heart anatomy The grooves of the mind are well-documented. Especially nowadays with the advent of neuroscience we’re discovering more about the neural pathways that become established in the brain, affecting our outlook, mood, mental states and even view of the world.

Emotions too have grooves. As with mental grooves, emotional ones are also like well-worn paths. We cycle the same emotions over and over. We’re on a hamster wheel of thoughts. Thoughts and emotions feed each other.

We live within stories we’ve created and some we’ve inherited. Stories are important. They give us a sense of place, belonging and continuity. They can also restrict and limit.

Stories can be rewritten.

But before that’s possible emotions have to be understood. First, they have a magnetic quality which means similar emotions clump together. Emotions can self-attract within a person or from person to person. That’s why a family, group of people, a community or a habitat can have certain emotional tones.

Emotions and thoughts can get locked into a self-perpetuating pattern. There’s a strong resonance between our mental and emotional natures. For example stressful thoughts lead to feeling stressed, which reinforce the same mental patterns. This creates a loop which is amplified.

Emotions that are higher in frequency are healthier and also much less prone to becoming stuck stories. Peace, compassion, forgiveness and joy, among others, are higher in frequency than fear, shame and blame. Because low frequency emotions are slow in vibration they ‘weigh’ us down.

Stories can’t be rewritten from density.

Genuine freedom is never found through transcending our own stories, but in learning to find freedom within them. A path of awakening is a path of untangling, undoing the many layers of belief that blind us to the innate freedom within us. It is a journey that can hold moments of great joy as we discover the depth of stillness and peace possible for us, and moments of great pain as we discover the depths of fear and imprisonment in our beliefs.

— Christina Feldman

Since the mind is also very much involved in how this plays out, let’s take a look at it too. When we’re dense we’re unable to see the larger picture. We’re in it, the drama is running us and intensity is high.

Concrete mind can’t be the observer, it can only participate. This aspect of the mind is only concerned with the day-to-day functioning of life. It’s confined in its view and worried about all the details.

Another aspect of the mind is there to be activated, it’s simply waiting for us to turn to it. This is the inclusive mind which recognizes patterns and has the capacity for insight. It’s able to reframe and create new connections.

The quality of our thoughts is up to us. They can follow deeply furrowed dysfunctional tracts, or we can establish new ones to light up the brain in healthier and better ways.

Neuropsychologist Donald Hebb established the phrase, “neurons that fire together, wire together” in 1949. Brain science has come a long way since then, but this basic fact holds true. It means that in each experience we encounter, our feelings, thoughts, sensations, and muscle actions become embedded in a network of brain cells. Each time we repeat a particular thought or action, we strengthen the connection between a set of brain cells or neurons.

What neuroscience has seen since that time is that the brain has the plasticity to wire brand new networks, and disconnect old ones if needed.

If we harbor resentment and obsess about the long list of injustices and hurt that have scarred our lives, bitterness and mistrust form the landscape of our hearts and minds. In turn, this becomes our way of interpreting the world. If we dwell repeatedly upon the disappointments and failures, this too shapes the heart and mind and we live with cynicism and doubt. Nurturing calmness, understanding, and trust within ourselves impacts directly upon our way of seeing each person and encounter entering our lives.

— Christina Feldman

Our emotional nature is there in between the physical body and our mental nature. Emotional upsets easily affect the body as pain or illness. Similarly if there’s pain in the body, it usually has an emotional cost. If one is emotionally triggered this can also contaminate thought processes, creating an amplified loop between thoughts and emotions. Or the trigger can originate in thought first.

What’s the solution? Here’s one answer. Follow it and see how greatly it helps you.

It’s like two arrows, the Buddha said. The first arrow is the initial event itself, the painful experience. It has happened; we cannot avoid it. The second arrow is the one we shoot into ourselves. This arrow is optional. We can add to the initial pain a contracted, angry, rigid, frightened state of mind. Or we can learn to experience the same painful event with less identification and aversion, with a relaxed and compassionate heart.

— Jack Kornfield

Related

Unhooking from Neural Circuits


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Rewriting Emotional Stories