In the past 75 years, our world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases. Visionaries like Gabor Mate and Peter Levine have proposed that these ailments may be rooted in the accumulation of trauma and stress within our bodies and minds. The question remains, though, what is the precise connection? How do stress and trauma translate into long-term diseases?
Allow me to share my insights.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with countless individuals grappling with conditions such as Chronic Fatigue (ME), food intolerances, Lyme disease, MS, and, more recently, long COVID. A recurring theme has emerged from my energy healing sessions. When I establish an intuitive connection with my clients’ body-minds and inquire where the healing should commence, I consistently receive a message to harmonize the “Nervous-immune-digestive system.” Interestingly, this intuitive wisdom suggests that these are not three separate entities, as conventional medical science often assumes.
Conventional Western medicine divides our physiological systems into distinct categories, such as the immune system, the musculoskeletal system, the digestive system, and so forth. This compartmentalization is so deeply ingrained that we consult a different specialist for each system: a neurologist for the brain, a gastroenterologist for the digestive system, and a gynecologist for the reproductive system. Yet, our bodies do not perceive these as separate systems; rather, they are human constructs intended to simplify and classify biological information.
Our bodies comprehend that we are a single, interconnected living system, with every part dependent on the whole.
Thus, when I psychically received the term “nervousimmunedigestive system” from my clients’ bodies, I understood it as a call to view these three systems as one. This realization led me to delve into the intricate connections between the brain, immune system, and digestive system.
What I discovered was truly astounding.
Our brains, immune systems, and digestive systems are in constant dialogue, exchanging information through hormones, electrical signaling, and energetic pathways (such as meridians). They continuously monitor our health and relay any changes to the rest of the body.
Chronic illness arises from a disrupted communication system that remains stuck in a state of hypervigilance (fight/flight/freeze/appease). This dysfunction generates inaccurate messages that can alter hormone levels, immune system activity, emotional states, brain processing, inflammation, and more. For instance, in clients with chronic infections like long COVID or Lyme, I observed a hypervigilant body purposely clinging to low-grade infections to maintain surveillance, like a physiological version of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Unfortunately, this vigilance comes at a cost: fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other symptoms. Only when we coaxed the “nervousimmunedigestive system” out of hypervigilance and into a state of calm safety did these symptoms subside.
The encouraging news is that by addressing the physiological changes within these three intertwined systems, we can heal the physical symptoms of chronic and autoimmune illnesses. I have discovered that once the “neuroimmunedigestive system” is healed, other symptoms dissipate naturally.
If this message resonates with you, I am developing a program in the coming months that unites energy healing, NLP principles, mental practice, somatic healing, and neuroplasticity to facilitate lasting healing for these conditions. If you are interested in joining the waitlist for this transformative program, please reach out, and I will ensure you are among the first to know.
It’s a common belief that our brains are the sole creators of our thoughts, which we then become conscious of and act upon. However, recent research on neuroplasticity has revealed a far more fascinating reality – not only do our brains generate thoughts, but our thoughts also play a role in shaping our brains. The previously held notion that our brains were akin to computer hardware, and our thoughts to output, no longer holds true. The lines between them are much more blurred than we initially thought.
Indeed, our brains create thoughts that govern our body systems, but it doesn’t end there. The thoughts and emotions we consciously focus on can also alter the structure and function of our brains. This relationship is cyclical, not linear – more like an ongoing dialogue than a one-way street.
This discovery aligns with what we know about psychoneuroimmunology – the study of how our thoughts influence our body’s cellular functions. The old mechanical model of disease saw our bodies as machines, similar to cars, with diseases as the result of breakdowns. Now, we understand that our bodies are far more complex. In fact, how we utilize our bodies can impact their overall functioning. Imagine complimenting your car every morning and witnessing it perform better and suffer fewer breakdowns as a result!
So, how can you harness this knowledge to improve your health? There are two main strategies to consider:
- Monitor the thoughts and emotions you’re feeding your brain. Be mindful of the content you consume, from the media you watch to the people you interact with. Consistently exposing your brain to fear, anxiety, anger, or sadness may rewire it to be more prone to those feelings. As Louise Hay once replied when someone at one of her talks suggested killing two birds with one stone, “Why would I want to kill two birds? That sounds terrible!” Be conscious that the information, emotions, and thoughts in your environment can alter your brain, influencing the thoughts and emotions that emerge.
