You probably heard already that brain and body are connected, right? Well, it turns out that the powerful forces that keep our bodies healthy are in essence the same forces that keep our individual brains healthy, and the ‘cultures’ in which we operate (our homes, our workplaces, our institutions) thriving.
It all boils down to the quality of CONNECTION – within us, between us, around us.
Our need for connection is arguably the most powerful force in the universe, according to renowned executive coach, author and academic Judith E. Glaser. I attended a learning session with her recently at the World Executive & Business Coach Summit. She is proving with her work at executive and organizational level around the world that we have indeed a lot to learn from nature if we are to thrive as individuals and create a better global future.
And it goes like this: At cellular level, active connection and communication between our cells is a sign of biological health. Healthy cells are sensitive to each other, differentiate to fulfill specific functions and navigate together. At a human group level, healthy cultures are also those that actively communicate and co-create, sharing a common vision and growing in diversity and mutual support.
And WE hold the key, as individuals, every moment, with THE WAY WE CHOOSE TO INTERACT WITH OTHERS. Listen to this: Every single interaction we have with others is creating physical changes in our brains and bodies!Through the hormones we choose to activate or down-regulate in our bodies and those of the people we are talking to. And I say we ‘choose’, because we do have a choice in the quality of the connections we create. We literally have the power to determine whether we produce more cortisol or oxytocin, at every moment. We can rebalance the presence of these hormones in our bodies, which in turn improves the functioning of our brain, how well we navigate our lives (literally and figuratively), the life we co-create, now and in future.
More cortisol (stress hormone) means we are closed up, resistant in the conversation, defensive, distrustful of the other, holding back, judgmental, pretending to listen, not present to their needs, knowing it all and telling the other what’s right. This is the place of fear.
When we are open and curious about the other, creating an atmosphere of trust, mutual interest and appreciation, actively wanting to connect and share, listening for truth and deep longing, feeling safe and free to express, and to discover and learn from the other, finding ways to create together…. then we are producing oxytocin – the bonding hormone. This is the place of no fear – of love even!
This is precisely the space from which we interact in coaching. You want better insights and ideas? It is precisely this type of interaction that activates the ‘clear thinking’ areas of the brain. You want to enrich your emotional vocabulary? Then tap into this space, to activate the innate wisdom of your heart (the ‘other’ brain, as it is emerging). This is the place where integration is possible.
With this kind of connection, as Judith Glaser explains, we ‘breathe life into each other’. We are, in effect, helping each other bloom. We just have to be mindful, pay attention, consider every interaction important, sacred even. We have to try and connect from that place within ourselves where we are open: to not knowing, to being surprised, to experimenting, to what is.
Yes, it is very much the Zen ‘seeing with fresh eyes’, every time. This is transformational. And it renews our capacity for awe.