NeuroWisdom101
Podcast #83 — Aired February 22, 2016

It only takes one minute of mindfulness an hour to stay centered all day long. Our guest this week on BetterWorldians Radio is one of the world’s leading experts on communication, spirituality, and the brain: Mark Waldman. Waldman will walk listeners through several quick meditations and exercises, as well as discuss his upcoming book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain.

 

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Mark Waldman
Creator, NeuroWisdom101 Author, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain

Mark Waldman is one of the world’s leading experts on communication, spirituality, and the brain. He is on the faculty at Loyola Marymount University’s College of Business and the Holmes Institute. Mark has authored 12 books, including the national bestseller, How God Changes Your Brain, an Oprah pick for 2012. Mark lectures throughout the world teaching communication, conflict resolution. and productivity-enhancement strategies to schools, corporations, and spiritual organizations. Mark is one of the leading developers of Neuro-Coaching, a highly effective brain-based counseling strategy that helps individuals, couples, and groups solve personal and work-related problems in just a couple of sessions. Mark’s latest book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, comes out in March 2016.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. Im Ray Hansell joined today by my co-host and life partner MarySue Hansell. BetterWorldians Radio is brought to you by the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. It rewards players for doing good deeds, while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. So far over thirty-seven million good deeds have been done in A Better World by more than three point six million people. These good deeds include things like expressions of gratitude, acts of kindness, sending notes to real world sick kids, just to name a few. This week were speaking with Mark Waldman, one of the worlds leading experts on communication, spirituality, and on the brain. He is on the faculty of Loyola Marymount Universitys College of Business and the Holmes Institute. Mark has authored twelve books, including the national bestseller, How God Changes Your Brain, which was an Oprah pick in 2012. Mark lectures throughout the world teaching communication, conflict resolution. and productivity-enhancement strategies to schools, corporations, and spiritual organizations. Mark is one of the leading developers of Neuro-Coaching, a highly effective brain-based counseling strategy that helps individuals, couples, and groups solve personal and work-related problems in just a few sessions. Marks latest book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, comes out in March 2016. Hi Mark, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio.

Mark
Thank you, Im so glad to be here.

Raymond Hansell
So are we. Were big fans of your work and we cant wait to get underway. Now NeuroWisdom 101, Id like to share some of that with our listeners to begin with. So could you tell our listeners a little bit about the program and what it offers to them?

Mark
Well weve spent many years, Andy and I, in our brain research looking at all types of spiritual practices and the effects of affirmations. And in our books we often want to teach people how, whats the fastest way to relax, whats the fastest way to focus your brain. And when we bring these exercises and experiences into the Executive MBA program, busy executives, managers, corporate leaders, theyre not going to spend five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes doing a meditation once each morning, theyre too busy, theyre off and running. But we did find that if you could take an experiential strategy and teach a form of relaxation, or stress reduction, or focusing technique in sixty seconds, they would do that for us. And we find that if you spend one minute, once each hour throughout your work day doing any form of mindfulness, relaxation, focusing on a deep inner value, these types of experiential exercises are enough to change the structure and function in your brain within a few weeks. And so what we see immediately is that managers and leaders and employees and assistants, they might stop once an hour during their work day to do one mindful yawn, one mindful stretch, focus on a deep inner value, maybe just relax a little bit and focus on something thats incredibly important to them. And that sixty second meditation is enough to turn on twelve hundred stress reducing genes. And they see their work levels and productivity go up, and their stress levels drop down, thats what NeuroWisdom 101 is. NeuroWisdom 101 are fifty eight experiential lessons that guides a person how to interrupt negative thoughts, negative feelings, and replace them with optimistic thoughts and feelings, how to stay focused, how to eliminate procrastination, you can lower your anxiety levels, you can actually pull yourself out of depression, simply by spending a few minutes a day practicing these experiential exercises. And then by the end of the eight week program, after youve gone through the fifty eight lessons, you can then create your own stress reduction program, your own meditation program. And thats the purpose of NeuroWisdom 101, and thats why its part of the Executive MBA program at Loyola where I teach. And so, were bringing that out to the whole world.

Raymond Hansell
Thats excellent, excellent. Tell our listeners a little bit about the mindful yawn, thats really interesting.