- Mess with your brain to alter the hardware in a positive way. Our brains struggle to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Research on mental practice has shown that when we vividly imagine scenarios, our brains process them as if they’re genuinely occurring. Why not use this to your advantage? Spend time each day visualizing situations that evoke happiness, laughter, connection, and gratitude. Committing to this practice for six to twelve months can reshape your brain, leading it to generate more positive thoughts and notice experiences that align with these emotions.
Now that you’re aware of the two-way street between your brain and thoughts, how will you choose to positively reshape your brain today? Embrace this newfound understanding, and embark on a journey towards a healthier, more fulfilling life, guided by the power of your thoughts.
Welcome back to my series on your intuitive brains. We’ve looked at how to get intuitive info from your heart brain and your gut brain, and now it’s time to get primal.
We’re gonna look at your pelvic brain.
As a quick recap, you have “brains” (aka dense neural networks) in several areas of your body, including your heart, your gut and your pelvis. These brains work just like the one in your head using neurotransmitters to communicate and interact with your other systems like your immune and cardiovascular systems. Each brain is also wired to receive certain types of intuitive information. Take a look at my posts (linked above) for info on your heart and gut brain if you’re interested.
So, what kind of intuitive information can we get from our pelvic brain? Our pelvic brain is tied into our creative longing and what we are meant to do and make in this world. Our pelvic brain gets fired up when we think about something that’s in alignment with what we’re supposed to do in this world, what we desire to make, create, or interact with.
When we bring to mind something that is in alignment with our soul path, the pelvic brain says, “Yes, I want that so I can create magic with it.”
Our pelvic brain gives us information on what kind of transmutation work we are here to do. We each have a special sort of magic that we’re here to harness and use. Some of us transmute words into prose, some of us transmute love into a family, some of us transmute work into money.
Now, anyone can perform any of those things, and even be successful at them, but each of us has an area (or two or three) where we can sense that we’re doing so with the help of a muse, with the support of something more than just our human powers, with a sense of an almost magical support behind our efforts. We’re supposed to bring that unique, individual magic to the world, and intuitive information from the pelvic brain can help us do just that.
Here’s how to tune into your pelvic brain’s intuition – think of a problem or an issue you are trying to move forward on. Bring to mind the various options you have. Now, bring your attention to your perineum (aka your “taint”) and the area just above and around it. Go through your options one by one and notice if the quality of feeling in your perineum changes. Are there options that make you feel more lusty, more desire, more like you want to go after it and make it yours? The ones that do are more in alignment with your pelvic brain.
Check-in with your heart brain and your gut brain as well (directions for this are in the linked posts). How do they feel about this option? Are all 3 of your brains telling you something similar, in their own way?
Getting in touch with your pelvic intuition can be a very powerful thing, especially if you’ve been in a culture or part of a marginalized group that has been taught to deny your own desires. Let me know how this goes for you. I’d love to hear your experiences – send me an email and let me know!
And if this exercise has been helpful for you, I’m teaching a free class on Zoom, “Harness the Power of Your 4 Intuitive Brains” on September 22, 2022 at 5pm Pacific Time. (I’ll be sending out the recording after for those who can’t make it live.) Sign up here and I’ll keep you in the loop with all the details:
I want to talk about your brains. Yes, brains plural. All four of them. Most of us know about one of them, maybe two, but in fact you have FOUR separate brains.
Let me explain what I mean by a brain. There are different areas in our bodies that have dense, semi-autonomous neural networks. One is in your head (what we commonly call your “brain”) but you also have dense neural networks in your heart, your gut and your pelvis.
Up until a couple years ago, medical science thought that there was only one brain (the one in your head) but recent research has definitively shown you have another one in your gut (your enteric nervous system) and there is mounting evidence for neural networks in your heart and pelvis too.
Each of these brains has different abilities and access to different ways of processing information. For a balanced bodymind, it’s important to be able to use and rely on all four brains equally.
Let me go through the information gathering and decision-making aspects of each brain so you can learn how to access that information for yourself. BTW — Each brain can do way more than what I’m describing here, but here’s a summary of the capabilities of each one for the purposes of information gathering and making wholistic decisions.
