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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Meditation Changes Your Brain!

We all know that exercise, especially proper, Paleo-type exercise to build strength, actually physically changes the structure of your muscles, i.e.- they get bigger and stronger!  

Now we also know that proper mental exercise, i.e. meditation also makes your brain change physically as well, in a beneficial way.  Check out the video above for a brief overview of the study that confirmed this utilizing M.R.I. brain scans.

Back already?  Good, let's continue:

What meditation truly is is not some hippie sort of "OOOOMMM" in the lotus position while sitars drone in the background... 

Meditation in it's true sense is simply giving your undivided attention to the present moment!

My basic meditation strategy is simply to sit in a comfortable chair, shut my eyes, and, whilst concentrating on my breathing, simply thinking the word "One" over and over, for each breath in and for each breath out.  Nothing else; if another thought comes up, I simply ignore it, and concentrate again on my breathing and my one word...  And other thoughts do come up, like random bubbles surfacing on an otherwise placid pond!  It really takes effort, minimal yet sustained, to keep concentrating only on the present- my breathing, the total relaxation of my body, my "one".  Especially when you are first getting started, this is hard; it is antithetical to our whole modern "ethic" of move, think, accomplish, make money, plan!!

I am sure that Paleolithic people were not like we are now; they rested much more, and lived almost entirely in the present moment.  I also believe that they were much more resistant to our modern mental problems of anxiety, depression, and many other neuroses that result from both our incredibly nutrient poor diets (particularly the Omega 3 and other good fats), and frenetic, overcrowded, and over-competitive lives.

While the actual, formal meditation process outlined here is a great way to get started in meditation and start adding the benefits to your life, there are other ways, once you kind of "get it" and learn to shut down your chimp mind, which is your wandering, thoughts-a-flitting, attention changing every second or so conscious mind, and attend to the here and now.  This is actually a process of tuning in to your right brain, which is the intuitive, feeling, creative part of your brain, and ignoring the ever chattering left brain.  We have over-emphasized the left brain in modern times, ignoring and suppressing what is in reality one half of our identity!  

Some of the other ways you can "meditate" or at least tap into the here and now and into your right brain are with things like forest bathing, or woods walking, with your attention on the present, and not thinking about taxes, or paying the power bill, or-you name it- just the here and now!  Oooom!

In church this morning, I thought about how prayer is a form of meditation- total concentration and attention to God!  We all have wandering minds; I thought about how important it is to really focus on the here and now, especially in church!

And even when driving home in my old truck, if I turn off the radio or the iPod, and simply think about driving- first gear, second, third, fourth... clutch, brake, steering... and simply am there in the moment, 
all the way home, I am the better for it!  My right brain thanks me, my hippocampus thanks me, and my  amygdala is overjoyed!  

Playing music is largely right-brained centered, and present-centered- we all know music is a thoroughly joyful endeavor!  Kind of "musical meditation" in a way..

So meditate!  The benefits are profound- just the increase you will gain in focused concentration alone is well worth it- and the quality of your life will vastly increase!  

J & Zeke

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