Numerous business and scientific articles have recently focused on breath work and mind-body explorations for increased effectiveness in the workplace and in navigating the lives we lead. It’s as though the business world has finally caught on to the fact that our brains work of behalf of our bodies. In fact, multiple presenters at the 2019 Mindful Leader Summit said it most convincingly. “Our brains work on behalf of our bodies to ensure we are nourished and cared for.”
Author Lisa Feldman Barrett (How Emotions Are Made), argues that a main purpose of the brain is to read the body, and to regulate what she calls the body budget. “You might think that in everyday life, the things you see and hear influence what you feel, but it’s mostly the other way around: What you feel alters your sight and hearing.”
Our bodies are composed of a mass of neurons and receptors that provide constant feedback on what we are experiencing. Much to my chagrin, New York Times op-ed by David Brooks, a conservative political and cultural commentator, write about a topic I discuss in mindfulness and yoga classes: the vagus nerve and it connection to our well-being.
Amazing! I could not have said it better than Mr. Brooks, “The vagus nerve is one of the pathways through which the body and brain talk to each other in an unconscious conversation. Much of this conversation is about how we are relating to others. Human thinking is not primarily about individual calculation, but about social engagement and cooperation.”
The vagus nerve along with every neuron pathway that runs throughout the body are part of every action and decision we make, how we interact with our colleagues and staff members and how we create a collaborative environment to achieve business goals. One we learn to recognize and tap into what we yogis call “the subtle body,” the more effective we will be as leaders and team members.
Neuroscience now tells us that we each have three brains. Our “mind” brain is great for thinking, creativity and cognitive activities. Our heart brain is meant to take the lead on emotional processing, on our values and connections to others. Our gut brain is where we find our sense of self preservation, our sense of self and taking action. It is where we find our courage to speak out and to act as leaders.
Listening to our bodies is key to finding the inner strength and resilience we need to lead with confidence, clarity and compassion. Mind-body practices simulate the challenges and encounters we face everyday in the workplace and in our personal live. Much like “muscle memory,” your response to somatic or physical practices becomes part of your “brain memory” that you can draw upon when needed. In essence, we need to listen more to what we feel rather than rationalizing a decision from a long list of pros and cons.