Brene Brown explains in her book Rising Strong, that our brains like to find certainty in things over correct facts. This is big. This is why we easily fall back onto our default stories when we face conflict, or our default coping mechanisms when we face things we are not expecting.
We don’t like uncertainty.
So, I had a great interview for a beautiful retreat centre in Tofino this morning. The Homestead has wicked values, holistic views of health, and after chatting with Cheryl, one of the owners who has phenomenal values as a nurse embodying easter and western philosophies of healing– I learned about a concept called Blue Mind.
Blue Mind: A mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.
It’s a concept about how the mind is effortlessly calmed when attention is engaged around water. It’s not too dissimilar from the concept Shinrin Yoku (“forest bathing”/nature therapy) that I am head over heels in love and living.
The basics of this concept that The Homestead integrates into their program design, is that as the mind gets engaged in observing the flux of nature, it doesn’t draw on the grasping definity that often is initiated in busy city life (that Brene describes). In the city, there’s maximum unpredictability; traffic, loud unnatural sounds, things we can’t control. Although nature is similarly untamed, it has a certain level of ebb and flow that rubs on our psyche with predictability.
Waves come crashing and flow into flat water.
Clouds billow with the wind, patterning a sky with pillows for birds.
In a natural environment on or near water, there’s a high degree of predictability — unlike a busy street, a body of water is largely the same from moment to moment. The background we see is fairly controlled, which allows part of the brain to relax.
Against that consistent background, the brain continues to search for something that wasn’t there before, since the essence of survival is the correct interpretation of things that don’t fit in the landscape. When the brain notices a disturbance on the surface (like a wave or a water bird), there’s a sense of surprise and novelty, which is accompanied by a pleasurable hit of dopamine.
Because bodies of water change and stay the same simultaneously, we experience both soothing familiarity and stimulating novelty when we look at them. This is regularity without monotony, the perfect recipe for triggering a state of involuntary attention in which the brain’s default network — essential to creativity and problem solving — gets triggered. This dreamy state of involuntary attention is a key characteristic of Blue Mind.
This is so cool. This is why our bodies need nature, this is why I’d sit by a lake (most) any day over watching (even) Mitch Hedberg on youtube as relaxation. I mean, there’s place and purpose for all things in life, so not to discount The Man by any means, but hey – if we’re at least 60+% water, why not sit by it and breathe for a bit instead of busying ourselves to over-engaging!
(and wish me luck for the job – oh it feels right)