Reprogramming Your Subconscious Mind for Success

Reprogramming Your Subconscious Mind for Success ~ Mind Power Series (Second Installment)

Reprogramming Your Subconscious Mind for Success
Reprogramming Your Subconscious Mind for Success

When it comes to my personal development courses and direct one-on-one counseling, I have people approach me needing help to achieve all types of goals, including losing weight and getting fit, improving their confidence, wealth building, stop smoking, overcoming fears and more. The truth is that there are multitudinous ways that people define and interpret success in their lives, but there is only one true way of achieving it.

Renown motivational speaker and personal development expert, Earl Nightingale, defined success as follows:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

I define success as the fulfillment of a predetermined goal that has worth and value beyond the scope of personal interest. Basically, if you have a passion to do something that can benefit yourself and others, and are moving along the process of accomplishing it, then you are successful. Notice, neither definition of success stipulated that a person has to earn a particular dollar amount to be considered successful. This does not mean that financial wealth should not be a high-priority goal; it simply means that success is not defined by wealth alone, but by living a specific purpose at maximum performance.

In this “Mind Power” series it is my goal to explore the power of the human mind to produce the most exceptional and phenomenal things imaginable. In the first installment, The Mind Unleashed, we examined the possibilities associated with releasing the mind from predetermined limitations based on past experiences and the opinion of others. I introduced you to the fact that the only true limitations that you have in your life are those you have accepted with your own mind.

As we move through the examination of the power of the mind, the recurring theme will become increasingly evident — the power of the human is infinite in its ability to reproduce what it can conceive through imagination, Promethean thought and creativity. What must also be understood amidst entertainment and mensuration of this idea, is when there is an existence in one extreme, there is always an equal and opposite reality. With the mind being so powerful, if it were to become inundated with negativity and doubt, it could literally lock an individual out of experiencing anything of noteworthy value in life. A negative mind, on any level, is diametrically opposed to the attitude associated with success.

The challenge here is that negativity can take root in the human mind in multitudinous ways. It can happen during the developmental years — impacting self-concept (self-image), self-esteem and self-confidence. When this happens the child will grow up bypassing opportunities that are before them, believing that they are incapable of achieving the desired result.

Another way that negativity can enter the mind is through being surrounded by negative people at any stage of life. The negative ideas, talk and energy that is emitted by people who have negative mindsets can infiltrate the subconscious mind and program it to expect nothing but failure. The consistent intake of negative information through media channels is one of the most common ways that people feed their existing negative mentality. Once a person becomes negative, they will actually become attracted to all things negative. In fact, they will attract negativity.

In this particular installment, I wish to examine the ability to reprogram the subconscious to create paradigm shifts that have the capacity to completely change how a person views and interprets events in life. As pointed out in the previous installment on mind power, the subconscious mind is immensely powerful, and it is designed to capture and process data at exceptionally high rates. Unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious mind is not as easily guarded against ambient intrusion. Any ambient data within a person’s capacity to hear will be logged by the subconscious — even when the person is unaware of it. This type of openness is why people are incessantly being warned to guard their gates (senses, especially the eyes and ears).

Negative beliefs will have a significant impact on a person’s behavior, those things they do habitually. Keep in mind, at the very essence of life, you are what you do habitually, so this is a cyclopean concept that must be understood for all who desire to develop or reprogram their mind for optimal success (Kotsos, 2016).

The subconscious mind is responsible for executing the incredibly powerful mental programs that govern almost every aspect of your life. What is more impressive is the fact that all of these programs and actions are carried out through a completely automated process. When the subconscious is not inhibited by limitations planted by negative beliefs, it has the capacity to produce every conceivable desire a person can have.

In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill constantly reveled at the capacity of the subconscious mind to convert desire and emotion into reality.

“There is nothing capricious in nature or the universe; therefore, the implanting of a desire indicates that its gratification is in the constitution of the creature who feels it (Hill, 1938).”

The constant theme surrounding the law of attraction and mind management is simply that what you think about the most is what you will produce. This is a law, meaning that there is no way around it.

Wallace D. Wattles, the author of The Science of Getting Rich, recorded it this way: “The Creative Power within us makes us into the image of that to which we give our attention (Wattles, 1910).”

Now, the wonderful news about the subconscious mind is that it can be reprogrammed. It has been nearly 60 years since Dr. Maxwell Malz developed the concept of psycho-cybernetics — a methodology used to help people harness and master the power of the subconscious mind. This concept was developed by Dr. Malz, who was a plastic surgeon, for the purpose of helping people overcome negative self-images — since then people have used this powerful tool to accomplish everything from losing weight, breaking free from smoking and even controlling pain.

