30th May, 2023

How to Feel Happy, Calm, and Connected

With Dr Giles P Croft

Photo of Dr Giles P Croft

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On this episode

Our conditioning has trained us to rely on the egocentric left brain. We often overthink things, even when we have no control over them. But what if we didn’t have to accept that this is simply how our brains work?

This week, Dr Giles P Croft joins us to discuss his experience of having a TIA that caused his left brain to stop functioning properly. Giles shares what it’s like to access his right brain freely without any worry in mind. We discuss how our thinking left brain often gets in the way of us staying in the present moment. We also lay down simple ways to get reacquainted with our right brain.

Don’t miss this episode and gain wisdom on how to be happy, calm, and connected.

Show links

About the guests

Dr Giles P Croft photo

Reasons to listen

  • Learn how the left brain has evolved to dominate our thinking.
  • Discover how the left and right brain consciousness works.
  • Find out simple steps to get more connected with your right brain.

Episode highlights


Giles’s Background and Experiencing a TIA


How He Was Feeling the Entire Time


We Allow the Left Brain to Dominate


The Divided Brain


The Power of Now


Become Aware of Our Thoughts


How the Right and Left Brain Works


Tips on How to Get from the Left to the Right Brain


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff


Facing Stress and Challenges


Giles’ Top Three Tips

Episode transcript

Dr Rachel Morris: Do you want to be happier? Do you ever wish you could just stop your endless thinking and rumination about things? And are there times when you feel connected and one with the universe — and then the internal chatter, anxiety and planning bits of your brain just takes over and the moment is ruined? Yep, happens to me all the time.

Now, many of us spend so much time reliving the past or pre-living the future and worrying about what might happen that we completely miss out on what’s happening now. It’s not our fault our conditioning, our training in the way in which we live, have meant that we rely on our logistical, egocentric left brain, which keeps us stuck in time and stuck in self-protection with a focus on minimising threat, rather than maximising connection and creativity.

But what if we didn’t have to accept that this is the way in which our brains work? What if there was a simple alternative to all this striving and worry?

This week, Giles P. Croft is back on the podcast to discuss his recent bizarre experience when he had a TIA, which caused his left brain to stop functioning properly and propelled him to a state where he could access his right brain without hindrance from the left side. Rather, like Jill Bolte Taylor described in her viral TED talk, he experienced what it’s like to feel totally connected and free from worry by existing purely in the here and now. We talk about how our thinking left brain, or ego, so often gets in the way of us being able to stay in the present moment where things are generally okay. And we will also discuss some very simple ways of getting reacquainted with our right brain.

So listen to this episode, if you want to find out just what happens when the left brain is taken offline for a while and why this experience can be so powerful, the reasons why our left brain has evolved and dominates our thinking so much, and find out some simple steps that you can take straight away to get more connected with your right brain so that you could stay in the present moment and feel happy, calm and connected.

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress and high stakes jobs. I’m Dr Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, trainer and speaker. Like frogs in the pan of slowly boiling water, many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late. But you are not a frog. Burning out or getting out and not to your only options. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues and experts and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier.

If you’re a training manager or clinical lead, and your teams are under pressure and maybe even feeling overwhelmed, we’d love to share our Shapes Toolkit training with you. Our practical tools are designed by team of doctors and practitioners who know what it’s like to work in a stretched and overwhelmed system. With topics like how to take control of your time and workload, deal with conflicts and managing stress, from team away days and half day sessions to shorter workshops and webinars online or face to face. We’d love to find out how we can help your team work calmer and happier. We work with primary care training hubs, ICS wellbeing teams, new to practice GP fellowships, hospital trusts and lots of other health care providers with staff from the frontline. To find out more, drop us an email or request a brochure at the link below.

Dr Giles P. Croft: Hi, I’m Giles P. Croft. I’m a Coach and Trainer. In a former life, I was an NHS surgeon. I left many years ago and pursued all sorts of exciting alternative careers, and in doing so, really got to grips with the human experience. And that’s what I share with people these days, helping them to really see deeply how they’re experiencing the world and who they really are.

Rachel: Wow, ‘who they really are’. We’ve got deep already, haven’t we? ‘Who are you, really?’

Giles: it’s the question to ask.

Rachel: It is the question, isn’t it? But anyway, it’s really great to have you back on the podcast. Thank you for coming back and you’ve been on before…

Giles: Have I got the record yet?

Rachel: I think you almost have; it might be a couple of people, you’re nudging up there. I know we talked about alcohol before, we talked about stress a few times, and I know that whenever you’re on, Giles, you’re always quite thought provoking, maybe slightly controversial, and I like the take that you have on stuff. It really has made me think differently, and you were well overdue coming back, but I think between the time when I last spoke to you you’ve had something quite significant happen to you, haven’t you?

Giles: Yes, indeed. So on the on the Fourth of July last year, I had a TIA completely out of the blue with absolutely no risk factors whatsoever. That was a bit of a shock.

Rachel: For nonmedical listeners TIA: transient ischemic attack, right?

