In May 2019, I received an invitation to submit a writing sample to Sibella Publications, the publishing company of Luminous Wisdom: Sophia. This is an online wellness and spirituality publication with articles written by women for women. Sibella Publications boasts an International audience of subscribers numbering 70,000+.
In June 2019, I received notification that I am one of the 25 new writers for the 2019-2020 publications. As I submit each monthly article, I will also post it on this website for you to enjoy. Welcome to Luminous Wisdom: Sophia!
Luminous Wisdom: Sophia
EVOLVING INTO YOUR AGELESS BRAIN
The Brain Work of Resilience
By Patricia Faust, MGS
How do you process adversity? Do you sort of – go with the
flow? Or, are you stressed and anxious to the point that you
can’t function? Do we believe that these adversities are part of
a bigger plan? Or, do we see ourselves as victims of the
situations that complicate our lives? While we think that the
things that happen to us are random, they may be part of the
bigger plan of what we wanted to accomplish here on this plane of existence.
There comes a time in some people’s lives when their feet are knocked out from under them. The lives they were living are not the same – and might not ever return to their status quo. I personally had two auto accidents within two weeks and that changed my life completely. I could no longer effectively do my job and that caused many years of angst. On a big scale, the recession of 2008 had a major impact on people’s lives. This was an especially dark time for many of us. There were sad stories reported, as well as enlightening stories. My question at the time was – how did some people recover and come out better than ever, while other people never really recovered at all?
As it turns out, our brain plays a role in bouncing back/resilience by determining how we react to challenging circumstances and guides us in recovery. Throughout human history, we have had to be resilient in order to survive. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for all automatic functions without conscious thought, such as breathing, regulating heart rate and digestive processes. The Autonomic Nervous System is basic to resilience because it keeps us in a ‘window of tolerance’. So we are made to develop resilience. We don’t have to figure it out, or learn what to do – we are hard-wired to withstand the big blows of life.
So if we are hard-wired to develop resilience, why do some people never recover at all? Bear with me as I explain a little more about our miraculous brains. The Prefrontal Cortex is the executive function center of the brain. The PFC quells the fear response, regulates emotions, learns and exercises empathy, and exhibit response flexibility- the process of resilience. Finally, it is the PFC that creates the narrative of our lives. The ability to bounce back comes from our brain. And our brain learns whenever we encounter a tough situation. This proposes a possible explanation why some people can bounce back and others can’t. As miraculous as our brains are, it still adapts to our environment – good or bad. The experience of hard times or challenging situations primes our brains for tougher situations. Even though we have the brain anatomy to survive and bounce back, we are still human and we always interject our response to the situation. Learning to trust our intuition will help develop resilience and allow us to recover.
Here’s to Always Believing in Yourself
By Patricia Faust, MGS
Have you ever experienced a crisis of faith? This can be a ‘knock
you off your feet’ type of experience. As I have written over these
past few months, I have gone through a lifelong learning process
of recognizing and using the power of my brain. I have researched
and learned; tried out all the new insights and then moved on to
learn more. I love learning. My life has changed significantly. My
crisis of faith came about when my life started challenging everything
It would be so nice if my life had a forward trajectory that is predictable. I say that when everything is in chaos. I hated being predictable, I was bored by that. When everything starts to go haywire I remind myself that this was the learning experience that I put before me. My frustration lies with some of the teachers I learned from that seem to assure me that if I learned how to do their certain technique – life would be good. I would learn – of course – and start to be critical of myself when my changes weren’t making a lot of headway. Then I would go on to new things to learn. Let’s take meditation as an example. I took a course on meditation a few years ago. I had debilitating migraine headaches and my doctor thought it would be a beneficial modality for me to learn.. He was right! When I was in that structured environment I learned a very powerful meditation technique. My headaches really decreased. This was an important life changing event. I continued to use my meditation practice daily and found a lot of benefit in my life. Then I got a job that started early in the day and ended with exhaustion at night. I tried to meditate at lunch but the environment wasn’t exactly conducive to getting to a deep meditative state. Even though I knew how valuable this practice was for me – I eventually stopped trying.
