Archive for the ‘Contemplative Education’ Category

Welcome to the White House Mr. President!

January 21, 2009

Welcome to the White House Mr. President! We at The George Greenstein Institute salute you, extend our best wishes (and mazel!) and send our support to help America “dust itself off and back on its its feet”!

On our end, we will do our best to provide up to date and empirically valuable research as well as share the most balanced, most cogent, most compelling views on improving health, creativity and optimal performance and offer our hand in training future neuroleaders of all ages! We’re working as quickly as we can to get our new website up and running to accomplish that goal!

In the meantime, to honor your new administration vision, we are offering a series of free teleseminars focused on Yoga and the Brain — designed to introduce the public to the healthy art and science of meditation. Ideal for for the visionary corps of teachers, doctors, coaches, trainers, and students dedicated to health and wellness! Readers: please scroll down to the next blog for more info! Or write for more info in the comment box below!

It’s a great day in the U.S.A. and for the world in general!

Synaptically yours,

Dr. Greenstein

P.S. For those readers interested in helping President Obama make a solid and wise choice about supporting more wholistic health research and school programs, please go now to the following site and Vote “Up.”
http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov/ideas/viewIdea.apexp?id=0878000000057DC


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Yoga and the Brain! Free Teleseminar Jan 12/13 2009

January 7, 2009

Greetings Somanauts!

Here’s the new year’s update on the free GGI teleseminar: Yoga and the Brain!

First to say, the teleseminar is filling up with folks from different countries, proving the global interest in movement meditation and the brain!

With that in mind, the teleseminar is scheduled for the following dates and times below:

U.S. and U.K. residents:

Date: January 12, 2009

Time: 9 a.m – 10 a.m., Pacific Standard Time

For Australian and AsiaPacific Residents:

Date: January 13, 2009

Time: 10 a.m. (Sydney time zone)

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A recap of the teleseminar goal and content:

Who should take this teleseminar? Anyone working with, or interested in, the neurological effects of restorative or high performance training including allied health workers, public policy makers, physicians and physician assistants, psychiatrists, ADHD specialists, social entrepreneurs in health and wellness, and of course, all members of the somatic, yoga, meditation, athletic and martial arts community. (Global citizens please note: The teleseminar will be conducted in English.)

What will I learn: This teleseminar introduces the core neuroscience concepts central to any top quality training program that teaches yoga and movement meditation. Concepts include: neuroplasticity, immersive attention, somasensory integration and more.

What are the key benefits of this teleseminar?: You will leave the teleseminar energized and armed with a grand pattern of understanding how neurologically important your work is as a proponent of yoga movement and meditation. Seminar discussion is particularly valuable for anyone dedicated to improving the development and integration of brain, body and mind.

How do I join this free teleseminar? Simply write to 2docgee@gmail.com with the word “yes, ” along with your state and country of residence. Follow up information will be sent to you at your given email address.

Looking forward to your participation!

May the Breath Be With You!

Dr. G., Founding Director, The George Greenstein Institute, creating a sustainable future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!

The George Greenstein Institute is dedicated to serving the public good, by offering up to date, brain-based education in health, creativity and performance world wide.

Free Teleseminar!: Yoga and the Brain!

December 31, 2008

The Platform: The George Greenstein Institute rings in the New Year with a free teleseminar: Yoga and the Brain!

The Twitter: 2008 proved movement and meditation are great for improving the embodied brain!

The Big Idea: Take your yoga, martial art, meditation, wellness or neuroleadership practice to a new level by learning about the key prime mover: the brain!

If 2008 proved itself as the Year of the Brain, 2009 will surely follow with raising awareness of we can change our brains, our bodies and our minds!

To that end, The George Greenstein Institute is proud to offer the first of its 2009 teleseminars: “Yoga and the Brain,” taught by yours truly, Dr. G.

brain-763982-1

Who should take this teleseminar? Anyone working with, or interested in, the neurological effects of restorative or high performance training including allied health workers, public policy makers, physicians and physician assistants, ADHD specialists, social entrepreneurs in health and wellness, and of course, all members of the somatic, yoga, meditation, athletic and martial arts community. (Global citizens please note: The teleseminar will be conducted in English.)

What will I learn: This teleseminar introduces the core neuroscience concepts central to any top quality training program that teaches yoga and movement meditation. Concepts include: neuroplasticity, immersive attention, somasensory integration and more.

What are the key benefits of this teleseminar?: You will leave the teleseminar energized and armed with a grand pattern of understanding how neurologically important your work is as a proponent of yoga movement and meditation. Seminar discussion is particularly valuable for anyone dedicated to improving the development and integration of brain, body and mind.