Giles: Exactly — a mini stroke, a mini stroke. So it’s all the symptoms of a stroke, but then, because it’s as a result of a blood clot that then clears itself, all the symptoms had completely resolved. Well, 24 hours later, I was I was back to normal, as normal as I’ll ever be.

Rachel: What actually happened at the time?

Giles: I woke up with it. I woke up, and as I so often do, I picked up my phone. And I was scrolling through my RSS feed — how I get all my news — and it wasn’t making any sense to me. I was seeing words, and I remember quite distinctly reading one particular article and having the thought, ‘I should really care about this. This is something that I really want to read.’ And I’m opening the article and looking at it and just having absolutely no interest in whatsoever, because it just didn’t make any sense to me.

And so anyway, I went back to sleep. And then I got up, and it wasn’t really until I went downstairs and when I opened my mouth, a whole load of gobbledygook came out, even more than usual, Rachel, before you say it.

Rachel: I was just about to get in now with that.

Giles: Sorry for stealing your thunder there. Yeah. It’s kind of like word salad came out of my mouth. And it was a real shock to both me and my wife. And every time I open my mouth, I knew what I wanted to say, but the words came out all wrong. It was weird. It was like real words squashed together. And this obviously shocked us both considerably. I asked my wife last night, it’s like, ‘I’ve got to go on a podcast talk about this. I can’t really remember a great deal about it. But you know, how hard was it for you, baby?’ And she’s like, ‘well, you know, obviously it was a worry. It was also very frustrating.’ She said, ‘Because you were you weren’t taking it seriously.’ She said, ‘You just kept saying, “Well, let’d just see how— let’s see how it goes.”’

Coincidentally, I was due to, and you couldn’t make this up, I was due to meet my my oldest buddy from medical school who I hadn’t seen for a while, and she’s still an A&E doctor. And it was it was her day off. So I thought, well, I’ve got to I’ve got to phone her. So I phoned her and left a message because she didn’t answer. And she found out not long after and in talking to me, she was like, ‘I think you’re having a stroke. Can you get can you get Ginevra’ — my wife — ‘to drive you to A&E where I work. And I think it’s really important that you get there as quickly as possible.’

So yeah, off I went to A&E. The, again, the symptoms were an inability to really comprehend language all that well. It was really hard to do the simplest of tasks. It was really hard to answer questions from my wife. It took incredible amounts of effort to do that. I had lost my right peripheral vision. It’s not that it wasn’t there. It’s just that it was mush. So that was another symptom. And then the speech thing. No other light mechanical symptoms really.

So they kept a close eye, was scanned from head to toe. They didn’t find any particular cause or anything. And as the day went by slowly but surely improved. Then by the next morning, you know woke up, and everything was completely back to normal. So it was quite the adventure.

Rachel: Gosh, what a worrying thing to happen. And I’m just going to check because obviously lots of medics listening to this. You’ve had your scans. You’re on aspirin, right?

Giles: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m on clopidogrel now.

Rachel: Good [unintelligible] So obviously, something’s happening in your left brain, affecting your right vision, affecting your speech and all that sort of thing. And I’m really interested in the fact that you appeared not to be taking it that seriously. How are you actually feeling at the time then?

Giles: So it was fascinating. I mean, for the for those of you who don’t know the work I do, I spend a lot of my time seemingly dissing the left brain, dissing the analytical brain, and encouraging people to to live more from their right brain consciousness that I’m sure we’ll sure we’ll get on to shortly.

In terms of how I was feeling, I would be aware of worrisome thoughts. But even more than usual, and I’m pretty self-aware about worrying thoughts when it comes up these days. But even more than the normal, there was almost like a detached kind of ‘what an utterly pointless thought to have.’ Or to, you know, every time I was sat there in a chair in a corridor, like waiting for an MRI scan or something on my own, given what was going on, you think there would be a lot of worry, but there wasn’t much at all.

Then every now and again, it would be like my left brain would sort of drag itself back, and go and go, ‘What about the rest of your life?’ And it was so obvious that that was just an output of the computer mind doing what it does just, you know, trying to make trying to make sense of things. So it was even easier than normal to be pretty present to it all. I was like taking in what was going on around me. Yeah, it was just sort of took it one moment at a time.

Racel: That is really fascinating. So it’s a bit like ‘Revenge of the Left brain’, your left brain saying, ‘Well, you keep telling people that I’m not important. So should I just show you? Actually, we do have quite an important function here, the left cortex and the left amygdala and stuff like that. But I guess your main message, and what I’m increasingly realising, is that we just let it dominate, don’t we?

Giles: We do. We’ve got so used to living in it and living from it, that we’ve lost sight of the fact that there is something much, much bigger that underpins, surrounds, something all encompassing of which that left brain output is a teeny, teeny tiny little part of of that experience. And yet, because it’s so insistent, and of course, it’s got all our stuff in it, hasn’t it? It’s got all of our experience, it’s got all of our memory, it knows all the right buttons to press and everything. But you know, it’s just doing its job. It doesn’t even know. It doesn’t know there’s anything outside of it. It thinks it’s the boss.

