Whole Life Magazine

August / September 2016

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/709470

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Page 23 of 43

I T'S BEEN A ROUGH YEAR SO FAR. From terrorist attacks to coups, a surreal presidential race and heart-rending police shootings, we've been confront- ed with narratives that challenge our belief systems on weighty topics like peace, race, culture and religion. In person, we o en say little about these topics to colleagues and acquain- tances, but on social media we let loose in an echo chamber, liking and sharing articles and vid- eos that reinforce our beliefs while either avoiding or disagreeing with those who think diff erently. A recent Pew Charitable Trust poll shows that 55 percent of Dem- ocrats and 49 percent of Republi- cans see the opposing party as "a threat to the nation's well-being," and that was before the height- ened emotions of presidential conventions. Among those ac- tively engaged in politics, the numbers are signifi cantly higher on both sides. And any visit to Facebook shows the rise of #BlackLivesMatter has revealed a steep division between those who get the concept of the poet Langston Hughes' place at the table and those who think, "Everyone already has a table, so what's the problem?" Yet this polarization actually has roots in our own bodies, in the biology of our brains. By under- standing a bit about neuroscience, we can learn to overcome our blind spots and accelerate our growth. We can embrace the perspectives of other people and cul- tures, making life in L.A. and on the planet a richer, more loving and inclusive experience for all. "Brain development isn't about building memory, it's about changing our understanding of ourselves and others," said Kath- leen Taylor, an adult learning and development expert, Fulbright scholar and professor at Saint Mary's College of California. "Your brain can't fully understand something it has never before expe- rienced. Clearly, if we are going to change our minds, we have to fi gure out how to change our brains." YOUR BRAIN, IMPATIENT AND STRUNG OUT Since the 17th century, brain the- ory has mostly aligned with the rational, scientifi c worldview of the philosopher René Des- cartes. e brain was seen as a machine, analogous to the high-tech wonders of the day, whether the automobile or the computer. But recent advances in neuroscience and robotics have shi ed our understanding. As Andy Clark, a noted cognitive scien- tist, wrote, "We simply miscon- strued the nature of intelligence itself… e biological mind is, fi rst and foremost, an organ for con- trolling the biological body... Minds are not disembodied logical reasoning devices." Researchers have come to understand that the brain prioritizes quick responses to keep the body safe—fi ght, freeze or fl ight style—and to op- erate effi ciently, as our brains, when awake, use up to 25 percent of our body's energy. Quick responses rely on longstanding associations of experiences with emotions, leading to the well-traveled highways in our Rewiring Our Brains for a Better World How neuroscience and adult learning theory can help repair our fractured culture By Katie Sandberg 24 wholelifetimes.com

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