Tell Your Brain To Shut Up and Listen!

As promised, I embarked on the practice of mindfulness meditation to learn useful techniques on how to change our state of mind deliberately. The practice serves as a navigator through the ups and downs of life, transcending the fear and seeing things or the problem as they are. Meditation takes you to a place deep within yourself, a bridge to your inner wisdom that helps you stabilize distress—the optimal formula to nurture the best version of yourself.

At its core, the concept of mindful meditation is nothing more than being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. It is not always about sitting in the Burmese position (mind you, it does help) and chanting a mantra but to be present at the moment. As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in “Catastrophe Living,” unless you change your way of looking at things, no type of meditation will be useful in the long run. He frames a set of 7 fundamental attitudes that will help with the practice of being present. Non-judgingpatiencebeginner’s mindtrustnon-strivingacceptance, and letting go are to be part of your frame of mind to channel your energies and reach an alpha state. I will dive deeper into each of these attitudes in my upcoming “Mind Series.” 

The practice needs commitment! In the beginning, it will be very hard to include the above attitudes in your thought process, but merely keeping them in mind and applying them in small increments in your day-to-day ways, from eating habits to rituals or working systems, will eventually be ingrained in your thinking.

  • A good place to start is to take notice of your daily habits. For instance, pay attention to what you are eating as if it is for the first time that you are seeing or tasting that food. You can try with just one fruit or any other produce that you like. This exercise involves minding one moment to another and can be extended to other tasks and routines. 
  • Intentionally, build up your efforts and set aside a time during the day to quiet your mind and focus on your breathing.
  • Taking notice of the breath is the anchor that shifts our battling mind and anxieties to a relaxing and calming stage. The turbulence is still there, but even if it’s for a few minutes, this exercise enables you to reconnect to your ability to stay calm.

 

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Photo courtesy of rafyA creative art designs
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – the idea is to intentionally contract the diaphragm muscle and relax your belly during the inhalation to rise and deflate on exhalation. Lie down on your back or stretch out on a recliner put one hand on your belly. Bring your attention to your hand and feel it move. Practice for 15 minutes every day. (“The power of Breathing, Jon Kabat-Zinn) 
  • The other way of practicing mindfulness of breathing is to be mindful of your breath during the day.

 

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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com
  • Kindly observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment and turn your focus on your breath each time you start dwelling on them.
  • Note the persistent thoughts, detect the emotional threats of the self-centered sentiments, anger, hate, or different moods.
  • Recognize that what comes to your mind is only a thought. By redirecting your attention to your breath, you will detach any value to the lingering thought, and gradually, you will have the strength to intentionally let go of the negative emotions and calm your brain.
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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

The whole process is not about pushing the unwanted emotions or thoughts away but cultivating the courage to see as they are. Meditation is about accepting the contents of your mind, regaining calm to reach the peaceful brain wave, and finding clarity.

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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

Explore your rhythms and pulses, and in concert with your restyled thinking at the same time integrating gratitudecompassionkindnessforgivenessgenerosity, and tolerance, steadilyyou can lead a robust lifestyle.

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Art of Alex Gross

Can Meditation Change The Brain?

Throughout history, meditation has been practiced in one form or another to assert the primal instinct to connect with oneself and the universe. Perhaps it is the most effective channel to reach clarity and harness the power of thought. Interestingly, the practice has its variations from the sweat lodge ceremonies of Native Americans, reading the Bible, the whirling dervishessound rituals of aboriginals, and Islamic practices of prayers. Nevertheless, meditation trains the brain and enables us to shift our brainwaves from the working mind to deep sleep.

I briefly touched on the Alpha State of mind in my last post; now, I like to delve into moving from one state of mind to another through meditation. So I decided to learn about the process and write about my findings in a series of blog posts.

Let’s start with our brain frequencies:

  • Gamma State (30-100Hz) is when your brain is extremely active and retains information. In this state, you are an active learner, and the assimilated information is lasting. However, if it is excessively stimulated, it can lead to anxiety. A good example is when you attend a seminar or a workshop, and the coaches urge you to jump up and down or dance.
  • Beta State(13-30HZ) is associated with the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that orchestrates our thoughts and actions from personality expression, decision-making, or keeping our social behaviors under control.
  • Alpha State (9-13Hz) is when the thinking mind slows down becomes calm and peaceful. In this state, the brain’s communication pathways (neural integration) are open to activate the intelligible and reflective mind. The only way to know that you have reached this state is when you are entirely relaxed mentally and physically.
  • Theta State (4-8Hz) is when our brainwaves in its intuitive thinking. Meditation begins in this state, and we can move the thinking mind over to the visual mind. Your brain is extremely receptive to visualization.
  • Delta State (1-3 Hz) is when we are in deep and dreamless sleep. In this state, through transcendental meditation, we can reach the unconscious realm and connect with the collective unconscious or the universal mind.

When you train your brain to move from the active state to a calm state through mindful meditation, the brain undergoes positive changes. It heightens emotional intelligence and strengthens the resilience of your mind leading to good physical well-being. In a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia, “Is meditation associated with altered brain structure?”, they confirm that the brains of consistent meditators have thicker tissue in those regions responsible for body awareness, enhanced focus, stress management and attention control. (Referring to Anterior cingulate cortex – the area associated with controlling impulses and maintaining attention).

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ANTONIO MORA

Furthermore, the research outlines that mindful meditation’s regular practice activates some regions in the brain while other regions are deactivated. For instance, the brain region associated with many negative emotions such as anxiety or sadness gets smaller with practice.
Overall, integrating mindful meditation techniques into our lives will significantly reduce our unproductive emotions and boosts self-regulation.

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ANTONIO MORA

In the next post, I will introduce a few techniques on applying this alternative well-being approach into our daily lives to manage our emotions.

Featured image by ANTONIO MORA