The Four Brains
Head, Heart, Gut & Universal
Maybe there are more! There probably are. But if a brain is a “co-ordinating centre of sensation, intelligence, and nervous activity,” then I would say that we definitely have at least four.
The one in our heads is the least powerful. It might think it is the most clever, but I would say that it’s the most stupid! It thinks it’s running the show, but it’s really not. It likes to think it’s in charge, but that’s what gets it into trouble all the time. This brain is good at organization. It’s good at ordering things, putting things in boxes, making judgements, linear thinking. It loves timetables, schedules, diaries. It needs activity, and hates stillness, it wants to always be busy and productive and efficient. All these are healthy traits! If kept in balance, and not permitted to run amok.
Currently our Western culture really only values the head-brain, and that linear, systematic, approach to life. The unfortunate end result of this is the capitalist system, where profit and productivity are placed as having higher ranking than humanity and compassion, and consequently people suffer, because we are not robots who can just live sausage factory lives, repeating the same activities day after day. People who are good at logical, rational, dispassionate thinking thrive because they can disconnect from the bigger picture and stay focused on their end goal, but those who are more heart-driven or intuition-led, and not driven by the accumulation of material wealth and power, often end up struggling.
The “Second Brain,” as coined by Dr Michael Gershon, is found in your gut. Did you know that there are more neurotransmitters in your gut than in your brain? Around 50% of our dopamine receptors, and even more serotonin receptors. So when we talk about gut instinct or gut intuition, that’s a very real thing. It’s not some woolly concept, it has a basis in actual science. Having a healthy biome is so key to overall health. The gut and the first brain are communicating constantly in a kind of feedback loop through the vagus nerve, and when you’re making any decisions, if this relationship is strong and healthy, then your intuition and your logic will come to mutual agreement over what is the best way to proceed. Your logical mind knows it must listen to the intuition – that if it doesn’t there will be trouble. It learns to walk away from situations that don’t “feel right.” It learns to do things on a whim, just because it does “feel right.” By making the logical mind the servant of the intuition, you are actually making life simpler and more straight-forward for yourself. Your intuition knows if you want to do the washing up right now, crank out some emails, or take a break and go out for some fresh air.
Your intuition knows immediately when something (or someone!) doesn’t feel right, and you should go with that instinct. We don’t always, and then we unfortunately have to learn the hard way about what happens when we don’t. Your intuition always knows the right thing for you, if you can learn to stay connected with it. Our minds want to find reasons, they want to understand, they want rational explanations for everything, and they want to be able to put life in boxes, and tick items off lists. But unfortunately, life defies logic more often than not. Then we torture ourselves, trying to “work it out,” worrying about the right answer, when all we actually need to do is trust our gut instinct and accept that sometimes, it’s beyond the logical mind’s capacity to understand, at least in that present moment.
Serotonin and dopamine are the two main chemicals in the body that affect happiness, so the levels of happiness someone experiences on a daily basis are really down to what’s happening in the gut. I would say the two main ways to create a healthy gut are firstly, to avoid stress, and secondly, to include lots of fermented foods in the diet. Stress impacts the biome negatively. We are more bacteria than cells, remember? It’s so key that we treat these bacteria well, and stress depletes them so they can’t do their job properly. It’s normal in the West to lead stressful lives and just accept that as inevitable, but the more we can find ways to create unstressful lifestyles, and the more we can learn ways to effectively deal with stress triggers when they do arise, the better we will be managing our lives. This stress is so damaging to our guts, but also our hearts, as we’ll see in a minute, and I think one of the main ways we stay disconnected. Stress keeps us in a mind-brain treadmill, and the longer we stay in it, the more our hearts and our guts become exhausted and depressed. Fermented foods, as I’m sure you’re aware by now, encourage the proliferation of healthy bacteria, and enjoying fermented foods and drinks daily truly is a life-changing practice to take up. If you’re not already making your own fermented beverages (kefir, kombucha or jun), I would strongly urge you to take up the habit.
The Third Brain is the heart. The electromagnetic field of the heart is 60 times stronger than that of the head-brain. That’s so wow! That’s why falling in love is so tricky – a whole other brain comes into play, and it’s one that we are not used to paying attention to. When we fall in love, suddenly all these new signals and messages come into our awareness, and that often throws us off balance, because we have been relying too heavily on our minds to make decisions. New research shows that the heart is an important centre for processing information – and I would say, one that is actually 60 times stronger than the brain, if we allowed it to function fully instead of suppressing it most of the time. The researchers believe that that is how Reiki and other energy healing methods work, by using heart energy to communicate information from the healer to the client. The electromagnetic field of the heart doesn’t need people to be close to share information, it can communicate over great distances.
The best ways to strengthen our hearts, I believe, are self-love, diets high in magnesium, and living without fear. When we begin this holistic journey, we probably aren’t aware of it, but it really is a journey of self-love. It’s a path of acceptance, of allowing all that we are, of treating ourselves respectfully, honouring ourselves as unique and wonderful beings, and expecting that others do the same. The more we nurture and take care of ourselves on a cellular level, through nutrition, detox, yoga, mindfulness, and all the many other practices available to us, we enter further into this love relationship with ourselves. My favourite self-love practice is Amaroli, which I have been doing intermittently for over a decade (if you don’t know what it is, look it up!).
