Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Developing Mindsight

--by Dan Siegel (May 26, 2014)

Oftentimes people hear the word mindfulness and think “religion,” but the reality is that focusing our attention in this way is a biological process that promotes health – as a form of brain hygiene – not a religion. Various religions may encourage this health-promoting practice, but learning the skill of mindful awareness is simply a way of cultivating what we have defined as the integration of consciousness. […]

We learn more effectively when we are physically active. Novelty, or exposing ourselves to new ideas and experiences, promotes the growth of new connections among existing neurons and seems to stimulate the growth of myelin, the fatty sheath that speeds nerve transmission. Novelty can even stimulate the growth of new neurons – a finding that took a long time to win acceptance in the scientific community. Neuroplasticity can be activated by attention alone, or when we participate in an activity that is important and meaningful to us, but if we are not engaged emotionally and the experience is less memorable, the structure of the brain is less likely to change.

Dissolving fixed mental perceptions created along the brain’s firing patterns and reinforced relationally within our cultural practices is no simple accomplishment. Our relationships engrain our early perceptual patterns and deepen the ways we come to see the world and believe our inner narrative. Without an internal education that teaches us to pause and reflect, we may tend to live on automatic and succumb to these cultural and cortical influences that push us toward isolation. Part of our challenge in achieving well-being is to develop enough mindsight to clear us of these restrictive definitions of ourselves so that we can grow towards higher degrees of integration.

Seeing the mind clearly not only catalyzes the various dimensions of integration as it promotes physical, psychological, and inter-personal well-being, it also helps us dissolve the optical delusions of our separateness. We develop more compassion for ourselves and our loved ones, but we also widen our circle of compassion to include other aspects of the world beyond our immediate concerns. With integration, we see ourselves with an expanded identity. When we embrace the reality of this interconnection, being considerate and concerned with the larger world becomes a fundamental shift in our way of living.

-- Dan Siegel in Mindsight

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Previous Reflections:

On May 23, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 I believe the higher degree of freedom comes when we allow ourselves to be less attached to old messages in our brains. If we are truly in a current moment, deeply experiencing an event and being mindful, we are less likely to focus on those old tapes in our heads. If I stay in the Now and am fully present to an experience; a concert for example. I can really hear the music, I can delight in the lighting, I can feel the full energy of the people around me and it hits deeper. Thanks for this reflection. It was a timely reminder for this Memorial Day Weekend!

On May 27, 2014 david doane wrote:

 To me, mindsight means letting go of (or "dissolving" to use the author's word) fixed mental perceptions that restrict our awareness, and seeing what is rather than seeing our preconceived beliefs.  For me, the references in Buddhism to waking up and the references in Christianity to making the blind see are about mindsight, that is, seeing what is rather than seeing one's thinking and assumptions.  I do believe such mindsight fosters wisdom and as the author says catalyzes personal and interpersonal integration.  For me, such mindsight is what religion is meant to be about -- that is, re-ligion literally means to re-connect, reintegrate.  I believe religion in its purest sense is the process of me getting my self together or becoming whole, and me realizing that all of us beings are different expressions of one whole. We can grow in mindsight by always having the beginner's mind, as the Buddhists say, with which we can practice being open and seeing what is. 

On May 27, 2014 Deven wrote:

 So well said... when I am able to focus on task at hand, it feels so soothing, healing, nurturing from inside.

Being in the moment is so powerful that is when I am able to do that... :)

On May 27, 2014 matangi wrote:

very well said . mind full  to m means that you are 100 % busy with total awareness and head is empty of chatters and heart is full of joy. you are in a moment !  when u allow new ideas you allow your conciosness to expand and experience  more love and enthusiasam.

On May 27, 2014 Syd wrote:

 “Mindsight” is a unique word.  From my observations of mindsight, mental chaos has gradually moved into confidence in a Supreme Being and then gradually grew into this serenity.  This serenity then gradually fell into stillness.  All of this happened by letting go.  When I made my transitions from confidence in my Supreme Being to serenity it felt like stepping into nothingness.  This last transition from serenity falling into stillness it felt like I was walking off the edge of the world, or, another way to say this it felt like my ego’s death.  It has taken a faith to make these transitions, moving beyond my ego beliefs and learned procedures. 
When realistic faith began it became a given and this unshakable confidence.  This faith recognizes the actual support of Presence and I needed it to counteract the terror and the despair.  It seems to create this distinction from  me the observer to the observed.  It is now where my home feels empty and this home feels like just a place to begin.  This emptiness is the light of awareness and creates something higher wanting to touch the Essential.  The Essential is faith and it is given that offers this unshakable confidence.        

So to me mindsight takes realistic faith from the Essential and it becomes given.       

On May 28, 2014 Continued blessings be wrote:

 Amen Syd!  

On May 29, 2016 Kate Thomas wrote:

 My entire life has been a personal experience of mindsight offering a higher degree of freedom.Professionally, I have lived my life as and English teacher in all the traditional and non-traditional ways of being so...I consider myself a teacher of stories - the progress of humanity lies in the ability to listen and read and capture the meaning of other people's stories, so that we grow in not only strength but in wisdom...I of course, taught the Western traditional "canon" for my students, but on a parallel track I studied and brought into my teachings the other creation mythologies of other cultures, which of course, led me to Joseph Campbell and his theory of the collective human subconscious mind.  I taught the Renaissance "balance of human spirit" concept, which was taken from Aristotle and Plato in the ancient Greek philosophies:  that (wo)man is possessed of 4 humours: spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual.  Greek Tragedy is based on the tragic flaw, which overpowers the human being, if not kept healthy.  Dan Siefel's article, theory, truth...whatever one  might call it, has been true through the ages.  It sickens me that our human societies "forgot" the need to keep our spiritual side strong and healthy as it feeds the other 3 - there is a balance.  This mindfulness was captured and used by the power brokers on this planet and is still being brokered for dominance.  Louise Erdich's new book LaRose, she narrates about the  indigenous nation of Anishinaabeg, which claims the Great Lakes as its cultural home.  The famiy storyteller, "...This ability to fly went back to the first LaRose, whose mother....&  who had learned this from her father, a jiiskikid conjurer, who'd flung his spirit all the way around the world in 1798 and come back to tell his astonished drummers that it was no use, white people covered the earth like lice."   The power brokers have pasted religion, taboos, sins, & sanctions on so much of what we now call "reality."  My conclusion, at least for today at this moment, is that we all must empower our degrees of mindfulness, allowing ourselves to practice a belief in a higher power if that serves, but always concentrating on this circle of compassion, which allows us to "embrace the reality of this interconnection, being considerate and concerned withlthe larger world."  

On Dec 11, 2016 MaryGene Hayes wrote:

 Thank you, Kate.  I am off to read Louise Erdich's LaRose.  Concentrating of this circle of compassion, as you have phrased it, is more pertinent and crucial than ever--right now.  Thank you again.  My education, formal and informal, has followed a path similar to yours.  With similar conclusions.

On Apr 16, 2017 Mary Hudson wrote:

 Instead of working 3 hours at my job, I asked to work 4 hours, rinsing pots and pans at my bakery job.  When given the OK, my montra was "Pace yourself, girl".  I got 8/10ths of the pans rinsed and loaded into the dish washer PLUS folding boxes for customers requesting their treats to be boxed.  Before leaving I thanked the boss for giving the OK for me to work 1 extra hour and thanked all my TEAM coworkers.

On Dec 3, 2017 Monday12 wrote:


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