I teach and coach on the lifestyle effects on brain aging and brain health. Lifestyle accounts for a seventy percent risk of developing dementia. As such, lifestyle can also prevent Alzheimer’s. I know this, I teach this and I still get tripped up on stress reduction. Our brains are hardwired to protect us. We received this hardwiring from our prehistoric ancestors. It is below our level of awareness. That is good for us, unless we can’t stop that response and go into a chronic threat/stress cycle. The stress hormone Cortisol, kills our brain cells. Our 24/7 stress lifestyle can produce a lot of Cortisol.
I believe in what I know and what I teach. I also believe that I am not above struggling with attaining that perfect brain healthy lifestyle. This makes me just like that people I teach and coach. They need to know that and to still always believe in their miraculous brains. Here is to believing!
Everything We Need to Know – We Already Know
By Patricia Faust, MGS
Over the past twenty years, I have immersed myself in
everything I was interested in. It has been an educational
marathon. Academically, I received a Master’s in Gerontology,
a certification in Clinical Aromatherapy, certificates in Brain
Health Coaching and Neuroscience and Wellness. I have
taken meditation classes, learned some Reflexology,
investigated spirituality in all its forms. My reasons for starting my learning quest started as a ‘what’s next’ for me. The first part of my education was in aromatherapy and gerontology. I wanted to work with aromatherapy and the behaviors of dementia. The I went on to advanced gerontology. I am great at learning. I love it so much.
Once I was out of the bubble of academia and back into the ‘real’ world my knowledge of aging, dementia, eldercare didn’t seem to open any doors. It is hard to keep pushing forward with a vision if you aren’t making any money. That was a very disappointing discovery. Since I am not one to sit around and lick my wounds, I jumped headfirst into the area of neuroscience. Again, I loved everything I learned about the brain from brain aging to brain function. My first career was as a medical technologist in a hospital laboratory. That quest to learn anything that was science-based was re-fired.
Going all in on learning something is my M.O. So, of course I had to know everything I could in this new, budding brain arena. The more I learned, the more I had to learn. When I took this knowledge out into the world I was greeted with more enthusiasm. My first presentation was rudimentary, but I still knew more than anyone I spoke to. My knowledge became more expansive. I laugh when I see my original presentations! People loved what I had to say, and I felt the information was so important I didn’t want anyone to miss out. Many of my first presentations were free. I had to get the word out about our brains. More and more groups wanted me to speak, but most weren’t offering me any money. At this point one of my mentors told me point blank – ‘you are not honoring yourself when you give everything away’. This hit me like a ton of bricks. Little did I realize that I had sabotaged myself by not charging anything.
It took some time before I started getting paying gigs. By this time, I was in a deep financial hole and the stress was overwhelming. It was time to learn some new skills. I started networking with experts in their fields. I got a lot of great information and I had to figure out how to use it in my area. Again, my subconscious brain rules! I would journal before I went to sleep and see how everything played out in the morning. Ideas with a new focus on success came popping in my head. As it turns out – everything we need to know – we already know!
Alleviating Personal Turmoil
By Patricia Faust
I have spent many years learning how to make the most of this
lifetime. Energy has been the core of this study. It is easy to live
these beliefs when everything is going just the way it should.
In my heart I understand how energy and the laws of the universe
work. But sometimes I get stuck in a financial pit that I can’t seem to escape.
