No matter what corner of the globe we live; when we hear songs such as “No woman, No cry” by Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley or the acclaimed song by U2 "Beautiful day", our brains seem to experience some kind of bliss and we feel content.
This is also the case if we are at a concert with a group of strangers and everyone starts to sing along, we can feel a sense of camaraderie and unity which is hard to describe, something that would be more difficult to achieve by merely using language… or so it seems.
Recent research, has proven that language in “poetry format” is effective in activating regions of the brain, similar to the ones activated by music.
Furthermore imaging studies undertaken at the University of Exeter in England (http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_324631_en.html) have revealed that people’s brains respond differently to poetry than to prose.
This experiment has shown that when we read or write poetry, not only our emotions are elicited in the same way as when we listen to music, additionally, we become more introspective.
Developing introspection is an art that unfortunately is not being fostered enough in today’s society, as the focus seems to be on what happens outside of us rather than inside. However, reflecting on who we are and getting to know ourselves is the first step in building good leadership habits.
If poetry can help, why not write or read more poems… Why not play more music in the work environment so we can feel more connected to others and in touch with our emotions?
Emotions have a significant impact on our decisions; staying in touch with them and learning to express them, has the additional benefit of minimising stress and anxiety.
A few months ago, before I came across these particular findings on poetry and the brain, I felt the urge to write a poem, as my initial reaction to the death of my father on December 8th, 2014.
It was as if there was an external force compelling me to sit down and write. Just a few hours after I heard the sad news, I had written a poem for him. In the days after the event, I ended up writing fifteen others.
Writing poetry was something that had never crossed my mind although I must admit, it was a very cathartic process. I decided to reach out to a poet friend, Matt Jackson from Affectors, who presented at TEDx the Rocks with me last year. I asked him to revise the writings and much to my surprise, he liked them a lot.
After this unexpected personal experience, I would like to describe our brains like treasure chests that once open, can surprise us if we let them fly without judgment or restraints.
I believe that playing a new instrument, composing a song, reading or writing poetry, learning a new language, how to dance… and even exercising introspection are all endeavours that can expand and grow our neural connections making us more flexible, adaptable and aware, qualities that any person or leader could benefit from.
In memory of my father, I want to share these two poems.
Thank you Dad for your being an inspiration to me.
A leader at heart
There was never any doubt,
when it was time to decide…
such a powerful spirit
with a steady and pure mind.
Wearing highly strong gut feelings,
you were born into this life.
You protected, you took care,
you worked hard throughout the times.
A simple man, you never bragged.
Assured and certain were your marks.
Leader at heart, some would say
and to you,
it was only an easy part
of how to spend a decent life.
And while most of us will leave behind
many paths of various kinds
In your case, I would say
that your tracks will carry high
an admirable clear signature
of a great and humble man.
I just wish that your true essence
can dive deeply into the gaps
of the minds of those who met you
to be sprinkled all around.
(for my mum)
How do I go on
without your words
and the foolish silence
that surrounds every moment of my day?
What do I do
when my thoughts go to you
Sixty two years of true connection
of love and blessing
of soul to soul?
How do I live
without your touch,
or your safe hands
warming my heart?
How do I die
without you by my side
watching my last breath
as I did with you, my love?