To give you an idea of how successful this particular psycho-corrective process has been, since 1960, Psycho-Cybernetics has sold more than 35 million copies, meaning that you will probably find a copy of the book in your public library.

It is not necessary to be overly technical in the explanation of this method and how it works, so I will keep it simple. Cybernetics is the science of self-regulating systems. Norbert Weiner, a professor of mathematics at MIT was the first to refer to the self-regulating systems as cybernetics

The thermostat on your refrigerator and central climate control unit in your home are cybernetic systems. The system automatically makes the necessary adjustments to keep the temperature at the desired selection by constantly monitoring and detecting the slightest deviation. The auto-pilot system on jetliners are also cybernetic.

Oddly enough, the oldest form of cybernetics is the organic process that takes place in the subconscious mind.

What we now understand about the subconscious mind is that it has a goal-seeking mechanism. Malz discovered this with his plastic surgery patients. What he discovered was that corrective surgery did not always deal with the self-image issues that his patients had. In other words, making external changes without dealing with the self-image itself, rarely produced the desired result.

What Dr. Malz discovered is that the subconscious mind functioned like a cybernetic mechanism depending on a specific goal. When a “success goal” is given to the subconscious mind, it will function like a success mechanism, consistently self-correcting thoughts and behavior to align with the set goal. However, if the subconscious was given a “failure goal,” then the subconscious would become a failure mechanism, self-correcting all behavior that is diametric to the set goal of failure. For instance, if you were to give your subconscious mind the negative goal of dieting, you will fail, whereas if you give it a positive goal of body shaping, you will succeed.

Another interesting discovery by Dr. Malz was that the use of will power was absolutely worthless in the process of developing new habits. Actually, willpower is the negative method for breaking some bad habit. If you are not careful, will power will actually have the reverse effect of reinforcing the bad habit that you are attempting to break.

What Dr. Malz discovered was that the human imagination was the key to rebuilding a flawed self-image. The imagination allows for the exchanging of poor habits for more profitable ones. Imagination allows a person to implant a new self-image in the subconscious mind. Why is this important. It is important because the self-image is a person’s truth as it pertain to them. A person’s self-image will dictate their behavior, because a person’s behavior must align with their image of themselves in order to maintain sanity. Therefore, if you can change the image, you will inherently change the behavior. The moment a person begins to see themselves differently, they will change their behavior to align with that new image — and this will be done almost effortlessly.

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.” ~ Anatole France

Dreaming is the preferred language of the subconscious mind. In fact, it has been proven that the most direct and efficacious modality for accessing and engaging the subconscious mind is through the use of sounds and images, which is the language of dreams — completely bypassing the “will” altogether.

Why does knowledge, in and of itself, fail to provide individuals with all that is necessary to exact change? Knowledge alone activates the conscious mind, which does not have the capacity to override an entire lifetime of conscious desires and habits that serve to create the current lifestyle that is counterproductive in reaching a particular goal. Whatever the goal, if the self-image has not adopted the identity associated with the task, the subconscious will sabotage every effort to achieve the goal.

It is necessary that the subconscious adopt the new image and accepts the new goal as being a part of its new self-image. At the point when the subconscious accepts the new goal as being associated with its new self-image, it will auto-correct behavior to ensure that the goal is reached. To lose weight successfully and keep it off, it will be necessary to develop and identity of a person who is passionate about fitness and highly concerned about their health. Once you educate yourself on the safest and most efficacious methods for losing weight, the subconscious will do the rest.

Basically speaking, a person must undergo a paradigmatic shift that literally changes how they view life from a particular perspective surrounding a specific desired goal. To begin the process of developing long-term generational wealth, the person must change how they view money, as well as change how they see themselves concerning money. In other words, they will need to see themselves as being wealthy before the physical wealth-building process begins.

Once a person begins to see themselves as being wealthy, they will undergo an immensely powerful metamorphosis that will change the vernacular, their spending habits, the manner in which they view entrepreneurship and more. They will stop asking for opportunities, and they will start creating them on their own accord.

Keep in mind that the subconscious mind is a cybernetic mechanism that will auto-correct behavior based on its own self-image. A person struggling with their self-image will never experience any consistent success in areas which they don’t identify with the idea and behavior behind success in that particular sphere of life. In my Visionetics Self-concept Development Program, I help people rewrite the construct of their self-image to fit the goals that they have set for their lives, or what they aspire to become.

