Having been assigned to discuss how meditation changes the brain, I read and watched whatever I could on the internet. I ended up realizing how little I knew!
I learned that the brain is trainable. I’m well into my fifties and I always made age my excuse for forgetting things. I can no longer do this because I learned how to train my brain.
It all begins with meditation. Studies have shown how different monks’ brains are from ours. According to Dr. Dan Siegel, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, meditation allows the parts of the brain responsible for more rational thought and reflection to subdue or regulate instinctive, emotional—fight, flight or freeze—reactions.
In high school, our retreat master, a Jesuit, played a tape recording of a narrative that was supposed to help us meditate. The narrative was so detailed, it was difficult not to see images in the mind as we listened. And yet, I fell asleep! So, when my turn came to relate what I saw, I began with the colors that I saw and how it felt to be on the imagined flight. I fell asleep after take off and the priest said, “she fell asleep in the Lord”.
Now that I’m older, I am able to keep awake and, after having been taught how to guide my thoughts back, I am now able to focus and stay awake even with eyes closed. Meditation and mindfulness, we are told, promote well-being, physical and mental health. The benefits alone make learning to meditate and become mindful attractive and worthwhile. There’s a catch, though: it takes time to learn to do it and practice is imperative. But effects happen fast.
Though there are no gyms or parks to learn and practice meditation and mindfulness, the internet has many resources that we can use. By training our brains, we are able to focus, open many more doors and achieve so much more.
It’s funny how an “eastern thing” like meditation is now being reintroduced to us even as we struggle to keep up with technology available in the west. We always make the west our standard, not only in scientific advancement, but even in looks as well (how many lotions or soaps without whitening ingredients can you find on supermarket shelves?)
As I read up on mindfulness and meditation, I began to realize that it was not really new to me after all. The “Body Scan” remind me of Lamaze breathing techniques at different stages of labor while the “RAIN Process” is very much like my coping response to situations I have had to face in life. Yes, there is so much more to learn, about the world—about myself!
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