Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Fear Affects Learning

Lessons Juggling CroppedWithin our Learning Workshops we teach participants to juggle as a way of applying a new Learning Model (Tony Buzan).  Most people think that they cannot juggle, so we use juggling as a way to show them they can do a thing they formerly thought impossible!  Sneaky, huh?  Somehow when picking up three balls to get started that subliminal message rises to the top of their thinking, so that instead of saying, “I think I can, I think I can” like the infamous little ‘choo choo train that could'; we say automatically, “I can’t!”

“If you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t; you are right.” – Henry Ford

I remember vividly that day in August 1994 when I first had an opportunity to learn to juggle. I was excited and discouraged at the same time, because I had bought into that subliminal self-programming, “You can’t juggle”.  And therefore, I could not.  I was so tense that I was cramping up in my neck and back.  I really wanted to be able to have the ability, but the results were slow coming.  It wasn’t until I decided to STOP; take a deep breath; determine that the world would not come to an end if I could not juggle-therefore why was I so tense?!  So I picked up the 3 balls again and began to toss them one at a time creating the toss pattern and rhythm just as I was instructed.  Aha, I began to get a “feel’ for the rhythm.  I did not complete a full cycle yet, but I gained confidence in this new relaxed state and began to have optimism and even more fun.

I continued to practice my toss and make adjustments: focusing on the process of juggling rather than the results (catching).  Eventually, I broke through and was able to complete one cycle plus one toss and catch…..and the process continued until eventually I would be up to 34 tosses and successful catches, and so on.

Michael Gelb, fellow Buzan Instructor and Master Juggler dedicates a full chapter in his book, Lessons from the Art of Juggling, to the Art of Relaxed Concentration.  In it he outlines the process of students tensing up when they first begin juggling three balls.  He asks the class “to bring their awareness to their breathing and body/mind state.  They are often amazed to discover how much a simple thought has caused them to contract.  We point out that their fear-based “psychophysical preconception” has become a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.”

What new thing would you like to learn today or have given up on learning because of this  fear-based thinking?  Whatever the skill or goal may be, please do yourself a favor and begin with a good model (Michael Gelb is a great resource for juggling).  Your model will be based on your learning style (audio/visual/kinesthetic); be mindful of your stress factor; take a deep breath; RELAX, and give it a go!

List your experience in the comments section.

Beware of Projecting Your Autobiography

“Our tendency is to project out of our own autobiographies: what we think other people want or need.  We project our intentions on the behavior of others.  If they don’t interpret our effort as a deposit, our tendency is to take it as a rejection of our well-intentioned effort and to give up.” Stephen Covey, p192 The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


Wise Wednesday Brain Byte: Coffee or Nap?


Knowing the answer, yet exhausted and hoping for a quick fix, I posed the question anyhow:  Shall I make a pot of coffee and suffer the consequences of staying up too late tonight and suffering fatigue AGAIN tomorrow; or should I take a nap?

A study published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research evaluated the performance of 3 groups of people:

1) Those who took naps from 1 to 3 pm

2) Those that got the caffeine equivalent of 2 cups of coffee at 3 pm

3) Those who took a placebo pill

The caffeinated group thought themselves the least sleepy, but the facts show that they performed the same as the placebo group, or worse, on several cognitive tests.

The group of nappers did the best, outscoring the other two groups significantly on the sensory and verbal tests.

To caffeinate or to close the eye?  When in doubt, nap it out. 

Behind the Smile: Devastating Depression


I am not one who keeps up with the  Hollywood peeps. However if I were to name one of my all-time favorite actors it would have to be Robin Williams. He made me laugh, he made me cry, and he made me laugh so hard – I cried.

And off the screen he seemed so genuine, always caring and reaching out to others, like when he went to boost morale for our troops when they were far from home. Robin Williams was always trying to make a downcast face uplifted with a smile. He seemed to have an intuitive compassion for fellow human beings.

And now with his death and the great awareness of the funny man’s deep dark sad side we realize that behind the silliness and smiles was a feeling of hopelessness.

where then is my hope– who can see any hope for me? Job 17:15 NIV

Perhaps those of us positively impacted by this man’s life can make a determination to continue his legacy of lifting up the downcast. Perhaps we can learn to look past the smile and look into the eyes of the soul for a gauge of what is really lurking behind the mask of laughter.  And then, we can choose to make a difference in the life of a depressed/anxious/bipolar person.  No, not to be responsible for them, but choose to do at least one thing to make a difference in their life: to be a positive memory, an encouragement or a prod, if necessary. Alert someone in their family, find a counselor or resource at a local church or governmental agency that may offer counseling. Do a little research on behalf of this precious person who may be drowning in a sea of sadness unable to come up for air, let alone have the where-with-all to seek help.

