Neurofeedback as a Path of Self-development – A Zen-ish Approach to Neurofeedback TrainingZengar Institute Inc.
People pursue neurofeedback for many reasons. The common denominator for most can be distilled to a desire to minimize suffering on some level. This, of course, is a very natural human drive, and a powerful use of neurofeedback. Many others are interested in Neurofeedback as a way to optimize functioning and performance.
In this blog post I want to explore some of the other benefits and opportunities available by pursuing neurofeedback, specifically NeurOptimal®, as a goalless practice. To be clear I’m not saying that all goals are bad, or that goal-setting is not powerful and valid. To explore alternate paradigms can also yield many treasures and insights. So lets explore!
Why approach neurofeedback as a goalless practice?
- Goals can keep us so narrowly focused that we may not even notice shifts that arise outside of our target focus.
- Really specific goals can keep us stressed out with constant scrutiny on our progress, whether that is happening fast enough, meeting our expectations etc. Goals can keep us too much in our heads, stressed out, distracted and overthinking.
- Approaching our training without goals, frees us to focus on the journey rather than the destination. To be fully in the inquiry. This shift from narrow focus to a more open focus makes it easier to notice any subtle shifts that may be arising.
To drop our goals, is to learn to shift the paradigm from one of trying to gain something, to that of letting go. Releasing all that is not necessary, all that stresses us out and gets in the way of states of flow, presence and ease and paradoxically can make it harder to achieve our goals.
In other words: Letting go of everything! Especially our stories. Our stories are often driven by fear, filtered through the lens of our personal experiences, beliefs and conditioning. Leading many of us to suffer and burn out under the weight of these stories and our efforts to control outcomes.
Entering a goalless practice involves letting go of our need to control. The flip side of the need to control, is lack of trust. A lack of trust that we can actually let go of these control efforts and still get our needs and goals met.
To break free requires trust. We will never be able to loosen our efforts at control if we are not willing to trust. In this context, it’s not trust in NeurOptimal®, or your Trainer, but rather trust in yourself. A deep trust in the inherent self-organizing wisdom of your central nervous system. Trusting that it knows best what it needs, and knows how to use the feedback information to its best advantage.
In our neurofeedback sessions it means entering training in a state of being present and curious, simply enjoying the journey. To paraphrase the words of Shinichi Tohei Sensei founder of Ki-Aikido-to approach our training and in turn our lives with a Spirit like that of a mild Spring breeze, where everything is fresh and new, is best. In other words when we drop all stories, labels, ideas, judgments, goals etc, we then meet the world fresh and new in each and every moment, instead of through the many layers of mind and its old narratives. Navigating the world through our stories and our past experience removes us from simple, direct experience, and thus we experience our lives through our stories about reality, instead of reality itself.
For me the greatest gift of dropping everything is it puts us in flow. Not as a goal to achieve or something to attain, but rather something to be revealed. An innate potential that resides within each of us. Flow states naturally happen when we eliminate the blocks that get in the way of their natural unfolding.
Nothing blocks flow more than overthinking, fear, and the need to predict outcomes in advance. These can be seen as forms of resistance. A kind of contraction of the body/mind. The opposite of letting go.
Another benefit to this way of being is presence. When we are in flow, we are not thinking about the past or the future, we are fully engaged in this present moment. Full presence means fully embodied. Free of thought and our stories, we are more aware of our emotions, bodily sensations, subtle energies, and intuition. Resting in present moment awareness, our center of gravity begins to move from the head and closer to the heart. The subject/object duality begins to drop, what is left is a sense of unity and connection.
Entering this state of flow, presence and connection is our original and natural state, unless we do something to block it and get in the way. To live from this state means living from a state of grace, ease and joy. States that are really impossible to achieve through effort, control and fear.
This doesn’t mean our lives will be free of the inevitable ups and downs, and challenges we all face in life. It means we can more elegantly flow with the inevitable ups and downs of life. Instead of resisting them, creating stories around them and making them more challenging than they have to be.
The analogy I like to use is of standing in a powerful surf. We can brace ourselves against the impact of the waves, as they pound on us, beating us up and wearing us out, or we can grab a surfboard and have fun! Not trying to dominate the powerful waves, but in a state of surrender, fully present, in perfect flow with the rise and fall of the swells.
Our lives can be the same way. To be in resistance to our lives through fear and control causes suffering and stress. To surrender it all, to be in the journey, to have a mindset of trust can remove the blockages that get in the way of that ease and flow. Opening us up to opportunities we may not have seen before, connecting with others in powerful ways that also tends to bring opportunities and resources our way.
Its ironic that many of the things we do to try to have a life that meets our goals, can oftentimes be the same things that prevent us from achieving our goals. It’s like going through our lives with our foot on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. Letting go is taking our foot off the brake.
I realize to surrender and trust are big and scary things to ask people to consider doing. We can start in small ways and take baby steps. In my opinion the easiest and most powerful way to do that is to run that experiment with NeurOptimal®. Simply approach sessions with an open mind. Goals replaced by curiosity about the journey, and trust in the deepest part of ourselves. The part that knows exactly what to do. There is really nothing to lose in giving that a try in our neurofeedback sessions. In letting go we may discover a powerful new way of being in the world. One of ease, grace and flow. Not something we gained or achieved through effort, but something that naturally arises once the blocks to its unfolding are removed.
This quote popped in my head and seems appropriate to end on.
“I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the Universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves”
When we choose to see the Universe as a friendly place, we can more readily trust, play, connect, let go of fear, leave our stories behind, feel safe in the uncertainty, resting in the present. Surfing the reality of each and every moment, in flow with the rhythms of our lives.