Mindfulness: The Art & Science of Changing Your Brain

  • posted by Marci Anderson Evans
  • Monday, December 05, 2011

What do you think about when you hear the word "mindfulness?" To be honest, I used to think "nope, not for me!". Breath in, breath out, follow my breath. Ugh! I honestly couldn't see the point and every time I tried it seemed like a miserable failure. 


And then I attended a workshop by the brilliant Dan Siegel, MD and also began reading one of his many books on mindfulness entitled "The Mindful Therapist." My mind has been forever changed now that I'm beginning to understand why mindfulness is so critical to our health. 

I'm going to give you a 3 part synopsis of how Dr. Siegel's work on mindfulness has changed my life:

1. Mindfulness can be defined as: awareness of the present experience with acceptance, no judgement

2. Our brain naturally goes a thousand miles a minute. That's what it is designed to do. When we practice bringing it to the present moment physiological and structural changes occur in our brains! Yes, the act of bringing our mind to the moment changes the very structure of our brain.

3. As this happens, there are PROFOUND consequences. I will name a few: we become more open, less rigid in our thinking, more creative and resilient, less anxious, able to act rather than to react.

Practicing mindfulness is tough stuff. But it's with the act of practicing, the act of drawing your mind to the quite present moment WITHOUT JUDGMENT that the magic happens.

Below is a story of one person's journey with a 30 min meditation. Enjoy.

Recently I went to a 30-minute guided mindfulness meditation session. The teacher spoke for about 5 minutes at the beginning of the session, suggesting ways we could approach quieting our minds for that half hour. She suggested relinquishing following the breath, which is a typical approach to mindfulness meditation.

Instead she referred to a passage she had recently stumbled upon in the Bhagavad Gita that suggested that the labor, or effort, was the goal of this meditation practice; that we should not expect results or a mindfulness “product.” She went on to give us other ideas to use as a focus: the deep red of fall leaves that correlates with the chakra of groundedness, or the fiery red that corresponds to passion for life and self-confidence. We could also focus on an image from nature, or the words “softer, softer, softer.”

Then she was quiet. The room was quiet. My mind was not quiet: “ ‘Effort,’ I like that idea, just keep putting in the work at all my endeavors, yes, effort, interesting.” Then I observed that I was “thinking.” “Thinking,” I told myself.

I tried to see the two colors of red and feel grounded and self-confident. My mind wandered to an image of a leaf I had seen earlier that day; it had startled me by being so loud just by turning onto another leaf after a puff of wind.

The room stayed quiet. My neck felt tired. I felt tired. I wondered if anyone would mind if I quietly lay down. I decided they would.

I remembered an image I like that I recently cut out from a magazine—a young woman, smiling, her arm draped around her painted self-portrait (with the help of Photoshop). My words for that image have been “Here I am; I am good.” I want to be her: solid; self-confident; with an inner self that she herself has created that goes with her throughout her day, unchanging, no matter the circumstances. I stayed with this image for a few minutes.

I continued to move from image to image, occasionally saying the words “softer, softer, softer.” These words were soothing.

Then the session was over. I walked home and Ms. Anxiety swept into me like a Nor’easter. At home I stared out my window at the crescent moon’s light.

No results? Perhaps what the meditation leader meant by the words “effort” and “labor” was “engagement”—that engaging with any activity, including mindfulness meditation, is accepting, not resisting the activity. I stared at the moon and thought, “I will continue this labor as best I can.”

Ha! I’ve just spent 2 hours playing Freecell on my computer. The images from last week’s meditation session have grown pale. Today was an anxious day and “engagement” seemed impossible. I know the labor takes practice (as in, it must take place). I am resisting.

But: Begin again. Loud leaf. Quiet night. Re-engage to groundedness and self-confidence. “Here I am; I am good.” Softer, softer, softer.



If you liked this post, you might also like one of these recent posts:

  1. Product Showcase: Building Your Anti-Dieting Community Marci Anderson Evans 05-Feb-2016
  2. It's Winter & Soup's On! Marci Anderson Evans 27-Jan-2016
  3. Healing the Hate: A Better Body Image for 2016 Marci Anderson Evans 15-Jan-2016
  4. Guest Post: A Lesson from "Inside Out" Marci Anderson Evans 14-Jan-2016
  5. 5 Week Mindful Eating Meal Support Series Marci Anderson Evans 06-Jan-2016
  6. Marci's Top 5 Tips for Detoxing in 2016 Marci Anderson Evans 30-Dec-2015
  7. Rituals Marci Anderson Evans 22-Dec-2015
  8. Rituals- Your Daily Habits That Help or Hinder Marci Anderson Evans 22-Dec-2015
  9. Nigella Lawson, Clean Eating, & Eating Disorders Marci Anderson Evans 15-Dec-2015
  10. Tips for Thanksgiving Marci Anderson Evans 24-Nov-2015
Comments
Jess commented on 07-Dec-2011 04:48 PM
That's so cool that mindfulness can actually change one's brain structure! I have to give this mindfulness thing another try if it has the potential to make me less vulnerable to anxiety.

Post a Comment




Captcha Image

Trackback Link
http://www.marcird.com/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=2459&PostID=213718&A=Trackback
Trackbacks
Post has no trackbacks.

Related posts:

Harvard Says Good-Bye to Calorie Counting

Saturday, March 07, 2009
@font-face { font-family: Cambria Math; } @font-face { font-family: Calibri; } @page Section1 {size: 8.5in 11.0in; margin: 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin: .5in; mso-footer-margin: .5in; mso-paper-source: 0; } P.MsoNormal { FONT-SIZE: 11pt; MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; FONT-FAMILY: "Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-style-unhide: no; mso-style-qformat: yes; mso-style-parent: ""; mso-pagination: widow-orphan; mso-fareast-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-fami...

Part IV: How Much is it Gonna' Cost Me?

Saturday, March 28, 2009
This is the 4th in a series of 5 blog posts on grocery shopping.  Hope you find this information useful. It seems that most newspaper articles and news stories are focused on one thing THE ECONOMY. And for good reason, most people have been affected by it. And if you haven’t noticed, eating at home can save you big bucks. That’s one great reason why you need to start shopping smarter. Here are my tips to saving on your food bill: 1.) Learn the layout of your grocery store. It is designed...

Eating Disorders: How to Reach Out

Friday, April 03, 2009
A few days ago, a close friend called with a dilemma.  "I think my friend has an eating disorder, what should I do?  What can I say?"  For anyone who has witnessed a friend or relative suffer the demands of such a destructive illness, you know how difficult these questions can be.  Please know that if you find yourself in such a situation, you are not alone.  There are places of support to offer advice, encouragement, and information to guide you.  The National Eating Disorders Association ha...

Part V: Bringing it Home

Saturday, April 11, 2009
We have finally made it to our last and final blog posting for this series on the basics of grocery shopping. I’ve walked you through the steps of preparation, what to buy, and how to efficiently use your time and money. While all of the topics we’ve covered so far are important, this one perhaps takes the cake. So if you learn anything from me, I want it to be this: your delicious and fresh food should be as easy and accessible as the processed/packaged items in your pantry. Just follow ...