Our head brain, or what we commonly just call the brain, is very good at logical, deductive reasoning. This can come in handy when we’re trying to figure out the possible consequences of each possible decision, weigh the pros and cons, or using executive function skills to figure out the best solution. Basically, this is the brain that gives us rational, logical information and can compare and contrast the possible outcomes of that information. This brain is very helpful for interacting with the rational, ego-driven world that we live in. Most things that people would call a “good decision” (aka well reasoned, low risk, etc) come from this brain.
The heart brain considers things from an emotional perspective. How do I feel about each of these options? Which one feels in alignment with bringing more love, joy and connection into my life? Which one am I drawn to with a sense of emotional excitement, longing and fulfillment? Our heart brain gives us information on what would help us feel happy, connected and loved. Heart brain information is often not logical, for example, think of the saying “the heart wants what the heart wants” which implies that the decision isn’t logical but is compelling and fulfilling.
Gut brains are tied into our sense of instinct and intuition. Our gut brain can tell us if something is right or wrong for us (which may not be right or wrong on a logical, head brain level). Gut brain information is more grounded in that 2nd and 3rd chakra energy of creativity and individuality. If you think of the phrase, “I had a gut feeling” it means you just knew it, without having the facts or logic to back it up. Our gut brains synthesize and provide information almost instantaneously. Oftentimes a feeling of deep knowing or a sense that something is the right decision comes from our gut brains.
Finally, there’s your pelvic brain. This brain is tied into our creative longing, what we are meant to do and create and be in this world. Our pelvic brain gets fired up when we think about an option that is in alignment with what we’re supposed to do in this world, what we desire to make, create or interact with. The pelvic brain says, “Yes, I want that so I can create magic with it.” Pelvic brain gives us information on what kind of transmutation work we are here to do and how we’re supposed to bring our unique, individual magic to the world.
When you have a decision to make or are thinking about taking action (or not taking action) make sure you tune into all four of your brains and see what they have to add to the conversation. It may be challenging at first to hear the wisdom of your heart, gut and pelvic brains because we’ve all been trained by modern society to only ask our head brains for an opinion, but I promise you those other brains are there, waiting for you to ask for their input, happy to give you the best possible guidance you can get — the wisdom of your own multifaceted ways of knowing.
I’m in the middle of doing research for my next book and I want to share some cool info about your nervous system and how you can change it for the better.
Many years ago when I read the book “The Holographic Universe” I remember being struck by a study by Alan Richardson where, “he took three groups of basketball players and tested their ability to make free throws. Then he instructed the first group to spend twenty minutes a day practicing free throws. He told the second group not to practice, and had the third group spend twenty minutes a day visualizing that they were shooting perfect baskets. As might be expected, the group that did nothing showed no improvement The first group improved 24 percent, but through the power of imagery alone, the third group improved an astonishing 23 percent, almost as much as the group that practiced.”
This idea stuck with me and later, when I was in my Occupational Therapy program, I read about how OTs and PTs were using what’s called “mental practice” to work with patients after strokes. This entails doing regular physical rehab and then doing additional mental visualizations of the same rehab task using “internal, cognitive polysensory images.” The results showed that those patients who did regular rehab plus mental practice had greater improvement than those doing regular rehab alone.
So, what’s going on here?
The gist of it is, our brains are meaning-making machines. They take information from our senses (sight, smell, healing, interception, etc) and decide what it means. Our brains are weaving a narrative out of disparate pieces of sensory info, and then matching that to our past experiences to create our “reality.” But here’s the twist: that info can come from the outside world (something we’re actually seeing or hearing) or it can come from the inside world (“internal, cognitive polysensory images’) and our brains don’t know the difference. That’s right, we can trick our nervous systems into thinking something is real just by imagining it well enough.
While most of the studies I’ve read talk about using this to make physical changes, like improving free throw score or improving arm use after a stroke, I decided to try using it to improve thought patterns, emotional states, and maladaptive belief systems.
My friends — it worked wonders.
Mental practice is a lot like guided imagery, but the key difference seems to be the polysensory aspect of the visualization. When we visualize doing an activity, it’s important to imagine what you’re perceiving with all of your senses. In last week’s post, I talked about bringing a caregiver character into your mind as a way to heal our inner critic voice. We can use the concepts of mental practice to not only make this a way to soothe ourselves in the moment, but to permanently change our nervous systems to a place of calm and safety.