That’s the key is that it thinks it’s the boss. It thinks it’s what’s looking after you, what’s keeping you safe. When it’s just this little computer thing with a data in, data out model. It’s just running its little algorithms and going ‘oh, oh, oh, I know what’s going on!’ And it’s like, ‘you don’t.’

Rachel: It’s just fascinating, isn’t it? So what I realised over the years and also by hearing your story, and I went back to listen to Jill Bolte Taylor’s story as well. So for those people that haven’t come across Jill Bolte Taylor, go and google her TED talk. It’s called a Stroke of Insight. I think it’s like the second most listened to TED talk ever.

She was a neuroanatomist who ended up having a left brain stroke, which completely took out almost the whole of her left hemisphere, actually. So she’s just left with the right brain. And she described something quite similar to you, Giles, but it was a bit more extreme, wasn’t it? So she wouldn’t have even been able to read, let alone realise that she wasn’t taking the words in. And then it took eight years to rehabilitate from from that stroke. She’s now fully functioning but realised exactly what it was that her right brain gave her.

What the right brain gave her was this sense of presence. So the right brain only knows the present moment, doesn’t it? It’s able to think much, much more creatively. It responds to connection, and what she said when she had her stroke, that she found it very difficult to work out where she finished and where the rest of the world started. And so she just felt like she was part of this great big thing.

The interesting thing I heard on a podcast I’ve heard with her recently, she said that she also didn’t really have any memory of who people were and what they’ve done to her in the past. So she couldn’t be hacked off with anyone because, firstly, she didn’t really know who her mum was, which was sad, but then she couldn’t be cross with her mum saying anything because she couldn’t remember that, and she hadn’t tied those negative emotions to things that her mother had done.

So the right brain doesn’t really have a sense of timing, doesn’t it? It’s very much just in the present with the left brain. We are always looking forwards, we’re looking back and the left meter is constantly scanning for threats, what is going to stop us living essentially, is someone going to threaten us? Are they not? And consequently, we problem solve, and we, I think medics tend to incredible amount. I think most of us in our society now have overdeveloped this left brain so we think we can think our way out of problems that actually originate with feelings. So you’re trying to solve the wrong problem with the wrong solution, or just on a completely different level. Now, is that is that a reasonable summary? Is there anything you would add to that any inconsistencies?

Giles: I don’t know if you’ve come across Iain McGilchrist’s work.

Rachel: Oh The Master and His Emissary?

Giles: Yeah. Because that’s— it’s absolutely, I think, is probably the biggest, other than my ICD 10 I’ve got here, I think it’s the biggest book I own. For listeners, rather than subjecting yourself to something like a 24-hour long audio book, there’s an hour and 20 minute documentary video version of The Master and His Emissary called The Divided Brain.

If you go to thedividedbrain.com, you have to either rent it or buy it off Vimeo, but it really summarises the book perfectly. There’s a line in that documentary where Iain McGilchrist is with a, I think it’s a drama group or something. And the guy who’s running the drama group asks him, ‘would you summarise the difference between the left and the right hemispheric experiences?’ And the guy says, he says, ‘what I like about it is that this right hemispheric consciousness that we’re talking about’, he says, ‘it’s not necessarily knowable.’ And it jumps in straight away. He says, ‘It’s more than that.’ He says, ‘it’s necessarily not knowable.’

Like, oh, my word, because you and I, you know, we can we can talk about it until the cows come home. But we can only use the tools of the left brain to try and describe something that is not it. So this right brain consciousness, it’s more real than reality in some ways. It’s why McGilchrist calls his book ‘The Master and His Emissary’ because the right brains, the master, the right brain knows all, it sees all, it’s connected to the oneness of life. It’s the source of creativity and insight and all the good stuff. But it can’t get involved in the process of separation of objects. So it farms all of that stuff out to the left brain. And the left brain does all of its dividing.

I mean, the thing about the Jill Bolte Taylor story when she says, you know, she was slumped against the wall, and she couldn’t tell where her arm ended and where the wall began. That’s because the left brain creates a very helpful illusion of separation for us. It’s incredibly helpful as I discovered on that fateful day, when it’s like, ‘oh, I’m going to stop slacking off the left brain as much as I do, because, boy, can you not do without it. You really can’t do without it. But yeah, as you as you said, it’s the fact that we’ve we’ve completely lost sight of our right brain consciousness when it’s a lot closer to who we are than what the left brain tells us, which is all essentially made up.

Rachel: Wow, that’s a really good explanation of it. So I’ve just written down here the left brain is a little bit like, sort of assistant, the admin assistant to the right brain.

Giles: Yeah.

Rachel: But it’s when the left brain starts thinking that it’s little ways of doing things and what it thinks is right or what other people have told them it’s right, that is the thing.

Giles: It thinks it’s the whole. The left brain thinks it’s the whole because it can’t ever know anything. I don’t know if you’ve read any of Eckhart Tolle stuff, The Power of Now, and eases your mind. And you know, because there’s just a whole load of metaphors and synonyms we’ve got here but you can call the left brain, the mind or our personal thing

Rachel: The ego?

