The 3 brains and making decisions
After 8 years of teaching Pilates to a corporate group in town we finally said our goodbyes yesterday. It was one of those decisions where I felt it was the right time to finish teaching the class and hand it over but at the same time it was a group I genuinely enjoyed teaching each week so I didn't really want to stop either.
We make the best decisions when our head, heart and gut are integrated and communicating properly. Traditional forms of medicine and traditional societies have known this for a long time. The chakras in Indian traditions and the meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine are just two examples. More recently science is supporting this with the concept of the 3 brains. I know that often we feel like we don't even have one brain but trust me, we have three!
We have known for a while that the gut and the heart have their own nervous systems that look after them - the enteric nervous system (gut) and the cardiac intrinsic nervous system (heart). Neurology research has more recently discovered that there are enough nerve cells in each of these nervous systems to make another brain! This is why you may have heard of the phrase gut-brain and heart-brain. What is even more fascinating is that in the case of the gut-brain, the communication between the gut-brain and the head-brain which is via the vagus nerve flows mostly from the gut up to the head by about 80%! So it's no wonder that if your digestive system is not functionally optimally you are more likely to have foggy head, anxiety, depression, mood swings and lack of concentration.
During a meditation the other day, a way of interpreting the roles of the three brains came to me:
Head-brain - Processes information from the 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste)
Gut-brain - Processes information from our 6th sense - intuition, gut-feeling, our connection to the environment / mother earth (including our food).
Heart-brain - Integrates information from the head-brain and gut-brain and brings this together with information from our 7th sense - connection to universal electromagnetic energy (aka source energy, spirit, god...take your pick).
The image of how they connect energetically is like a figure of eight or upright infinity symbol. The information is constantly flowing between the three brains.
A disruption, imbalance or blockage in one can easily affect the other two. For example, an imbalance in the gut microbiome (the bacteria and other organisms that live in the large intestine) can create an overactive gut nervous system which then sends electrical signals up to the head-brain via the vagus nerve creating a sensation of irritability and lack of focus in the head-brain. When we have a lack of focus and clarity in the head-brain we are more prone to getting stuck in unhelpful thought loops such as "Why did I do that? I'm such an idiot. They are probably going to think I'm completely inept. I'm only on probation I probably won't get a full contract. I'll be unemployed again. Why does this keep happening to me." These thought loops can be quite addictive and can prevent us from being able to drop down into our heart-brain and feel our connection to the wider universal electromagnetic energy. The consequence of all this? Poor decision making. This might show up in a very simple way such as what we choose to eat. We may choose foods which start the whole cycle over again by affecting the gut microbiome.
To keep the connection between the three brains flowing - a simple exercise is to picture the figure of eight as illustrated above and with one hand trace it over the body, not quite touching the body - 3 times in one direction and 3 times in the other direction. As you are tracing the figure of eight really tune into the gut, the heart and the head and "feel" them as the hand runs over them. Finish with your hand over your heart chakra area (mid-sternum), this time touching the body if you wish and take 3 deep breaths.
At any time during the day you can visualise the figure of eight when you feel you need to re-integrate your three brains, especially if you need to make a decision.