Positive Meditation changes the brain. So lets do some more of it.
Have you read Sharon Begley's book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain?
There she chronicles the recent work of Richard Davidson,Ph.D. in his studies of Buddhist meditators whose brains are actually made more compassionate because of their meditative practice.
Begley asks this question-
"Is it really possible to change the structure and function of the brain, and in so doing alter how we think and feel?
The answer is a resounding yes."
The following is from The Mind and Life Institute review of Begley's book.
"For decades, the conventional wisdom of neuroscience held that the hardware of the brain is fixed and immutable — that we are stuck with what we were born with. As Begley shows, however, recent pioneering experiments in neuroplasticity, a new science that investigates whether and how the brain can undergo wholesale change, reveal that the brain is capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons, even into old age. The brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma, and compensate for disability.
Begley documents how this fundamental paradigm shift is transforming both our understanding of the human mind and our approach to deep-seated emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. These breakthroughs show that it is possible to reset our happiness meter, regain the use of limbs disabled by stroke, train the mind to break cycles of depression and OCD, and reverse age-related changes in the brain. They also suggest that it is possible to teach and learn compassion, a key step in the Dalai Lama's quest for a more peaceful world. But as we learn from studies performed on Buddhist monks, an important component in changing the brain is to tap the power of mind and, if particular, focused attention. This is the classic Buddhist practice of mindfulness, a technique that has become popular in the West and that is immediately available to everyone."
Mindful Positive Meditation
How can I at age 61 develop some of this mindfulness skill?
I know full well that changing the thought to change the feeling works to make me feel better.
(Try this next time you feel resentful. Think of something you are grateful for, and then see how you feel. My guess is you will feel better, but for how long?)
That 'how long' is what bugs me. I would like to feel good all the time, which may not be plausible or possible, but I still want it.
So over the course of my life I have looked at a lot of tools, like Transcendental Meditation, and models to feel good, and have slowly learned that how I breath, what I eat, how I exercise, what I think, how I manage my stress, and how I sleep are as important as any short term intervention like a meditation done every once in awhile.
In other words, positive meditation must by practiced regularly, and across time I build a new baseline of feeling good.
I guess I am on track with the Dali Lama.
However, we in the west have discovered some very interesting information about our brains neuroplastic and neurogenetic capabilities, our heart's intelligence, and technological interventions that dovetail very nicely with what Begley is describing above.
In other words, we can enhance the positive meditation with computerized brain fitness programs which change the brain, and with HeartMath or heart rate variability biofeedback, which gives me the ability to manage the time between heart beats based on what I am thinking and how I am breathing.
So mindfulness or a moving positive meditation, which is what I like to call it, becomes very possible. I can be mindful using HeartMath as I do anything at all, and does it feel good!
So what is HeartMath, and why is it so cool? HeartMath is a computerized heart rate variability biofeedback tool which I use on my PC or or in the hand held unit, the emWave.
HeartMath practice teaches me to access the brain in my heart, actually the very sophisticated nervous system the heart has, composed of neurons just like the neurons in my head. That heart nervous system learns and makes decisions independently of the brain in my head, and in fact, sends quite a bit more data to the brain than vice-versa.
My heart will regulate the time between beats,which impacts the pneumatic and electro-magnetic energy that flows through my body each time the heart beats, and when those pulses are systematic, every cell in my body gets on the same beat, and I function from a very healthy physiology.
The hormonal bath associated with coherent heart rate variability is DHEA, not stress hormones.
You just have to be aware of how you are thinking and feeling and cue your heart, which loves to operate from affiliative and cooperative physiology.
HeartMath also opens higher perceptual centers in the brain, which opens the door for increased neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, mentioned by Sharon Begley.\
Neuroplasticity is what my neurons seek to do constantly, connect with each other, and the more they connect, the more neurons I can bring to bear on issues I am working on in my life.
However, without novel or challenging learning experiences, the brain actually shuts down connections which are unused. Not a good thing for your alzheimers folks.
(Want more information about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis? Read
Brainfit for Life)
Begley quotes Michael Merzenich,Ph.D. on neuroplasticity. Merzenich and his company, Posit Science, have created a brain fitness program which you can use on your computer which challenges your brain in a very significant way.
The training generalizes to other areas of life, which is great for Boomers like me, who are beginning to notice gaps in our ability to remember words.
Play our free online brain games and exercises to help keep your mind sharp!