Giles: The ego. Yeah, absolutely. It makes an enemy of the present moment, because it’s almost like the present moment — our right brain consciousness, almost by definition, is the absence of ego. It’s the absence of personal thinking. It’s the absence of analysis. It is just experiencing life as it is here and now without any of the labelling going on that the left brain does, of right and wrong, and good and bad, and all that malarkey.

Rachel: So is that why meditation and all those sorts of things are so helpful for us? Because it helps us get rid of the ego and the thinking and stuff and helps us stay more present to that right brain?

Giles: Yeah, absolutely. It’s why people meditate. It’s why people meditate. It’s kind of almost sort of like brute forcing your way into it. And it’s why, you know, meditation, some people like it, and other people abhor it. I mean, between you and me, I just can’t be bothered meditating. It’s like what I dislike… But I would say I do I live in a largely meditative state, I suppose. There’s a difference between having a meditation practice and living meditatively is what I’m trying to say. I think, you know, because, for me, the awareness of how it all works is enough. I mean, what what else do you need? Why would I need to sit in a dark room trying to let go of my thoughts when I can just be more aware? Well, yeah, that’s a load of nonsense from the left brain, isn’t it? I don’t need to take any of that seriously, and just get on with my life and not sit quietly for however long I’m supposed to sit quietly for crack on with my life.

Rachel: I think you’ve obviously cracked it. Lesser mortals like me need a little bit of practise at that whole meditation thing. It’s interesting. I’m doing an MBSR course, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course. And, yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting. And they do talk about it as a practice. So we’ve got to do like 40 minutes of meditation a day, for the next eight weeks, and you start off with a body scan, and then you move on.

The whole point of it, and actually, we’ve been looking at looking up the literature about that and does it work and all that sort of stuff — and there’s no doubt that MBSR works — but actually any meditative practice for longer than about 25 minutes a day works, because what you’re doing is you’re practising those neural networks, rewiring, to be able to get into that right brain and be less reactive. So it is great if you’re someone that can just do that. But I think for some of us, for some of us, it’s a bit of a skill.

But I think even recognising the thoughts and patterns. I was away with a bunch of people, and someone said to me — we were on a retreat, we were talking about mindset and all of that — and somebody said to me, ‘I don’t understand, can you explain what you mean when you say, our thoughts aren’t true? Or our thoughts aren’t facts?’ And I was quite taken aback by that, because I think it’s having been in this sort of space now of the coaching and the training, the resilience stuff we do, I’ve learned that. But I think, actually, yes, five years ago, I would have just absolutely 100% believe that my thoughts are true, and that they are facts.

I think in the medical world, we just believe that and at no point has anyone told us anything differently. So all this stuff. I know, it’s starting to come through into the mainstream now, but it’s still it’s still quite foreign to all of us.

Giles: I mean, I’m a strong believer that it’s our next evolutionary step. You know, it’s to see through our own thinking. It’s the fact that there are more and more people like work in this way. You know, I’ve got so many colleagues who work in this exact same way. The key for me, when it comes to the like meditative practice, in a meditative state, is really seeing — and I used the word seeing, it is like really kind of like getting it in your bones seeing insightfully really that that meditative state, that right brain consciousness experience, that’s our default. I think that wasn’t our first podcast, didn’t you call it Default to Happy? That’s our default.

When we really see that, because we’re all walking around thinking that the left brain experience, that the busy minded experience, that the intellectual experience, that the analytical experience, that the computer mind experienced, that that’s the default. And every now and again, we kind of luck out, We wake up, we get out of bed one day, and we’re having a good day, and we, again, the mind, because the mind doesn’t really know what’s going on in those situations, it very naturally, very understandably has to pin it on something.

It goes, ‘Oh, I know what you’re feeling so good is because of ABC,’ which is the illusory activity of the mind. It’s got to try and pin every single feeling that we have on to a circumstance, that’s what it does. But once we see that our default is clarity, that our default is calm, that our default is basically being in reality, reality being the present moment. I mean, everything that’s not now, categorically, is imagination. You know, it’s as simple as that. Everything that’s not now is imagination.

So we’re built, as human beings, as far as I can tell, we’re built to thrive in reality. We’re built to thrive in the present moment, that’s when all of the skills that we’ve learned and everything that we’ve put into our little left brain thought system, it all comes to bear in the present moment. And then you’ve almost like got this extra layer of nonsense later on. You know, like the sort of DVD commentary chat, this is what Giles is doing now. And Giles thinks this, and yeah, Giles is making all the decisions here, and I’m in charge.

Once you’ve seen through that, I suppose the need to try and deal with that through meditation or whatever, you know, meditation is one way of dealing with it as we’ve discussed before. Drinking alcohol is another brilliant way of dealing with it it’s just not quite as wholesome and healthy and acceptable as meditation. But all of these habits we have, are all essentially trying to bring us back to the now trying to bring us back to who we really are.

