Serenity in an Age of Anxiety

Neuroconnections            Five-year old Addie often needed something in the middle of the night. Sometimes it was a glass of water or a reassuring hug.  Often a nightmare required immediate discussion and analysis.  Unfortunately, her father got cranky if she woke him up and her mom was a heavy sleeper. Addie had limited options but she also had needs. Reluctantly, she tiptoed into her parent’s room and lightly shook her mom.  Startled, her mom would jump up and scare both of them.


One night she stood over her sleeping mother contemplating once again, how to best wake her. She stared at her mom weighing her options and her mother woke up. Addie was astonished!  She projected what she needed from her mind to her mother’s and the results were magical. From that point on, whenever she needed something in the middle of the night, she stared at her mom until she woke up. Five year old Addie had accidentally encountered and tapped into the ‘extended mind’.


Jean Piaget, the renowned Swiss psychologist, discovered that children under the age of ten or eleven mistakenly believed their minds were capable of extending beyond their own heads and into the world around them. After eleven they assimilated the “correct” materialist view that thoughts are in their head. Traditional societies and spiritual traditions all over the world agree with the pre-adolescents that minds and souls reach out beyond the body but modern scientists are split. Some insist that your feelings, memories and identity are no more than the firings of an interconnected web of neurons in your brain while quantum theory and other scientific research supports the theory that all minds are connected. [1]


Scientists will continue to debate the nature of reality but we have all experienced or at least heard of examples of the extended mind. Bill felt so unsettled one day, he canceled his afternoon schedule and rushed home only to find his partner unconscious on the floor after a freak accident. We have all thought of a friend or long lost cousin only to have them contact us shortly thereafter. Beyond these everyday occurrences, why is the extended mind important?


The extended mind is a manifestation of our connectedness.  Proof we are not alone or separate from those around us. All the religious, political, gender, racial and economic differences that we think separates people are completely irrelevant to the extended mind. Everyone is in the club. So, if you feel disenfranchised or abandoned, don’t let your brain fool you. People can exclude and treat you like an outsider but you are part of the extended mind no matter how anyone behaves. Knowing we are all connected opens up a world of possibilities. Maybe your day-to-day life will not shift immediately but the realization that we are all connected, over time, changes everything.

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[1] Sheldrake, R. The Sense of Being Stared At : and other aspects of the extended mind.  (Crown Publishers 2003)

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