February 16, 2021

Feel It With Your Heart

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart ”

-Helen Keller

Change is in the air. As we look toward Spring this of all years, our opportunity has never been greater, nor its significance more poignant. Understanding how to harness the power of the brain, and using that insight to improve our lives, is a beautiful, life-affirming process. It costs nothing - its free! By making a few small changes, we feel the change, and life itself changes. For real.

Real estate is an essential element of fulfilling our lives (after all, shelter is one of our three most basic needs - and let's face it, if we have the right shelter, clothing is optional). What we perceive through that brilliantly designed organ in our heads creates the foundation for our decisions. In real estate we brokers get a rare glimpse on how people's brains work by observing how they make countless life-impacting decisions about what is, in most cases, the largest financial and emotional decision of their lives. Our homes reflect and define much about who we are. As brokers, our process is not a swift transactional deal, it's often a relationship that develops over months of collaboration with our clients. This is one of the reasons that our work is a gift. The human insights we glean are immense if we recognize them.

With an open mind, everyone has the ability to create paths to growth and learning in virtually every aspect of life. Our state of mind informs everything. With the right mindset, our decisions have the potential to become an integral part of a thriving life. That's why I'd like to share some seminal insight that I believe will help to create insight, and a life that blossoms under your watch, rather than a life of mere survival. As our collective energy surges in this new year, one year from the start of the pandemic. Let's harness that power for good.

I recently read an inspiring article about brain health by Brian Pennie, a recovering heroin addict who became a neuroscientist, that posed many questions, which I will share with you, but one struck me as particularly profound. "If I am saying yes to this, what am I saying no to?"

As I considered this question, I came to a point of clarity about how my perceptions lead to decisions, which lead to what my life is, and what it means. Some of my decisions have led me toward the flame of my passions, goals and dreams while others have led me far astray. Asking this question, upon reflection, I've become more conscious and accountable for my own life, for better or for worse, without reproach.

This feels like boundless brain and heart expansion to me. In my previous career as a psychotherapist, I was often referred to as a "shrink", which I found odd. I always thought the better term would have been "expander". It turns out that a few simple habits and questions asked of ourselves is scientifically proven to expand our brain power, thereby providing us with the ability to enhance each aspect of our lives. Life is a journey. I hope that you'll take this one with me.

This process is best compared to physical exercise. For example, thirty reps lifting weights won’t make your muscles bigger, but thirty reps every day for a year will. The same is true for your brain, and over time, its shape will change. We can shape our brains in a positive direction. For example, by harnessing the power of neuroplasticity via regular mindfulness practice, you can become more resilient, develop sharper focus, and manage your emotions more effectively.

Before I get to the other six questions to ask yourself, let's touch meditation, which helps us to observe our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. It's a great stage-setter for reflection on deeper questions. I have meditated nearly every day for the past seven and a half years. The method I swear by, which has changed my life and sense of self, is transcendental meditation, but many people use different methods to come to the point of peaceful reflection that allows our brains to settle down, expand, and enhance our lives. Transcendental Meditation allows the active thinking mind to settle inward to experience a naturally calm, peaceful level of awareness. During TM, the body enjoys a profoundly rejuvenating rest, while the brain functions with significantly greater coherence. Check out the David Lynch Foundation to learn more.

Self-observation in all forms not only improves self-awareness, it provides you with a sense of detachment in challenging situations. Instead of being controlled by your thoughts and feelings, an ability to observe them will arise instead. Although brain research in this area is only just emerging, promising studies have targeted an area known as the default mode network (DMN), also known as the ‘wandering mind.’ The DMN is active when our minds are directionless, aimlessly drifting from thought to thought. This has been linked to rumination and overthinking, which can have a detrimental impact on our personal well-being. Meditation is a great way to reset your default thought mode. Are you a constant victim of circumstance? What is "bad luck"? We all feel that we have it at times in life, but if it's a constant for you, try meditation and let me know what happens after a few months, then after a few years. Its benefits are cumulative and compound over time. When you experience and "own" the decisions that shape your life, you will be liberated to follow your heart, and to consciously decide to make those decisions that reflect your values. After all, who we are is largely the culmination of the decisions we make in life. What will you say yes to that affirms your life path, and what will you say no to that allows that to happen?

Meditation has been found to decrease activation of the DMN, which in effect, quiets our busy minds. In one study, regions of the DMN showed reduced activation in meditators compared to non-meditators.

We all feel stuck from time to time. My mother, the preacher's daughter, always told me in my moments of feeling stuck "seek and ye shall find" from the Bible (Luke, 11.9). I don't know if she was consciously aware of the depth of wisdom in those words, but for all her flaws, she has always had a deep reservoir of keen emotional depth and compassion which emanated from her soul in times of strife (of which there were many throughout my childhood). I believe that trait was passed on to me, for which I'm profoundly grateful. Instead of looking for answers, try asking yourself reflective questions to come to the right decisions and unravel the complexities of life. The question that I find most compelling at this moment is essentially "when I say yes to something, what am I saying no to?" I love this because it helped me to realize the potency of my decisions. Be it our relationships our career, or our health, we need to reflect on what's most meaningful to us. Then, when we say yes to one thing, we know we’re not saying no to something that’s more important. Following are equally essential questions. Read them, think about them, and let me know you're response if you'd like.

  1. What Part of This Situation is Under My Control? This is a powerful question because very little is under our control. Many people see this as a problem, but if you focus on what you can control, you’ll realize that this is not a weakness — it’s a strength.
  2. What Are You Constantly Avoiding? It’s easier to put these things on the back burner, but they always come back to bite you in the ass. More times than not, you know what to do, but you constantly avoid it, despite the evidence.
  3. What Would My Mentors Think About This? This question allows you to take the perspective of others. And better still, the perspective of someone you greatly admire. Sidenote: You don’t have to personally know your mentor(s). Many are dead hundreds of years, and some of them come from books.
  4. What Would Tomorrow-Me Think? Everything happens in a context, and our decisions are often reflected by that context. That’s why this question is so valuable. Just like taking the perspective of a mentor, you can take the perspective of your future self, or your former self, whatever serves you best.
  5. Does This Align With My Values? People often make decisions that do not align with their values. There are many reasons for this, but most often it’s because they don’t ask themselves this simple question. Next time you’re doing something and it doesn’t feel quite right, ask yourself how it’s serving what you value most in life.
  6. What’s the Worst That’ll Happen if I Attempt This? Sometimes the worst thing that can happen isn’t as bad as you think. And if it is that bad, you can put contingencies in place by reflecting on this question.

Seeking questions, rather than answers, to dilemmas and decisions, changes everything. There's no time like the present to begin!

Next Journal
December 6, 2020

State Of Grace: To Be Nimble

The world has changed and will continue to change, ever-so-fast. As humans, we instinctively crave "normal", meaning that which we know. Yet what if, despite our instincts, "new" is what propels us to better lives, to do better, to strive, to learn, to evolve? Even as we resist, change is upon us, like it or not. We either retreat from it, or we embrace it and allow ourselves to grow. Either way, change is here to stay.

Read More

Want to learn more?

Sign up for our mailing list for exclusive insights into property listings and all things New York real estate