Rachel: Yeah. I’m really interested in what you said about this being a next step of evolution, because I read Jill Bolte Taylor’s new book, which I think is called Whole Brain Thinking, which is fantastic, I’d recommend it to anyone. And she’s talking about the fact that our left brain is an evolution already. So everybody’s got an amygdala. Lizards have an amygdala. What mammals then have is that sort of frontal cortex where you attach meaning to the threat that’s coming, actually.

But then humans have developed that even even more sort of have the illusion of time, or not the illusion of time, knowing that we live in time, knowing that we are finite, and so what our left amygdala is constantly trying to do is just to keep us safe, is to keep us safe in time by driving us by making sure we’ve got enough money, not just enough money, but loads and loads of money makes sure we’re really, really, really successful so that nothing goes wrong for us. And it keeps us alive for longer is our illusion. But then…

Giles: But then you have a TIA, Rachel. Inside, ‘Oh, oh. I’m not in control here.’

Rachel: It’s illusion that we are in control really of much in the world It’s just bonkers, isn’t it. But I think that really made sense to me that our left brain is constantly trying to keep us safe, but not but not happy. Safe does not necessarily mean happy. It means that we see threats all the time when there isn’t one and most of the worries I have, stuff that quite frankly, aren’t going to happen. I love the quote by Mark Twain I think it was ‘I’m an old man, I’ve known loads of troubles, but most of them haven’t happened.’

What I love about Jill Botti Taylor’s book is well I like it because it’s pretty scientific. It talks about your left brain consisting of your your midbrain, your brainstem that keeps you breathing. You’ve got your midbrain, your amygdala, your hippocampus, you’ve got your frontal cortex. And you’ve got that on both sides. So what I didn’t realise was that you’ve also got a right amygdala. And the right amygdala is also a threat detection system. But whereas the left one is like ‘what’s going to happen in the future?’ and keeps you anxious, the right amygdala, It’s just like, ‘Oh, am I cold? Is there a tiger attacking me?’ It’s really, really present to present threats.

Absolutely, if there’s a tiger coming, you run away, but then it’s just fine again. So you’re right amygdala is much more sensible than the left one, which just keeps us worried. So the things you described as the right one is fear. And the left one is anxiety. Because fear is like normal fears, like actual fear of yes, that if I jump off that cliff, I’m gonna die, whereas left brained isn’t.

And so what she talks about in her book is being able to access not just your left amygdala and your left thinking bits, frontal cortex, but your right one as well and your right thinking bit. If we can actually ask each of those bits of our brain for advice about certain situations, rather than just the left amygdala, which I think what most of us just do, then life would be a lot easier. And she actually gets you to name each brain and go, ‘What would what would Hillary say about this? Or what would Gerald say?’ I don’t know, have you named your brain, Giles?

Giles: No, I did like the book. I think if you’re new to looking in this direction, as we say, then it’s great way in. And like you say, I think it’s especially good for scientists, because you’ve got all that, you know, she’s a neuroanatomist and everything. And for me, I find it sort of unnecessarily complicated just because I want to have as little on my mind as possible. The last thing I want to be doing is in a situation is forcing myself to think more about. Like, okay, ‘hang on a minute, is this is this left? Or right?’

In the book, she’s quite upfront about, well, this isn’t any exact science. There’s a huge overlap. So there are many, many more metaphors that we can use. And as you know I’m a simple man. I just like to keep it as simple as possible. And it’s like, well, we’re either in life, you know, we’re either fully present to what’s going on, we’re connected to life itself, in that flow of life, letting it live us connected to wisdom, and the wonders of life, and others, you know, the bigger picture, or we’re being distracted from that by the left brain output by the computer mind and all of its all of its analysis. Because, again, with that right brain consciousness being the default, oneness is a fact. The physicists will tell you that. You can’t not be a part of the oneness of life. All that can happen is that we can get distracted from that fact by the left brain, and the separation and lose sight of reality, of being a wave on the ocean. Can’t be separate from the ocean, you’re a wave on the ocean.

Rachel: So just what would your tips be then for just when you’re in that moment, when you’re overthinking stuff on your left brain, to getting into your right brain? What has helped?

Giles: I can tell you what doesn’t help. And that’s telling me that it’s my thinking.

Rachel: ‘It’s just your thinking! It’s just your thinking that’s causing you problems. Just get over it. It’s your thinking.’

Giles: Yeah, that really doesn’t work because as human beings, we’re constantly fluctuating these two sort of different levels of consciousness. One minute, a problem looks like a really massive problem. And then half an hour later, material circumstances haven’t changed in the slightest, and yet, I’m at a different level of consciousness, if you like, and maybe I’ve had a insight or I’ve got a bit of perspective on the situation. And all of a sudden, it’s not a problem. So I think in it, like, in the moment, if you’re, if you’re struggling, then you do your best, you just do your best and understand that you can only ever do what makes sense to you.

We’re only ever going to respond when we’re run by this programming in the mind. And sometimes we see that, and so we don’t really engage it all that much. And with more in the flow of life. And other times, we don’t really see that, like me, too, you know, I get hit up by stuff and get anxious about stuff but I just Just don’t take any of it seriously, because I know what it is. So yeah, in the moment, you do your best and you know, you know that it’s, it’s gonna pass. I did a recent episode of Wellbeing Wednesdays, I’m just editing it at the moment, I did last week on depression.

