Taking in the Good in the Sea of Cortez: Experiencing Dependent Neuroplasticity in a Nutshell

The landscape in the Sea of Cortez is magnificent. I imagine sailors hundreds of years ago witnessing the rugged cliffs, the jagged and smooth shapes and colors of burnt sienna, reds, beiges, and greens, awed by the gifts of nature. I kept snapping photos, trying to picture how I might paint such a scene.

The shapes and shadows are unusual, irregular, and perfect. The colors changed as the earth turned away from the sun, warming up the cliffs and hillsides until they were bathed in a golden light.

We dropped anchor and lowered our dinghy into the water. Cruising closer to the cliffs, we were able to see that the wind and waves had created caves in the rock face, with lacy sandstone skirts. Some of the cliffs looked like the universe had used a cosmic brush, painting thick horizontal stripes, bifurcating the landscape into three distinct earth tones.

One of our guest’s repetitive refrain was, “This is amazing!”

And it was amazing.

Everywhere we turned our heads was a view that was awe-inspiring.

I mentioned that we should take it in, let the awe fill up our bodies, remembering that each time we do that, we are rewiring our brains for more happiness and resilience. That is, experience dependent neuroplasticity in a nutshell.

Taking in positive mental states, and pushing them to neural traits is easy in such a breathtaking environment!

The white sand beach was deserted. Walking along the shore, I could feel a sense of expansion in my chest. There must have been millions of shells. I felt a connection to the workings of the earth as my shoes helped crunch smaller shells into sand.

At the back of the beach was a ridge, like a bluff. We walked up, stunned by the desert cactus rolling outward for miles, only stopping as it crept up a small mountain. We left the beach before sunset, unsure about whether these teeny tiny bugs called “no-see-ums,” which are common in the islands, would swarm up and bite us. You cannot see them (hence their name), but they feel like little needle pokes. And 20 minutes after the needle poke, they welt up on your skin and itch like mosquito bites. Nature has that too! It’s not all comfy in paradise!

The next morning, as we sailed back to La Paz, we got another gift.

A mom and baby humpback whale allowed us to watch them up close and personal.

When we saw the first blow in the distance, we couldn’t believe our luck. We cruised up to a safe distance from them, mesmerized by the show. It was thrilling, a different positive emotion than the positive emotion from the day before, which was more mellow and introspective, more about the grandeur of nature. This was energized, heart bopping, excited emotion.

I cheered every time the whale showed us her amazing tail!

At one point, she raised her knobby, barnacled head out of the water. That was like an explosion of joy that burst out of my chest. I’m grateful to Mother Nature for giving me these opportunities to rewire my brain for more happiness and resilience.

Those memories do double duty as I can pull up those memories whenever I feel blue.

Please share your thoughts. . .
By |2018-12-19T13:11:02+00:00January 10th, 2019|Mindful Methods|

About the Author:

Julie Potiker
Author and mindfulness expert Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She was trained by Kristin Neff, Christopher Germer and UCSD as a Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher. She went on to study with Rick Hanson, becoming a graduate of his Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course. Potiker also completed Brené Brown’s Living Brave Semester. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” She holds a B.G.S. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from George Washington University.

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