Friday, November 26th, 2010
Emerging research in neuropsychology is proving that mindfulness meditation is good for a number of medical and behavioral disorders. Recently the work a renowned Chinese scientist, Dr. Yuan Tang showed that just 11 hours of mindfulness meditation, which he calls Integrated Body-Mind Technique (IBMT; check http://www.yi-yuan.net) are enough to make changes in the structure of the brain. These changed appeared as new fibers in the areas of the brain that regulate behavior! Read more at: Chinese meditation IBMT found to boost brain connectivity (UO Press release) PNAS: Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate.
We have always known that meditation can change behaviors. But we always thought that this happened because of relaxation and stress reduction. Now, we are asking: Could it be that our brain, once “rewired” changes the release of stress, pleasure and reward regulatory hormones? Fascinating.
Here is a simple meditation that I practice: Take a gentle deep breath in and exhale it slowly relaxing from head down your throat, rib cage, belly and your lower back. Then take another gentle deep breath in and repeat the same slow exhalation. The third time while exhaling visualize a drop of rain falling into a pond. Watch the ripples; circles gently expanding out. As each circle moves out away from the center, it leaves no trace – just a pure and perfect circle of imagination. There comes the next breath and the next drop of rain followed by the next circle.
East River Fall Season
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
I first learned to meditate as a teenager, exchanging 2 hours of meditation practice sessions per day in exchange for 3 hours of labor at a camp. At first, it was difficult if not painful sitting in the lotus position and trying not to chase any thoughts, instead focusing on breathing. Later, things got a little easier taking advantage of yoga to get the restless body ready for “nothing.”
I call “accidental meditation” or a pause moment, the kind of meditation, which does not require much preparation and even happens unintentionally but is powerful enough to leave you with a moment of transformation. I have had it happen to me walking, turning my car switch on, talking to people, during exercise and in many other situations.
What is it then? I cannot really explain it well but I can give a few examples. These moments are mostly visualizations, which cause a moment of pause, a quick reflection or insight. Sometimes they trigger a moment of joy and bliss.
East River at Sunset
Birds have recognizable flight patterns. Take a blue jay’s flight pattern when in a routine flight from tree to tree. Enjoying the ride, swinging up and down a few feet flapping wings just enough to stay in the air. Now imagine the same blue jay holding tightly to the latest “catch of the day” in its beaks. Now, the flight pattern is a different visual, little swinging up and down, no noise and no time to waste. This is not a flight pattern of joy and happiness; this is a blue jay on a mission, which needs to fly. Get to the destination quickly…don’t attract others….don’t drop the food! The pattern (and thus our perception of it) changed from a moment to a goal. From and end-in-itself to a means to an end… And indeed they look different.
Okay, so where is the meditation? Next time you see a blue jay in flight, watch it carefully. Observe the visual flight pattern in the sky. It does not stick around long like jet fuel in the sky. But the flight pattern is captured long enough to be registered and to be recognizable again: is it a joy ride or a mission flight? Do you see the catch of the day to confirm your observation? These ephemeral traces can be retraced in our minds in different occasions and for various uses. Next time you see a blue jay in flight you will know what I mean. And you will get the accidental meditation.