And there was a wonderful, I shared like a podcast episode of somebody talking about their their experience of depression, kind of like before having seen this, and then after having seen it, and they said, ‘I know that I will never experience depression like I did before.’ And the podcast case was like, that’s a bit of a bold claim, isn’t it? And he said, ‘well, no because I’ve seen that my well being is ever present that even if I lose sight of it, even if I lose sight of that, again, if I lose sight of that right brain experience because I’m so deep in analysis, I know that it’s not going anywhere. I know I can’t be separate from it. It’s an illusion. And it’s just the knowing, really having it in your bones, that makes all the difference. Anytime I’m upset about anything, it’s like, oh, I’m upset about something right now. Okay. And then I know that in 10 minutes time, I won’t be upset about something and that’s fine too.’ It’s knowing that there’s there’s nothing about our experience to be feared. Like my greatest mentor, the Scottish mystics, Sydney Banks, his most his most famous quote that gets trotted out is like ‘If the only thing we learned was not to be afraid of our experience, that alone would change the world.

Rachel: It’s interesting, I, unlike you, I do find I get very tied up in my left brain. And even if I say to myself, ‘you’re just thinking, you’re just thinking, it’s all fine.’ I still can find that sort of knot in my stomach and that knot in my chest, knowing that there’s something going on. And I’ve even sometimes, you know, woken up felt that not in my chest being completely relaxed, I thought, Well, why is that not in there? And you then you then sift through your thoughts think, well, what is it? What is that exactly? And it is hard. I think, first of all, just being aware of the fact that your thinking that’s doing it, but I think that is probably where some of these techniques like just grounding yourself, putting your feet on the ground, getting into your body, a few grounded breaths.

I talk a lot about pressing the pause button, you know, all those things. Getting out, I think, getting out to nature is very good, isn’t it? Because it just… perspective on stuff and nature is amazing, I’m just this tiny little speck down here. So there are there are all these things, along with the meditative practices as well.

Giles: For me, the really helpful thing to say is that in any moment that comes along and we said it already, is that we’re going to we’re going to do what makes sense. And it’s going to be based on our level of consciousness in that moment. Okay. So if we’re feeling het up, and we really are in a very low mood, and we’re not seeing things clearly, then our behaviour will match that, wisdom will speak to us, wisdom will do its absolute best. And if that includes reaching for the bottle, then that’s what we’re going to do. That’s just the way it is from where we are at that at that very moment.

Or it might say, well, let’s go out for a walk or something. Or it might say, you might just have this urge to put on a piece of music or something. I mean, you know, I love cooking and stuff, you know, I’ve had situations before and I’ve been really, really up in my head about something and just slowed down enough to not start cooking as a way of fixing it. But all of a sudden, I find myself it’s almost like if you can let intuition guide you, if you can, really, if the thought occurs to you, well, I feel like listening to a particular song, put the bloody song on, you know.

If the thought occurs to you, oh, you know what I haven’t cooked curry for ages. I might nip off down the supermarket, get down the supermarket and do it you know, that’s called listening to your intuition. Because wisdom’s always speaking to us in in any moment where we’re always trying to get back. As far as I can tell, the system is built to bring us back into balance all the time. We don’t have to do anything. We just have to listen.

Rachel: I’ve got a question I was gonna ask you. Well, you know, where does this leave our left brain? Because of course, the left brain is really important because we need people that are going to make vaccines for example. Yeah. And then I thought, well, maybe that’s a bit of a stupid question. Because maybe isn’t all the left brain which comes up with the ideas. And then I started thinking, where does that fit with creativity and stuff. So then then I started thinking, well, I know I have my best ideas and my best thinking when I am relaxed and in my right brain as well. So that’s the question. So creativity, problem solving, doing this stuff — is that the left brain or the right brain? Or is it actually that when the two work in harmony together, what would you say to that?

Giles: Yeah. What one of my other favourite authors Richard Carlson, the author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, he talks about putting problems on the backburner. We’ve been taught to use our analytical mind for problem solving. But it doesn’t really work like that, because as you’ve identified, and I would invite everybody listening to this podcast not to believe a word that neither me or Rachel are saying here and look to your own experience, because that’s the only way that change is going to happen. This isn’t something you take on a belief. It’s not like ‘oh, well, they said that I should do this and that.’ It doesn’t work like that at all. It’s looking to your own experience and saying, ‘oh, yeah, yeah. I do get my best ideas when I’m in the shower, out walking the dog, just as I’m nodding off, or just as I’m waking up.’

You know, if you ask, in fact, I do when I run my workshops, it’s one of the first questions I ask people is, ‘when do you get your best ideas?’ And it’s a very small pool of answers that come back every single time. And I’m like, ‘Well, guys, what do you make of that?’ We could spend the rest of the six-week course just literally talking about that. Because that’s it. Life itself delivers the answers to everything. That whole left brain personal thinking thing, again, it’s almost like a vestigial digit something these days. I think, again, just worth thinking, it’s the way that we’re headed as a species, if we’re going to survive as a species. This is the next step that we need to take.