Next time you imagine your caregiver, I want you to close your eyes, see your caregiver, and then check in with all of your senses in this visualization. What does your caregiver look like? What do they sound like? Do they have a scent? Where are you? Are you inside? Outside? What does your body feel like — is it relaxed? Heavy? Light? Can you feel anything on your skin — clothing? Wind? Imagine all of the sensory details that you can — the more, the better.
The more sensory details you can bring to this, the more your brain has no idea this is a visualization and the more it encodes it as “reality.” Which means, the next time you feel triggered, your brain will be able to call on this mental practice as a past real experience, as if it was something that really happened. And then — this is the really cool part — it will match the pattern of what’s happening (the “trigger”) to the past mental practice experience of having a wonderful caregiver and your nervous system will be soothed, it will have had the experience of a trigger, followed by the exact emotional care you needed, and it will automatically calm down and feel safe and relaxed.
Isn’t that the coolest?!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Like I said, I’m writing a whole chapter on this in my upcoming book and I’m excited to share more ways that I use the concept of mental practice in real life to rewire our trauma brain into a happy brain.
If you try this, let me know! I love hearing stories of how this went for you.
Ready to hear one of my secrets to happiness? This particular trick is one that combines scientific research with a spiritual practice, one of my favorite things to do.
This strategy is based on the work of Carol Dweck who researches “growth mindset” and how it can positively affect learning and self-esteem. I was first introduced to her work when I was a pediatric occupational therapist working with students with neurodivergence and learning disabilities and it made a huge difference for those students.
The basic idea of growth mindset is an awareness that your intelligence, capabilities and performance are malleable or changeable and can grow over time. (The opposite is a “fixed mindset” such as, “I’m just not good at math.”) You can change your intelligence and capabilities through putting in effort in order to learn and grow (and make mistakes) along the way. Dweck’s research shows that if we can feel good about the process of trying and putting in effort, rather than fixating solely on the result, it leads to more resilience, grit, and better self-esteem.
One of the key components of a growth mindset is learning how to enjoy the task itself and not just the outcome. If you can enjoy the process of trying to learn something new or achieve a goal, then you’re much more likely to stick with it and find satisfaction than if you’re only placing value on the end result — a.k.a. did I succeed or did I fail?
So, how do we shift from a fixed mindset into a growth mindset? The secret lies in a combination of Dweck’s scientific research and an age-old spiritual practice.
- Cultivate a growth mindset. Know that you CAN learn and grow — you are not “bad” at something, you are simply in the process of learning, practicing and evolving yourself into someone who is better at that thing. Make sure to recognize that there can be enjoyment not just in reaching a goal, but in the process of learning and growing as you work towards that goal.
- Practice mindfulness. When you learn how to be in the present moment and keep your mind and thoughts on whatever is right in front of you, you can more easily enjoy the process. If you are thinking ahead to whether this will succeed or fail or if you’re feeling stressed about if you’re doing it right, you won’t be able to enjoy the moment. Each moment we have can be enjoyable just for itself, regardless of what happens next. Working on a hard problem can even be fun, like a good challenge, when we’re not tied up in worrying about whether this particular effort will be the one that succeeds.
The science shows that both of these things — cultivating a growth mindset and practicing mindfulness — lead to the release of two “happy chemicals” in our brains, dopamine and serotonin. So, if you practice these things in tandem, you may find yourself with a very happy brain on an awesome natural high.
I should note that this shift to a growth mindset can be particularly hard for trauma survivors, especially those of us who grew up with parents with narcissistic or borderline personality disorder. The problem is that as children, our success at a task could often trigger our parent with NPD or BPD as we took the spotlight away from them, so we learned to keep much of our happiness under wraps. In addition, many of our behaviors and actions were centered around proactively preventing and avoiding narcissistic scorn or rage, so tasks were often filled with anxiety, hypervigilance and perfectionism, lest we “get it wrong” and trigger our parent. This made it quite difficult to enjoy the process.
Dweck asks us to look at if we have, “a fixed-mindset reaction when you face challenges. Do you feel overly anxious, or does a voice in your head warn you away? … Do you feel incompetent or defeated? … Do you become defensive, angry, or crushed instead of interested in learning from the feedback?” The type of learned helplessness that comes from growing up with a parent with NPD or BPD sounds very similar to what Dweck describes here. If this sounds like you, please give yourself extra grace and love when trying the process to shift that I describe above. A healthy boost of self-compassion and shadow work may be helpful, too.
If you try this process, I want to hear about what you find! Drop me a note and let me know, I’d love to hear from you.