«Schore’s theory highlights how our interactions play a role in reshaping our brain, through neuroplasticity—the way repeated experiences sculpt the shape, size, and number of neurons and their synaptic connections. Some potent shaping occurs in our key relationships by repeatedly driving our brain into a given register. In effect, being chronically hurt and angered, or emotionally nourished, by someone we spend time with daily over the course of years, can refashion the circuitry of our brain. Schore argues that nurturing relationships later in life can to some extent rewrite the neural scripts that were encrypted in the brain during childhood. (...) These new discoveries reveal that our relationships have subtle, yet powerful, lifelong impacts on us. That news may be unwelcome for someone whose relationships tend toward the negative. But the same finding also points to reparative possibilities from our personal connections at any point in life.» (Goleman, 2006; pp. 28; 418).
«It is not too difficult to help clients recognize the essential connection between the person they are today and the person they were last summer, the person who once was a teenager and the person who once was 4 years old. People can often remember being behind the same eyes in earlier times and can contact that “person” even now. Contact with this perspective-taking sense of self is critical to acceptance work because it provides a sanctuary in which there is no existential threat from entering into the pain and travails of life. This perspective enables the person to know in a truly experiential way that no matter what comes up, the “I” is not threatened. This is not because the “I” is permanent but rather because the “I” is not thing-like. Instead, it is the perspective from which verbal activity is observed. To borrow a metaphor from Baba Ram Dass, behind the cloud of language is a small bit of blue sky. There is no reason for humans to blow the clouds away every moment in order to be reassured that there is a blue sky. It envelops and contains the clouds themselves. Contact with this aspect of self is thus contact with a sense of personal wholeness, transcendence, interconnectedness, and presence.» (Hayes et al., 2012; p. 548)
That's right, behind our conceptualized self—one of the 'clouds of language'—there is a bit of the 'blue sky' of our transcendent, authentic self. Which is the 'process' we are—for we are a process in constant deployment and learning much more than a fixed and determined 'thing.' This experience of our being as a process and as an 'observer' of all the contents of the mind—like thoughts, emotions, sensations—is a truly liberating experience, since it places us beyond the traps of language we build. and which we got often trapped in.
4. Bringing Attention to the Present Moment (Mindful Mindset)
As all spiritual traditions do, Mindfulness insists on the great importance of practicing paying attention to the present moment. The more deliberately we connect with the present, the more we can find peace and appreciate what life offers us minute by minute. If peace and happiness are somewhere, they must be in the present because only the present exists; the past no longer exists, and the future does not yet exist—past and future are like shadows and mirages in our minds.
«Be aware of the tendency for your mind to jump to conclusions before all the evidence has been presented and the final arguments made. (...) If you find your mind wandering a lot, you can always bring it back to your breathing and to what you are hearing, over and over again if necessary.» (Kabat-Zinn, 2018; p. 320)
Remember that bringing the mind back to the present moment, again and again, is not an isolated act but a habit that we need to be practice and develop throughout life. That way, we can change the switch of our brain, more and more easily, from problem-solving mode—or 'doing mode'—to contemplating mode—or 'being mode'—which are the two ways our brain works. Learning to move on purpose from the doing mode to the being mode is vital to avoid falling into the downward stress spiral in daily life.
According to the Enneagram tradition, at this level of the inner work, we need to focus on getting rid of the mental narrowness of the Fixations to experience reality from the perspective of the Transcendent (Holly) Ideas.
5. Appreciating and Being Thankful
The practice of appreciation and thankfulness is one of the keys to our mental and spiritual growth. To do so, we need to constantly exercise in getting out of our minds and reconnect with the five senses. By paying attention to what the senses offer us moment by moment, we can come back home; we can come back to here and now.
«Our hurry-hurry lives narrow down into tunnels of greyness with just the odd glimpse or impression of wonders. But if you think about it, you are a consciousness passing through time. We only exist in this moment. (...) A key message of many of the new approaches in psychology and spiritual practice is the importance of learning to appreciate and generate feelings of joy through experience ‘in the moment.’ How many of us really stop and look at the beauty of the sky and its ever-changing patterns or the beauty of flowers or trees in the park or spend time really exploring the tastes, smells and feel of things? How many of us actually experience joy in our ability to see or to hear or focus on the pleasure of seeing and hearing, knowing that there are some people who have been robbed of these senses?» (Gilbert, 2009; p. 414)
According to the spiritual roots of the Enneagram, the more we work on identifying the passions in daily life (anger, pride, vanity, envy, stinginess, cowardy, gluttony, lust, and spiritual laziness), the more freedom we experience; which allows us to decide the way we want to respond instead of reacting on autopilot. And the more freedom inside, the more contact with the present moment, which lets the essential Virtues arise (serenity, humility, authenticity, equanimity, strength, moderation, compassion, and mindful action).
In short, complete personal growth requires working on both psychological and spiritual levels. Taking for granted the work on a psychological level and quickly jumping into spiritual practices could be as dangerous as covering up a wound with a colorful band-aid. Otherwise, taking care first of our emotional needs will help us then unfold our full potential through spirituality.
Marcelo Aguirre ????????♂️
Frankl, Viktor E. (1959). Man's Seach For Meaning. Washington: Washington Square Press.
Gilbert, Paul (2009). The Compassionate Mind. A New Approach to Life's Challenges
Goleman, Daniel (2006). Social Intelligence. The New Science of Human Relationships. New York: Bantam Dell.
Hayes, Steven C., Kirk D. Strosahl & Kelly G. Wilson (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The Process and Practice of Mindful Change (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.
Hayes, Steven C. (2019). A Liberated Mind. How to Pivot Toward What Matters. New York: Penguin Random House LLC.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2018). The Healing Power of Mindfulness. A New Way of Being. New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Maslow, Abraham H. (1971). The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: The Penguin Group.
Maslow, Abraham H. (1962). Toward a Psychology of Being. New York: Start Publishing LLC.