One of my fascinating classmates brought in huge blocks of clay...we had our 3 hour class on "ethnography and conflict" and rather than taking notes on our laptops, we sculpted bones. These bones are going to be placed, I believe on the Mall in Washington DC to represent the victims of genocide. First of all, I'm not ever sure I've sculpted a bone and doing so with the thought of genocide victims in mind was harrowing.
To talk about genocide while "touching" the bones felt surreal. Sometimes there are no words.
So, yesterday spent an hour listening to Dr. Rudy Tanzi-- neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and leading scientist on Alzheimer's genes. He talked about how to have a SUPER BRAIN-- teaching folks how to avert the angoisse of the disease while raising money for PBS. All good causes. Surprised to find myself learning some related to narrative -- to language and conflict. Now, it seems that even Harvard Medical School is on board with the idea that breathing, meditation, intentionality and mental focus all play a role in health and wellness. Terrific news. And he said something that just made me go POP! BANG! WOW! ZING! ...so in narrative approaches to conflict resolution we often discuss meaning making. In conflict we look for where meaning is made, who is making it and who would like to but feels unable to make their own meaning. Well, Dr. Tanzi told me that the neocortex is where meaning is made...but he also said that we're simultaneously dealing with an active limbic brain and reptilian brain. So, if I'm trying to help someone make meaning of something while their reptilian brain is shooting off, it's not going to be easy...so not surprisingly, when someone is in the middle of a conflict situation, it's really hard to get them back into their neocortex...or limbic brain. Dr. Tanzi suggested taking 3 deep breaths, smiling, imagine every cell smiling and then move forward with kindness. Now, very good approach when working with those willing to leave the reptile behind. For those who want to live in their reptile, might be tricky to get them to put the gun down. In terms of narrative, however, this talk reminded me how important it will be to working on "meaning making" after moving us up in evolution.