How to Live Well and Stay Well

Are we hard wired for life or can we change?

Is the brain unable to change? Did it stop developing in early childhood? Are we merely products of our early childhood and unable to change? Exciting research says the brain continues to rearrange the connections between brain cells (neuroplasticity) throughout our lives. We can change because neurons are inherently flexible and regenerative. The brain is plastic, not fixed. 

While healing can occur without conscious effort, it appears we can accelerate the process through conscious practices. New research shows that various modalities of psychotherapy can change our state of mind and the state of our brains. It can have the same effect as antidepressant medication. However, it is not a replacement for medication. It seems that the initial wiring of our brains is less our destiny than we previously believed. In the body’s biochemical flow, there is an ocean of new patterns and possibilities waiting to be relearned to support our new goals.

We can take action to reduce our pre-programmed, mechanical responses to the world, increasing our capacity to meet the world as a fresh experience. If healing means being freed from conditioned, pre-programmed reactions to the world, then being healed is the capacity to choose fresh, creative responses to each situation as it presents itself. Our story doesn’t change. Our ability to change our response to our story changes. Healing begins to occur when we remove the blocks to this natural process. Healing accelerates when we participate consciously in the process. Our habitual patterns are not useful in helping us get free of these patterns. As Einstein put it “We cannot solve a problem from the same level in which it was created”.

Willingness does not come easily when we have spent a lifetime reinforcing our vision of reality. We seldom change without discomfort. Suffering seems to be a great impetus for change. One of our first steps to change is bringing to consciousness that which was previously unconscious. Quest for Life retreat programs are designed to do just that. As we become more aware of our reactions and patterns, we come to recognise how our habits encourage us to favour our old patterns. We begin to see how by not favouring the deeply worn ruts in our consciousness, we can instead choose fresh responses and create different outcomes. Science is now saying that training in contemplative practice can change our brain. 

Stanislav Grof says that “healing entails bringing love to aspects of experience that have been deprived of love”. In this context love is understood to be our full attention and unconditional acceptance. Petrea, along with many other people, says that “there is only love”. Long term change requires long term diligent practice. The good news is that such practice can bring results that can seem nothing less than miraculous. People often think that addiction only applies to drugs like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. As humans we can be addicted to our old patterns of behaviour and reactions because they are familiar and we own them and simply don’t know how to change.

Changing our old patterns can be painful and difficult. The first step is simply the WILLINGNESS to want to change. Whatever our process we are able to change. We are not our story, we have a story. We are not trees, we are not stuck. We are all fully able to heal our past, change our neural networks and recover from emotional addictions and live much happier and healthier lives. The events of our lives do not change, how we respond to them does.

Learn how to "live well and stay well" at a Quest for Life program. Visit our Residential Programs page for more information.