New Year Reflection


Like many others, for me this time of year tends to lend itself to a little quiet reflection and contemplation – about the year that has passed and the one that has just arrived.
In the midst of these reflections I find myself again reminded of how important our capacity for awareness is when we think about change, whether it be individual or social. Quite simply, if we are not aware and conscious of what is happening in and around us, change will be hard. The act of reflection is one of the key tools that leads to increased awareness – and importantly, I believe that awareness is a precursor to sustainable change.
As our knowledge of neurobiology has increased, we are more aware of the links between different parts of the brain and our various human capacities. For example, we are clear now that a whole host of higher order thinking processes and related functions, are the prime domain of the prefrontal cortex. What we are also very clear about is that the development of this part of the brain occurs in the final stages of brain development and that it can be significantly impaired when our stress response system, or the more primitive parts of our brain, are overly stimulated – usually because of stressful or traumatic events we might have experienced as children.
But even in our adult selves, our prefrontal cortex will simply not function as effectively if we are stressed and fearful (which is why we tend to find it difficult to make complex and well thought out decisions when we are stressed!).
My point here is that the more peaceful we can be and the less stress we can have, then the greater our capacity for reflection and therefore awareness. And the greater our capacity for awareness, the greater our chances of creating a more peaceful and equitable world – for ourselves and for everyone else.
Some years ago now I was at a new year’s eve party hosted by a close friend and as we were coming to the end of the night she asked us all what our word for the new year would be. Since that day, on new year’s eve every year, I choose a word for the coming year. For 2015 my word is AWARENESS.
So I wish you all a year full of peace (so your prefrontal cortex can be free to be itself!) and quiet time for reflection so that we might all become more aware and therefore more able to do what is in our power each day to make the world a better place.
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