Mark
Well, yawning, were kind of infamous for many years, Andy and I, weve discovered that the fastest way to eliminate mental stress is a yawn, is to simply do yawning. Yawning slows the neural activity in your frontal lobe, the area right above your eyes, and this is the part thats really busy when youre working on a problem. So when you get a headache and you feel tired and you feel irritable and cranky, what youve done is that too many neurons have been firing in this part of your brain. Whats the fastest way to get rid of mental stress? So many people come up with many different solutions, but we still have the fastest way possible. And so if I was to ask you, and everyone whos listening to this program to just do one yawn right now, even if you fake it, most people will immediately feel a slight drop in tension. But a mindful yawn is something different. Because yawning is so important, what Id like you to do and our listeners to do is to yawn three times. But each time I want you to take all of your attention and focus it on little tiny parts of the yawning experience. What does it feel like to stretch your mouth open? What does it feel like to take that breath in? What does it feel like as you exhale and you do? To really immerse yourself fully in the experience of that yawn. And if you do it three times with me, after each yawn, all I want you to do is notice how it changes your mental attitude. You may feel more clear, more relaxed, and notice how it effects your mood. And if youre feeling any kind of irritability or anxiety its going to disappear by the end of that third mindful yawn. Are you ready?

Raymond Hansell
Actually Ive been doing this while weve been talking.

Mark
Its contagious as well. So heres a bell, now go ahead everyone together lets all yawn. Notice how that first yawn changes your attention, you may feel more focused. And now do another yawn. And sometimes you wont be able to stop yawning once you start. Each yawn gets deeper, and notice with that one if your mood has changed a little bit.

Raymond Hansell
Yes it has.

Mark
And now one more yawn everyone just really go even deeper than you went before, bringing all of your attention, all of your awareness onto the experience of that yawn. And now sit in silence, just for about five seconds as you notice any difference that you feel.

Raymond Hansell
Very good.

Mark
Did you notice?

Raymond Hansell
Yes. I noticed that its just a whole deeper, sort of resetting, it feels like youre resetting something in a much more calmer tone.

Mark
And thats literally whats happening in your brain. Youre actually slowing down neural activity in your frontal lobe, youre turning off the activity in parts of brain that focus and concentrate. And all you have to do is one mindful yawn once or twice an hour, and thats enough to increase your work performance. If youre feeling angry or irritated, if somebody does something to you that pushes your buttons, even though it may seem strange, that yawn will be enough to keep you grounded and centered.

Raymond Hansell
Thats excellent. That is excellent. Thank you very much. Now the ten-ten rule can also be very helpful in communication. Share with our listeners would you a little bit about that?

Mark
Well theres something thats very important to understand about the human brain and the nature of consciousness. Everything that you and I are aware of right now, everything that I am saying, theres only a little bit, a small part of your frontal lobe called the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex is activated. And this is whats called working memory, this is what holds all the information that you need to understand what Im saying. But it can only hold a little bit of information in it. So if I was to ask you to repeat any sentence that I said so far in this entire interview with any degree of accuracy, can you do that?

Raymond Hansell
In ten words, in ten seconds?

Mark
No, can you recall anything Ive said accurately? Other than, can you recall anything Ive said accurately?

Raymond Hansell
Yes, I can recall quite a bit that youve said. I particularly liked your conversation about the yawning and it really rang for me, like the bell that you rang, because it reset and just reestablished a kind of calmness in a way.

Mark
Now that is a total interpretation of what you heard me say, but those were not my words.

Raymond Hansell
No, thats exactly right.

Mark
And so this is true in all conversations. Because we can only remember about four to seven words to be consciously aware of, and then it falls out of our consciousness as another four to seven words come in. Most people talk for about two minutes, when the brain can only remember about ten seconds. So, Ill give you an example. We ask people to teach them how to talk slower, everyone thinks you got to use so many words so the other person understands you. But if the other persons brain can only understand ten words, youre wasting all of your words. So we have everyone hold their fists up in front of you, you can do that too, Im holding mine up in front of me. With each word I speak, I raise one finger.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Mark
Now I bet you can repeat that sentence.

Raymond Hansell
With each word I speak, I hold up one finger.

Mark
Perfect, accurate, recollection of what I said.

Raymond Hansell
And by the way that was ten words.

Mark
Yes, well actually it was nine.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Mark
But imagine you and I talking each with ten words. Your turn.

Raymond Hansell
My turn?

Mark
Yes.

Raymond Hansell
I think that, that is a great idea for everyone.

