Technological advances in the delivery of information have
presented the world with countless opportunities to send and
receive news tailored to the demands and desires of the recipients.
The prospects appear unlimited to communicate positions, to create
and mobilize communities, and to generate inspiration and
motivation for new ideas. Change would seem inevitable in
the Information Age. But is it? Is it possible that our technological
culture is creating an addiction to the external world and homogenized
communities? Is a society committed to finding satisfaction from
external stimuli prone to the comfort of conformity and less likely
to seek, much less embrace, change? Let’s take a look at what
neuroscience and biology have to say about change.
Current neuro-scientific theory tells us that the brain is
organized to reflect everything we know in our environment.
The different relationships with people we have met, the variety
of things we own and are familiar with, the cumulative places we
have visited and have lived at different times in our lives, and
the myriad of experiences we have embraced throughout our
years are all configured in the soft plastic tissues of the brain.
Even the vast array of actions and behaviors that we’ve repeatedly
performed throughout our lifetime is also tattooed in the intricate
folds of our gray matter. For the most part, our brain is equal to
Therefore, in our waking day, as we interact with all of the diverse
stimuli in our external world, it is the environment that activates
different circuits in the brain and, as a result, we begin to think
(and react) equal to the environment. As this process occurs,
our brains will then fire familiar circuits that reflect past known
experiences already wired in our brain. When we associate with
the external world we think in familiar automatic hardwired ways.
If we believe the notion that our thoughts or our actions have
anything to do with our future, how can we ever be in control
of our destiny?
In other words, in a normal day, as we consciously or
unconsciously respond to familiar people, as we recognize the
host of common things in different known places at certain
predictable times, and when we experience the same conditions
in our personal world, we will, more than likely, think and behave
in automatic memorized ways. To change then is to think and
act greater than our present circumstances. It is to think
greater than our environment.
We have been told that our brains are essentially hardwired
with unchangeable circuitry – that we possess, or better put,
are possessed by a kind of neurorigidity that is reflected in the
type of inflexible and habitual behavior we often see exhibited.
The truth is that we are marvels of flexibility, adaptability and a
neuroplasticity that allow us to reformulate and repattern our
neural connections to produce the kind of behaviors that we want.
The truth is that we have far more power to alter our own brains,
our behaviors, our personalities, and ultimately our reality, than
previously thought possible. How about those individuals in
history that have risen above their present circumstances, stood
up to the onslaught of reality as it presented itself to them, and
made significant changes?
For example, the Civil Rights Movement would not have had
its far-reaching effects if someone like Martin Luther King, Jr.,
had not, despite all the evidence around him (Jim Crow laws,
separate but equal accommodations, snarling attack dogs, and
powerful fire hoses), believed in the possibility of another reality.
Though Dr. King phrased it in his famous speech as a ‘dream’,
what he was really promoting and living was a better world
where everyone was equal.
How was he able to do that? Simply put in his mind, he saw, felt,
heard, smelled, lived and breathed a different reality from most
other people at that time. It was the power of his vision that
convinced millions of his cause. The world has changed because
of his ability to think and act greater than conventional beliefs.
Not only did King consistently keep his dream alive in his mind,
he lived his life as if his dream was already unfolding. He was
uncompromising to a vision greater than his circumstances.
Therefore, even though he hadn’t embraced the physical experience
of freedom yet, the idea was so alive in his mind that there was a
good possibility that his brain ‘looked like the experience already
Neuroscience has proven that we can change our brains just
by thinking differently. Through the concept of mental rehearsal
(to repeatedly imagine performing an action in the mind or to think
about something over and over again), the circuits in our brains can
reorganize themselves to reflect our very intentions. People who
were taught to mentally rehearse one handed finger exercises for
two hours a day for five days demonstrated the same brain changes
as the people who physically performed the same movements. (1)
To put this into perspective, when we are truly focused and single-minded,
the brain does not know the difference between the internal
world of the mind and the external environment.
Because of the size of the human frontal lobe and our natural ability
to make thought more real than anything else, this type of internal
processing allows us to become so involved in our dreams and
internal representations that the brain will modify its wiring without
having experienced the actual event. This means that when we can
change our minds independent of environmental cues, and then
steadfastly insist on an ideal with sustained concentration, the brain
will be ahead of the actual external experience. In other words, the
brain will look like the experience already happened. As the brain
changes before the future event actually occurs, and we embrace
the very circumstances that challenge our mind because there is
no evidence of the particular reality we are insisting on, we will
have created the appropriate circuits in place to behave equal with
our intentions. Simply said, the hardware has been installed so that
it can handle the challe
What made Dr. King unique, or any great leader for that matter
that changed the course of history and the world, was that his mind
and body were united to the same cause. In other words, he did not
think and say one thing and then behave contrary to his intentions.
