May 2017

Now that the grass is juicy and green again, the cows from the farm a bit further down are back in the meadow. On our daily walk with Django we have noticed that these herbivores somewhat scare him. Especially when they are close to the fence on both sides of the walking path.

When they had just returned to the meadow after the long winter, Django was so frightened he wanted to run immediately. It helped to keep him on a leash so he could overcome this obstacle with some human support. He has now come so far that – although still hesitantly and ready to run – he walks past them freely, without a leash.

What I haven’t told you yet is that before the winter – he must have been about four months old – Django, full of puppy courage, slipped under the electrical fence to check out the cows up close. This lasted until one of them jumped up and came towards him. He chose to run, went back under the fence, touching it with his back and getting a nasty shock in the process. He took off like a rocket, straight home, where I found him on the doorstep 15 minutes later.

The following days I could not persuade him to come with me for a walk on the path. Slowly this started improving, and especially once the cows had gone on their winter recess, all seemed fine again. Until the cows reappeared that is… it became clear that Django associated these animals, instead of the fence, with the intense pain he had experienced.

As I said in the beginning this trauma is slowly disappearing from his dog brain. The fact that we do not avoid the path to ‘spare’ him and that he experiences that it is safe to walk past the cows every single time, allows his traumatic experience to be replaced by a positive one, including associated feelings. So he is capable of learning something new, the trauma is not irreversible.

This is what is called neuroplasticity or the capability of the brain to adapt, to make new neural connections or paths. This also holds for us humans. Research on this has  developed quickly in recent years. Previously it was assumed that once you were an adult, little could be changed about your way of thinking or your behaviour. But that is not the case. I wrote about this before in ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – right?‘.

This discovery speaks to our imagination as to what is possible. The miracles that dog and horse whisperers bring about, are something we as humans can achieve as well. It is very hopeful to realise that nobody has to be given up because of what he or she went through, that nobody is ‘lost’ as some might say. Do not give up on yourself either. By thinking differently about things – a few good books can help you – and by questioning your usual view on the world and people, new connections will be made in your brain and you will create other possibilities for yourself.

You can speed up and facilitate this process by working with a coach. Do you also want to increase your reach, lead a more intense life or realise your dreams, contact me for a session where I will give you a taste of what is possible, a true sample session. Take action now and don’t postpone. You have nothing to lose!

During my morning walk I suddenly caught a whiff of a delicate and flowery scent. It turned out it came from the hawthorn blossoms a bit further away. The scent was fleeting, but called up a flood of memories – not any specific ones, rather a general sensation of something past and pleasant. They call it olfactory memory.

Apparently our sense of smell is a very old power that was crucial in our survival, evolutionary speaking. Scent signals do not pass via the thalamus first, the big filter in our brain, as opposed to all other sensory stimuli. Scent signals go straight to the olfactory centre for immediate action, just because they could prove to be crucial to our survival – rotten food could be lethal. Quickly detecting a forest fire could be life-saving. So there is no filter and no selection. Maybe this is also the reason why scents can suddenly call up a flood of memories, seemingly from nowhere.

Right because our scent perception works differently from our other perceptions, it can bring about something unusual and make us see something deeper and purer – more essential – within ourselves. Not only scents can bring about this sensation, but also the pure beauty of flowers, majestic trees in a wood, breathtaking crystals,… as well as creatures that are still growing, babies, young animals. They can all call up that sense of wonder and that special, almost holy feeling that is not of this world.

In his book “A New Earth” Eckhart Tolle says this happens because at such moments we feel a kind of divine life essence which is present in each life form and recognise it as our own. These are precious and rare moments as we usually only perceive the outer form and are completely unaware of an inner essence. Just as we are mostly unaware of our own essence and usually only identify ourselves with our physical and psychological appearance.

Life can be so fascinating and wondrous when you take the time to contemplate. Being struck by sudden scent impressions or faced with the beauty of nature automatically leads to contemplation. These are precious moments during which you are intensely aware that there might be something more, and that there is also more to you than your appearance or achievements. So contemplate and enjoy.

See you in two weeks.