Dan Siegel’s Healthy Mind Platter: He’s So Good, I Want to Eat Him Up

Okay, maybe not really.

But I’m getting pretty excited. I keep coming across the same kinds of ideas and practices in different places. It feels like some kind of convergence, or the dawning of the age of Aquarius.

From Tara Brach’s podcasts on insight meditation to Gabor Mate’s books and lectures on how early childhood development affects everything from physical to mental well-being long into an adult’s life, thinkers from seemingly disparate journeys – medicine, Buddhism, psychology, biology – are espousing similar things.

It’s not necessarily that new, the foundations of their work – poets, new and old, as well as the Buddha and people like Aldous Huxley and Niels Bohr have offered glimpses of the same principles. But people are now taking these into specific practices that we can each do ourselves to practically and concretely shift our consciousness and thus our way of lives.

It’s like a chiropractor visit for the human species.

Basically, the mind and the body are not separate; the person and her environment are not separate; people and this planet, not separate. Start to reconceive these relationships outside of a inbred dualism that Descartes and others helped turn into a cultural fact, kind of like the world being flat, and many of our contemporary challenges get reframed.

For a great example, we go to Dan Siegel and his “Healthy Mind Platter,” a takeoff on the FDA’s new diet guidelines on a plate. Siegel suggests we invest our mind (selves) in 7 different kinds or times of activity.

 As a society we are sorely lacking in good information about what it takes to have a healthy mind. Since the mind is both embodied and embedded in our connections with others and our environment—both natural and cultural—these seven essential times help strengthen our internal and relational connections.

I find it personally so healing to consider myself as literally part of my world, society, history, childhood – it explains so much, it allows me a way to understand and have compassion for the whys and hows of myself. It’s not about taking away personal responsibility, but about taking the right amount and kind of responsibility for oneself.

That is, I can only really start to transform myself and be responsible for myself once I realize what pieces are mine and which are elements and forces outside my control (like genetics, or lousy parents, or a male-dominated society). Mindfullness, meditation – studies are showing again and again how we practices like these can retrain our brain functions – and how we behave towards ourselves, others, our environment – becomes an intimate relationship of love as opposed to postures of fear, defense, and loathing.

I could rant on – but I’d rather you just learned more about Siegel- I mostly knew him for his work on attachment and child-rearing – but this is a diet for any one to try.

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