Mark
Heres what happens, you become more precise, conversation becomes intimate. That was ten words. And as you go back and forth you train to brain, and you train your mind to find the most appropriate word that youre trying to convey. Because most of our feelings and thoughts arent even word based. How do you describe a rose? Not in just ten words, but in a thousand words. If somebody has never eaten gefilte fish, there are no amount of words that you can use to get across an experience. So we found, and this works wonderful between parents and kids, just try this with your kids, play the ten-ten game and you can get your kids to share more information with you than you probably have in the last three years. Now, on a business level, we train people by doing this, we pair everyone up and we ask them to speak with ten fingers and ten words. Now in real life situations, what we do is we call for whats called a twenty second rule. Which means you have to keep your speech to about twenty seconds, thats about one to three sentences, and its about fifteen to twenty-five words. And we ask people to still count out their words on their fingers. And what you can do, for example, we introduced this to mediating attorney groups, and you can take two people who hate each other in conflict resolution, maybe theyre going through a divorce, and you can get them to agree to a principal in ten minutes that would normally take two hours. So you go into a board meeting, and everyone can agree to speak in ten to twenty words and youll be able to lay out a whole agenda in about a quarter of the time it normally takes. Thats the power of these communication strategies. Understand also that the slower you speak, the more the listeners comprehension increases. So were emphasizing brevity and slowness. And yes you can bring more emphasis to your words as you learn how to speak more slowly.

Raymond Hansell
Well we certainly know from our experience in looking back at famous speeches and people who have given them that the brevity, for example, of the Gettysburg Address, drives home the point of how much can be accomplished in fewer words. My suspicion is that was probably spoken very deliberately and slowly as well.

Mark
Martin Luther King would be a better example. If I was to ask you to recall one thing that Martin Luther King said that sticks in everybodys mind, what do you recall?

Raymond Hansell
I have a dream.

Mark
There you have it. Four words. What he does in that speech is that he repeats it four times with a different tone, I have a dream, I have a dream, and thats how you can impart incredible emotional impact. If you make your words succinct.

Raymond Hansell
Thats fantastic. Can you tell our listeners about the enlightenment experience that involves moving, rocking your body?

Mark
Well first I want to ask you a question.

Raymond Hansell
Okay, please do so with ten words or less.

Mark
Yes.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Mark
In ten words or less, whats the first that pops into your mind? I also want to introduce another principal here.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Mark
Its called intuition. If you try to say the things that you think you need to say, you leave out another important part of your brain. The part of your brain that lies behind the frontal lobes, and this is where intuitional awareness comes from, this is also where ah-ha experience comes from, its also part of your social brain. When you ask your intuition for an insight, often times youll hear a little funny whisper, its like inner wisdom that comes to you. So I want you to ask your intuition, not your logic, it will always be different each time, in ten words or less, what does your intuition say is the nature of enlightenment?

Raymond Hansell
That nature of enlightenment, what does my intuition tell me about the nature of enlightenment? Im repeating the question.

Mark
Yes.

Raymond Hansell
My intuition tells me that we probably already know many of the answers we seek.

Mark
Isnt that an interesting insight thats come in. Did that surprise you a little bit?

Raymond Hansell
A bit. It actually came out of my mouth and came into my mind at the same time. It just came right out.

Mark
Exactly. So there are different parts of our brain that think differently. So the way you and I are conversing right now, and the way most of us are listening, this is what we call everyday consciousness. But in the enlightenment experience, everything changes. Its as if all of our words fall away, and our awareness incredibly increases. And I can describe enlightenment in a single word. Before I tell you what my word is, Im just asking everyone whos listening to this, close your eyes for a moment, yawn and slowly stretch to clear out your head, even listen to the sound of this bell, because the more you focus into this sound of this bell, you lose yourself in that sound. And ask you intuition, for a single word that would describe enlightenment. Whats the first thing that pops into your mind?

Raymond Hansell
Stillness.

Mark
And the words that people come up with can be peace, unity, transformation, awe, and my favorite word, ah-ha.

Raymond Hansell
Ah-ha.

Mark
And that ah-ha experience is actually what in western philosophy is called enlightenment. In the sixteen, seventeen hundreds, the age of enlightenment was also called the age of reason. And this was a way of how do you go deep down inside yourself to discover some essential truth about yourself or the world. And so we call that a little e experience, a little enlightenment, an ah-ha experience. But in eastern traditions, its what we call a big e experience, thats when you are sitting there and your entire belief system collapses. You have such an enormous discovery of the nature of the universe, of yourself, or whatever else, that old fundamental beliefs can suddenly be shattered. And instead of being an ah-ha experience, its almost an oh wow experience. It takes your breath away and its almost a wordless quality. And so many people describe it as a sense of belief, bliss, or incredible peace. But what is happening in the brain is that the moment before you have that ah-ha, many parts of your brain go really, really quiet. The exact thing seems to happen, the exact opposite happens when a person is meditating and their just doing their normal, maybe focusing on a positive thought or feeling, or repeating a particular word or whatever. That type of meditation that were most familiar with actually increases activity throughout your brain, you become more aware, more.

Raymond Hansell
More in the moment, yeah.