For those of you who have walked this road without a happy ending, my heart and prayers are with you. We cannot change someone else, nor are we responsible for what they do with our loving intentions, but we can do our part to be a part of the solution rather than another mask to hide behind.

Please, let us not ignore the mask. I will do my part and ask you to do yours to reach into the walls of a depressed person’s heart to help break the oppression and lift the burden together.

Depression is not simple.  It is very complicated.  I am not implying that you and I will have a cure for our friend, but we can make an effort to help. Dr. Daniel Amen of Amen Clinics treats depression by first analyzing the physical brain through SPECT scans.  He writes:

Our imaging work has taught us that depression is not a single or simple disorder, but rather like a chest pain with many different causes, each requiring their own treatments. Our scans have taught us that some depressions are manifested by over-activity in the brain, while others show underactivity. Some depressions are caused by physical or emotional trauma, while others can be caused by Lyme disease or brain infections. Still other depressions can be caused by the long term effects of drugs or other toxic substances, such as the chronic exposure to paint fumes. Without looking at the brain, psychiatrists are flying blind, and therefore hurting people by not giving them the most effective treatment as quickly as possible.

If you are battling depression, you are NOT alone.  So many millions of others have had similar thoughts of hopelessness and despair.  King David famously suffered from depression.  It would appear that one way that he battled against this evil is to Praise God.  It will do your heart good to read his testimonies to the goodness and greatness of God in the book of Psalms.  What follows is a tiny sampling of the many pages of poetic words to encourage your heart with hope:

 “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High…The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:1-2, 9 NIV

Please the one thing I do know for sure is that the longing and almost sure need you feel to be alone: is totally the opposite of what is healthy for you! It is the depression wanting to have a stronghold on you, to choke you, alone in the dark where you have no hope of encouragement.  Please make a phone call to a trusted friend or get outside for a walk or go to a public place until you can meet with someone willing to help.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV

Crazy Calendar? Lysa TerKeurst to the Rescue!

Lysa's Best Yes Webcast Party Image

When your calendar is so full there is absolutely no white space to squeeze in an unexpected friend in crisis or your husband coming home early……”Houston, we have a problem!”

Unrush me Lord……

Do you live with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul? Are there times you dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no? You are not alone!

Hey friend, are you with in driving distance of  Mid-Michigan? If so, I would love to have you join me at my home church August 12th for a viewing party of the live webcast for New York Times best-selling author Lysa TerKeurst’s upcoming book The Best Yes.  {The event is free but you must RSVP. Details below}

Lysa is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. That is why she wrote this latest book. Join us for The Best Yes Webcast Viewing Party as together we learn to live the unrushed life, making wise decisions in the midst of endless demands. {Check out more at:www.thebestyes.com}


(1) To view at your home or with your girlfriends online; visit Lysa’s website and click to register at the top of the page  http://lysaterkeurst.com/2014/08/if-youre-living-with-the-stress-of-an-overwhelmed-schedule/


(2) The Best Yes Webcast Viewing Party at Northpointe Community Church

505 E. Webb Drive, DeWitt, MI (Just north of Lansing)

Tuesday, August 12th. Doors open at 5:45 pm.

Live one-hour webcast begins at 6:15 pm

Door Prizes         Light Refreshments        Coffee and Chocolate              

Live Webcast    Details on The Best Yes Bible study coming soon


To RSVP email Amy at Asmith@northpointecc.org Please put “The Best Yes” in the subject line.

Brain Byte: You Have Unlimited Brain Potential. How Much Do You Use?


Pyotr Anokhin of Moscow University published research in 1968 which demonstrated that the minimum number of potential thought patterns the average brain can make is the number 1 followed by 10.5 million kilometers of type written zeros.

That is virtually an infinite amount of thought capacity!  Our brain is incredibly synergistic.  Each brain cell can connect with up to ten thousand other brain cells in a single instant.

The Greatest brains use measurably more of their brains than the average.  According to Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene (world chess champion) in The Book of Genius, the top ten greatest brains of all time are:

10.  Albert Einstein

9.  Phidias (architect of Athens)

8.  Alexander the Great

7.  Thomas Jefferson

6.  Sir Isaac Newton

5.  Michelangelo

4.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

3.  The Great Pyramid Builders

2. William Shakespeare

1. Leonardo da Vinci

Buzan and Keene rated their subjects in categories including Originality, Versatility, Dominance-in-Field, Universality-of-Vision, and Strength and Energy.

