Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Prayer Changes Your Brain

Did you know that prayer can change the physical structure of your brain for the better?

Pretty amazing!

A Well-Worn Path

Our Rev. Edward has given a great analogy about changing a thought or habit: Imagine that you walk
through a field of tall grass on your way somewhere every day. There is a well-worn path that you take each time without really thinking about it. Then one day you decide to go a different way. The tall grass springs right back up behind you as you pass through. But if you keep going that new way every time, eventually you wear a new path clear of grass all the way through the field.

Your brain works the same way. And this isn't just a metaphor. The way we think affects our brains. When we think a thought or have a habit - good or bad - that we repeat day after day, that's the well-worn path that takes little thought or effort. That's a good thing for routine tasks like remembering how to drive, not to mention eat, walk, and so many other things we do every day!

Making a New Path in Your Brain

But when that well-worn path is a bad habit, then reaching for that cookie or cigarette or whatever, happens without our conscious participation. Pretty soon the whole bag of chips is gone and you wonder "How did that happen?" in the same way you sometimes "wake up" while driving and find yourself at your destination.

So changing that bad habit takes effort. You need to think about it, and resolve to choose the new way over and over again until you have worn a new path through the field. I've seen video of a new thought being formed where neurons that were connected disconnect and re-wire to other neurons in the brain. Pretty cool! (If I find it, I;ll add the link.)

"Neurons that fire together wire together." Donald Hebb

This is where affirmative prayer can help.

New studies in neuro-science show that getting into a Delta brain wave state can help reprogram subconscious thoughts. In the relaxed state of prayer, you can slip in under the conscious radar to install new mental software. An affirmative prayer can actually start to wear that new path in the brain's field. You strengthen the connections in your brain through repeated prayer and meditation.

"You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better." Rick Hanson, PhD

How About You?

Do you find that prayer helps you change your mental or physical habits?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Your Inner Caring Committee

You've probably heard the term "the committee in my head" meaning all the voices in your brain from parents, teachers, and other significant people in our lives. Some of them can be mean, some kind. So it's time to create a team who is on your side all the time.

So I would like to pass along a cool guided meditation called your Inner Caring Committee.

This process comes from Rick Hanson, PhD, who is a Psychologist and a Buddhist, and has extensively studied neuro-biology of the brain. That's how our thoughts, experiences, and behaviors actually change our physical brain! Cool, isn't t?

He teaches how to use your mind to change your brain to change your mind.

Quiet Meditation

Try this in a place and time when you can be quiet and undisturbed.

Your Inner Caring Committee 

Your Inner Caring Committee needs at least the 3 beings listed below.
 For each one, call to mind a person or being or historical figure, or even a pet.
my nurturing committee member

  1. A nurturing, cherishing being - Glinda the good witch or a loving grandparent type
  2. An encouraging cheerleader - someone who says "You can accomplish anything!"
  3. A wise counsel being - your inner wizard or crone
Add any others that you would like to have in your corner.

my encourager
Imagine each of these beings in turn, and feel and "hear" them either around you or inside you.

You can make a collage of their photos and keep it in your meditation place or on your altar.

When you are faced with a difficult emotion or situation, call on them to help you through!

You can make them part of your daily practice. That can build and strengthen your feeling of resilience in the world.

How About You?

Do you have an inner caring committee?
When has your committee helped you through a tough time?

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You Might Also Like These Articles

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Don't Believe Everything You Think
Feeling Without? Look Within
How Did I Get Here?
Peeling the Onion 
What If I Just Can’t Connect To My Inner Knowing
Your GPS: God Positioning System

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mindfulness as mind fullness

The term Mindfulness is a newer term.
We used to say consciousness, then awareness.
It's all the same thing really.
It's about being mind-full. Not with thoughts and ideas and intellect.
But a mind full of awareness, presence, Be-ing.

It is about being present in the moment.
About not being caught up in the endless to do list.
About enjoying what we have, and getting off the hamster wheel of do, do, do.

If you are one of so many of us who answer the question "How are you?" with "Good, but busy!" then you might benefit from taking a few moments each day to be still and quiet.

Hard Lessons in Mindfulness

I had several hard lessons in mindfulness myself.
In recent years I have badly sprained an ankle, broken my arm, and slammed a car door on my hand.

In each of these injuries, the common factor was that I was thinking several steps ahead of me instead of where I was in that moment. That was a lack of mindfulness. Just living with my mind 1 or 2 seconds in the future caused these injuries.

Mindfulness Boot Camp

The sprained ankle proved to be the most intense mindfulness training. The doctor said to walk on it “as tolerated”, so I did. I had a pedometer at the time, and in my normal work routine, I took an average of 5,000 steps per day. So my ankle hurt. A lot.

But it was about 50 steps to the printer and back, at least 200 steps round trip to the restroom , and about 1,000 steps to the lunch room and back. not to mention other places in the large office I needed to go for day to day tasks.

At home I could stay off of it a bit more. I learned to go down the stairs backward to reduce the amount of pressure on and flexion required of my ankle. And I had to pay attention every single moment.

If I made one mis-step, which happened about once ever week, I would re-injure the ankle. It was humanly impossible to stay mindful every single moment.

Now I know about knee scooters. I had never seen one at the time, and it would have saved months of healing time.

I still practice mindfulness as often as I remember to remember. And now I ALWAYS remember to be aware on the stairs. And I am aware most of the time when I am walking. It’s an ongoing practice.

Free Online Mindfulness Summit - a Much Gentler Bootcamp

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There a free mindfulness summit happening in October 2015. It’s 31 days, with a speaker each day… leaders in the field of neuro-science, neuro-psychology, and mindfulness meditation.

Check out the speaker lineup, and register here.

And let me know how it goes for you!

How About You?

What is your favorite mindfulness practice?

Other Articles On Mindfulness

The Art of Absence
Dancing with Chaos
The Emptiness of Mind-fulness
Exchange Deadlines for Live Moments
In the Stillness
Living in my Right Mind
Living in the Hum, Not the Humdrum
Paying Attention Costs Nothing