Mark
But, and theyre these esoteric traditions such as Sufis, for example, they will take a word, you know, they use a particular word, they could be as simple as ah, or Allah, or whatever the word would be, and you keep repeating it. Or in Hasidic Judaism, you might just be doing la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, you take a particular word, you repeat it over, and over, and over again an then, and I can ask everyone to do this along with me. Were going to create a very different type of neural activity in your brain, were going to raise the activity very, very high and then its going to suddenly drop. And in that moment of dropping, you might just be able to lose your sense of self and awareness, you kind of go into a trance state. So what Id like you and everyone to do, is take three very slow and very deep breathes, beginning now. Breathe in, and out, in and out, in and out. And now lets add a word to it, lets just go ah. Ah, ah, ah, ah, do this with me, ah, ah, ah, ah. Now add a rocking motion to your body, either back and forth or side to side, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah. Now just stop and just notice the experience going through your body. Take the following ten seconds of complete silence and just experience whats happening. And now, ask your intuition what insight did you get from that experience? What did that experience open up that was new or different? Invite an ah-ha experience to come into your mind. That may not happen, but you can describe to me what was your experience going through that exercise.

Raymond Hansell
Well, it really brings you right centered back in the moment, and I think whatever it is you were doing up until that time sort of begins to just sound like a distant radio, its noise. And if anything, it just dissipates and you get right to the, where you are right now, in the now, and are able to be a lot more effective as a result.

Mark
Did you feel like you were going a little bit into a trance state, where youre like, your every, your normal way of thinking began to be interrupted and almost have like a wordless quality.

Raymond Hansell
No, I think, yeah, I do some meditation myself so when Im really get free of distraction and can get into the routine, I can get right there. Youre not quite asleep, but youre not, at that point you just really extremely peaceful. So I did recognize that, even within that short period of time.

Mark
Yes, and of course when you do these more vigorous exercises. So one of the qualities of enlightenment that weve noted cause we, Andy Newburgh who does the brain scans at Jefferson University and at University of Pennsylvania, where we used to work together, we found that, we send out surveys to two thousand people describing their spiritual experience, and in particular, those experiences that they felt made huge transformational changes in their life. And they always described the same level of quality, you surrender yourself to a wordless experience, and when you go into these kind of trance states that can be created by chanting or rhythmic movement, or by intense ritual, a place can happen, often times within five to ten minutes. This is like what happens when Pentecostals are speaking in tongues, theyre putting themselves into a trance state. This is the same when Brazilian mediums that we brought into the laboratory were channeling their dead. Again, the frontal lobe activity drops like it does when youre yawning. Only it drops much faster and more dramatically, and so do other parts of your brain. So the part of your brain that has a sense of yourself can suddenly turn off, and your awareness of you disappears. In these moments, your prepped for an enlightenment experience. But the qualities of enlightenment also mean that you see something in such a different way that an old belief system youve been carrying falls away. Suddenly you realize that youre not who you think you were, or the world is not what you thought it was. And I think many people have these experiences throughout their lives. Think about a great teacher that you may have had, a mentor, somebody who taught you in a particular way that just opened up your eyes to a whole new way of seeing science or psychology or anything in a different light, or maybe youve had a particularly profound spiritual experience where you experienced something that other people talk about but you never knew what it was. So its a very strong bodily sense.

Raymond Hansell
Excellent. And were going to end this segment with one other section before we wrap up for a break, and I think Id like to end on the note of your experiences with pleasant memories. Can you talk about the pleasant memories and how they serve to (unintelligible)?

Mark
Ah yes, and this is a perfect time to talk about pleasant memory. Because even though we only did thirty seconds of deep breathing, and chanting, and rocking and moving, its quite an altering experience for your brain chemistry. So its very important once youve created a shift to come back into very relaxed states of awareness. And one of our favorite exercises that we have people do, whenever youre feeling stressed, whenever youre feeling irritable, if you close your eyes for a moment, recall right now an event that brought you great pleasure, or think about somebody that you deeply love, recall a pleasant memory and immerse yourself in that memory, visualize a person who you deeply love or care for, visualize an event that brought you incredible joy and satisfaction, and recall that, picture what was going on, where you were, who the person was, where you were located. And use your memory to recall that incredible feeling of love, or beauty, maybe you were sitting out in nature in that moment when you saw just an incredible sunset and it just filled you with a sense of ah. When you recall a pleasant memory like that, this turns off your brains ability to worry or feel anxious about anything. It interrupts depression. So many forms of psychotherapy now use these types of meditations where you call up the pleasant memory and you hold it and you train yourself to go back and forth between interacting with world and the stresses, you can use a pleasant memory before you go into a highly difficult meeting, before youre going to meet somebody that youve been fighting with or arguing with. Just recall some wonderful quality about that person you liked before, immerse yourself in that quality and bring that quality into your dialogue with that person, and you will find yourself less likely to have your buttons pushed. So the power of a pleasant memory is one of the easiest and fastest ways to interrupt anxiety, or depression, or anger.

