Wednesday, April 20, 2011

more integrated brain

There is increasing evidence about the need and benefit of movement for a healthy brain - and specific information about how and why this is so.

A little does a lot. Every movement counts. There are immediate gains for our health, quality of life, as well as brain function.

We can no longer be serious about the development of mind and brain without incorporating movement - or at least developing a better understanding of human anatomy and physiology.

Get started with more information. The following quotation is from the website of John Ratey, MD.

Spark Your Brain!!!

Adding exercise to your lifestyle sparks your brain function to improve learning on three levels:

First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, mood, and motivation;

Second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and

Third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.

John Ratey

Monday, April 18, 2011

increased rational decision-making

Research report released today (done by Ulrich Kirk and others)

Summary: when assessing unfairness, meditators activate a different network of brain areas compared with controls enabling them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behavior.

These findings highlight the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision-making.

Frontiers: Original Research -Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in meditators playing the Ultimatum Game.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

for an integrated brain

Six-part plan for facilitating the brains capacity for development and deepening integration.

The six parts of the plan are a list from Dan Siegel, MD. I've added comments and practice suggestions.

1. Aerobic exercise

Consider not just exercising but paying close attention to the body as it moves. Can you notice movement without identifying the particular body part or muscles working?

Are you exerting energy in a balanced way? Are you overworking the body? Or under working? Are you alert and relaxed even as you increase exertion?

Or going further, can you notice stillness of mind within which the movement flows?

Consider also the quality of mind and the state of body after? Was your exercise mindful?

2. Sleep: adequate and restful

Just as it is good for our children to have a bedtime routine and a wind down time, so, too, for us. Are you giving yourself a balanced day, including work and relaxation?

Your system needs balance. Optimal performance requires you give yourself some rest and relaxation, even if you think you don't have time - especially if you don't have time!

3. Nutrition and Omega 3s

Seigel emphasized Omega 3s, but also mentioned overall good nutrition. Consider thinking of food and medicine. For an highly intuitive and supportive move into healthful eating see This link came to me through the Whole Foods mailing list.

4. Relationships

The Buddha suggests that if you want to be a kind person hang out with kind people. If you want to avoid being angry, limit your exposure to angry people. Whatever qualities you want to foster can be facilitated by increased exposure to them in others and to awareness of those qualities in your own continuum of experience. Like wise with what we want to diminish.

From what we now know about brain chemistry, the way we treat others actually influences their brain chemistry and cell function. From what we understand from Buddhist science of mind is that our treatment of others influences our mind and body as well. The kind of treatment we extend to others or receive from others creates health or proclivity for disease. Humiliation and shame are not just unpleasant and psychologically damaging, but harmful to the functioning of the organism on a metabolic level.

5. Novelty

Be open to variety. Try something new everyday. Simply changing your routine is a simple way to do this. Sitting in a different chair, taking a different route to work. Choose to be open and willing to explore. Take a creating course.

6. Mindful Attention (focus and mindful awareness)

Awareness is the most important step, not only to health, but to freedom. Without awareness we operate unconsciously out of past conditioning. Events come together in every moment, causes and conditions both from within our personal historical experience and within the context of the moment, from immediate events in our environment. With awareness we can learn to focus skillfully. This skillful focus is something we develop in a mature meditation practice, once we have learned the basics of practice - relaxed and alert attention to breath and body and a muscle for returning again and again to this simple focus.

Practice suggestions

Do a benchmark check. Where are you with the six step supports for brain/mind health? With this awareness you will naturally begin to take advantage of knowledge of these prescriptions and of our understanding of plastic capacity of the brain.

Please be aware that you don't need to make a project of any of these. Your natural inclination to health combined with this information will modify some choices you make. Through awareness and knowledge you have added another skillful element to the causes and conditions creating the next moment.

This writing evolved from our discussion of Siegel's suggestions and their relationship to practice that came out of our cyber sitting April 7, 2011.