Posts Tagged ‘IPNB’

I like to read books which change my life. Lots of books do that for me. In fact, the books I enjoy most are those which do just that, the ones which open up new ways of thinking to me, new ways of seeing, expand my understanding, stimulate my creativity, books which, once I’ve read them, my world is not the same.
I’ve read a lot of books like that, and if you browse this blog reading the posts in the category “from the reading room” you’ll find reviews of several of them.
I’ve just read another. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt this excited reading a particular book. It’s Dan Siegel’s “The Mindful Therapist” [ISBN 978-0393706451]
Now, I haven’t come to this book cold. I’ve read, first of all, his “Mindsight” [ISBN 978-1851687619] (and if you’re inspired to explore this body of work I recommend you start with that), his “The Mindful Brain” [ISBN 978-0393704709], and “The Developing Mind” [ISBN 978-1572307407], before I got hold of this, his latest book, “The Mindful Therapist”.

I’m also well into his online course which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

So, a lot of the concepts in this “Mindful Therapist” were already familiar to me before I opened it up – the idea of the mind as “an embodied, relational process of regulation of energy and information flow”,  the idea of the triangle of wellness – mind, brain and relationships, the understandings from neuroscience of integrated function of differentiated parts, of the key roles of the midfrontal cortex, and of neuroplasticity,  and the practices of the wheel of awareness and other meditations
Despite my familiarity with all of that, and more, this particular book has blown me away. I’ve already begun to introduce patients to the idea of health as a flowing, adaptive, coherent, energised, stable river, with the opposite banks of chaos and rigidity which we end up on when we become unwell.

I’ve begun to share with some patients the deceptively simple wheel of awareness meditation. But now, I’ve got a whole new level of insight.
Into this familiar mix, which Dan expands and reinforces throughout “The Mindful Therapist”, he gives exercises in self-discovery, and models of personality and behaviour which I’ve never seen described elsewhere. I’ve said before I’ve got a synthetic brain – always making links, seeing patterns, associations, expanding through increasing connections – well, I’m pretty sure that’s how Dan’s brain works too. He draws on insights from a multiplicity of disciplines and together, (in a “consilient” way), they create a whole which is way greater than its parts.
If you’re a health professional of any kind, I urge you to read this book. You practice, your life, won’t be the same again. You’ll find new depths as well as new horizons.

Read Full Post »

I’ve long held that a way of thinking about health is to use the concept of flow. When the various different aspects of our selves and our lives integrate in a coherent way we experience flow – good energy, good vitality, strength, the feeling of being alive (there are many ways to describe it)


I recently came across an interesting expansion of this idea when I read “Mindsight” by Dan Siegel (ISBN 978-0553804706).
He describes health as being like a flowing river and he says the river has two banks, either of which we tend to drift towards as we become unwell.
One bank is rigidity, and the other is chaos.

It’s true. We can see that in some illnesses we are stuck, caught in loops, trapped in ever decreasing circles which shrink our world. What should be flowing has become solidified, sluggish, frozen, or blocked.
In complexity terms, this kind of pattern exists around “point attractors”. You’ll be familiar with point attractors in the universe; they are the black holes which suck everything into them. Nothing escapes.
In other illnesses everything seems to fall to pieces, life itself falls apart and we find ourselves lost, or overwhelmed with confusion. We don’t know who we are, or where we are, and we don’t know how to find a way out.
In complexity terms, this kind of patterns exists as a “chaos attractor”, a zone of chaos where there are no clear patterns but which somehow maintains itself.

Which of the patterns are most familiar to you?



or Chaos?

sea path

Healing involves a release from these states – from rigidity, or chaos, to flow.

Read Full Post »

The ocean of the mind



The wheel of awareness

big wheel

rose window

I’ve recorded a guided mindfulness meditation practice here.

Read Full Post »

Dan Siegel who has created an area of understanding known as Interpersonal Neurobiology makes the point that most mental health professionals have not been taught a definition of the mind, and, often, aren’t clear about what good mental health looks like.

He answers these issues as follows –

His definition of mind is that –

mind is an embodied, inter-relational process of regulation of the flow of energy and information

His definition of well-being is the integrated flow of energy and information. He explains that health is like a free flowing river with two banks, one of which is rigidity, and the other, chaos. We veer towards one or other of the two banks as we make our way through life.

He uses a three-aspect model of well-being to explore this, the three aspects being the mind, the brain and relationships.

I like this definition. What do you think? Is this an interesting way to think about the mind?

In some ways, this builds on the ideas of embodied and extended minds by writers such as Varela, OgleClark and others.

Read Full Post »

Is meditation about stopping the mind?

Is it about emptying the mind?

I used to think it was one of those, and I couldn’t for the life of me manage to ever stop my mind. In fact, I couldn’t even figure out how I’d know if my mind had stopped! The same applied to emptying. My mind might often be full of trivia or nonsense, but that’s not the same as it being empty. Seemed too difficult to me.

Then I learned that it wasn’t about emptying the mind at all. It was about noticing what was going on, and letting it pass right on. I learned it wasn’t about stopping the mind at all. It was about enabling it to flow.

As Dan Siegel says, a healthy mind is an integrated mind. Like a river, it flows. He uses the metaphor of a river with two banks, one of which is rigidity, and the other is chaos. We veer towards one or other bank as we travel through life. When we’re well, we are neither stuck in a narrow, trapped place, nor are we falling to pieces, into disintegration. Rather, we’re flowing.

How do we do that? Well, one useful technique is to meditate regularly. I meditate twice a day, for 20 minutes each time, but there’s no strict rule about that. If you can, take a few minutes, at least once every single day, and quietly try a meditation exercise. There are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation. Essentially, it’s a method which allows you to become aware of the content of your mind. Dan Siegel in his “The Mindful Brain” (ISBN 978-0393704709) includes a script he uses with his patients to introduce them to a couple of ways to begin meditation. I’ve recorded his script here.

Just click on the link to hear it.

The basic technique is to become aware of breathing in, and breathing out, and to return the focus of your attention to your breathing every time you become aware that your mind has drifted off to consider something else.

Dan includes two great metaphors. The metaphor of the sea of the mind, where below the surface your awareness lies, calm and peaceful, and from where you can observe all the activities of the mind up there on the surface, coming and going and like the waves. The other is a “wheel of awareness”, with your awareness as the hub of a wheel, the spokes of the wheel being the direction of attention you send towards the rim, and the rim being made up of the five senses which bring the outside world into your mind, the sixth sense, which is the inner state of your body and its component parts, the seventh sense, which is the content of your mind, and even the eighth sense, which is your attunement to others.

I hope you find some of this helpful.

If you’d like to know more about Dan Siegel, and his understanding of the mind, I’d recommend you read “Mindsight”, or download it as an audiobook. (ISBN 978-0553804706)

You’ll never see things the same old way again.

Read Full Post »