Neuroplasticity, brain games, and imaginary friends….

About two months ago I started using the brain building games from Lumosity. You may have heard of it. You know, “build a better brain based on the scientific principle of neuroplasticity, but it just feels like you’re playing games.” Well, as a Feldenkrais Practitioner, I’m all over this neuroplasticity, and I certainly do love to play, so I thought I’d give it a try.

At first I was surprised at how easy it seemed and how much fun it was. I was especially surprised to discover how well I scored at mathematical equations. After all, I have a reputation for not being good at math. Another surprise was a game called “Familiar Faces”, where you have to recall the names of customers that visit your diner. You then have to match up the right food orders to the right customer.

I’ve never been a wiz at remembering people’s names, but I was shocked at how poorly I scored. I couldn’t remember anyone, and nobody got the right food. Each time I played the game, I ended up with a knot in my stomach and apologizing to my customers. I would have made a terrible waitress.

But then, something changed. I started seeing my customers as friends, even greeting them out loud when they popped onto my screen. My scores began to improve. I worried that the nice young health care worker was eating too many double cheeseburgers. I was afraid that the portly middle-aged gentleman was just one french fry away from a massive coronary. I was concerned that the thin young man with the dark circles under his eyes needed more sleep.

As it continued, my scores dramatically improved. In no time, I had unlocked the most challenging level of the game, and my scores still continue to to improve today. Ironically, my math skills have declined significantly. I guess my brain is still trying to wrap it’s head around all the new information it’s processing. All in all, I’m very pleased with my progress. And, I did it all with a little help from my friends. Maybe I would have been a pretty good waitress after all. As long as I didn’t have to calculate the bill in my head.

Sugar Bowl

A few days ago I was cleaning my kitchen, when I mindlessly knocked a sugar bowl off of the window sill and into the sink. I watched in horror as if it were falling in slow motion, with me unable to stop it or catch it before it hit the sink and shattered. It was my mother’s sugar bowl, and it had sat on the exact same spot for the past three years.

I felt the threat of tears coming on as I picked up the broken pieces and tried to fit them back together like pieces of a puzzle. I wondered if I could possibly repair it, and if the glue would hold.  At least the bowl was empty, so I didn’t have sugar all over my kitchen to clean up. Then I started to berate myself. How could I have been so careless? How could I have been so clumsy? Why had I been in such a hurry?

But then, something funny happened as I stood in my kitchen beating myself up and fighting back tears. I felt myself standing in another kitchen, long ago and far away. Instantly, thousands of memories came flooding back to me, and I felt the beginning of a smile coming on. The smile turned into a grin, and then giggles as sweet and funny memories filled my mind and lifted my spirits. We sure did spend a lot of time in that kitchen, much to my father’s chagrin, but that’s a story for another day.

I stood there a bit longer, basking in the warm glow of my memories, and then I threw the broken pieces away. I learned an important lesson that day. It’s not about the bowl, or if  it’s full or empty. It’s about the heart. Because the heart is always full,and that’s where our memories live. It is a source of joy and a place of comfort when we need it. That’s the most valuable possession we own. All the rest is just stuff.