At this juncture I am angry, mostly at myself, because if I was totally living the beliefs I profess, I wouldn’t be in this situation. Of course, that only makes things worse. Our brain is hardwired to protect us and when it senses the threat of scarcity it goes into automatic fight or flight mode. Then, rational thinking is out the door and decisions are made by pure emotional reaction. Decisions based on emotional reaction usually don’t turn out very well. Our brains continue to adapt to the toxic effects of worry. The prefrontal cortex is the center of conscious decision-making, planning, and cognition among other functions. It is the executive control center of the brain. When we are in a toxic stress situation the prefrontal cortex is eliminated from the decision-making process. The amygdala (emotional center of the brain) and the hippocampus (center of learning and memory) receive input from the environment and form a communication loop that gives just emotional responses. Both the amygdala and hippocampus are deep brain, below our level of awareness structures. This means that we are not even aware that stress has hijacked our life. This is a terrible place to be in as you navigate your life.
I know all of this and I teach all of this. I feel guilty when I am not living the beliefs I teach. When I realize that I am self-sabotaging the first thing I do is forgive myself. We are on this earth plane to learn and the situations I find myself in, I actually placed there myself. Trust me, that is still a hard pill to swallow. I have to step back and clear my head as best I can. This is hard to do also.
Your mind is on conscious overdrive with worry so it can be difficult to slow it down. My go-to plan it to present my problems to myself before I go to bed. Writing them down takes them off your mind so you can sleep. While I am sleeping my subconscious mind has a chance to get solutions through to my conscious mind. Your subconscious rules the roost; this is where your thoughts originate. Your conscious mind can completely block those thoughts when you are in turmoil. When you wake up and you take a shower, take a walk or just have a few minutes to yourself before you start your day, your solution to your problem will pop up in your head. In the midst of turmoil, this is the easiest way to find your solution.
The Incredible Power of Neuroplasticity
By Patricia Faust, MGS
Talking to people who only believe what they can see,
taste, touch and feel can be very overwhelming. Because
they don’t understand scientific research, they tend to
deny the outcomes of this research. They want to believe
what they understand even if it is completely false.
So how can you get someone to understand that their
brain is magnificent, and they can actually change their brain?
The fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease or losing memories ranks higher than the fear of getting cancer. No survivors, no successful treatment protocols and nothing showing promise of success in the near future has everyone panicking. Denial that this might be a possibility in someone’s life remains strong. Denial is a huge barrier to overcome. I usually start my presentations and discussions with a study rooted in science. It has come to my attention that most people don’t really ‘hear’ those outcomes. So I now start with a story – something that everyone can relate to.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain to change and adapt to our environment – good or bad. Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells. This is how we start to replace the brain mass that we are losing as we get older. We have the capacity to create a healthy, resilient brain through neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Our brain does not know how old we are. If our life is toxic, meaning full of chronic stress and bad lifestyle habits, our brain will age faster by losing neurons and neural pathways. We put ourselves at a high risk of developing dementia. But, if we lead a healthy lifestyle in a novel and complex environment we continue to grow new neurons and neural pathways leading to a younger, high functioning brain. We can create an ageless brain!
In order to demonstrate how our brain works, I relate my experience in going back to school. I started my journey through graduate school when I was fifty years old. Now mind you, my classmates were twenty-five years old. They were at their cognitive peak and I was at my first acceleration point of cognitive decline. At this point my brain was working a lot slower – known as speed of processing – than when I was twenty-five. The first two weeks of school left me in a daze. I felt like a ‘deer in headlights’. When the professor was asking a questions my classmates were answering far before I even figured out what the question was. I truly questioned my decision to pursue this degree. This was a novel and complex environment and even though I didn’t understand at the time, my brain was changing at a rapid pace. My brain didn’t know I was in my fifties! I excelled in school. It was one of the most challenging and highly satisfying times of my life. Later I learned that anyone is capable of changing their brain. This is what I do – I challenge others to evolve into their ageless brain.
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
By Patricia Faust
Back in 1999, I took a deep-dive into my education endeavors.
It became a now or perhaps never situation. I was already in
my late forties when I started this education quest. There was
a vision in my head that wouldn’t let go of me. In the 1990’s
residents in nursing homes who exhibited difficult behaviors
due to end stages of dementia were (I believe) chemically
restrained. It was not uncommon to see them receive an antipsychotic drug and be seated in front of a TV. That was so upsetting to me. There had to be a better way to address these behaviors in a compassionate way.