His thoughts and actions were completely aligned to the same outcome.
This is not a bad working definition of true leadership. When we can
place our mind on a desired goal and then we discipline the body to
consistently act in alignment with that end, we are now demonstrating
greatness. We are literally living in the future and, even though we
cannot physically experience that reality yet with our senses, the
vision is so alive in our minds that the brain and the body will begin
to change in order to prepare us for the new experience. In one study,
men who mentally rehearsed doing bicep curls with dumbbells for a
short period of time every day, showed (on the average) a 13 percent
increase in muscle size without ever touching the weights. Their bodies
were changed to match their intentions. (2)
So when the time comes to demonstrate a vision contrary to the
environmental conditions at hand, it is quite possible for us to be
already prepared to think and act, with a conviction that is steadfast
and unwavering. In fact, the more we think about or formulate an image
of our behavior in a future event, the easier it will be for us to execute
a new way of being, because the mind and body are unified to that end.
So what is it then that talks us out of true change? The answer is: our
feelings and our emotions. Feelings and emotions are the end-products
of an experience. When we are in the midst of any experience, all of our
five senses are gathering sensory data and a rush of information is sent
back to the brain through those five different pathways. As this occurs,
gangs of neurons will string into place and organize themselves to
reflect that event. The moment that these jungles of nerve cells
become patterned into networks, they fire into place and release
chemicals. Those chemicals that are released are called emotions.
Emotions and feelings then are neuro-chemical memories of past events.
We can remember experiences better because we can remember
how they feel. For example, do you remember where you were
on 9/11? You probably can clearly recall very well where we were
that day at the exact time interacting with certain people, because
you can remember that novel feeling that woke you up enough to
pay attention to whatever was causing that unique internal change
in chemistry. More than likely, it was a different feeling from one
you had in a long time.
Back to the concept of change. If emotions brand experiences into
long-term memory, then, when we are faced with current obstacles
in our life that require thinking and acting in new ways, when we use
familiar feelings as a barometer for change, we will most certainly talk
ourselves out of our ideal. Think about this. Our feelings reflect the past.
They are familiar to us in the sense that they have already been experienced.
To change is to abandon past ways of thinking, acting and feeling so that
we can move into the future with a new outcome. To change is to think
(and act) greater than how we feel, to be greater than past familiar feelings
that root us back to the past behaviors and attitudes. Emotions like fear,
worry, frustration, sadness, greed, and self-importance are familiar feelings
that, if in the midst of transformation we decide to succumb to, will surely
point us in the wrong direction. Most likely, we will return to the old
self, driven by those same emotions and performing the same behaviors.
Can we then begin to contemplate change for ourselves? To take the
time and begin to think independent of the barrage of environmental
stimuli, is a skill that when properly executed, will change the brain, the
mind, and the body to prepare us for the future. The art of self-reflection is
dying in a technological culture that saturates us with so much information
that we become addicted to the external world and we rely on the outer
conditions to stimulate our own thinking. How free are we? Most are
lost without the thrill of entertainment, text messaging, phone calls,
and the internet. To make the time to meditate, to remind ourselves
of new ways to live independent of the external world, to plan our
future, to mentally rehearse the behaviors we want to change and
to think about new ways of being, will surely set us apart from
our predictable genetic destiny.
(1) Pascual-Leone D, et al (1995) Modulation of muscle responses evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation during the acquisition of new fine motor skills. Journal of Neurophysiology 74 (3):1037-1045.
(2) From mental power to muscle power; gaining strength by using the mind, Vinoth K. Ranganathan, Vlodek Siemionowa, Jing Z. Liu, Vinod Sahgal, Guang H. Yue, Neuropsychologia 42 (2004) 944-150;956.
About Dr Joe Dispenza:
Joe Dispenza, D.C., best known for his role in What the BLEEP
Do We Know?!, has authored several scientific articles on the
close relationship between brain chemistry, neuroscience and
biology, and their roles in physical health including his latest
book, Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind.