“Life is a constant exchange of energy and information,” said Dan Siegel at the Bridging Hearts and Minds Conference in San Diego, February 2014. I was sitting on the floor about three feet away from him. The hotel banquet space was full. If you have ever listened to Dr Dan, or watched his popular video Handy model of the Brain, where he gives a simple explanation of an integrated brain (stem, limbic, frontal) and popularized an experiential understanding of what it means to ‘flip your lid’; if you have experienced him, you know him to be a great teacher. He loves and supports the learner – his students. He takes big ideas in neuroscience, such as neuroplasticity (brain is continually changing and adapting to new stimulus, as opposed to fixed), and creates simple ways to understand and apply the new information to get better outcomes in day.
Unrelated to the desired outcome of this post, but related overall because I often reference these ‘teachers’ – I notice the same vibe when I listen to Brene Brown and Adam Grant speak. Whether it is the context they add when they read their published books that I listen to on the Audible app, an older-but-still-relevant TED talk, or as a host or a guest on different podcasts; both are interpreted by me as educators first. Underneath the popularity and effectiveness they have received as organizational psychologists working with esablished organizations that include business and sports, as well as authors of their research findings – generalized and applicable to both personal and social problems; they have a desire to engage and inspire the ‘student’ in meaningful ways – ways that lead to sustainable growth outcomes and contribute to personal fulfillment, as well as greater good contributors of a shared humanity.
Back to Dr Dan….February 2014…San Diego…
It was the year after I left a full time position at a typical high school, to focus on teaching experiential learning (ie. mindfulness) at the alternative high school I was already working part time at, in the evening. I left the full time day position in Spring 2013, to focus on learning all things mindfulness, which included going to where the learning was no matter what the costs. This was a lofty aspiration that led me to a Thich Nhat Hanh – Mindfulness in Schools ‘conference’ in Canada August 2013, and the Bridging Hearts and Minds conference in San Diego.
Since I didn’t know much about mindfulness, I didn’t know much about the ‘who was who’ in the mindfulness community. Both conferences included the Who of the Who’s, unbeknownst to myself. Ignorance is embarassing only when you recognize it. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I did know that school violence and student death by suicide only seemed to be increasing and it felt like nothing was being done. I decided I would do something that could lead to better outcomes.
The Thich Nhat Hanh experience was actually a 5-day silent, vegan Buddhist retreat that was publicized to educators. I thought it was a conference. Most of the people were often barefoot and wearing brown robes. The days included mindfulness walks, lengthy meditations, and dharma talks. I had about a 3% understanding of what I was attending…and that’s generous.
The San Diego conference was put on by the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Center for Mindfulness; once again, publicized to educators. I was fascinated by each presentation I attended. I wanted to learn everything. The superintendent of San Diego Public Schools who had recently been appointed from a teaching position to the larger position, passionately spoke one evening about the state of schools and benefits of mindfulness. There were not many educators in attendance from out of state, as I recall.
let’s try to return to Dr Dan again…
The only reason I mentioned Dan Siegel was because of the opening sentence, ‘Life is a continuous exchange of energy and information.’ What I will add to it, is that the energy and information needs to then be organized. If the exchange is not organized in a regulated way, ie. in a way where it is useful and applicable to do ‘the next thing’, chances are the nervous system will get activated because it is interpreted as a threat. Consider loud noises, various textures to the skin or to taste, all the sounds with varying tones, facial expressions, any external condition that when unexamined could pose a threat – too fast, too loud, too big, too small, etc.
I am going to close this blog post because it is getting too long. I made a video earlier this week that began with reference to ‘a constant exchange of energy and information…that needs to be organized.’ I suggest watching the video for perhaps a useful connection to real time application.
Humans adapt to their environment. Energy and information in a digital age moves fast. Humans have inner resources that include executive functions and critical thinking abilities that organize new information and interpret the energetic cues the body is receiving. When we get in on what is happening, we become the noticer. The noticer is mindful. The noticer is awareness. This is mindfulness. The noticer of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and the results that show up. If the results are mostly fear based, then one is mostly interpreting the environment through a fearful lens. If the results are mostly interpreted in a way that supports autonomy of one’s thoughts and a sense of what’s possible, then the interpretation is aligned with sustainable growth outcomes that contribute to greater good and contribution to a shared humanity.
In closing, the 2014 San Diego speakers and presenters were on their way to another conference the following week. This next conference was held in San Francisco: Wisdom 2.0. It had a much bigger draw. The following year, I attended the same San Diego conference. The big names weren’t there. They were in San Francisco for Wisdom 2.0. Let’s suggest that Wisdom 2.0 attracts those connected (no pun intended) with the digital industry of Silicon Valley. A lot more money and influence in the digital industry than in public education.
Worth mentioning…Brene Brown and Adam Grant influence industry as well, as organizational psychologists. All this gets a lot of engagement as there is a lot of power and influence (money) in big business.
Why doesn’t it begin in schools?
Oh…is the answer because there is no monetary return on investment to measure? because wellbeing is difficult to measure?
Support funding public schools. It effects everything.
That’s the end of the blog for today.
I am going to add a large footnote if you would like to continue reading:
I like to think that those who are interested in my content are curious about my hashtags:
#betterway – to use a skill from week two ‘tips’ in storyitell: “I may not be onboard with selfcare being a solution to BIG* social issues; but I can get onboard with being curious about skills, tools, and strategies to support better outcomes.”
#authenticalgorithm – hm. How do I define this term as it is relevant to my content… When I use this term, I think of authentic as it is: genuine, real, best version, true to self. When I think of algorithm, I think of a pattern. I also think of attraction. Here is an example: have you noticed advertisements that show up in one’s digital world (email, search engine, social media accounts) match one’s interests as defined by what one spends time focusing on. If you ‘search’, ‘like’, ‘follow’ a lot of baseball, you may notice that what shows up in your feed matches that interest. To my mind, you have created your own algorithm, based on your input, or your interests – what you spend your time focused on. Does this make sense? Using this example, an authenticalgorithm suggests that when one ‘searches’, ‘likes’, ‘follows’ or ‘unfollows’ based on authentic desires or interests, what begins to show up in one’s ‘feed’ (ie. daily life experience) begins to match an authentic way of being in day. This would be relativity – like attracts like.
#goodnessgrows – this builds off authenticalgorithm. The more time one spends in their most authentic expression, the more authentic their interactions which include conversation, opportunities, insights; as well as one’s connection to the inner world of clarity, harmony, and stability of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and ultimately, results. One’s ‘data’ (what shows up) becomes more time spent in a good feeling state, as opposed to pushing against external conditions.
*in this content, the use of BIG includes the social issues that don’t go away, ie. keep recurring. This can be compared to BIG feelings as the feelings that come on strong and stick around longer than desired because they don’t leave when asked or preferred, and then they do it again without a decreased duration or intensity. I often say ‘stuck or spinning in BIG feelings, or the same outcome.’