Archive - July 2013

Under Your Bodhi Tree
Two Brains
What is NeuroPositivity?
What Is The WIDTH Of Your Life?

Under Your Bodhi Tree


Is your discontent quieted?

When Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree, it was after he renounced the ascetical practices of killing his human desire, his appetite for food, and the denial of human life.

He sat under the Bodhi tree with the realization that his whole host of ascetical practices to purify himself were not the way, and not an authentic spiritual quest.

He renounced them to his first five followers who began by accusing him of selling out to the things of this world, until he took them into his new found light.

Now remember that there were 500 years of oral tradition before any of this got written down.

He sat and became enlightened by opening himself and allowing the goodness of the Bodhi tree and all that was around, the goodness of the Universe, to fill him, and declared that he was enlightened.

And so he was.

He simply let go and receptively let the goodness that was around him fill him.

Profound and utterly simple.

For a cell to receive dopamine, ligands have to line up to create a receptivity, an openness to this necessary neuropeptide. It is one example in our amazing neurology of how we come to feel oneness and openness with life that raises mood and state of mind.

It is essentially the conditions of receptivity that are important; the neuropeptide that is dopamine is already present, ready to give us its gifts.

And so can we become enlightened exactly where we are.

We realize that our denunciations of human desire and the fullness of life, our driveness to accomplish more and more, or our rush and push for status, are nothing compared to living a day in joy and peace and love… one day at a time.

Our discontent is quieted.

That’s all there is to enlightenment. It doesn’t have to be any more than that.

It doesn’t have to be a state of profound bliss or ecstasy carried away in a trance, once or twice experienced and never to be found or felt again.

It is the everyday experience of allowing the life that is already ours to give us its goodness and reveal its lavishness and opulence.

Where is your tree of openness and receptivity?


Which label would you choose?

Before we label someone as a victim, we need to ask THEM which they’d rather have applied to describe them.

Too often our compassion and the labels it creates, like “victim,” are not appropriate and helpful.  If you ask most people if they would rather be viewed as a victim or a survivor, they will almost inevitably say, when they realize they have a choice, that they are a “survivor.”  Give them a choice.

Our labels have turned too many people into victims who experience themselves as less empowered.  They think less in terms of possibilities and more in terms of explanations for why they can’t or don’t do the hoping and dreaming that could be theirs.  Giving people a reason to rationalize, defend, and justify their situation undermines their very life force.

How easy it is to blame a hundred different things for why we do what we do.  Or we blame another 100 different things on why we aren’t doing what we want to do.

We can well be the victim of something that happens to us that is not of our choosing. Here we need compassion, understanding and support, as well as the  freedom to admit that we have been harmed. 

But just as quickly we need to move to the stance of the “survivor” and ask what we can learn and what the possibilities and potentials of our life can be. 

Every oppressor comes with a lesson and a path to freedom; the survivors in every walk of life and in every form of oppression have taught us what that is, and they are our heroes. 

Too often we have made a profession of studying the victims and built ineffective industries that have cared more about sustaining their own existence than making sure that victims become survivors.

The new DSM V, the bible of diagnostic labels of what can be wrong with you and what is abnormal, has finally been held to the scrutiny it has long deserved.  How many of these labels are supported by solid research and how many are convenient ways of making a diagnosis to enable third party insurance payment?  Is there anything we cannot label an “issue” that needs the attention of a therapist or a psychiatrist to prescribe a pill to fix?

We are an over-medicalized, over psychologized, overly and too easily victimized culture of too many people who want to blame something or someone for why they aren’t getting on with their lives. 

Those who really lose are those who most often need significant help and attention.

There are for sure populations of people who are victimized.  It is quite another thing to turn people into victims who believe they are powerless.  Without question, there are people who are victims, but we do well, in our supportive response to them, to regard them with the fullest potential of being survivors. 

Everyone has something in their lives by which they could be “victimized.”  Look hard enough and you’ll find something to use that blinds you to your possibilities and refuses to learn the lessons any obstacle or oppressor can teach.

As soon as someone has “a problem,” we have the challenge of not letting that problem be viewed in a way that it creates a victim, with the victim-thinking that minimizes inner strengths and resources which every person surely possesses. 

We instead can create survivors who know their own inner strengths, who assess their own possibilities, and who are always encouraged to dream, to vision, and to create new worlds.

But, you may argue, isn’t it more cruel to give people unrealistic hopes and dreams, only to be disappointed?  NO.  It is unrealistic not to encourage survivors to envision the next possible step and support them in taking it. 

The next steps emerge in the process of courage and long-term dreams and visions that while always malleable, and are essential to becoming more and more fully human.

Two Brains

The UpSpiral Brain and the DownSpiral Brain

It really is like having two different brains. The neuropathways of the UpSpiral are different than those of the DownSpiral. You know when you are moving in an UpSpiral of flow and positive emotion that opens you to the world around you: YOU FEEL GOOD. This is the CALM AND CONNECT brain. It is very different than the FIGHT/FLIGHT brain.