The subconscious mind is so powerful that this approach works on absolutely everything — no exceptions. So, are you finally ready to change your life for the better? ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.


Hill, N. (1938). Think and Grow Rich. Meriden, CT: The Ralston Society.

Kotsos, T. (2016). Negative Beliefs, the Law of Attraction & the Law of Polarity. Mind Your Reality.

Malz, M. (2015). The New Psycho-Cybernetics (Updated and Edited). New York, NY: Pedigree Publishing (An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC).

Wattles, W. D. (1910). The Science of Getting Rich. New York: Elizabeth Towne Publishing.



Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself

Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself

By Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Pys.D. | Courtesy of Visionetics 2020 | Dec. 26, 2016
Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself
Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself

While many people will use the phrase, “you are what you think,” very few actually take the time to truly consider the impact of the their thoughts on a daily basis. Scientists suggest that the average human being processes between 40,000 and 50,000 thoughts per day. What this means is that even when we are not aware of it, our subconscious is at work processing what is known as cognitions — subconscious or unconscious thoughts. It is important to understand that while we may not be aware — at least on a conscious level — of all the thoughts that are being processed by our subconscious, we have the capacity to control the type of thoughts and how they are interpreted.

Actually, there is an epochal amount of truth embedded in the statement “you are what you think,” your thoughts are the seeds of ultimate manifestation. In other words, your thoughts are the staging ground and the catalyst for what you will ultimately become. Whenever clients contact me to be a part of my Visionetics 2020 program, I immediately emphasize the fact that the reason they are where they currently are is because of who they are. You don’t get what you want or wish for out of life; you get what you are. If you don’t have the things that you want out of life, it is because you have not become the person who is capable of obtaining them.

When you determine that it is time for a change in your life, you must begin with changing how you think. Why is changing your thought processes so important? Your thought processes govern your belief system, and your belief system is the conduit through which paradigms are created, and finally, paradigms are the lenses through which we interpret life. So, our thoughts will determine if we view life from the position of a victim or a victor. It will determine whether we see life as happening to us or responding to us.

Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself
Creating an Optimal Future for Yourself

Changing your thoughts will help develop and change who you are in multitudinous ways. There are two distinctive ways that this happens. Let’s take a quick look at both.

Feeding & Nurturing the Subconscious

The reason that my Elevation and Empowerment course has proven to be so successful is because it uses, as one of its primary components, cognitive enhancement techniques. The cognitive enhancement process takes into consideration that cognitive biases and cognitive distortions can directly impact the social mobility and mental health of an individual. This is one of my areas of expertise. My research and dissertation for my doctorate in psychology was conducted in this area. In fact, my research produced several theories — two of which being Cognitive Bias Syndrome and Collective Dominative Cognitive Bias Syndrome — explaining how both, individuals and groups can develop negative social paradigms that lead to poor decision making and erroneous behavior.

When I encounter a client who is in need of behavioral adjustments, unlike many of my colleagues, I do not start with habitual adjustments — changing behavioral habits at the superficial level. When habitual behavior is addressed at an adumbrated level, the changes are harder to take hold, and the person will usually revert back to the original habits under pressure. Instead, I work on using the conscious mind to influence the subconscious mind, which will subsequently and inherently influence the spirit of the person. Ignoring the spiritual element of our holistic existence is another way that many of my colleagues fall short. We are holistic in our existence — consisting of a body, mind, soul and spirit. What I have discovered is that whatever the subconscious is fed consistently, will, in turn, be fed to the spirit. This particular interaction between the subconscious and the spirit are prodigious.

As the spirit develops in a positive way, as it is being fed positive thoughts and beliefs about the person through the subconscious, it develops the capacity to provide a new and more powerful type of vision. I call this type of vision, spiritual vision. Spiritual vision has the capacity to see beyond what physical vision can see. While a person’s physical sight can only see the facts associated with any particular circumstance or situation, spiritual sight has the capacity to see those things that have not yet manifested themselves within the physical realm, but are just as real as the facts being presented by the current situation. In other words, while losing your job and being behind in mortgage payments and car note payments presents a gloomy outlook, a spirit that has been conditioned to believe that your destiny of greatness, prosperity and success has been set and guaranteed, will interpret the reality of the circumstance as a temporal challenge in which you have the capacity to overcome. In essence, the spirit will disagree with or override the circumstance. This is the power of properly training the subconscious by guarding what it is being fed consistently.

The Reticular Activating System

The truth is that you are creating your future constantly and consistently — each and every day. Your thoughts are literally writing the narrative of your future life. According to Ernest Holmes, “life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” Your thoughts are the staging ground and catalyst for the perpetuation of actions, beliefs, feelings, values, goals and dreams. It is important to understand that this is happening regardless of the level of consciousness and awareness you have of the fact that it is taking place.

Basically, the combination of your present moment awareness, conjoined with the future that is created through your thoughts is actually the totality of the aggregate sum of your subconscious programming. This is why it is so important to guard your gates — those openings to your soul — the eyes and ears. What you allow to infiltrate your subconscious on a frequent basis will create an involuntary response in which beliefs will be developed to align with the information received by the subconscious. Finally, in order to maintain sanity, you will naturally perpetuate behavior that is in alignment with the reality created by your subconscious.

To further assist in this adaptation, the human brain is equipped with a mechanism known as the reticular activating system. The reticular activating system can be viewed as a mediator of your future goals and dreams. The RAS functions as a filter between the subconscious and the conscious mind. When your conscious mind perceives an idea or belief, it is passed to the subconscious through the RAS.

Allow me to elucidate what I am attempting to convey here. The RAS is a biological function that takes whatever the conscious is focusing upon or thinking about and transmits it to the subconscious mind where the thought or focus will reproduce itself through physical manifestation at a future date and time. Have you ever had a situation in which you noticed something for the first time — a new car, watch, shirt, etc. — and you decided that you wanted one? Then, all of a sudden, every time you look up you see it. It is not that it started to appear more, it has always been there. The difference is that your thoughts and focus has indicated that you are interested in it, and so the RAS and your subconscious will work to identify it every time it or an opportunity to have it presents itself.

Understanding how the RAS works illuminates the importance of managing your thoughts, ideas and belief systems, because it will reproduce and illuminate what you give gravity to. If you place an emphasis on financial literacy and building wealth, it will continuously identify opportunities for you to do so.

There is so much more to the idea of thought management, but the two concepts presented here will give you, at least, a limited perspicacity of the power of your thoughts to shape your future. You cannot have the things you desire until you become the person who has the capacity to achieve and obtain them. You cannot become that person until you master your thoughts to align with the values, behaviors and habits of the successful person who is capable of having all that you desire. At the end of the day, you are writing the narrative of your life with every thought you process. ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.


Learn more about Dr. Wallace’s Elevation and Empowerment course!

Also, inquire about the VTX-12 program, part of the holistic health and fitness concept at Master Fitness 21.

Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain

Brain Power ~ The Secret to Success

Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain

By Paul Tingen on Thursday April 7th, 2016 | Courtesy of
Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain

Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain

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Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain ~ Around twenty-five years ago, neuroscience went through a dramatic change in perspective that had profound implications for mindfulness practitioners, and that can greatly deepen our understanding of our practice and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. To be able to describe neuroscience’s big discovery, first some basic facts: the brain is astoundingly complex, typically containing some 100 billion nerve cells called neurons. Each neuron is capable of making thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of connections with other neurons using chemicals called neurotransmitters that transmit electrical signals along complex cellular pathways. “Thoughts, memories,  emotions—all emerge from the electrochemical interactions of neurons,” writes Nicholas Carr in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.1

How our Minds can be Trained to Make Life Easier

Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain
“Thoughts, memories,  emotions—all emerge from the electrochemical interactions of neutrons.”

Cells that Fire Together Wire Together


Until the 1980s, conventional wisdom in neuroscience held that the brain developed during childhood until it reached a fixed form that remained the same during adulthood. This belief in the brain’s static cellular circuitry gave rise to a very limited view of human consciousness, a “neurological nihilism,” in which consciousness was seen as no more than the byproduct of these fixed pathways. With the emergence of the computer, the analogy was made that the hardware of the brain determined and limited the software (our feelings and our thoughts).

However, due to pioneering research in the 1980s, most famously by Professor Michael Merzenich,2 this orthodoxy was turned on its head. Since then it has become widely accepted that the brain constantly rewires itself in response to changes in our feelings, thoughts, experiences, and the way we use our body. This phenomenon is referred to as the plasticity of the brain. In computer language, the software and the hardware inter-are: the software can shape the hardware, just as much as the other way around. Neuroscience today is governed by what is known as Hebb’s rule: “Cells that fire together wire together.” The brain gets less plastic as we grow older, but the capacity for rewiring remains.

Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain
The brain gets less plastic as we grow older, but the capacity for rewiring remains.

