Back in the dim, distant past (1987), I put down psychology as my second preference on Tertiary Entrance Examinations form. My interest is therefore long standing (more than half my life, I am surprised to calculate) although it has largely remained informal. In my mid thirties I enrolled in two courses, one at a university and one with a private trainer, but that is the extent of my formal study. Instead, I’ve fed my interest with books.
One can’t help but notice, out of that half life time or so of reading, the rise of neuroscience. Our understanding of how our minds work has been growing with the application of technology which allows us, incredibly, to see inside the brain of living people. Some suggest that the results of this neurological probing validates the traditions of ancient sages who have maintained that the mind is creative and generative. I find the word validating problematic, as it suggests that only the Western derived rationalist model of science should be accepted as the arbiter of goodness, when clearly, the very longevity of those traditions and teachings indicate their goodness. I’m not elevating one above the other, as I believe that there is value in both.
I’ve been reading more about neuroscience of late, and this post was prompted by the intersection of a book, a CD and a person. All three together have synergistically created the idea which I am leading up to. The book reminded me of the importance of daily attention. Specifically, dwelling on negative emotions reinforce those neural circuits and make them stronger, when really, you want the opposite. You want to weaken your unhelpful thoughts and emotions. The more you re-run those old circuits, the stronger and more entrenched they become. The CD was one I purchased from one of my favourite shops in Canberra, The Heirophant, which has the widest selection of books and CDs on health, psychology and spirituality that I know of. The CD talked about the idea of taking in the good. Both book and CD agreed that to effect change, it was important for the images used to be vivid. The more vivid and visceral the memory or image is, the more is seems to penetrate. Finally, the man is a therapist I sometimes consult, whose method is a cross between hypnosis and guided visualisation, in addition to teaching meditation. You can read more about Michael’s work through his website at Syandra Health Centre.
I began to wonder what else I can do to support this process of rewiring my brain, given I am not much of a meditator. What other techniques could I use? The book of good memories is my answer. I am going to make an album of images that make me feel warm, happy, loved, appreciative, connected or in awe. I will start with my own photographs, but I will also source other images. Images which bring feelings of unalloyed goodness, of calmness and delight, wonder and serenity. It can sit out somewhere on view, where I can daily pick it up and have a moment of visceral goodness.
This is not the kind of creative project that is quickly achieved. For me, part of the value will be in the slow reflective process of sorting through images and memories, and writing about them. I hope that this process of dwelling on the good will help to change my brain from glass half empty to glass half full. I’ll share some of those here. And, if any of you feel inspired to make your own book of good memories, I’d love to hear from you.
I think the first image will be of the Iron Paw, who was so calm and brave about being delivered to the cattery today…