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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How Our Brains are Wired to Miss the Magic

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 27th 2012

broken brainSometime early on in life I brain believes it has it all figured out. We know who our mom is, we know who our Dad is, our brothers and sisters if we have them, we have our friends figured out and we even have our beliefs about different cultures. These crystallize in our memory so each of these people becomes an object to be referenced in the present moment. This is called top-down processing and while it can be helpful in helping us react at hyper speed to the vast array of stimuli coming at us moment-to-moment, it also causes us to miss what is precious in daily life.

Take this video for example

Clearly the audience had no idea, there was judgment written all over their face. They didn’t for a second question that judgment it was automatic. They had it all figured out based on this women’s appearance and the way she talked. Their brains calculated what was taken in and said, “Ha, no way, this is going to be hysterical.” 

But what happened, quite the opposite, she turned out to be an extra-ordinary human being and singer. Susan Boyle is now a phenomenon that reinforces the popular cliché don’t judge a book by its cover. 

However, that’s the way the brain is set up, to constantly be judging books by their covers and so the question remains, how much of life are we missing out on as a result of this automaticity? 

Today, practice taking a beginner’s mind to the people that you meet. In the checkout line, see if you can put your judgments aside and see everyone as a person just like you. What do you notice that’s different? Maybe you end up with a more genuine smile toward the checkout clerk. This smile activates a sense of feeling good. 

When you encounter a person of a different color, race or religion, how about practicing the same thing. Bring a beginner’s mind, practicing bottom-up processing. What is it about this person that you may have missed in the past? Are you able to notice more commonalities now? 

How many Susan Boyle’s are out there that we miss? 

When we’re able to sense the true connection between all people, that we have more in common than different as human beings, we begin to feel better and I believe, open the space to make the world a better place.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Connecting With One Another - Janet Singer - Mar 1st 2012

Excellent post......the older I get (and I'm getting up there!) the more I realize there is magic in each and every one of us. First impressions are often wrong and when we take the time to talk with and show interest in other people, we often learn surprising things about them.

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