Tag Archives: Dan Seigel

I Knew Norman Mailer, I met Norman Mailer, I Miss the Man

Dusk Settles in on what we thought was true...

Writers have this obstacle to overcome in the ongoing tension between modern brain research and western psychological model and spirituality. As such authors are required to either conform to the conventions of the day, or if they do not invent methods to circumvent these limitations.

Here is Norman Mailer in conversation, “When you write novels the person who tells the story is crucial to at least half the success of the novel I would say depends on how the story is told. Is it told by one person sitting in their own mind and giving you objective external descriptions of everyone else, or do you have a omniscient narrator which was common to the 19th century novel where literally you have to assume that this person has godly powers and can enter every single mind. And that worked very well for the 19th century because then most people believed in god, most people who read novels believed in god, and therefore the novelist could be analogous to god for the sake of enjoying the fiction. It was just easy to enter everyone’s mind, you could do it and now you can’t with the modern canon which really feels they got rid of this medieval nonsense through the enlightenment through the last few centuries and that most people can do without god and the devil, they certainly don’t want them intruding so the notion is that you stay in one intelligence, one consciousness, you don’t try to cover everyone, and that’s inhibiting, in you get lots of problems of development when you only have the consciousness of your narrator.”

Freedom to Roam

With the rapid developments in neurobiological research we are discovering that this scientific point of view of consciousness is not very precise, research is proving that it is not contained, that it is not located exclusively inside a person, but rather being more a part of a larger system of energy and information that extends beyond the boundaries of the physical body. In short a kind of biological explanation for what is sometimes called “having a meeting of the minds,” when two people are interacting.

In the planning stages of making a novel the author builds an outline that they will work from. I have been concerned not just with a plot, but I have been interested in the metaphysical implications of making a story that is more in accord with our most recent mind science research.

If the world is not made up of discreet individual human consciousnesses in the most rigid sense of this model, but is rather a more networked, more a blended neurobiological phenomena, that is one part made up of a brain where is born what we call mind, but that this mind exists more like a receiver and/or more like a transmitter, and more likely to know and perceive and understand its external world out there because of the energy and information that is readily available in its environment, then we can build new fiction by ways that have until now been held in obedience to this 20th Century model of the mind.

And I am not talking science fiction here, but general fiction that is made of stories describing common events in everyday life. It isn’t that there is a right answer to this issue, just that it is something authors deal with throughout the telling of a story.

Why do we know what someone is going to say before they say it? Often an unfaithful spouse’s partner doesn’t need anyone to tell them if their partner has been cheating. These are examples of information existing beyond mind.

These are exciting times. Writers can work beyond these previous boundaries. Still it isn’t just psychological restrictions that are overcome there are also literary habits that necessarily have to evolve as well.

What is this all about? It is how we explore and expand our understanding of the world we are all born into. Picasso revealed to us a world as never before ever seen. The ancient cave paintings in the south of France are artifacts of neurobiological evolution. They literally exemplify the metaphorical leap of the mind. That moment in time when we first began to be able to think in the abstract. Wasn’t long before man invented the wheel.

Dawn of a New Day

BANKRUPT HEART

“What have you done?” he said to that glimmer of self in the window. “It’s over man, how can you fix this, what you going to do, this time, you don’t need another job you need another you.”

Ry Waters lifted his hand to his hair and dug his fingers into his scalp while scratching with his thumb against an itch on his forehead. “Where do you begin?” He felt groggy like it was dawn and he was just waking up. “My whole life is a stinking mess.” He was determined to go out a class act. He would not allow his shoulders to slump. He was going to leave with his chin up. The last day on the job turned out to be a one man going away party in vivid, painful, living color, until this man Ry once knew appeared in the window and called him to account. 

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

The Here There and Everywhere of Change

Stinkin' Location of Geo-cognitive Thermal Uplifts....

Our latest explorations about how the brain works turns out to be a journey into where mind is located. Many functions of the brain go on in the background, out of sight of our awareness. Some of what the mind does is in our consciousness, we know that we know. Jack Kornfield and Dan Seigel were discussing this last October when they met in San Francisco in front of an audience in a dialogue about what Eastern psychology and western scientific research have to say to each other as we try to unravel this natural wonder called mind. They talked
about something Martin Buber had discussed in I and Thou. The location of the sound waves of our voice, the electrical and chemical signals we pick up are not inside our minds. They exist beyond mind. Our eyes see from a distance. Smells are sensed from afar. The brain is an important part of what we use to know what we know, but between us is located a vast treasure of information (energy and particles) that are part of how our minds build a picture of what is our experience. I find the location of some of what I call thinking up in my head, but I do find a great resonant testable theory that what this bigger experience, bigger mind moments, that happen while engaged in collaborative exchange between others, that my mind is beyond mere brain, that it is in my gut, my heart, reached via ears, nose, eyes, and is out there much further beyond the edge of my skin. If you have ever known what someone is going to say before they say it, then I think you have had a piece of evidence presented to you suggesting that indeed mind is something more than just your brain.

