This Is Your Brain On Meditation

“Science and meditation teachings are exactly parallel, but they don’t speak the same language.” Mingyur Rinpoche

Do you know that a daily meditation practice soothes and awakens your brain’s highest potential? Really. Let’s go through the checklist.1) When you sit down with the committed intention to meditate, you light up the frontal cortex – the part of the brain behind your forehead. This engages your limbic system, which involves emotion, and you begin to have positive feelings.2) You are actually built to handle stress, but not chronic stress, and it’s very difficult to be mindful when you’re stressed. Stress activates the monkey-mind tendencies inside you. It’s all part of your flight or fight system. This stress is connected to your sympathetic nervous system, and here you have the real power. You can calm down your sympathetic nervous system simply through consciously exhaling. Half a dozen long, slow exhales will do the trick. Your brain is soothed and you feel balanced.3) It’s very important to feel safe in life, and meditation is the best place to practice this feeling. As a species, we’ve evolved to overestimate threats and to underestimate opportunities & resources for dealing with threats. Unfortunately. But you CAN feel safer than you normally do. You can feel less guarded, less braced, and more confident in your ability to meet life. You know you can.  And practicing it in meditation rehearses it for life. This sense of safety helps you with mindfulness, because you cannot be internally self-aware if you are continually scanning for threats (worries, fears, mistrusts) and increasing your external vigilance.

4) You typically experience a sense of necessary well-being in meditation. And you want to continue to experience that as you go about your day. Maintaining that focus requires holding it in what’s ‘working memory’, which is a kind of gate that is either open or closed. When it’s closed, the content of it (a well-being feeling, for example) stays there. That translates to you as a steady mind, a grounded or centered feeling, and you are able to stay with whatever you want to pay attention to. This gate stays closed because of a steady drop of the neuro (brain) transmitter, dopamine, BUT, the gate pops open when you get distracted, allow yourself to become guarded, or anything that sends the signal to the brain that you are no longer meditating.

5) Another experience of meditation is the glorious feeling of boundless space – of weightlessness, limitlessness, flying…. This feeling activates the lateral networks on the side of your head that are associated with mindful, open, and spacious awarness. What I love, is that meditation moves you out of the typical mind state in the middle of the brain (which is busy planning, thinking about the past, using language….and always with a strong sense of self or ego). Although it’s important to function from the middle of the brain, I’m sure you, like most of us, tend to overemphasize the activities in these midline sections, and therefore get a strong buildup in those regions. It takes training and practice to activate the expansive lateral networks. You can do this through trusting in the process and flow of life and practicing non-attachment, but it’s infinitely easier to practice this in meditation. There you can cultivate a sense of boundless awareness. You can obtain and experience a bird’s-eye, panoramic view and sense of the world, your life, and all things in it.

In its wholeness, your meditation practice stimulates a mindful attention, called neural substrates. With an  ongoing practice, you build up the substrates of compassion, self-esteem, resilience, insight and deep concentration. These build-ups actually make your brain thicker! It builds synapses, synaptic networks, and layers of capillaries, if you really want to know. The pre-frontal cortex (behind the forehead, remember?) is the part of your brain that is involved in deliberately paying attention to something. It’s the executive control of attention, aiding you in better concentration development. And, it also gets thicker. And when you’re scanning your internal sense of body, and becoming aware of your higher feelings of other people (advanced empathy and self-awareness), you are causing the insula part of your brain to get thicker as well.

So, the basics of meditation in 5 basic steps:
1) Bring your awareness and focus to what you’re doing
2) Soften your thinking and your body by exhaling longer than your inhales
3) Drop your guard by allowing yourself to feel as safe as you reasonably can
4) Using your senses, open to the simple feelings of well-being
5) Become aware of the unlimited, boundless space

if for no other reason than to soothe and awaken your brain’s highest potential.

This is your brain on meditation. Any questions?

If meditation is new (or relatively new) to you and you want to start now, I’m offering even more support for the month of September

JUMPSTART is my one-on-one beginners meditation program. It includes 6 meditations, a beginners guide, and three 30-minute phone or Skype guidance sessions. Within 3 weeks, and with daily practice, I promise you’ll be a meditator.

For the month of September I’d like to offer JUMPSTART for HALF THE PRICE – to welcome new and desiring meditators into the inner circle. :)
Regular $325. September’s price $162.50.  Sign up and purchase here.

THE 30-DAY COMMITMENT! is my daily offering of 30 progressive, inspiring meditations all created to integrate your lower self with your higher self. Truly awesome. All that is required is your daily commitment to your whole self.

For the month of September I’d like to offer the 30-DAY COMMITMENT! for HALF THE PRICE.
Regular $199. September’s price $99.50. Sign up and purchase here.