My first stop was to register at the Ohio Academy of Holistic Health to receive a certification in Clinical Aromatherapy. In that same week I registered at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati Ohio to get an undergraduate degree in Gerontology. I picked up a Nursing Home Administrator’s license while I was at it. Miami University in Oxford Ohio offered me the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree in Gerontological Studies. In five years, I changed my life.
What I didn’t realize is that I had changed my brain. It wasn’t until a few years later while at an Aging Conference I saw the beginnings of the brain fitness industry. Of course, I looked into it – and I was hooked. The Boomers were starting to go over the age of 65 threshold and many were caring for aging parents with dementia. Seeing their parents experience Alzheimer’s and other dementias caused fear and denial in this group.
I felt like I had a lifesaving secret – we could change our brains at any point in our lives. My excitement was soon tampered by the disbelief that either – it was too late for them or it was too good to be true. By this time, we were in the mid-2000s. It was difficult to work with people who were riddled with fear. The gift of longevity was overshadowed by the fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease. There was a gap in the reality of the Boomer’s health (having at least two chronic diseases going into their later years) and the perception that they would never grow old.
I stayed true to my message that we could have a high functioning brain throughout our entire lifetime. Science began to support my beliefs. The more drugs that failed in clinical trials the stronger the message became that a healthy brain lifestyle could reverse aging changes and build brain reserve. We could make enough new cells and connections to delay the onslaught of dementia. And then that research confirmed that our brains benefitted more from a healthy lifestyle than a pill.
This long journey has been met with frustration but now with excitement. It fills my soul to see the people I work with, move from fear to empowerment. Our brains are powerful and magnificent. We can change our brains.
Patience, Perseverance and Perspective
By: Patricia Faust
Quite a few years ago I received a gift of Rune cards. I was
just starting to dabble in some esoteric beliefs. No matter
how many times I pulled a card, it turned out to be ‘Patience
and Perseverance’. Now there were many ups and downs
throughout my life and this time period was no different. I
was looking at other career possibilities at that time and I
was quite frustrated by what I saw as a ‘hold in place’ bit of
advice. That was not what I wanted to hear. I lent the cards out many times and eventually they didn’t come back. But the words ‘patience and perseverance’ have stayed with me.
My Dad died when I was seventeen years old. This event changed my life – forever. There is an old adage that when you are ready the teacher will come. And boy, did my teachers come. As it turned out, my husband and my sons all were bipolar. This proved to be another major shift in my life course. The diagnosis was a relief in some respects because I understood that there was a reason my life was so chaotic. These men in my life were my first teachers of patience and perseverance.
My energy education started to escalate as my experiences were becoming more difficult. At one particular job there was a person who came into my life to teach me about energy. She gave me the book, Living in the Light by Shatki Gawain. This book was transformative for me and catapulted me into a whole new world. My whole thought process was changing as I started looking at my life from a different perspective.
I never made my transitions easily. Universe got my attention, however, in a big way. Within a two week-span in 1997, I had two major automobile accidents. This was hitting the brick wall of life changes. Finally, I listened to my inner self. Within a five year span I became a certified clinical aromatherapist; got my nursing home administrator’s license; as well as, received an undergraduate and graduate degree in gerontological studies. Even after all of this ‘patience and perseverance’ haunted me. In my gut I knew that aromatherapy would provide relief to those with dementia who experienced behavioral problems. It turned out that no one else could see it though. Using my gerontology degrees, I looked at the eldercare issue in the workplace. Again, I was too far ahead of my time.
Then, I discovered neuroscience. Patience and perseverance paid off. We are not a victim of our circumstances. When we change our perspective and open up our thinking to other energetic realms, we can create whatever we want. Besides teaching people brain health and wellness, I show them how to improve function. By learning how our subconscious is within our reach, we can change our lives. We are all a work in progress. But now I am the teacher.