Cultivating Gratitude(part 2)

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Kyle Shiver INHA

Kyle Shiver INHA

Did you know that our thought patterns are actual physical parts of our brains? They are called neural pathways. As we develop in life, each time we learn something new or have a different experience, we create new neural pathways, or “things that we know”. Along with learning a new thing, we also have association with whatever it may be, a word, or an experience. So if I ask you to remember your first day of your senior year in high school, you can! You will go back to that neural pathway where the memory is stored, and also the associations. You may have negative or positive associations attached to this neural pathway. Not only are the memories stored, but feelings or associations are stored too. So if you feel negative a lot, if you are a “glass half empty” kind of person, it is because you have simply created all these negative pathways in your brain.

Here is a personal example; It was suggested of me to build a shrine to myself. Photographs, diploma’s, awards, and in my case, music posters and such. I thought the idea sounded absurd, but I did it anyway. I even got frames and framed all the covers of the cd’s I’ve recorded over the years. It wasn’t long before I began to see a pattern that had established with me long ago, and watch it thread all the way up to current time. You see, every time I looked at one of the cd covers, I’d say “I couldn’t give those dang things away”, or “I ruined that one when we mixed the tracks”. I looked at them and frowned, instead of smiling. Basically, I spat on all my life’s work. Instead of remembering all the wonderful positive times and adventures I’d had, and all the great stories that went along with each cd, I could only see bad. Because of my tendency to think in a negative way, I had developed negative associations with pretty much everything I’d ever done.

Here’s the really interesting part. Even if you don’t consciously think about past events, they are still with you. Everything stays with you. So if you have negative thought neural pathways, and you have many things that you have negative associations with, you are unconsciously carrying around a lot of negative energy. If this is the case, you are probably not brimming with gratitude. Even more important, is that even though you know about this, you will still do it if you aren’t careful. These pathways have become a well grooved, natural occurrence. They have become your general disposition.

After years of negative thinking, it takes time and persistent effort to change these pathways. New roads have to be built, and it isn’t so easy. If you are a generally negative person, we are talking about an entire change in your psyche, and this is a pretty big deal.

So what to do? I went one cd at a time, one photograph at a time, and I remembered all the good things. I remembered writing the songs, and all the people who were in my life at the time. I remembered all the fun I had traveling around the country, and playing my songs for anyone that would listen. This is the mental work of creating new neural pathways, and it can be done for any of your past experiences. You can go back and change your perception of anything that has ever happened to you, and this creates brand new, and positive neural pathways in the brain, and the positive associations to go along with them. When you create a new neural pathway for a past experience, and you leave the old one alone, it will actually die. The negative neural pathway will die, leaving the new positive pathway!

If you feel that you are a negative, glass half empty kind of person, then you probably are. The only way to rid yourself of negative energy is to examine your past, find all negativity, and build some new pathways!

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