Understand How a Coherent Mind Makes the Impossible Possible. We Do Not Know We Are Already Wired for That.
What is a Coherent Mind
The mind is in a coherent state when the cognitive functions are in a complete phase coherence amongst themselves(1). When the mind is coherent, we are able to manage our attention, focus and concentration, which is necessary for decision making, planning and implementation. When we achieve a coherent state of mind, our intentions, speech (communication) and actions are focused and congruent. This is known as high cognitive performance (or “peak brain performance”) — an optimization of all cognitive functions (2).
When we perceive threat, the amygdala (also known as the “fear centre”), which is located in the midbrain, activates the fight-or-flight response in the body, resulting in a release of stress hormones. High levels of stress hormones over time can damage some brain structures (the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex), leading to difficulties in remembering, focusing and decision making.
Scientific research has confirmed physiological changes in individuals who practice coherence-inducing techniques such as mindfulness meditation and breathwork. Their amygdala shrinks, and the pre-frontal cortex (associated with awareness, concentration, and decision-making) grows thicker(3). When the brain is in a state of coherence, it is able to downregulate the levels of stress hormones, maintaining these cognitive functions at an optimal level. Coherent brain prevents the shut-down of the pre-frontal cortex even in situations of intense stress, fear, and time pressure. Their ability to think rationally and make optimal decisions does not get diminished.
Traits (Features) of a Coherent Mind
High cognitive performance (also called “peak brain performance”) is an optimal state of all cognitive functions.
A coherent mind possesses the following desirable characteristics:
- Clarity of perception
- Sustained attention
- High processing speed of information
- Superior analytical and reasoning skills
- Effective working memory
- Ability to stay focused and concentrated, avoiding distractions
- Smart thinking and clarity of thought
- Strong planning and organization skills
- Problem-solving and effective decision-making skills
- Novel (original), innovative and creative thinking
- Ability to think straight under pressure (avoid brain shut-down, brain fog and burnout)
- Articulate and impactful communication
- Enhanced influential, negotiation and conflict-resolution skills
- Leadership potential and high-impact contribution to teams, groups, and communities
Coherent Mind is Different from Busy Mind
A scientific study has found that an average person has about 4,000 thoughts every day. Up to one third of those thoughts are intrusive and uncontrollable. A stunning 96 percent of our thoughts are banal and repetitive (4). This combination of repetitive and negative thinking keeps the average mind always busy. Yet this kind of mental business does not equal cognitive efficiency. A mind stuffed with this kind of thought dissipates its energy instead of directing all its resources towards concrete tasks and priorities.
Namely, the human brain receives 400 billion bits of data every second. Scientists have estimated that we consciously process only 2,000 bits of this data (5). This is an extraordinarily minuscule portion of what is available to us. Which of this information we place our awareness on can make all the difference. It is only when the mind becomes open to and perceptive of novel and relevant bits of information, can learning, growth, innovative thinking and creativity take place.
How to Nurture a Coherent Mind
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” This famous statement by the psychologist Donald Hebb became of the best-known axioms of neurophysiology. Hebb’s Rule means that repetition forms and reinforces neural pathways in the brain. Therefore, each time we engage in learning, practice and application of new knowledge and skills, we establish and strengthen new, desirable synaptic connections. Most importantly, our intentional focus on positive thoughts strengthens corresponding neural pathways, and we become neurologically “wired” to experience more of the same kind of thoughts and emotions. Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, author of “The Mind & The Brain” coined the phrase “self-directed plasticity” — changing the structure of our neural pathways with conscious intention (6) This can be achieved through many positive psychology tools, behavioral change methods, and traditional techniques for spiritual development and wellbeing such as meditation and mindfulness.
“What you pay attention to — what you rest your mind upon — is the primary shaper of your brain,” says Dr. Rick Hanson, author of the book “Hardwiring Happiness.” He also emphasizes that when you choose to focus on good events and situations, and on positive feelings and thoughts, “over time your brain will take a different shape, one with strength and resilience hard-wired into it, as well as a realistically optimistic outlook, positive mood, and a sense of worth (7).
Coherent Mind — One of the Key Pillars of Holistic Coherence
Cognitive coherence is one of the key pillars of holistic coherent living. Prof. Jonathan Haidt argues that to be healthy, integrated, and happy, an individual needs to be able to achieve a cross-level coherence, at all three levels — physical, psychological, and sociocultural. Only then are we able to be truly coherent, whole, to “hold or stick together.” This kind of holistic coherence not only brings optimal physical health, superior cognitive performance, harmonious relationship, and success in society, but also “feels like enlightenment and is crucial for answering the question of purpose within life (8).
- “Human Brain Is a Coherent State of the Mind” (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-81-322-1587-5_21)
- “What is high cognitive performance or ‘peak brain performance’?" (https://www.bitbrain.com/blog/peak-brain-performance)
- Scientific American. “What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?” (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/)
- Klinger, E. “The contents of thoughts: Interference as the downside of adaptive normal mechanisms in thought flow”.
- Dr. Joe Dispenza. “Evolve Your Brain — The Science of Changing Your Mind”.
- "Self-Directed Neuroplasticity: Consciously Changing Your Brain Function” (https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/02/20/self-directed-neuroplasticity-consciously-changing-your-brain-function/)