Magnesium, you may know, is the main mineral that is used by the heart. But did you also know that stress leeches magnesium and calcium from the cells? Thus we can see on a biological level, how fear and love are in opposition. Fear energy comes from the kidneys, which is where the adrenals are sited. When we feel fearful – over our homes, our jobs, the world situation, about a parking ticket, a rude email, an unpleasant encounter – insulin and cortisol kick in, and we are denying the heart the magnesium it needs to function. So diets high in magnesium help keep the heart strong and open, even under stress. Cacao is the best heart-opener – not just because of all that magnesium, but also the anandamide it contains. It’s so vital at this time that we strengthen our hearts, and don’t buy into the fear. Avoid the mainstream media as much as you can; it’s such a one-sided view of the world, and it only becomes the consensus reality if we allow it. Put all your energies into creating a new paradigm that isn’t about a repressed gut, a shut-down heart, an out of control head, and a disconnected universal mind, but do your bit to put more balance in the world.
The fourth brain is universal intelligence that runs through every living thing. It can take charge when we learn to allow and to surrender. I try every day just to show up, to remind my logical mind that it is not the one running the show, and to give thanks and to put my faith in my fourth brain to create a wonderful day for me. I keep my logical brain active with lots of tasks, organising the home and the boys and my business, but this is just to keep it out of trouble, so I’m not giving it a chance to start to worry and doubt. While my mind is busy doing what it loves to do (Putting things in order! Ticking things off lists!), I tune into what my gut is telling me about my immediate environment, and use my heart’s compass to direct my day.
And at some point, seemingly unrelated to my activity and independent of it – but actually as a clear response to my “tone,” my harmonious energy system, I attract in little miracles and moments of wonder. Things that I couldn’t have thought of with my mind; things that my heart dreamed of but didn’t have words for; things that my gut responds to with those beautiful butterflies of joy. It seems almost disingenuous to call it MY brain, but it is a brain that we share, another “co-ordinating centre of sensation, intelligence, and nervous activity,” that is available to us all.
When these three centres are operating in harmony, then we begin to access the Fourth Brain. This is truly where the magic lies. When I interviewed Rehmannia recently, he told me that “tonic herbs” and the concept of tonifying the system comes from Hippocrates, and the idea that the body centres must work in harmony and everyone carries a tone that the herbs tune up, if you like. This was an a-ha moment for me. That’s what we mean when we talk about resonance; a harmony between heart, mind and gut. A balance, where mind is making decisions based on what heart and gut is telling it. Where mind doesn’t overrule what the heart yearns for and the gut feels, but navigates through life seeking paths that strengthen and nourish these two equally important sense organs. Mind can still create order and look for patterns, but it does that based on the information it is receiving from within, not despite it. It’s a delicate juggling act, which demands constant presence and awareness; we can’t just blindly run off ahead of ourselves (which the mind loves to do), without weighing up a more holistic sense of what will make us happy. We also need to stick firmly committed to our practice, because in our out of balance world, not being ruled by our logic is often seen as crazy; I would say it’s the reverse….
But when we master the art of creating a harmonious tone in the body’s energy systems, then the universe responds with music of its own. Superintelligence kicks in! This is way beyond our present comprehension. I could write pages and pages on the synchronicities that happen daily in my life. Today, I went into the health food store (which I don’t often go in – I usually get one of the boys to go for me, but they were all out), and picked up three items, and randomly went to a check-out, and the guy recognized me. He said that he had just recommended my store to someone earlier that day, and then here I am. I had never met him in person before, he didn’t even know that I lived in the area and this was my local store, as he was new. He was a little freaked out, but I just told him it was magic. How did I know to go to the store on that very day, and go to that very till. It was my fourth brain! And that’s just a tiny example, these kind of things happen every single day, and I have many more tales that are so way more complex than that, that even a genius would have problems devising them.
My last revelation as I piece all this together, is that the more that we are aware of the interdependence of all things, the more it becomes imperative that we keep our core energy strong. When we realise how much effect we have on our external environment, how much we truly are the architects of our realities, we know that we must be very careful what signals we give out and what tone we are resonating at, because we will attract that back to us. If I want to experience peace, bliss, joy and wonder daily (and I, for one, do), then I must cultivate that within myself. When I am not finding it, I must seek it out, not by complaining or rallying against the circumstances I find myself in, but by altering my tone, finding a deeper harmony, and in so doing, I will shift the response from the universe. Whenever I want something to change, it may well look to my logical mind like I am not doing anything wrong, and it’s the outside world that is at fault and needs to change! But experience has shown me that I need to shift my vibration and then the situation miraculously resolves itself. If it is not resonant, it can’t exist around me. So this is the beautiful paradox at the heart of my understanding – that the more fully embedded and centred in my core I become, impervious to the ups and downs of life, the more I become plugged into something far greater than myself, free to flow with the magic and mysteries.