Right Relationships Require: Humility

Just over ten years into my marriage I finally decided to begin praying regularly over my relationship.  So I started writing my prayers for my husband first.  I thought about how hard it was for him to say, “I am sorry” or “you are right” – so I wrote the word “HUMILITY” to pray over my husband.  Immediately, God convicted my heart that I also needed a humble heart toward my husband and my marriage.  So I wrote the word again, this time next to my name.

Over the course of a year of praying for humility for each of us, I noticed a significant change in our relationship.  Our conversations were not so snippy.  Topics we once couldn’t talk about without an attitude or an argument, became safe territory.  In fact, we began making progress in those areas of our relationship because we could talk about them!

A little dose of humility goes a long way to break down prideful barriers in a relationship.


The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33 ESV

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour ishumility. Proverbs 18:13 KJV

Brain Byte: Parents Beware of Brain Abuse

Baby Brain Litho

It’s not an overstatement to say putting too much stress on children is a form of child abuse. – Dr. Caroline Leaf, Neuroscientist

A child’s brain is still developing and is therefore more vulnerable to stress, especially since it damages them all the way to the cellular level.

All good parents want the very best for their child.  We desire the best education, friends, skills, home life; and as they grow the best future.  Our zealousness for our children can breed ambitions that are not always best.  I remember sitting in the waiting room for a toddler well check and the dad across from me was doing his very best to ensure all of the adults in the waiting area took note of how adept his little girl was at putting the wooden puzzle back together.  He declared loudly how smart she was and how he could not believe someone her age could ‘do that!’  He seemed to go one forever bragging to his mother-in-law about all the ways his daughter was better than others and it made me quite uneasy.  However, it also challenged me to ask myself, “Do I do that?”  I know that I had-on more than one occasion-thought to myself that my boy was advanced in ‘this or that’.  I hoped that I was not boasting and turning others off, like I had just experienced. :-) My point is this:  we as parents WANT to have smart kids.  We want our child to be the one excelling at critical thinking, Tball/dance, reading, math, and spelling.

Having a desire for our children to succeed, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing.  However, when we want it so bad that we lose sight of what is best, we risk hurting his precious young brain.  Scientists at Harvard Medical School found that children pushed too soon to excel at school, on stage, or sports field: show fatigue, reduced appetite, lowered effectiveness  in tests and psychosomatic illnesses.  And noteworthy is the fact that these children also show a decreased interest in learning, declining ability to judge their own progress, an increase in worry, performance anxiety, and creativity blocks.

Science also shows that early childhood stressors significantly change neural circuitry and brain chemistry, this sets the child up to be an emotionally and physically sick adult.  Children exposed to excessive levels of stress before age 12, are shown to have 30% higher chance of developing cancer as an adult.

According to Dr. Leaf, stress is fear-based.  When a child is faced with a person or situation that scares her or makes her feel like she has lost all control, the brain reacts and there is a neural reshuffling taking place.  Fear changes a child’s personality.  Fear is a reason children fail to achieve at school or in relationships.

The pattern of your physical and emotional health is laid down in childhood. – Dr. Leaf

According to Dr. Leaf, research shows that young children use their amygdala, a region that guides instinct and gut reaction, while adults rely more on their frontal cortex, which guides deep analytical thinking and introspection during times of stress.  The young brain tends to jump from sensation directly to reactive emotion.  This is how the damage happens.  The younger the brain, the higher the risk of potential damage.

It you notice your child is anxious, take time to slow down and assess the environment.  Depending on the child’s age and ability you may have a conversation to see if he/she is able to express the cause of fear.  And if nothing else: pray the verses at the end of this post over your child.

So what is a parent to do or not to do?  I suggest we become in tune with our child’s unique personality and learning style.  When we care enough to get to know his/her strengths and weaknesses we will be sensitive enough not to push beyond the S-T-R-E-T-C-H zone and into the S-T-R-E-S-S zone.  Both encourage and challenge your child and at times take a pulse and see that you do not go too far.  It is all about balance, folks.  Brain Balance.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt 11:28-29 NIV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7 NIV

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” Col 3:15 NIV

Complacency Quote

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” 
—Benjamin E. Mays


Inspiration to Bloom Your Brain



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