Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

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.

// The study had participants meditating for as little as 27 minutes each day. This is the first study documenting that meditating actually changes the brain.

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:

  1. Condescension and lack of respect.
  2. Being treated unfairly.
  3. Being unappreciated.
  4. Feeling that you’re not being listened to or heard.
  5. 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!

September 18, 2012 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditate 40 minutes a Day can replace antidepressant medication

Just 40 minutes a day can keep the blues away

 Antidepressants have been the mainstay treatment for depression, an approach that has garnered significant criticism over the years from those who believe the drugs are widely overprescribed and unsafe. For example, in some cases, antidepressants appear to actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors; certainly not a desired consequence for anyone, but particularly for someone suffering from depression.

Now for some good news: Research is suggesting alternative treatments may be as effective as – and definitely safer than – antidepressant medications. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry that suggests meditation benefits depression patients in remission from the disorder.

In the study, patients who learned how to meditate 40 minutes a day instead of taking antidepressant medication were as likely to avoid a relapse as patients taking antidepressants or a placebo (an inactive pill patients believed contained medication to help them control their depression symptoms).

Keep in mind that depression, particularly major depressive disorder, goes far beyond “feeling blue”; symptoms can severely impact home, school and work life.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditation helps maintain an Overall Healthier Lifestyle

Meditate to Reduce Stress

   Many people find that meditation helps to reduce stress,  reaching mental tranquility, focusing attention and maintaining an overall healthier lifestyle. In fact, the results of more than 1,000 peer-reviewed articles on meditation suggest that regular practice of meditation is associated with “significant relief from a variety of stress related physical and mental problems, a stronger immune system, longer life, increased energy and positive changes in brain function.”

If you have never meditated before, why not give it a try? It might seem awkward at first, but if you stick to it, you will find yourself enjoying it more and more. There are many types of meditation, all of which help lead you toward greater mental and physical tranquility and a sense of focus.

The following are some suggestions as an introduction to the practice of meditation.

Choose a relaxing, low-light location free from distractions. Remember, this is un-interrupted “you” time.
Sit comfortably on the floor, in a chair with your back straight, or perhaps in your garden or your favorite quiet space, which could be near the ocean, a lake or any other relaxing body of water.
Close your eyes and slowly take deep breaths.
Try to focus only on your breathing, the rise and fall of your abdomen, and how the air feels as each breath goes in and comes out.
As external thoughts start to pass through your mind, calmly acknowledge them and bring your focus back to the sensation of your breathing.
End your session by opening your eyes and allowing yourself to gently return to your normal daily routine feeling relaxed and refreshed.

And that’s the simple, relaxing, invigorating art of meditation! If you’re experiencing stress or any other condition that requires you “take it a little easier,” meditation may be a perfect place to start.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , | Leave a comment