Rachel: Yes, it’s interesting, I think there’s probably not a single listener that will say, ‘I get my best ideas when I’m really hurried and time pressured and rushing to get through things.’ But I guess you need to be able to access your right brain for the creativity and the problem solving. And then the left brain helps you then put that into action, doesn’t it?

Giles: It’s the emissary, you can see it. It’s almost like having, I mean, you mentioned a personal assistant, and I’m sure I’ve said before, it’s like having Siri in your head or Alexa in your head or something. If you can see it for what it is, which is just a computer that you can use, but don’t go looking for good feelings in it and don’t go looking for your well being and it because it ain’t there. It’s just not there; you’re looking in the wrong place. What we’re all searching for, that sense of self and that sense of peace of mind — there’s literally only one place that you’re ever going to find that and that’s now. Everything else is imagination. Everything else is the left brain saying, ‘Oh, well, I’ll be happy one.’ It’s a story.

Rachel: So true. This is why I guess I found that book, Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, quite helpful because when I am in my left brain, if it just stops then go, ‘right, let me just ask my right amygdala and my right brain what they would do here.’ Ah, okay. Yeah, no, that would help sometimes. If you want to think your way out of it, it will help you just be aware of what you need to do. And then you can write okay, but in order to ask that I probably need to stop being so stressed here and just relax a bit and actually put it on the back burner so that my right brain gets a chance to work.

We did a podcast quite recently with with John C. Parkin. I think it’s called ‘How to be ridiculously relaxed’. And his theory is that man can achieve greatness if one is ridiculously relaxed.

Giles: Yeah, absolutely.

Rachel: It’s so true, but we do not prioritise being relaxed. Maybe we just need to tell everyone. ‘If you’re ridiculously relaxed, you’ll be really productive and stuff.’ And then that will encourage people to do it, right.

Giles: It’s true, though, isn’t it? That’s true. It’s like I know, for a fact, I’m at my most productive when I’m relaxed and carefree. And I’ll get to the end of the day, and I’m like, ‘Whoa, there’s no way I thought I’d have got all that stuff done.’ And it’s when I’m in the story about what it all means and how bloody awful it’s gonna be and what’s gonna happen as a result, and all that story, that’s when I find myself, you know, grinding my gears, spinning my wheels.

Rachel: And just thinking of lots of people listening to this podcast, ‘Giles, you talk about a story, but it is true. ‘It is true that we don’t have enough doctors, and I’ve got a massive complaint against me, and I haven’t got enough time to see all these patients, and we can’t recruit, and I can’t do this. So all those stories are true. And the stresses are really real.

Giles: We’re not denying circumstances here. But what we’re looking at is our experience of those circumstances. And just like we are so often most productive when we’re in our default state of calm, clear, clear headedness when it comes to circumstances that we have to deal with, it’s no coincidence that we’re all also at our best in those circumstances, when we’re calm and clear headed. Seeing that good ideas and solutions to problems including what to do about a difficult work situation or a relationship with a colleague or something, when we see that the solutions to those problems also come from from that same place, they don’t come from analysis. Again, I’d invite listeners to examine their own experience. If you’ve got something that’s been bothering you for a while. If you were gonna figure it out with your left brain, wouldn’t you’ve done it by now? Wouldn’t you’ve done it by now?

Rachel: And I’m just thinking, in all those circumstances, you know, worrying about a complaint, worrying about not being able to recruit 20 people, often, what you can say is, ‘well, I’m okay now. Things are okay now.’

Giles: Always.

Rachel: ‘I’m okay now, might not be in future because there’s this big thing coming up.’ But then you never know what’s gonna happen in the future. I think You Are Not A Frog first rule of worrying is, the things that you worry about pretty much don’t happen. And it’s the things that you don’t worry about, that’s the shit that happens to you.

Giles: My TIA.

Rachel: Yes, things [you completely] would never have predicted were going to happen, that this life will be full of troubles, and it is full of troubles. Worrying about them really doesn’t make them go away. Or worse, in fact, it just makes the rest of your life really crappy as well, right.?

Giles: And when you see that the the only thing that we have that we can even label something as a trouble is the left again. There are no troubles. That’s when you get pretty deep. It’s like, ‘oh, hang on a minute.’ Yeah, this thing that I’m seeing as a problem. It’s, again, literally the only tool that we have at our disposal that can even separate an object A and give it a label of a problem.

Again, look to your own experience. I’m sure every listener has been through a situation in their life when they first learned about it, they were like, ‘oh my god, this is the most terrible thing that could possibly happen to me’. Then not long after, or maybe a long time after, I don’t know, that same situation looks completely different. When I left surgery all those years ago the situation that I find myself in was awful. It was terrible. And I was like, for ages, I was like, ‘This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me’.

