View Full Version : Working with our brainsand minds.

Kunga Dorji
02-24-11, 07:52 AM
We have reached a point where neuroscience and meditation practice are converging to produce rapidly transformative tools.
This is an excerpt from Rick Hanson's free weekly newsletter - "Just one thing" published with his kind permission.

He discusses the way in which we are wired for danger and negativity, and how we may consciously choose to re- bias our systems in a productive way:

The Practice
Don't be alarmed.
<table style="margin-bottom: 5px;" border="0" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 10pt; text-align: left;" rowspan="1" colspan="1" align="left"> Why?

The nervous system has been evolving for about 600 million years. During all this time, creatures - worms, crabs, lizards, rats, monkeys, hominids, humans - that were real mellow, watching the sunlight on the leaves, getting all Zen, absorbed in inner peace . . . CHOMP got eaten because they didn't notice the shadow overhead or crackle of twigs nearby.

The ones that survived to pass on their genes were nervous, fidgety, vigilant, paranoid - and we are their great-, great-grandchildren, bred to be afraid, quick to feel unsettled in any situation that seems the least bit threatening: traffic speeding up, not enough time to get through your emails, a snippy comment from a relative, more news of a struggling economy, a strange new ache in your back, no call after two days from someone you've started dating, and so on.

Additionally, there are even more fundamental sources of alarm that are ongoing, even if your situations are reasonably good. Basically, to survive, animals - including us - must continually try to:
∑ Separate themselves from the world (e.g., the skin, personal identity distinct from others)
∑ Stabilize many dynamic systems inside the body, the body, and in relationships
∑ Get rewards and avoid harms

But here's the problem - each one of these strategies flies in the face of the facts of existence:
∑ Everything is connected to everything else - so it's impossible to completely separate body and nature, me and you.
∑ Everything changes - so it's impossible to keep things stable in the body, mind, relationships, or world.
∑ Rewards are fleeting, costly, or unobtainable, and some harms are inevitable - so it's impossible to hold onto pleasure and escape pain.

Alarms sound whenever one of these strategies runs into trouble - which is many times a day because of the contradictions between what we must try to do to survive, and the nature of existence. Alarms below awareness create a background of unease, sensitivity, and irritability; those entering awareness are emotionally and often physically uncomfortable - such as anxiety, anger, or pain.

Don't underestimate the degree of subtle, background alarm in your mind and body. It's hard-wired and relentless, inherent in the collision between the needs of life and the realities of this universe.

While this alarmism is a great strategy for keeping creatures alive long enough to pass on their genes, it's lousy for long-term health and well-being. Most of the time it is unfair: a threat signal that is way out of proportion to what is actually happening. It makes you feel bad, and primes you to over-react to daily hassles, disappointments, stress, or issues with others. It makes you pull in your wings and play safe and small, and cling tighter to "us" and fear "them." And at the level of groups and nations, our vulnerability to alarm makes us easy to manipulate with fear.

Yes, deal with real threats, real harms - but enough with all these false alarms!</td></tr></tbody></table> How?

Try to be more aware of subtle internal signals of alarm, such as a tightening in your chest or face, a sinking feeling in your stomach, a sense of being off-balance, or an increase in scanning or guardedness.

Then investigate this apprehensiveness. When did it begin? What caused it? What's the experience of it in your body? What attitudes or priorities result?

Take a stand for yourself: "I'm tired of being needlessly afraid." Consider the price you've paid over the years due to false alarms: the unnecessary discomfort, the running for cover, the muzzling of self-expression, the abandonment of important big dreams.

Recognize that most alarm signals are actually not signals at all: they're just unpleasant noise, meaningless, like a car alarm that won't stop blapping. Don't react to alarms with alarm; don't be alarmed that you're alarmed. (Obviously, sort out the alarms worth noticing from the ones you can safely ignore.)

Accept that life will sometimes be, well, alarming. Bad things happen, there are uncertainties, planes do occasionally crash, nice people get hit by drunk drivers. We just have to live with the fact that we can't dodge all the bullets. When you come to peace with this, you stop trying - out of alarm - to control the things you can't.

Talk to yourself in a reassuring and encouraging way. Remind yourself that you're alright right now, and that most of the things you are nervous about are either not going to happen or will be minor and manageable trouble if they do. Recognize your strengths, your capacities to cope just fine with whatever's alarming.

Keep calming your body. I imagine my "inner iguana" lodged in the most ancient and fearful structures of the brainstem, and gently stroking its belly, soothing and settling it so it relaxes like a lizard on a warm rock. The same with my inner rat, or monkey, or caveman: continually softening and opening the body, breathing fully and letting go, sensing strength and resolve inside.

Alarms clang and fears arise, yes, but your awareness and intentions can be much bigger - like the sky dwarfing clouds. In effect, fears are held in a space of fearlessness. You are realistic about and also at peace with this zig-zaggy, up-and-down world. See if you can return to this open-hearted fearlessness again and again throughout your day.

This practice works- and is a great tool to use in meditation.

The changes are initially slow, but they accumulate most effectively.

As Rick says "We can use our Mind to change our rain, to further change our Mind."

In my experience it works really well. A good teacher always helps. Failing that - reviewing every free resource you can find. This is an art and it takes time to learn your way around the confusion that arises whenever we try to cage the fullness of our experience in mere words.

Rick Hanson's website is great- and he has tons of stuff on You Tube.
He makes much of his work available for free.

02-24-11, 01:16 PM
As Rick says "We can use our Mind to change our rain, to further change our Mind."'We create our own reality' (ADDF::Nova)

It has to be the way.

Where opening oneself up to every idea which one can find, in a form which may be understood (natural language,picture,graph), has a thoroughly unexpected {peculiar,good} effect on the mind ... ... ...

everything ~simplifies~

There's no longer any oppressive obfuscation there ... ... people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves.- the mind can see through all of that, for what it is.As for me, all I know is that I know nothing

Kunga Dorji
03-01-11, 01:37 AM
More evidence:
http:// (http://http//

But now, scientists say that meditators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (
M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participantsí meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

8 weeks is all it took to produce measurable changes.
These are the sort of changes that Rick Hanson's exercise (above) is trying to produce.
They are highly significant to ADHD- because the "mental pull" caused by an object of conscious awareness that we have unconsciously mislabelled as acutely threatening is one of the most potent things that can derail the precision of our focus.