In Part 1 of How EAP Works I discussed the concept of pragmatic laziness. The pragmatic part was about becoming aware. The lazy part was the commitment to being mindful. Today I want to address the pragmatic part. Awareness is the precursor to being mindful, which is the precursor to compassion and empathy, which are the precursors to inner-peace, which is the precursor to stillness. It all begins with awareness.
In the context of EAP, awareness is that of which you are conscious. Some would suggest that typically we are only 5% conscious, meaning that we generally function subconsciously 95% of the time. This means that we are on autopilot the majority of the time. Being on autopilot means that we are relying on well established neural pathways in the brain in order to function. A quick lesson about the brain and neurones.
A neurone in a nerve cell made up of two main components, a dendrite and an axon. Two cells connecting is called a synapses, which sees the dendrite of one cell connect to the axon of another cell. A birth each neurone (cell) has about 2,500 synapses. By the time we are three there are 15,000. As an adult that cuts back by about a half. Learning and new experiences trigger synapses in the cells, which is reinforced through repeated study or exposure, resulting in long-term memory. This establishes a habit or beliefs that allows us to function subconsciously. Synaptic Pruning is the name given to the atrophy of synapses that occurs when an old habit has been replaced with a new one. It was thought that as we got older the brain became ‘set’ in its ways. It is now known that the brain maintains this capacity to change throughout life. This capacity for change is called neural plasticity.
So awareness is really a form of learning, and naturally triggers new synaptic links in the brain (some even suggest throughout the whole body). Mindfulness is like repeatedly imagining what the new awareness would look like IF your were to actually start doing it. Scientists now know that imagination and action are integrated and engage the same neural pathways. One experiment in strengthening muscles had one control group do physical exercise and the other group essentially imagine they were doing the exercise. The people who did the exercise improved their muscle strength by 30%, and the those who imagined it improved theirs by 22%.
In the Enhances Awareness Program we have developed a process for identifying the core default neural pathway unique to each individual. We call this your story. We then help the client identify how their story impacts their life. Being a subconscious program, it makes sense that this established default neural program will always produce the same result. If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got! The effect of becoming aware of the story (the default neural program) along with the way it impacts physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually means that it’s easier to be more mindful of the way it challenges people’s relationships, their health, their work and their self worth.
To create a new neural pathway requires imagination. Imagination is the foundation to creating the new destination for the new neural pathway. So at EAP we help people imagine what their work, their health, their relationships with others and with themselves would look like if they were free of their story. And as with any change management process, we help our clients to develop a strategy that is effectively the new neural pathway. It is at this point where EAP is different to other processes of intervention. We don’t encourage our clients to engage the strategy they developed. We encourage them to maintain their awareness of the strategy by considering how it would impact, that is to be mindful. Next time we will explore how being mindful actually brings change.
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