How do I join this free teleseminar? Simply write to 2docgee@gmail.com with the word “yes.” Follow up information will be sent to you at your given email address.

With all neurotransmitters sparking, I wish everyone a happy new calendar year. May 2009 be the year we all resolve to consciously rewire our brains! Gong Ji Kuai Le!

Dr. G., Founding Director, George Greenstein Institute, creating a sustainable future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!

mamindshare_dec-026Bio: M. A. Greenstein, Ph.D. is the “chief brainiac” of The George Greenstein Institute. An internationally respected author, keynote speaker and advocate for visual and somatic education, Dr. Greenstein has dedicated herself to advancing somatics and sciences and the field of neuroleadership by reframing the matrix of research and training to include neuroscience and fields of inquiry that address wholistic approaches to improving health, innovation and performance (Get HIP!) Dr. Greenstein will be teaching meditation at TED 2009, and moderating a panel on Social Entrepreneurship at the upcoming 2009 Creativity conference: Worlds in the Making!

Great News!: Transcendental Meditation, ADHD and the Brain!

December 29, 2008

A quick Spacesuit Yoga Twitter!:  Transcendental Meditation shown to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children

A small, though important study was just published in the peer-review journal  Current Issues in Education > Volume 10, 2008 > Number 2, showing the positive correlation between T.M. practice, stress reduction and improvement in use of executive function in school children ages 11-14. Scientists limited the study to students with pre-existing diagnoses of ADHD made by a physician or psychologist.

The study was conducted as a team effort between members of a private research firm, researchers from the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management and faculty at University of Arizona.

The link to the study:  http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume10/number 2/

This is terrific news for the meditation, ADHD, educational and neuroscientific communities at large!

[For those who know little about T.M. as a meditative practice, it is considered by T.M. researchers to be a ‘technique of “effortless transcending”’ (Travis, et al., 2002).  Though I don’t debate the contributions T.M. makes to whole-brain health and happiness, I find statements like this negate the obvious neuroscience and cognitive question:  “Where does one place one’s attention?”  To that point, authors of the study distinguish the neuro-cognitive basis of T.M. as distinct from “concentration” practices like Zen breath meditation and from “contemplative” practices like Vipassana or Insight meditation. Clearly more research with rigorous interest in the rhetoric of description is needed to identify the neural network correlates to the many paths of meditation practice.]

I will continue to report on key studies of meditation research that impact how we in the global community, think about the relations of health to learning, memory, imagination and decision-making in children and adults!!

Synaptically yours!

Dr. G.

The George Greenstein Institute, dedicated to a sustainable  future by coaching bodies, brains and minds!

 

Happy Holidays from SpaceSuit Yoga!

December 25, 2008

For all of the somanaunts, neuronauts, neuroleaders and seekers of yogic meditation, an auspicious holiday message shared by the unsung poet laureate of the yoga community: YogaDawg, author of My Third Eye Itches:

images

It happened in a Saturday morning yoga class. Exhausted from preparations for the holidays, the yogi was looking forward to a yoga session. During a particular pose, the yogi closed his eyes, felt a calm awareness and was surprised to find he was perfectly aligned. That had never happened before as he was a novice at yoga.

As he continued to hold the pose, the students around him smiled as they admired its perfect alignment. The teacher stopped teaching the class to study the pose and called other yogis into the studio to show it to them. As word spread, yogis from other studios gathered around to admire it also. All seemed to agree that they had never seen a pose done with such poise.

Those studying the pose became more flexible, felt happier; more alive. Wrinkles disappeared; digestion improved; aches and pains were relieved while glass jaws, rope burns, paper cuts, blackheads, spring fever, homesickness, halitosis, corns, bunions, warts, the heebie-jeebies, shyness, unexplained weeping, in-grown toenails and gunshot wounds were all mysteriously cured.

As word of the pose passed from yogi to yogi, it became the number one discussion on yoga blogs and websites. Photos of the pose were scanned, faxed, emailed, made into posters and appeared on billboards. It was featured on the six o’clock news. The pose made the cover of Yoga Journal and the magazine renamed itself, “The Pose”, shortly thereafter. Famous yoga stars started making yoga videos, writing yoga books and offering yoga workshops about the pose. The pose began to be referred to as “The Pose”.

Novelists incorporated The Pose into their books. A famous author penned a pivotal work titled “The Perfect Pose” which went on to become the best selling novel of all time. The novel was made into a movie; the movie was adapted to a one act play; the play was made into a musical which gave way to a major opera called “La Pose”. This made the Italians very happy. Consequently, ancient yoga texts were rewritten to include The Pose. Yoga scholars discussed it in new commentaries on said ancient texts and new scholarly works were written about it.

