Neuroscience: two circuits to interact with the environment

Neuroscience research has further confirmed what meditators have known for millenia: that there are two fundamentally different ways of interacting with the environment.

One is centered in a self-referential process (“ego” or “me” or “personality”), which neuroscience calls the “narrative circuit” – it is the brain circuitry and information storehouse that holds together a personal narrative based on past experience, which then acts as a filter and interpreter for what is happening in the present.

The other is called “direct experience” by both scientists and meditators. In this case, several different brain regions become more active and you are able to experience sensory information in real time. You are not just overlaying the experiences of the past onto the situation of the present.

Mindfulness not only allows you to notice the difference between these two modes, but also gives you the choice of which circuitry to be using.

Further, the more you switch over to direct experience, the “thicker” and stronger this circuitry becomes.

Now stepping outside the framework of neuroscience and into our everyday experience, we can also say that direct experience heals fragmentation. We get out of our “head” and into the mind-body system that is already connectd to the larger energetic system of the environment.

We reconnect with a wholeness that has been in the background. We draw from a larger energetic field, and we become more attuned to the subtle signals within and around us.

(Little book of practice for Authentic Leadership in Action, by Susan Szpakowski, page 29, ALIA Press 2010)

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