The neuropathways of thriving and flourishing are different than those of illness and resistance. The major neuropathways and functioning of the brain in fight/flight are different from those of the calm/connect brain. You may have given up a good deal of your choice between the two, but it can be restored by learning and practice.

Recognizing that you have the choice and restoring that choice is the positive education that is good coaching. Good coaching is much more than just reaching a few material or performance goals.

You also know when you are in a DownSpiral. It is a very, very different way of thinking and reasoning that is like using a different brain. In a certain sense, you are.

There is more to life than the fight/flight response. Intuitively, you know in your heart of hearts that you are headed in the wrong direction when you are DownSpiraling.

We have SOOOO over used the fight/flight response that we are sick and ill, and we eat such awful food to give ourselves at least some reward. Such a trap!


Believe it or not, we sometimes CHOOSE to use the DownSpiral brain. Have you heard the country western music where the guy has lost his job, lost his wife, lost his kids, lost his house, and is whining in those pitiful long drawling notes sung into the bottom of his empty beer glass, identified with his self-pity or the poor woman who has lost her man and is determined never to be fooled by love again?

There are times when we may want to identify with the “blues” for a while, enjoy the richness of the artistry that captures a particular experience of human life, have a good cry, and then get on with our lives, looking for the good that is really always ours.

Honestly, there is a time for nursing our wounds and feeling our sadness that is not grounded in a sense of despair and giving up. That is not the DownSpiral brain; that is the human brain healing and knowing there is hope. There is also the decision that becomes the belief that life is not worth living. That is the very different DownSpiral brain. We can suffer and be grounded in hope that knows that we keep growing in life OR we can give in, give up, and feel like we are the victims of an accumulation of events that are just too much. Do you hear the two different brains at work here?

One brain is grounded in possibility and getting the larger picture; we call that the right hemisphere brain. The other brain is replaying the same old sad story, stuck in resentment, anger and hurt, and that is the left hemisphere brain. This kind of a localization and hemispheric specialization is a bit of a stretch, but gets at this truth that the brain of health operates on very different neuropathways than the brain of descending illness. We think differently in an UpSpiral than we think in a DownSpiral. Each day, which do you choose?

In a DownSpiral, we do not have access to our options. We have narrowed and believe there are few alternatives. We feel stuck and with no hope.

Think about it. Two ways of operating your brain: a choice between knowing intuitively, in believing, and in a faith that can be very real, that while you might be sad, there is more and that you can have it.

We cross the line between the UpSpiral and the DownSpiral when we stop believing that can have what we want, and that we can help those we love realize their better and best in life.

“Two brains” with two major systems of neuropathways, and we have the knowledge that there is an UpSpiral and a DownSpiral. And  we can make a choice for which one we will travel.

Usually that choice gets expressed in small choices first. What we talk about and how we talk about things –do you whine or do you talk about possibilities and hope to yourself and to others? What do you choose to eat?

Down? Down and angry at the hope I claim is real and surely inside of you? Go take a walk, walk for a mile. MOVE. Keep walking until you see something beautiful that you can appreciate. Small choices and a little appreciation are at the start of the UpSpiral.

Pulse gratitude. If you can’t feel it, think it.

If you don’t know how to pulse positive emotion join our next NeuroPositive class and we’ll introduce you to our Emotional Gym where you learn to feel and pulse the positive emotions that have become numbed by the hurts and traumas of life.

NeuroPositivity is what results when you increase the growth and stimulation of neuropathways in the brain that control positivity. We can liken it to a positive state of mind, but it really goes even further. It is a  positive state of being.

What Is The WIDTH Of Your Life?

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.

I want to have lived the width of it as well.”  

Diane Ackerman

What is the good life and how to do we live it? The pursuit of happiness, a right the founding fathers thought important enough to include in the United States Constitution, is about this “width” of life.

The “width of life” is about meaning and purpose and happiness. People who have the highest levels of happiness are those with three things:

1) Positive emotion

2) Engagement in life

3) A sense of meaning & personal significance

Any one of these gives you an increased level of satisfaction –this width of your life. Two of these elements give much more, but the combined effect of having all three is greater than the sum of two or three.

There are three important questions we can ask ourselves.

1) How much time and to what extent do I feel positive emotion?

2) How am I engaged in life, what engages me?

3) What gives me a sense of meaning and purpose that is inspired and not driven?

Our logo is an UpSpiral ™ and we use it to express our purpose to educate ourselves and others about the vast significance of UpSpiral living and what we call the NeuroPositive Method. ™

We are primarily concerned with utilizing the brain’s ability to grow and change, called neuroplasticity, to develop a more ‘neuro-positive’ brain and mind.  The research, across the board, shows us the importance of living in an UpSpiral.

From health, to creativity, to problem solving, to learning, to faster recovery from illness, to disease prevention, all of the research shows the significance of living in an UpSpiral.

An UpSpiral is especially important in increasing happiness, well-being, thriving, and flourishing.  We believe that helps to build peace and health in the world, and to that we are dedicated.

We are particularly concerned with application of the research in neuroscience as it intersects with other disciplines in enabling and sustaining an UpSpiral of a better, kinder, and more productive life, full of greater and greater meaning and joy.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute