Stephanie is the founder and director of Blue Star Temple. An ordained shamanic minister, she holds a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and master’s and doctorate degrees in shamanic studies from Venus Rising University. She is also a mesa carrier in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of Peru, having studied with Don Oscar Miro-Quesada and his lineage since 2005. She lives near Kansas City, Missouri.
Matthew Belair is the author of Zen Athlete: The Secrets to achieving your highest potential and creator of the Zen Athlete Program, which has helped all kinds of athletes achieve the highest skill levels in their sport. Matt is also the host of the top rated Master Mind, Body and Spirit podcast.
John Murphy is the author of the new book, Miracle Minded Manager: A modern-day parable about how to apply A Course in Miracles to business. John is a global business consultant, speaker, spiritual mystic, “zentrepreneur,” and award-winning author. He is Founder (1988) and CEO of Venture Management Consultants, Inc., a firm specializing in creating lean, high performance work environments. As a business consultant, Murphy has delivered services to some of the world’s leading organizations. As an educator and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Murphy has trained thousands of people from over 50 countries, including Fortune 500 executives, project leaders, military leaders, managers, and black belts. He has mentored dozens of project teams in Organizational Development, Operational Excellence, Business Process Innovation and Lean Six Sigma applications. As a speaker, Murphy has delivered keynotes and seminars worldwide. A critically acclaimed authority on peak performance, transformational leadership and healthy mind-body-spirit, Murphy is a best-selling author who has published 19 books and appeared on over 400 radio and television stations and his work has been featured in over 50 newspapers nationwide.
Donald Altman is the author of the new book, Reflect: Awaken to the Wisdom of the Here and Now. Donald Altman is a psychotherapist, an award-winning author, and a former Buddhist monk. Featured in The Mindfulness Movie and profiled in The Living Spiritual Teachers Project, he has written over 15 books that teach how to incorporate mindfulness into daily life. Award-winning books include: The Mindfulness Toolbox-winner of two Gold IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards as the best book in the “Psychology” and “Body-Mind-Spirit” categories, Clearing Emotional Clutter-named “One of the Best Spiritual Books of 2016,” and The Mindfulness Code-named “One of the Best Spiritual Books of 2010.”
Everyone prefers happiness over suffering, but it can be difficult to steer our emotions and moods toward a happier state. According to evolutionary psychologist, Dr. Paul Gilbert, we are burdened with a big challenge he refers to as a “tricky brain!”
Why tricky? In his captivating book, “Mindful Compassion,” Dr. Gilbert explains that our brains have been shaped by evolution, which is not the most intelligent designer. We could have a better brain, if evolution were able to reorganize it (like rebuilding a software program from scratch), but evolution doesn’t work that way—it can only build newer brain functions on top of old, patching and extending things over time.
It makes sense that over millions of years, our brains have become rather unwieldy and unstable. The “old brain” continues reacting to jarring stimuli as if it were life-and-death, as if a saber tooth tiger were about to attack you from behind, instead of the reality: you lost our keys and are about to be late for an important meeting.
It’s like we have two brains – old brain and new brain. The old brain runs emotions, which guide our motives (social and otherwise) to help us get what we need and depend on for survival. Old brain mechanisms, on the other hand, evolved functions that direct the body to deal with threats, take shelter, find food, seek out a sexual partner, etc.
In the last million years, our brains have evolved in profound ways. With a growing neocortex, we became able to think, reason, and plan, enabling us to cooperate and communicate. However, this new brain isn’t foolproof or even 100% advantageous. Because of these abilities for thought and self-awareness, we become burdened with habits of ruminating, comparing, self-criticism and judgment—with emotional by-products like anxiety, vindictiveness or depression. Unlike other animals, humans can anticipate the possibility of starving to death or obsess on a fearful experience. As they say in 12-step meeting, “stinkin thinkin” can get us stuck in a loop until we find a way to intervene.
The two brains are linked and intertwined. The old brain can hijack the new brain, where all of its thinking and planning becomes enlisted by the survival fears of the old brain. Our thinking can become linked or looped into a stream of threat-fueled anxiety, anger, or worry.
As always, 80% of the solution lies in understanding the problem. We can have a better relationship with ourselves when we stop judging ourselves and develop compassion for ourselves, accepting the fact that our brains are replete with conflicting ideas, emotions, and desires. Tricky!
In “Mindful Compassion,” Dr. Gilbert teaches how to break self-destructive thinking cycles, reorganize the mind, and keep it on track for positive and constructive action. (My podcast talk with him is definitely worth a listen.)
For the sake of self-compassion—which, as Dr. Gilbert explains, is a healing balm for our suffering—it’s important to remember that your brain’s conflictedness is not your fault! Likewise, we are not responsible for the family system or society we were born into, so let’s have compassion for ourselves around that too! The great news is that we can learn to rewire our tricky brain by combining the skill of mindfulness and the power of self-compassion.
Linda Kohanov is the author of the new book, The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A revolutionary model for socially intelligent leadership. Linda is also the author of the bestseller The Tao of Equus. She speaks and teaches internationally. She established Eponaquest Worldwide to explore the healing potential of working with horses and offer programs on everything from emotional and social intelligence, leadership, stress reduction, and parenting to consensus building and mindfulness.
Robert Wright is the author of the new book, Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Robert is the New York Times bestselling author of The Evolution of God (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Nonzero, and The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life, Three Scientists and their Gods (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award). He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the widely respected Bloggingheads.tv and has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Time, Slate, and The New Republic. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton University, where he also created the popular online course Buddhism and Modern Psychology.
In our culture of “get more, have more, be more,” is there any place for “good enough is good enough”? Today’s guest offers an inspiring alternative to nonstop striving, self-improvement, and self-criticism. Roger Housden is author of the new book, Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life You Have. He is the author of numerous other books, including Ten Poems to Change Your Life and Ten Poems to Say Goodbye. He offers writing workshops, both live and online, with an emphasis on self-discovery and exploration.