of conditioned reflexes and nerves, triggered by people in circumstance, into predictable outcomes. There is no creativity. The Super Brain is the creative brain, or really the “creative you” that is using the brain to express its creativity.