Raymond Hansell
We need to take a break right now. When we return well talk more with Mark Waldman about his new book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain. In the meantime if youre a fan of BetterWorldians Radio, then you should check out our game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World encourages habits of goodness, positive mindsets, and giving to social causes to make a positive difference in the world. Players do things like express gratitude, share acts of kindness, send get well notes to real world sick children and many, many more. Wed also like to take the opportunity to congratulate our players in A Better World for a successful holiday challenge. Because you completed one million good deeds in the game over the holiday season, we released funds to purchase brand new coats for two hundred fifty children in need through our partnership with Operation Warm. Great job BetterWorldians. You can find out more at A Better World dot com. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Youre listening to BetterWorldians Radio. Were speaking with Mark Waldman, co-author of the new book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain. And now lets welcome back Mark and my co-host MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Mark.

Mark
Hi.

MarySue Hansell
Good to have you on the show, really enjoyed the first segment.

Mark
And I feel like teasing you by giving you one word answers.

MarySue Hansell
Please dont do that. Two or ten words at least.

Mark
Instead of the ten-ten game, the one-one game, which will drive every interviewer nuts.

MarySue Hansell
Completely nuts, but weve had that. But anyway your new book is coming out, I believe its March 15th, isnt it?

Mark
Thats correct.

MarySue Hansell
And its called, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain. Which you co-wrote with Doctor Andy Newburgh. I dont know if you know, but Andy was a guest on our show last year and talked about your best seller, How God Changes Your Brain. We really enjoyed that interview also. But lets talk a bit about your new book. Now to begin with, we did talk about enlightenment a little bit in the first segment, but could you go further and talk what you mean about, you make a reference to the little e and the big e, and also the five elements of enlightenment in your book. I think our listeners would be very interested in hearing how you talk about that.

Mark
Well, one of things about enlightenment is that most people arent even familiar with the term. Its very popular, you think about gurus who have been enlightened. And let me do a little experiential exercise because we always like to document our heavy brain scan discoveries and theoretical approaches with exercises you can actually feel in your body. If you were to take a moment, and I was to ask you, who would you say is an enlightened person? Who are the first people that pop into your mind?

MarySue Hansell
Oh, Buddha, Jesus.

Mark
Anybody else?

MarySue Hansell
Maybe someone thats living, Deepak Chopra, you know you hear, he seems like an enlightened individual.

Mark
And would you consider yourself enlightened?

MarySue Hansell
I do.

Mark
I always like what Ramadan said, if you think youre enlightened, go spend a weekend with your parents.

MarySue Hansell
Oh geez. Thats funny.

Mark
Well there you brought up other enlightened people. So often times we see people, enlightened people, as people whove achieved some incredible level of awareness, or pure kindness, but what about somebody like Einstein? Would he be enlightened?

MarySue Hansell
Oh absolutely.

Mark
But Einstein wouldnt say hes enlightened. He knew he was a very neurotic individual. But he had what we would call, little e experiences, small enlightenment experiences, ah-ha experiences. So Einstein would immerse himself with a problem, he would allow his creative mind to work, and thats what I had everyone do guiding you through that exercise. When you ask your intuition, thats similar to what scientists have done. And in the west, enlightenment was, how do I bring, by definition, enlightenment uses the word light. How do I bring light into the darkness? And you can think about Platos cave allegory, all of these people are in a cave, theyve been there forever, they dont remember anything else, and theyre chained to each other with their, theres a fire in between, their facing the walls of the cave, so all they see are their own shadows of themselves reflected on the cave walls. And so they build their whole world philosophy out of this, you know, the world is filled with shadows, dark and light things interacting. Well one of the guys in the cave breaks free, and he manages to go outside and hes just utterly shocked, theres light everywhere, theres colors, theres trees, all these things, it takes his breath away. He is in that moment, from the western perspective, enlightened. He sees the light. So he goes back into the cave, and he tells all of the other prisoners, oh my God, you need to see what I saw, we thought we were living in this reality, we thought we knew what the world was about, but if we go outside into the light, well discover something so incredibly amazing. So you know what all the other prisoners did to that guy?

MarySue Hansell
What did they do?

Mark
They killed him.

MarySue Hansell
Oh no.

