Problem Solving: From our Heads to our Hearts

Problem Solving: From our Heads to our Hearts: by Nicole Taher MBSR 

Image source oceanfdn.org

Image source oceanfdn.org

The human brain is a complex organ. It is constructed of four portions and several lobes and parts within each section. Clinicians are better suited to elaborate and illustrate the details of the brain and their function, however, for purposes of this post, we are particularly interested in our brain's response to problem solving and how an established meditation practice can lead our body to "solve" problems in our bodies with our hearts. 

The following is from Web MD:

Cerebrum: The cerebrum is the largest portion of the brain, and contains tools which are responsible for most of the brain's function. It is divided into four sections: the temporal lobe, the occipital lobe, parietal lobe and frontal lobe. The cerebrum is divided into a right and left hemisphere which are connected by axons that relay messages from one to the other. This matter is made of nerve cells which carry signals between the organ and the nerve cells which run through the body.
Frontal LobeThe frontal lobe is one of four lobes in the cerebral hemisphere. This lobe controls a several elements including creative thought, problem solving, intellect, judgment, behavior, attention, abstract thinking, physical reactions, muscle movements, coordinated movements, smell and personality.

The Frontal Lobe is one of the largest parts of the Brain and it is where we drive our problem solving and intellect from. For those who have experienced trauma, the frontal lobe kicks in to "solve" the problem to literally get the body out of trouble. Maybe you have experienced this when driving on the freeway and you come within seconds of a major accident and you just swerve at the right second just barely dodging slamming into the cars - that is your frontal lobe operating in survival mode. For someone who experienced trauma - something that happens to us physically that affects us emotionally, our Frontal Lobe problems solves so we don't feel that feeling again. For war veterans, it might be to avoid violent situations that might cause the death of a brother, for a victim of abuse it might be to avoid situations that might lead to feeling violated such as resisting to get into relationships with certain types of people. There are other types of trauma as well. There is trauma from one single event and there is trauma from a series of ongoing events over and over again for a child very early on in its development.

While each of these scenarios deserve their own elaboration, what unifies these affects is the brain's strategy to problem solve. This keeps the brain heightened and working in the head. It disconnects the head from the body. It can prevent someone to be able to feel feelings and emotions, it can prevent someone from connecting to itself deeply let alone to others and life itself and can truly cause a lot of internal damage. 

We as mammals were born to connect to our whole body and have balance between mind and body. We were born to feel, the full range of emotion, to feel connected to ourselves, to life and to others. Much like a flower, when it is connected to the roots, the soil, water and the sun it will bloom and be alive beautifully. When it isn't connected it will not be able to keep living. 

So how do we connect with our bodies and our hearts? How do we train ourselves to respond to "problems" not from our brain but from our heart? Yep, that's right Meditation. 

At the onset of what the body or mind senses as a problem; pause, breath, feel. Becoming aware of what is happening inside ourselves is the key to a fully mind-body connection, as our bodies truly give us the most information about ourselves and how we can best respond to traumatic situations in the present moment.