Meditaion for Brain Power – tips
Meditation For Brain Power
By Andrew Rader, LAc, MS Earlier this year, the journal of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging published a study showing that in just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation practice, structural changes in gray matter were observed.
Previously, comparisons of meditators to non-meditators had shown that the brains of those who meditated were different in areas of attention and focus, compassion and emotional intelligence, but this was only correlative. In addition, previous functional MRI studies have showed metabolic changes occurring during meditation, but these studies were not designed to document that these changes lasted beyond the meditation session. Now we have evidence of what many people already know intuitively, that meditation produces significant effects on our brains/minds/consciousness that last far beyond the time on the cushion, and affect our daily lives in profound ways.
Most of our waking hours are spent in unconsciousness. We drive unconsciously, we walk unconsciously, we eat, brush our teeth, even have conversations unconsciously. Our time is spent thinking about the future and the past. We are not aware of what is happening in the present moment. Many of us strive to become more aware of the present moment, to become more conscious, more engaged and more present. Most who have this aspiration will engage in some form of meditative practice.
Instead of moving through life mostly on autopilot or as a prisoner of past conditioning, meditation can be used as a way to create “a more passionate, full and delightful life,” as Chodron put it. The creativity comes when the mind disengages with discursive thinking and is allowed to become spacious.
Evolution has created a strategy to respond to life-threatening situations. When we perceive a threat, our survival wiring takes over. The amygdala is in charge of emergencies and gets priority in such a situation. The problem is that in modern times many things trigger this response that are not really life-threatening, think PTSD or anxiety. When the amygdala has hijacked our consciousness we can only focus on the perceived threat to the exclusion of all else. In addition, the amygdala is only good at seeing the basic outline of the problem and can’t sort out details. We respond from conditioned training to these situations and do not bring much thought to the process. This is good if a lion is in the room, but not so good if our boss just criticized our project.
According to Dan Goleman, author of “The Brain and Emotional Intelligence,” the top five triggers of an amygdala hijack in our modern world are:
- Condescension and lack of respect.
- Being treated unfairly.
- Being unappreciated.
- Feeling that you’re not being listened to or heard.
- Being held to unrealistic deadlines.
Meditation trains the brain to keep the pathways open between the emotional centers and the thinking centers, specifically the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Basically, meditation trains us to use more of our brain for any given situation. Meditation practices offer natural, drug-free, self-administered ways to manage stress and to skillfully manage ourselves and our behavior towards others. Being able to modulate our initial feelings and thoughts and create a measured response is what makes us responsible citizens.
We strive for this because we have been told by most of the ancient traditions that this is where the truth lies. Where health derives from. Where happiness lies. We know this intuitively. More and more we have the help of modern science to substantiate this intuitive knowledge. Until recently, only those who had some degree of faith and spiritual inclinations would avail themselves of these techniques of mind cultivation. Now, those who only trust science can get into the act, and for their own good too!
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