Mark
So Platos allegory was, most people dont want enlightenment. They become comfortable with their own world view. So thats one of the qualities of enlightenment that we talk about in the book. Is there a way you can shift your awareness? Is there a way you can step outside of all of the things that were taught to you by your parents and teachers, can you throw them all away so you can look at the world through new eyes and thus become enlightened. To bring, you know, the darkness of ignorance, to become more aware. In the west, that became the basis for science. Lets not just live our lives according to superstition, lets find out whats really true. And science always upsets the norm, were always discovering something that interferes with an old belief system. Back then it would be the belief system of religion. So thats enlightenment in the western sense, and then when you think about Buddha and Jesus, these are people who are walking around in states of grace, or have realized some incredible inner truth, thats the big e enlightenment experience.

MarySue Hansell
Ah-ha.

Mark
What weve found from our research is that you cant just go out and ask for a big e experience. But you can go out and train yourself to have small e experiences. You can take moments to consciously say, okay this is what Ive always believed love is, what if I was to throw away all of my ideas about love and just be in the present moment with this person and to notice what kind of sensations I have that come up when I feel warm, and caring, and gratitude towards this individual. Oh, maybe thats what love is. Love may be an inner state of me just being in the present of that person. Its not about the rules, about what, about whos doing the dishes, you know, or how youre behaving or whatever else. That would be a small e experience, ah-ha, I see that love is something different than I thought it used to be. And weve all had these small insights, weve all discovered, oh my God, I thought my goal in life was this, I thought this was my big purpose, but suddenly I find something thats more rewarding, more exciting. And we think that the more you focus on having small ah-ha experiences, simply sitting down at the end of each day and taking five minutes to think about, what did I discover that was new today, what new insight did I have? That you can begin to prime your brain for having larger, and larger enlightenment experiences. Does that give you a clearer sense of what were talking about?

MarySue Hansell
Yes it does, yes it does. I think it gives our listeners a clearer sense too. I think maybe even having, speaking to some of the mothers out there, I think the birth of a baby can make you look at the world completely differently. Look at love completely differently. Is that, would you agree with that?

Mark
Yes, and pain has often brought people into enlightenment experiences. Things become so awful and so painful that you have to change your world view. You sometimes see that with people who are drug addicts, and they bottom out, and they suddenly realize no, theres much more to life than these momentary hedonistic adventures into pleasure, and they go, theres deeper purpose here, and theres a deeper meaning, and they come out of that saying, I want to share my discovery with other people. And so, I would say the twelve step programs are a series of small enlightenment experience, insights, ah-ha experiences.

MarySue Hansell
Interesting, very interesting. And you know, so you said that you, you know, with the research you found that this enlightenment actually changes the brain in some way. Could you, I know its a really enormous answer, but could you give us a few words about that?

Mark
Yes. With every thought that we have, with every learned behavior that we build in, we build intense neurological structures of memory and habit. And so, even though were not aware of it, we just deal with the world the same way we dealt with it yesterday. So for example, we may spend the first twenty years of our life eating junk food, no problem, why should I care, Im young, Im healthy I dont have any problems. And then suddenly your blood test comes back and it says, oh no Im borderline diabetic, Im getting fat I dont like this, Im getting health problems, okay. So Ill just stop eating junk food. Oh, guess what? The whole brain is designed to hang on to every additional pound youve made. The habits, behaviors that youve learned theyre running the show. So it doesnt matter what you think about, what do you do with those old neural circuits, theyre kind of burned into the system. But no, you can, if you have a strong enough desire, and a strong enough intention, and these are one of the, thats the first of the five steps to enlightenment. You have to desire to make a profound change. In this case youd have to be willing to change, to give up all of the pleasure that eating sugar would do for you, or alcohol, or any other behavior that you may be assuming is destructive. Then youre going to have to prepare yourself to make that change, you need to know ahead of time that the brain doesnt like to give up its old belief systems, its old habits, its old behaviors. So you know theres going to be an interesting battle thats going on. Then you have to create an intense ritual. You have to do something thats very unusual. And we havent really talked about if we can bring enlightenment experience into the weight loss program. Im just kind of thinking of that right now for the first time.

MarySue Hansell
Okay.

Mark
But it would involve doing something very dramatically different. So we sometimes do it because we buy the new weight loss book that says, okay eat all the fats you want but dont eat any carbs, you know, or eat all the carbs you want but dont eat any fats.

MarySue Hansell
Right.

Mark
Each of these things is a radical change, but youre going to feel a resistance in your body to that. The same thing holds true, lets say youre going through a divorce. I think many people have a genuine enlightenment experience when theyre going through a divorce. They start asking themselves, what did I do wrong? You can either blame yourself, you can blame the other person, but neither one of that changes your world view. And so like what happened to me when I was going through a divorce, I thought, well what did I do wrong? I really wanted to know what mistakes I made so I didnt repeat them in the past. And so I ended up reading three hundred academic books a year and reviewing them for about ten years. And I discovered something fundamentally true about the nature of love. You want to guess what that is?

