A tale of two maps

by Alice Dommert
July 19, 2019
Ohhh… You cursed brat!
Look what you’ve DONE!
I’m melting! Melting!
Oh…What a world, what a world!
Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?

Has the recent heat and humidity, added to your already busy summer, made you feel like you are on the brink of a meltdown? While most us are NOT the wicked witch with a Dorothy unknowingly throwing a bucket of water on us, we all know that feeling of that one more unexpected “thing” happening to tip the scale of life from balance to meltdown.

It can happen in a split second. To any of us. And the desire to try and avoid every accidental splash of water in life…well that is hard to do. So what can we do?

It’s not about avoiding the water. That is truly a futile effort anyway. It’s about seeing those unexpected splashes as an opportunity. What if the wicked witch had said to Dorothy, “thanks sweetie, it WAS getting a little heated in here with my broom on fire and all… “I’m not sure if that would have mattered for the situation, and certainly would not have created the engaging and memorable scene of the wicked witch melting!

Fortunately for us, we do not live in Oz. Even more fortunate for us, we have choices. Often more than we realize. Let’s dig into some neuroscience for a minute because this is where the tale of two maps begins.

The scene opens with Norm Farb from the University of Tornoto and six other scientists. They were deep in a study of the neuroscience of mindfulness when they broke new ground. (Makes me think of the squishy, upside-down world in Stranger Things.) The quest was to understand how people experience their lives from moment to moment. This is where they discovered the two maps.

Map #1 Narrative Circuitry

This is the default map and it becomes active when not much else is going on. It’s when you are thinking about yourself as you plan, ruminate and daydream. It holds the story of your life and your cast of characters interacting with each other, past and future and the rich tapestry of information around ALL of that. Sprinkle on to that your own meanings and interpretations created from your own life experiences and it becomes your very unique and personal, narrative map.

How does this narrative map work in your life? It turns the experience of a cool breeze on a summer day into a message that summer will be over soon and you need to plan your ski vacation.

Map #2 Direct Experience

This map is about the cool breeze, the actual experience of your senses. It is the sensation of how that feels on your skin in real-time. This is the map of your senses and is central to detecting errors and switching your attention.

The coolest thing about these two maps is that if you are using Map#2, the direct experience, you are depending less on Map #1, the narrative. (Remember, the narrative is a story, and most often it’s not true.)

When you have a crazy worrying, distracted mind, your narrative map is in full swing. When you take a deep breath and experience the sensations of that physical experience, your senses come alive. Then your direct experience map is in use and you come back to the present moment, a clear perspective of what is and more choices for how to respond.

So what? When you spend more time using the direct experience map you have much richer real-time data coming in, which helps you perceive more information and make better decisions.

People who practice mindfulness can notice which map they are using at any given moment and switch back and forth of their own choice.

That is the opposite of a mind of chaos. This brings you closer to peace.
Check out this short video for a wholebeing practice of a short walk to hone your direct experience map skills today.

Alice Dommert

Alice Dommert

Founder, Wholebeing Architect

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