Our brain is immobile, and yet it is capable of taking us millions of miles away from our present personal surroundings. The brain may not be able to loco-navigate on its own, but it is profoundly capable of captivating our bodies to obtain almost any requirement or request. The brain is adept at inspiring us to act, to move and accomplish its perceived means via its chemical effect upon every major system through hormones. What power.
Van Der Kolk, M.D. has the most resonant definition of mindfulness I’ve heard. He describes it as “being able to hover calmly and objectively over our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.” He says, “[t]his capacity is crucial for preserving our relationships with out fellow human beings.” And that it, “allows the executive brain to inhibit, organize, and modulate the hardwired automatic reactions preprogrammed into the emotional brain.”
As someone who identifies as an empath, I am absolutely fascinated with the particular structure of the human brain called ‘mirror neurons.’ Happily discovered by accident, their existence transformed our understanding of sympathy, empathy, and our capacity to ‘walk in another’s shoes.’ In a sense, we can feel and can understand by experiencing, with just our eyes. Throughout time, we as humans have had to look one another in the eye. In doing so, we attempted to share strength or determination. In those moments we’ve held hands and shoulders, steadied our mothers and brothers in the face of fear. And on the very brink of battle, we’ve counseled our leaders and caregivers. To truly know and trust one another, a part of every one of us had to be able to feel another’s experience. Mirror neurons satisfy this need. It’s also hypothesized that this structure is the origin of the phenomenon of ‘echoed’ yawning. In moments like these, we can imitate our peers because a part of us has seen and therefore intimately understands what our peer displayed before us.
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Maek lives in Austin, TX and has been teaching yoga since 2011.