The Power of Positive Thinking


The idea of neuroplasticity has given new hope to people with physical, emotional, and mental impairments that had hitherto been regarded as unchangeable. Conversely, just as it is possible for the software to change the hardware for the better, it can also change the hardware for the worse. Moreover, in Carr’s words, “plastic does not mean elastic.” Neural pathways become entrenched, and the more entrenched they become, the more they resist the process of rewiring. The older, entrenched pathways are paths of least resistance amongst which neurons like to communicate with each other, propelling us to keep repeating similar feelings, thoughts, and actions. Every time we use a particular pathway, it increases the likelihood that we will do it again.

Says Carr, “The more a sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuits. In the worst cases, the mind essentially trains itself to be sick.” In short, whenever we’re stuck in habitual suffering, we’re not just wasting our life energy and time, we’re actively entrenching this suffering in our neurological pathways, making it more likely that we’ll suffer in the same way again. Suffering is not a free ride.

Using Mindfulness to Rewire the Brain
Every time we use a particular pathway, it increases the likelihood that we will do it again.

Rewiring for Well-being


There are many parallels between these theories of neuroscience and Thay’s teachings. The essence of our Buddhist practice is to use mindfulness to develop singularity of thought (concentration/samadhi), which can help us to get out of habitual thinking and feeling and help us to stop triggering our habitual neural pathways of suffering. Mindfulness, in effect, allows us to consciously rewire our brain for improved well-being.

Get Your Copy of Renewing Your Mind!

Mindfulness is intentional and based on our free will. Free will can be applied in many ways. An athlete or musician will construct neural pathways in his or her brain through endless deliberate practice. However, the practice of an athlete or musician will rarely be self-aware, and while it may push pathways of suffering out of sight, it won’t transform them. Mindfulness may be the only state of mind that is wholly deliberate and wholly self-aware, and that is able to embrace other states of mind, transform them, and foster well-being, thereby allowing us to consciously rewire our brain.

The way we use the mantra, “This is a happy moment,” is a good example. We train the brain to create and deepen a neural pathway of well-being that might not otherwise be there. Conversely, if we focus on the negative, we keep firing and strengthening the neural pathways associated with our suffering. We know that certain ways of expressing our suffering can make us feel lighter and freer, while others appear to deepen it. One main reason for the difference between “rehearsing” suffering and transforming it lies in whether we embrace our suffering with mindfulness or not. Another factor is whether we look at our suffering with Right View; wrong views trigger the very thoughts that cause and entrench our suffering. If we don’t embrace suffering with mindfulness and with Right View, we will almost inevitably be caught in habitual suffering. But if we embrace our suffering with Right View and mindfulness, and stop the thoughts that trigger it, we can transform the energy of our suffering so that it becomes available for our well-being. The light of mindfulness cooks the raw potatoes, so they become a joy to eat.

Thay has always disagreed with a widespread view in Western society that we can get rid of unpleasant feelings, particularly anger, simply through expressing them. He often warns against the danger of rehearsing these feelings. Neuroplasticity shows us that repeatedly firing off our neurological pathways indeed risks strengthening those very pathways. And so, again contrary to a lot of Western thinking, Thay has long recommended that people who come to Plum Village don’t immediately start digging into their suffering, but instead begin with watering their seeds of well-being. Once we are stable and our sense of well-being is strong enough, we can look at our suffering again and have a chance to transform it, rather than risk being overwhelmed by it.

Our Sun of Mindfulness

To describe these processes more clearly, I would like to build on Thay’s analogy of our practice as that of a gardener. A gardener transforms compost (the mud) into flowers (the lotus). A skillful gardener knows how to create a pleasant garden with lots of flowers and just enough compost to feed them. Being a skillful gardener of our own inner garden is our spiritual work of self-love. To offer another analogy: neural pathways can be described as a collection of gullies, brooks, canals, and canyons; our feelings and thoughts can be considered the water in them. Mindfulness has often been described as a light, and in this case we could extend the analogy by describing mindfulness as the sun.

And so, it rains and a rivulet forms: the first arrow has hit and we suffer. The Buddha’s teachings tell us this is unavoidable; life will fire us arrows. Suffering is inevitable. But if we don’t handle this arrow correctly, if we add other arrows to it with wrong thinking, the rivulet turns into a stream, a river, and eventually a flood of suffering. The one neural connection has turned into a pathway and is likely to join with other similar pathways, and all of them may be deepened. As these neural pathways are strengthened, so are the corresponding mental formations, and they will be more difficult to transform. And once this gully or canal or canyon has formed, new rain will be drawn to it, deepening these pathways still further.

