November 16, 2013

Retrain Your Brain. ~ Doreh Taghavi

You are worth more than you think.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Throughout childhood, I heard this phrase spoken at school, at home and on the playground regularly. The phrase suggests that hurtful words shouldn’t impact or have an effect on us. While encountering sticks and stones is less than desirable, most scraped knees and playground wounds heal more quickly than the sly alternative: words.

Many cultures emphasize from childhood onward that we should be invincible to words and disregard them when they don’t suit us—a concept much easier said than done. Hurtful words from ones self, or others, can have major long lasting impact on brain networks; altering our motivation, self esteem, self efficacy and more.

Just because words shouldn’t affect us, doesn’t mean they don’t. Words are potent in the development of personality and self-representation. They can feel more significant coming from those considered important to our self perceptions, such as family, friends, teachers, coworkers, bosses and those who inspire us.

Regardless, we process and consider words from those we are jealous of, those with powerful presence (negative or positive) and those with no right to submit their input. Even words unspoken are powerful agents that have presence and influence daily. So much so, that words unspoken usually make themselves heard. Most of us wear our inner dialogues on our sleeves, intentionally or not.

When I started minding my own inner dialogue, it became apparent to me how much others are constantly issuing their own subtle insecurities on display. This can include: “Are you sure I look okay in this dress?”, “I’m not that good at signing”, “I’m sure those other applicants are much more qualified than I am,” or the subtle physical cue of a slumped posture. Chances are, on a day with an average amount of interactions, you’ve tipped someone off to your insecurity. Taking time to watch your words allows the opportunity to address these perceptions and heal the brain.

If you wouldn’t leave an open wound from a stick or stone bleeding unaddressed, why would you leave a neurological pattern of injury to hinder your confidence and limit your inner light?

In theory, we know we are beautiful, intelligent, worthwhile beings. However, far past theory in the depths of ones hippocampus, negative experiences are carefully stored for future reference. The brain is constantly active, even as we sleep. It is structured to primarily address negative information, and secondarily address positive information.

This roots from the evolutionary approach to evaluating risk and safety. Once alerted, we can go as far developing unrealistic fears and hyper-awareness: whether it be the spider behind the curtain or getting turned down by a job. If it happens once, we’re on alert for re-occurrence. Fear is present and real for most of us, in some shape or form. Fear of not being loved and accepted. Fear vulnerability, failure or embarrassment. Fear of responses, reactions and words. This fear is neurological, emotional, and real.

Negative self-perception is comparable to infection. In that sense, we have the opportunity to treat these toxins pragmatically. First, we must identify hindering perceptions. What’s stopping you from full circle self acceptance? Cue the playground talk: While most scabbed knees healed without scarring, here we are, noticing which negative words or feelings didn’t.

A personal example is my writing. When I was younger, I got what I considered negative feedback about my writing from school, peers and otherwise. While I’m no novelist, blogger or journalist, I am giving myself the opportunity to see myself and my writing differently. Negative perceptions exist even in the most confident of beings.

Even though everybody and their mother has told you, “Nonsense, you’re a great writer”, or “You’re beautiful, don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise!”; people tell us otherwise, and sometimes we listen. There can even be a tendency to disregard our loved ones attempts at healing these perceptions.

In the same way, you can get a report from your boss telling you 100 positives, and two areas of potential improvement and bam, the ruminating begins: “Woe is me!” (This is where negative trumps positive, the evolutionary threat analysis patterns of thought come in).

It’s unnecessary and inefficient to be on code orange for someone to perceive you as annoying, unattractive, untalented, boring, useless or even average! Anticipating reactions, responses or words from others is often an eye-measured recipe of 99 parts self-perception, one part historic platforms for those perceptions.

It’s time we step up to the fear of words in a neurological sense, and embrace the reality of our capacity! We are not the stories that can be told about how we got to this moment, so why do we hold on to them?

When negative perceptions are identified, a platform for change is created. Identify which words have become beliefs and consequently, hindrances. Another childhood idiom you may recall is:

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces of me and sticks back to you.”

Which words have made it through your rubber shield? It’s time to transform these neurological patterns! The Aum For Africa (AFA) approach to neurological healing lays a platform for new mediators, gurus, presidents, hipsters, skeptics and humans to tap into the concept of mala meditation through positive self affirmations.

AFA seeks to educate and empower worldwide, while using our funding to provide this education to youth in developing African countries. From urban to rural, poverty to wealth, boys, girls, men and women: the concept is the same. If words are the bacteria, let them be the antibiotic.

AFA holds workshops with rural youth, where they have the opportunity to foster phrases of self-worth and positive affirmations. South African youth undergo a variety of neurological hardships. Providing a tool for healing at a young age gives them a chance to grow and thrive with a permanent knowledge of their own self-worth. In with the positive, out with the negative.

Consider this mala (prayer beads) meditation like reformatting a disk drive, or wiping it and replacing it with the latest software. The point is to look into phrases that we don’t genuinely believe, are uncertain of or are baffled by. It’s time to put down our rubber shields, and let go of the fallacy that we’ve never believed anything negative about ourselves. Enable yourself. Replace the rubber shield with a stainless steel affirmation of truth, love, and light.

The practice: Get a mala, any mala.

1. Identify which affirmation you would like to work on. Aum For Africa’s key suggested phrases are:

  • I am beautiful inside and out
  • My presence is important and my voice is necessary
  • The fire within me burns through all blocks and fears
  • I am infinite, eternal, and whole
  • I am worthy of love and respect.

2. Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place, cross legged or sitting on the heels.

3. Take four slow deep inhales and exhales. Allow your breath to guide your posture (spine gently straightens, allowing the heart to shine towards the ceiling, shoulders slightly roll back).

4. Recall a memory of feeling loved and comforted.

5. Awaken yourself to gratitude.

6. Notice how gratitude encompasses the love that you’ve received, allowing the subtleties between gratitude and love to merge.

7. Feel the exchange between love and gratitude, inhale deeply with the focus of love, and exhale deeply with the focus of gratitude.

8. Begin repeating the affirmation you’ve selected, using your mala as a counting tool.

9. Repeat the affirmation for every bead until you’ve reached the other side of the mala.

10. Take 30 seconds of silence after you complete a round of affirmations, noticing how you feel.

11. Journal, contemplate, or tell a friend of your experience to help solidify the healing process.

12. Let the affirmation have presence in your day.


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Assistant Editor: Meagan Edmondson/Editor: Bryonie Wise

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