Mindfulness to change your brain

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I want to tell you an interesting story about a client named Belinda. She came to me because she was having trouble with organizational skills. She said her brain felt scattered and she had trouble focusing on one thought or one task. I told her about a technique called Mindfulness that is being practiced in over 200 hospitals around the United States. The scientific studies showed that the practice of Mindfulness is a form of meditation that not only organizes mental function, but it lowers blood pressure , diminishes the risk of stroke and reduces stress and chronic pain.

Scientists have proved the practice of Mindfulness that focuses on sensory awareness and breathing actually causes physical changes in the brain to protect us as we age. This research is called neuroplasticity and is based on the theory that what we focus our minds on actually reshapes the brain in crucial ways, builds the autoimmune system and protects the cells from inflammatory conditions. Meditation is a form of controlled contemplation on a single image or peaceful scene or quality. This replaces the endless stream of thoughts and head noise.

When a person can control the endless chatter of mental overload, it is then possible to tune into the present surroundings and input.  In addition to being more attentive and finding enhanced quality of life, neuroscientists also found the patients in these studies had fewer age-related changes. Gray matter that comes with aging was reduced in a part of the brain that helps control motor skills and learning ability. Their patients in the study were also less sensitive to pain, with emotional benefits of less anxiety and depression. 

When I first introduced this concept of Mindfulness Meditation, Belinda resisted saying it was against her religion. I assured her it is not a dogma or a religion; it is a technique of directing one’s mind to effectively balance the  person’s body processes to feel calm and focused. It is not about controlling someone else, rather a technique to listen and be present in the moment more completely though a process of inner directives. Stress does not exist in the present time. Stress is the byproduct of worrying about what could happen, or what did happen and what might happen as a result of this.  I gave Belinda four breath exercises to practice  three to five minutes each. These are to be practiced with a specific intention for each one:

1. Breathe rapidly through the nose inhaling and exhaling with a shallow breath to cleanse old thoughts and behavior patterns. Hold the intention in this breath cycle to clear your mind and life style as if you are breathing fire to burn up the old problems.

2. Inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of seven to empty the mind of stagnant thoughts and clear the lungs of stagnant air. Clear the mind, lungs and the heart of all turmoil on the exhale and inhale the full presence of unconditional love. Hold the intention to empty all the stress from your body, mind and emotions.

3. In this breath cycle you will be counting the number of breaths that take you deeper and deeper into your heart center of love within. Take a deep breath through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth as you think the number ten. On each breath count one more number backwards (10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) This takes you into deeper relaxation and inner peace. Hold the intention to go within to find peace.

4. Begin your normal breathing pattern with a focus on listening to the sounds around you. Hold the intention to be aware of yourself fully in the present moment and to continue this in your daily life activities.

As Belinda learned to put her mind in the present by concentrating on her breath, she discovered not only that her mind was more focused and her activities and household more organized, but she had health and emotional benefits as well. She reported getting a better night’s sleep, improved concentration and memory and  better able to handle stressful situations.

Patrice Joy Masterson, MA is a Healthy Living Consultant. She offers personalized and group enhancement and holistic programs at the Harmonizing Health Retreat in Bedford, KY. For more information call 502-255-0622 or go online to www.harmonizing-health.info.