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  • Parisa Rose

Brain Hacks

So, here we are.  We know for sure that we are here.  (And that’s about all I know for sure.)  Through no will of our own, we have been born, assigned this body, this mind, and we peer out from these eyes, have access to these senses, and sometimes being this person feels as arbitrary as finding a door in Being John Malkovich.  Given another birth, I could have been anyone.  I could have been you.  And since I am just a product of my nature and experiences, then I cannot be ashamed of anything, nor can I be proud.

I am just here.  This is the way it is right now.

We are also equipped with this amazing brain.  Exquisite, but not designed to be happy.  Mine in particular seems to have its fight or flight or freeze feature on overdrive.  Woody Allen makes being neurotic look so adorable.  In real life, it’s not that fun. 

And all this spiritual practice, or personal development, or mental training, or whatever you want to call it, promises some freedom from the shackles of the mind.  With diligent practice, we can be free from painful clinging, fears, worries… free from all our problems.  We can transcend all that.

But I am not there yet.  I am hopeful.  And have seen a lot of fruit of spiritual practice already.  Barrels of fruit, really.  I am able to lead a life, through the filter of this troubled mind, without medication because of the practice… but I am not completely liberated yet.

In the meantime, I have what I like to call brain hacks, that are like portals, snapping me out of the dark states dropping me into the bright ones.  These are little tricks and they are not long term fixes, but I am not ashamed to use them as I make my way along the path.

Some of these are cheap tricks and even distractions.  Again, I am not ashamed to use them in moderate doses, to have a nice moment, to slip into a more positive space.  In a way, these hacks can help get us into states where we can actually do the work to eventually transcend states of mind altogether and reach ultimate liberation.  Sometimes, thoughts are too loud, feelings are too overpowering, to sit in a calm meditation.  Perhaps some of these are in themselves tools to move beyond thought and mind and into the realms of body and feeling.  And in that shift, we connect with something a lot bigger than our small sense of self.  

The important thing is that they are healthy tools that don’t cause harm to ourselves or others.  Some drugs can bring instant and extreme state changes, but their use also brings consequences.

Here are just a few of my personal brain hacks.  Tricks I can use to quickly change states.  Tools to lift myself out and up.  Portals into brighter realms.  Things that work for me, pretty much every time.  Like magic.

  1. Music.  Really loud music.  I have thoughtfully curated playlists to slip into certain states or to just get pumped up to do something.  Today’s example:  Last Nite by the Strokes.  Turn it up.  Sing.  Dance.

  2. Yes.  Dance.  Dancing vigorously to loud music.  As if unpleasant thoughts are physical particles we can literally shake off.  Even dropping to the floor and rolling around.  Powerful state-changers.

  3. Any mindful movement (yoga, tai chi), where I am fully in my body, paying attention to every sensation, every stretch, contraction, point of contact.  Even doing a body scan in savasana.

  4. Posture.  Simply sitting in a meditation posture (or any posture that expresses the qualities you want to embody — openness, strength, confidence) can radically change the way you feel.

  5. Breath.  Mindfulness of the breath and physical sensations in the body.  Steady deep breathing can quickly calm your nervous system.  It’s science.

  6. Scents.  Certain scents have transformative powers.  My latest go-to:  burning Palo Santo.  Aromatherapy can also change your state.

  7. Plunging into cold water.  It is impossible to stay in my head when the cells in my body are shocked like this.  Love this one.

  8. Here’s a silly one.  I know that watching a Nigella Lawson cooking show will put me in a great, cozy mood and make me want to cook a meal for people I love.  Every time.  Might be a personal nostalgic thing, but it works wonders.

  9. Laying under trees and watching them with singular, focused attention.   Letting yourself be absorbed by their presence until you can’t tell the difference between your limbs and their branches.  (Read my Ode to the Trees post to hear me gush over trees.)

  10. Gratitude.  Simply listing things I’m grateful for and reveling in them.  One of the best shortcuts to contentment.

These are lifesavers.  And the list goes on.

I think everyone has versions of these.  For some, it may not be brain hacks to save you from the depths of pain and depression, but simply to help you slip out of a cranky mood.  Either way, I’d love to read about yours in the comments below.  Let’s compare notes.

#brainhacks #change #mind #shortcuts #brain #practice #states

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