It really wasn’t long after that I was like, ‘Well, if that thing hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here now doing what I’m doing. I’d never have had I stayed there being unhappy, as opposed to making a change.’ Change doesn’t tend to occur when everything’s like, ‘well, it’s okay, I suppose.’ Change tends to occur when stuff gets really bad. When you look back, and you’ve got some perspective, it’s like, ‘oh, well, that thing kind of had to happen in order for me to change.’ And that’s when you start to see these, what you could label as challenges, as gifts — the gifts for growth.

Rachel: I completely agree. In fact, I think on my bookshelf behind me, there’s a book by Daniel Pink called The Power of Regrets. His latest one, and he just talks about the fact that I think they’ve done some studies, but if you said to people, looking back at your life, you know, there’s awful, awful things that happened. If you could take a scalpel and literally cut that event out of your life. But everything else that’s related to that event in your life also gets cut out. Would you do it? Not many people would. There will be some, and I just want to honour people that have had horrible, horrible things happen to them. And just acknowledge that there are things that are never ever good, and you wouldn’t wish on anybody.

But most things in life, actually, some good can come out of them and they lead you on to a different path and they lead you on to a different trail and you learn. This is the thing I have about resilience. This is my beef with resilience, right? It’s that bad, bad stuff. She said in inverted comments, failure, going through tough times is just the best way to build resilience. And it’s the best way to grow and develop.

If I was God or whoever designed this or made us or whatever, that’s not how I would have designed it. I want nice things to happen and make me a better person. But it’s not often that that happens, right?

Giles: It’s all an invitation to go on this exploration. It’s all an invitation to wake up to our true nature. Some of the worst thing things that happen to people, it helps them to see, ‘oh, underneath all of that terrible experience that I’ve been having,’ and if we’re, again, sticking with our analogy of left brain, right brain, ‘underneath all of that left brain experience of the analysis of what’s happened in the past, there’s an absolutely unshakable okayness.’

Rachel: Well Giles, on that note, I think we probably need to wrap it up. This has become very philosophical, hasn’t it? Again, you can be our resident philosopher. The frog philosopher, like a wise toad sitting on your lily pad. We always like to finish with the top three tips, what would your top three tips be for being more right brain?

Giles: It would be to learn more about it. Become more aware of how your brain actually works. It would be to be more aware of what the left brain is. You don’t have to, just because a thought enters into your head, it doesn’t make it true. You don’t have to believe. That’s two, isn’t it? Pushing for a third… to know that you’re always psychologically safe in the present moment. To really know that.

Rachel: Thank you. I think, for me, what’s helped me is just that pause button when I find myself. Pause around. And that just thought ‘I’m okay now. I’m okay now’. And then trust that intuition because you’re right. The right brain — wisdom doesn’t come through thoughts. It comes through that feeling, that intuition, that gut feeling of stuff. So trust intuition more, and I’m learning, learning to do that. Although sometimes I have difficulty distinguishing the deep intuition with that fear intuition of ‘quick, you want to do it!’, and then you’re like, ‘that’s my gut instinct’, but it’s not really. You probably can tell the difference between fear and intuition.

Giles: If you find yourself questioning it or analysing it, it’s not it.

Rachel: Ohh, okay.

Giles: It’s like, you’re either doing it or you’re thinking about it.

Rachel: If I’m questioning it. Yeah. Because I think there is that deep knowing that you have, which, I think that’s been described so many times by all sorts of religious traditions, by non-religious traditions, but we just don’t trust that that deep knowing, so really important. Well, that’s been really helpful, Giles. If people want to find out more about you about your work, where can they find out?

Giles: My website, there’s actually a little video that they can watch if you go to gilespcroft.com/free, there’s a little video about the two brain facts that change everything. And there was an episode of Wellbeing Wednesdays recently, if you’re interested in the topic of listening to intuition, that’s available on my on my website, along with a host of other topics. Wellbeing Wednesdays has been going for three years now. Those can all be found over at my website, gilespcroft.com/wellbeing.

Rachel: Brilliant. Giles, thank you so much. So we’ll get you back again pretty soon, if that’s okay.

Giles: Still gunning for the record.

Rachel: Yeah. We’ll get you soon.

Giles: —what is important to your—

Rachel: The most, the most—

Giles: It’s what’s gonna make me happy, Rachel.

Rachel: It will make you happy.

Giles: Nothing else will suffice.

Rachel: We might even have a reward for you, like, I don’t know…

Giles: Oh, man. That’ll do it, yeah.

Rachel: Yeah, I have to think about what…

Giles: As long as it’s not bottle of wine.

Rachel: No, there’ll be a jar of frogs born or something. I don’t know. I’m thinking about doing a frog merge. So you could have cups on their desk. If you want some merge. Let me know. We’ll we’ll do it. We’ll make it done.

Giles: Have some frog-branded coffee.

Rachel: Frog coffee. Maybe frog coffee mug. How would that be?

Giles: Yeah. All right.

Rachel: All right, Charles. We’re gonna go. Thanks so much for being here. We’ll speak soon.

Giles: Take care. Thanks, Rachel. Bye-bye.

Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self-coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at hello@youarenotafrog.com. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.