Highway Home      The Novel

The comment hung in those early hours after midnight, in the still, silence before dawn. They both became sleepy at the same time. The wood stove kept them both warm, and although they each sat with their eyes cast  away from each other, Peggy realized that she was attracted to Noel, far more than she had at first thought. She found Noel’s strength handsome and his eyes vulnerable. His rural Utah childhood dripped off his way of doing things.

Change Directions

Fire Juggling Lessons

 

“Education can direct our attention to faculties of mind, not just facts in memory.”

                                                                        The Mindful Brain, Dan Seigel

            My smart phone provides access to information I don’t need to carry around in my head. A few years ago I didn’t have a machine on my desk that answered my questions. As a classically trained ballet dancer, juggler and circus arts performer I learned decades ago that training my body to do various physical moves was a whole different scratching of a place in my mind that was hard to itch. Here is the deal. Faculties of mind are not so much about the mind as storage container as it is about the mental muscle of the mind. The attentiveness muscle in particular seems to produce measurable changes in the brain. Here is a list of the key functions enabled by the middle prefrontal areas: body regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, flexibility, empathy, insight, fear modulation, intuition, and morality. That list of attributes comes from the Mindfulness Research Center of UCLA…For example increasing our intuitive powers would include focusing more attention on how our gut feels. It might include looking at a persons face and bringing attention to the muscles in their face, observing the tension in their eyes, clenching of jaw, posture, tone of voice. It doesn’t take long before we begin to see that our practice produces an increase in our intuitive skills. Figure that most of what I’m talking about is part of the cognitive toolkit we can play with. Playing with this toolkit in the good times increases our talents without having the pressure of coming to a crisis and frantically trying to grasp for them in the hard times. This is not a fix/broken model (I’m not into thinking of us like that) it is a cultivate/enhance model… I like that. Hopefully you will too…

Can You Spare Some Change….

Roadless Areas, Places to Go

In mindful awareness we have the opportunity to get beneath the layers of adaptation and enhance the possibility of change.                      Dan Seigel from The Mindful Brain

            All of us have our own story, our own narrative, memories we recall and use to extract lessons to organize our lives. It is common to my experience to speak with a friend and hear a story that draws a conclusion that seems to point to a more constricted life.(I’ll never get that job, she’ll never forgive me, I can’t do that…) We can not change our biography, but we can change the story. The novel is an opportunity to illustrate how a character changes the narrative and how that change alters the story of their life. All of this might appear to be understood, but how many times have we needed help because we’ve become trapped in a narrative and find it almost impossible of letting go? “Why do you think that way?” someone might ask. What stories do you tell? Are you aware of these stories? How might changing these stories change your life? Why is it so difficult to do perform this trick….

Change Psychology

I am fascinated by the psychological structure of character. I am interested in a more robust approach, that doesn’t persist in identifying character problems. So, what this might look like is that by pulling the lens back and looking at the larger world we find in the wider more diverse set of psychological practices. Dan Seigel, Jon Kabit Zinn, Jack Kornfield, David Richo, and John Welwood among others have been expanding on this topic. I attended a David Richo workshop and he commented that in his decades of practice as a therapist most of his clients faced a crisis of personhood and few actually needed therapy. This bigger picture, this larger possible framework allows for new approaches to exploring change…in other words we can embark on a story in a novel and not force our characters into the straitjacket of western psychological frames… we have a much more diverse, much larger set of possibilities….so many more…it allows for the author to introduce readers to new pathways that might offer a more robust, more profound transformation…

Pathways Gateways New Trail

The Art of Change…My Mind is Made Up…

Self Reflective self Portrait...

 

How fictional characters change in Highway Home and Bankrupt Heart.

 

      Neuroplasticity is a term to describe how we build connections in our brains. We can build connections by physically moving our bodies and we can build connections simply by thinking. Old thinking tends to travel down familiar neural highways. New thinking tends to travel along new highways. Jugglers know that repetition leads to the ability to do new tricks. For a very long time it was believed that the brain was fixed in size and structure, but now we know that we grow our brain throughout our lives when we use our brain. When we use our brain in new ways we potentially grow new parts, new regions, (connecting one region with another in new and interesting ways). So, it seems there is something of a virtue in making up our minds to make up our minds…