MarySue Hansell
No, please tell me.

Mark
Nobody has a clue.

MarySue Hansell
There you go.

Mark
So there are my four words again.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah.

Mark
And so that everybodys been struggling with this for a long time. So the ah-ha experience is everyone is taking a little tiny experience they had, because we never have enough experiences with love to fully understand it, ever since Aristotle has written about this, everyone writes a new book about what is love? What if love is something thats beyond words, what if love is something beyond a written description, what if love is something you cannot capture in a book, what if love is only something that you can experience in the present moment? And so that brings us to the next step of creating an enlightenment experience. First you have the desire to find out what love really is, that assumes that you dont know what love is, but you have to interrupt all of your old ideas. Descartes did this back in the sixteen hundreds, he questioned everything he had until he got down to one fundamental thing that he thought was true. There was the body, there was the world, and there were thoughts. And he thought the thoughts were separate. So he thought thoughts came in through the ethers and came into the brain through the pineal gland, which we now know just secretes melatonin. I think therefore I am. But he changed entire western civilization by meditating deeply on this and throwing out all of his old ideas. Imagine doing that with love. Assume that everything you know about it, is not true. In the book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, Andy describes his own experience of struggling with what is really true? Many people who are on the quest for truth are really on the same quest for enlightenment. So our book is filled with all kinds of stories from different people who have struggled with attempting to find out what is really real? What is true? And Andy will share his particular story in that book, and later on I share some of my stories with that book. But were doing this by looking at peoples brains before, during, and after profound shifts of consciousness and awareness. And so when you hit that place, where all your old beliefs fall away, thats where we see a surprising drop in activities in your brain that are normally very active when youre awake. Youve altered the way in which your brain perceives reality. And this is how you do that with love, you have to walk in with a friend, or your spouse, or your kid, and you have to sit down and say to yourself, I truly desire to find out what love might be beyond my old ideas and beliefs. And you prepare yourself by interrupting all those old ideas. And the best way to prepare yourself is to be in the present moment. So thats where the NeuroWisdom exercises in our NeuroWisdom program comes in. Because it teaches you mindfulness, how to be aware moment to moment changes of feelings, thoughts, and sensations as they flow in and out of consciousness. So you prepare yourself, you begin to separate yourself from all of your thoughts and feelings through mindfulness practice. Then you engage in an intense ritual. Well instead of rocking your body back and forth, or chanting a particular word, I dont recommend that you stand in front of your kid and go, love, love, love, love rocking your head. Your kids going to think youre crazy and youre wife will get you locked up for sure. Instead, you walk into that room, you suspend all of your ideas of what you think love is, and you say to yourself, I want to experience this moment as if its the first time in my life. So you become aware of the persons tone of voice, their facial expressions, you listen deeply, you keep interrupting your old beliefs and ideas. And what will happen, is that youll begin to see and feel levels of experience that you never felt before. The same thing happens in sports, you know, you practice learning a new sport or whatever else, and then you get into that flow experience, where suddenly youre just totally immersed in the game or the activity, and you know how wonderful that feels, you become one with the experience. Sometimes people call it the runners high, in exercise you almost lose your sense of running and youre just floating along with this bodily experience. Well you can do the same thing with anything in your life. You can do it with your partner, when that happens youll see that persons face differently, youll hear their voice differently, youll go ah-ha and the old beliefs will begin to fall away. And then, in that moment you have to fully surrender yourself to the experience. When you are having an insight, when youre feeling something different, when youre totally immersed in a conversation, or in an exchange with somebody, or the meditation thats just taking you deeper than youve ever gone before, deliberately surrender yourself to it. Remember your brain is normally going to fight to keep you in everyday consciousness, and when you surrender yourself, you kind of lose that sense of you and the other person. But then, after you have that experience, your brain is going to try to come back to doing things the way it was before. And thats what makes it hard to break an addiction. Okay so you spent a week eating something differently, and now your brain says, nope Im going to go back to eating the old way. At that moment, when you reach for the refrigerator door youre going to fall back to just talking to your family member in the same way. Can you again interrupt that process using some of these gentle NeuroWisdom exercise to stay present, stay focused on your goal. And this is where you take the time for the final step of enlightenment to reflect deeply, what did you learn from that brief ah-ha experience? And we think that if you practice going through these steps, desiring a particular change, preparing yourself, your mind and your body for it, taking five or ten minutes a day to immerse yourself in your desire to make this change, intensifying whatever the ritual will be, whether its just a physical movement to interrupt the way in which you normally think and feel, or to become more present in an experience with somebody at work, a project that youre dealing with, even a problem, become one with the problem youre struggling with rather than trying to solve it. What would happen if you just sat with it and immersed yourself in the problem without judgment, and surrender yourself to that. Thats where other parts of your brain begin to kick in, thats where your intuition begins to emerge, where, and the intuition deals with a nonverbal part of your brain thats always looking at the world in different ways. Its part of your creative imagination, and these are the circuits that weve been tracing and tracking and mapping out, and that weve described in our book, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain. With each one of the times you do that, you move yourself further down that path of enlightenment, closer to a truth that may never be fully realized. But thats what propels the motivation centers in your brain. You wake up each day knowing youre going to discover something new about yourself, the people around you, your work in the world. What an exciting, wonderful way to live. Sometimes you hear people in their eighties and nineties saying that, they say, my God I can hardly wait to see what tomorrows going to bring, I have no idea, and theyre excited about that. Theyre beginning to live in that state of enlightenment.