There is a belief in Western culture that we have to go through our suffering (the dark night of the soul), but from the perspective of neuroplasticity and our practice, we cannot transform our suffering from inside our suffering. We cannot affect the course of a canal while being caught in the stream. We cannot dissolve neural pathways while firing them simultaneously. There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way. We have to step out of the stream and shine our sun of mindfulness on it. Only with the healthy parts of ourselves can we heal our afflictions.

When we’re suffering, streams (or storms) of thoughts and feelings run through us; and when we manage to breathe and become mindful, these streams calm down to a gentle trickle. As the water slows down, as the storm abates to a gentle breeze, the neurons stop firing together, and we no longer strengthen our neural pathway of suffering. The suffering, the neural pathway, may still be there, but it is no longer a danger to us. It is like the mother embracing her angry child: she holds him firmly, so he can do no damage, and also lovingly, so he can come back to his true self. At that point, the water can mingle with the earth and turn into mud, or it can evaporate in the light of the sun of our mindfulness and fall down as rain (our tears) somewhere else in our garden. In both cases, the water will help grow flowers rather than deepen the pathway of suffering.

When we consider this analogy, it’s easy to see why Thay so often stresses that we should not judge or suppress our suffering. In seeing our suffering as water flowing through a canal, we realize that we need that water to tend our garden. If handled unskillfully, the water can deepen the groove of our suffering; if we know how to practice, we can use it to grow flowers in our garden. The analogy can be extended yet further. Sometimes our suffering has become frozen, hidden, inaccessible: we may have become bitter or repressed our feelings. One can’t grow flowers with ice, so we have to first melt our frozen feelings.

Mindfulness practice in general, and sitting meditation in particular, are ways of strengthening the power of the sun of our mindfulness, or the power of our concentration (samadhi). But sometimes, if our sun of mindfulness isn’t strong enough to transform our suffering, we need the compassionate and mindful presence of another person. As the water starts to flow, we cry, and we begin to disarm and transform our suffering with our collective mindfulness. This is one of several reasons why practicing in a Sangha is so important. Neuroscience offers an additional reason, emanating from its research of a particular class of neurons called mirror neurons, which are triggered when we observe the actions and/or feelings of others, and which then fire in corresponding ways. Neuroscientists have argued that mirror neurons make empathy possible; and even simply being in the company of other practitioners will trigger mirror neurons that strengthen our own practice.

What Thay calls our store consciousness can be seen as the network of neural pathways in our brain, much of it inherited from our ancestors, with each seed corresponding to a neural pathway. Intense feelings, addictions, and many of the noxious things we consume in our society can strengthen our neural pathways of suffering (hence the importance of the Fifth Mindfulness Training). By contrast, the calming nature of our entire practice makes it easier to rewire our brain. There are no magic formulas or strategies; the crucial point is that we need to be very mindful, at all times, of whether we’re transforming our suffering or merely rehearsing it.

Living lightly offers more freedom and clarity to practitioners and also makes it possible to turn neutral feelings into pleasant ones—in other words, to turn neutral and often forgotten neural pathways into pathways that trigger well-being. It is, so to speak, far easier to cultivate flowers in the gently rolling hills of Plum Village than in the steep crags of the Grand Canyon.

© 2012, Paul Tingen

1) All quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (New York: Norton, 2010), which has been credited with giving one of the best descriptions of the concept of neuroplasticity available. The thesis of Carr’s book is that extensive use of the Internet rewires our brains to make it more difficult for us to handle deep thoughts and extended narratives. Some of Carr’s sources on neuroplasticity are:

* Pascual-Leone, A. Amedi, F. Fregni, and L.B. Merabet, “The Plastic Human Brain Cortex,” Annual Review of Neuroscience, 28 (2005).
* Michael Greenberg, “Just Remember This,” New York Review of Books, December 4, 2008.
* Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Science (New York: Penguin, 2007).
* Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (Harper-Perrenial, 2002).

2) Carr, pages 24-26.

Paul “Ramon” Tingen, True Harmony of Loving Kindness, is an anglicised Dutchman who now lives in France, near Plum Village. Paul writes for music technology magazines and is the author of  a book about the electric music of  Miles Davis entitled Miles Beyond. Paul has recorded one CD, May the Road Rise to Meet You, and is currently recording a second album titled Metamorphosis. He ordained as an OI member in 1997. His website is