If you've never heard the term neuroplasticity, you are in for such an exciting treat.
I confess, I'm a bit of a science nerd. I'm fascinated with how the universe and our bodies work. I also crave every morsel of information and inspiration on how to become a more humble human being.
Neuroplasticity, meet Humility!
Neuroplasticity is our brain's ability to rebuild itself based on what we are doing, studying, creating, and going through at any given moment. Our brain cells were once thought to be finite -- cells die and they ain't coming back. Oh ye of little faith!
Modern research shows that new brain cells are, indeed, forming all the time and at every age. This act of creation is called neuroGENESIS.
Most importantly, we play a vital role in the formation of new brain cells. Neuroplasticity can be good and bad -- when we're happy, compassionate, and productive, new cells reflect that like mini self-portraits; just as new cells can also be wrought from our anger, fear, jealousy, loneliness, depression, and hopelessness.
A scientist I am so not. But it stands to reason based on this exciting research that the more things you do with humility in mind, the more your mind and body will trend in that direction.
Simply put: Be humility, and humility will be you.
Therefore, here are six ways you can help transform the 100 billion cells in your head into a more loving and humble brain.
No, I'm not asking you to pick up a shovel and hoe, or hop on a tractor, though a lot can be learned from farmers about humility. This is more about getting away from the noise and daily squeeze of people -- family, friends, coworkers, strangers.
Find a wide-open field. The bigger, the better. (If that's not possible, then find any quiet, empty space -- in your home, a church, an auditorium, even an empty sports field.)
Plant yourself in the middle of that field, sitting or laying. Spend 15 to 60 minutes thinking about how you are only one tiny speck in the larger field, country, planet, and universe that surrounds you.
We bury ourselves under stuff and things. A key to developing a humble brain is simplifying.
Whether you start with a corner of your house or an entire room, clean out, even just a little. Pare down to those things that have the most meaning to you, and discard or donate the rest.
Be mindful of how the act of decluttering makes you feel cleaner on the inside and out.
E-mailing, texting, smartphones, and social media have all brainwashed us into thinking we are so important, indispensible, needed 24/7. Not true nor humble.
Unplug -- turn off your phone and computer -- once a day, or once a week. If needed, take baby steps: start by leaving your phone and computer in another room when you sleep at night.
Soon, you'll realize you're not as important, indispensible, and needed 24/7 as you once thought -- a humbling moment if ever there was one.
Do Good Works
No matter where you are, nearby there is someone or some cause in need of help. The humble brain is supercharged when we help others. And, here's the key: expect no attention or reward in return.
Every week, I volunteer at our local Humane Society shelter and walk dogs. These are some of the most precious moments of my life. We're just a boy and his dog out for a walk. Those dogs -- some of whom have been brutalized -- don't care that my name is on book covers or that I've been on TV or that my artwork is going to be in a museum. When I look into their eyes, they only care that someone loves them.
Forgiveness may be the most difficult practice toward developing a humble brain. But few things require more humility from us than forgiving. Yet the benefits are many.
Think of those people who have hurt you in ways great and small. Maybe start with one person in particular. Then, as a daily practice, visualize that person and say to them, "I forgive you." Repeat this until the words become truth and you feel the crux of pain and grudges lift.
The Humble Brain Reading List
Reading these books has helped to clear my mind and provide stellar examples of humility for me to follow:
St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Omer Englebert
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk
Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
And, here is a week's worth of Bible verses about humility for quick and daily reflection:
"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.'" (1 Peter 5:5)
"And before honor comes humility." (Proverbs 15:33)
"The fruit of humility is the fear of the Lord, riches and glory and life." (Proverbs 22:4)
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2)
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." (James 3:13)
"Ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!" (Psalm 45:4)