MarySue Hansell
Well I think thats really what readers can take away from this book. I highly recommend that they read it, it was very enlightening. But Mark, how do you hope that your work, in doing this book, and also with the Neuro course we talked about, Wisdom 101, can help make it a better world?

Mark
We find again that you dont have to go sit on a mountaintop to become enlightened, you dont have to spend twenty minutes or forty minutes a day doing some meditation that youve read from any other teacher, that you only have to take sixty seconds, a couple times during the day. We recommend, for example, that people download a mindfulness clock onto their computer and you can have that bell that I rang earlier, the one that simply goes like this, and when you hear that bell, you just stop what youre doing for ten seconds, maybe do one yawn, one stretch, you might do something as simple as asking yourself, what is my deepest most innermost value? And listen to the word that your intuition gets. You can then take that word and you can repeat it. And youll find that if youre deep inner value is peace, or integrity, or even focus or concentration, that value will empower you for the next hour of work. So the more you repeat a word that has deep meaning and purpose to you, the research out of Harvard and other universities shows that it will turn on twelve hundred stress reducing genes. Think about that. All you have to do is pick a deep inner value, and repeat it, and you can make that type of change all the way down into the genetic structure of your brain. And the more you do these NeuroWisdom exercises, and obviously you can go to NeuroWisdom dot com to get more information on this, the more you do these, the newest research youll sleep better for one, but the newest research shows that you actually begin to lengthen the telomeres, which are part of your chromosomes. And this is part of the way that allows you to live a little bit longer. So all weve doing, my goal for the past ten years was to ask myself a question, what is the simplest exercise you can do that will change your brain the fastest, that will bring you immediate and long term benefits? And so we have about forty or fifty of those strategies and we put them together in the NeuroWisdom program. And so we give it to our Executive MBA students and we do interviews like this to guide people through some of these experiences and the audio program will take you much deeper through it. But you can read an exercise in the book, but we tend to read books passively, so we take in all the words, but we dont do anything with it. And thats why even during this interview, I tried to give you and our listeners an experiential sense, a little taste of NeuroWisdom. And then you can pace yourself with this program, and you can share it with your friends and family, and our research shows after you do this for about eight weeks, if we brought you back into our laboratory and scan your brain, we would see all kinds of functional and beginning structural changes taking place. You can actually see that the parts of your brain that are involved with compassion, kindness, gratitude and empathy are getting stronger. In your introduction you talked about the importance of this, and at the end of our enlightenment book, and throughout the NeuroWisdom program, we teach you how to do brief, deep, experiential exercises in loving kindness, in gratitude. Like did you know if you just at the end of the day wrote down three things you felt grateful for, and if you only did that for one week, over the next three months your self esteem will continue to grow. That research study put positive psychology on the map. Yes, its that easy to create a sense of self love, of gratitude, of compassion and kindness. And this is absolutely the most important, and most overlooked part in brain scan research and in training our students in schools. But now, gratitude and acts of kindness exercises have been brought all the way down to kindergarten level. And so theyre teaching these students these NeuroWisdom exercises, ringing the bell and teaching a kid how to listen for ten, twenty, thirty seconds. Theyre asking a child to slow down their speaking as they talk to each other, and they become more socially aware. And so we can teach our children how to change the structure of their brain, so they become more cooperative, more kind towards others, and its really very exciting, and thats the field of mindfulness.

MarySue Hansell
Thats wonderful.

Raymond Hansell
You can learn more about Marks work by going to Mark Robert Waldman dot com. Mark thank you very much for joining us today and sharing your amazing work with us here on BetterWorldians Radio.

Mark
Its my pleasure.

Raymond Hansell
By the way if youre enjoying this episode of BetterWorldians Radio, please be sure to subscribe to our show on iTunes and give us a great review. Were always listening to your feedback, so we want to know what you think. As we end our show each week we like to share our BetterWorldians mission. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. So until next time, be a BetterWorldian.