The Pose enabled people to sleep peacefully through the night (without snoring), charm cobras, leap buildings in a single bound, acquire untold wealth and speak fluent Sanskrit and Swahili. They also gained the ability to compose complex jazz melodies while walking in the park.

The Pose went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for physics, a Heisman Trophy, an Oscar for best supporting actress and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by the President of the United States. A small pacific island nation changed its name to the Island of Pose, (Subsequently becoming the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth by offering workshops and conferences to teach The Pose to yogis around the world).

Endangered species began to reproduce rapidly, rescuing them from extinction. The lamb lay next to the lion and leprechauns were seen riding on unicorns. The sun always shined; the plants were always watered; the dog was always walked; the hole is the ozone was closed.
All creatures on the earth sang along to the Music of the Spheres; Gabriel blew his horn and the Sirens chanted hallelujah! Energy became unlimited and non-polluting; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse got off their horses to practice The Pose…and…

As the yogi opened his eyes and came out of the pose, he remarked to himself, “I sure wish I was better at this yoga stuff…”

http://www.yogadawg.com/

May the Breath Be With You!

Dr. G.

The George Greenstein Institute, coaching bodies, brains and minds!

Visual meditation is great for brain/mind training!

December 14, 2008

Welcome back to the discussion on visual meditation and mandalas!

Within major wisdom traditions of meditation, be they spiritual, religious or scientific brain and health training programs, there is typically the path of education or entrainment. Meditation or mental practice, after all, is not the default mode of a mature human central nervous system that is wired for turbo”different detecting” in space/time! Remember, difference detecting is that old survival mechanism that helps all mammals determine: Will that eat me or will I eat that? Is it safe to sleep here or is it not? And now in our modern jungle version where we communicate and travel at the speed of light, our human brains and central nervous systems race faster and faster to keep up with the deluge of information, images, and experiences we encounter day after day!

It makes sense that in response to or retreat from cultures drunk on speed, we would turn to “best practices” of earlier times, namely the ancient art and science of meditation, to help us slow down, to assist us in creating equilibrium in our bodies and in our lives. The good news is that at the dawn of the 21st century, meditation traditions practiced around the globe are finding their way into translation in order to prevent suffering and benefit all humankind. A grand project indeed!

So how does visual meditation figure into all of the hoopla about meditation as being great for creating inner peace. lowering stress and brain training?

Drawing upon both Buddhist and Hatha Yogic traditions, we find two key lessons to enable the learner: Turning Inward and Consciousness of Abstracting.

Turning inward allows us to find the most important radar signaling systems of the human body: Breathing and Paying Attention, both made possible by a “conscious” brain. [I’m using the term “conscious” in the here and now, scientific sense of brain activation.]

Paying attention enables us to “consciously abstract” or selectively focus upon a sign, an feeling, a sensation, a process of movement out of all that we might experience at any given moment.

Now, suggesting that someone turn inward seems to be completely counter intuitive to surviving in a culture that demands external focus for reading signs for survival! In gung ho American culture, think of the mockery we make of the quiet, reflective types — the teen who hides in in fantasy novels, the poet who sits and reflects on life, the college student who prefers to study Art, Sufi Dancing or Zen practice rather than ice hockey!

The irony of course is that in today’s sports training, “turning in” is one of the key training tools of Olympic training practice! (Think of Michael Phelp’s incredible ability to turn inward and “focus.”!!!). So turning inward, drawing one’s attention away from the noise of the outside world and turning it toward the space of one’s own inner life is a key step of Hatha Yoga, Zen, T.M. and Vipassana or Mindfulness traditions.

You might be saying at this point, “O.K., turn inward. And consciousness of what? How exactly do I use a visual image placed outside my own body?

Good question: Here’s the neuro-scoop and poop on using visual mandalas: (more…)

Spacesuit Yoga is tweeting from Twitter.com!

December 12, 2008

Will soon be adding a blog on complex mandala meditation but in the meantime, you can always find short “tweets” from me, DRG at Twitter.com
And to get you started thinking about or meditating upon a inspiring and complex visual mandala, here’s close-up of one of Phillip George’s boards. (House and Gardens….. Surf’s UP!)

bigmixed2

Meditation, Mandalas and the Brain

December 9, 2008

Greetings readers, a follow up on questions concerning choosing a visual meditation practice:

First a few words about the practice itself:

With respect to stress reduction and the desire to create a sense of inner well being, visual meditations may be ideal for

a) Those who find deep appreciation and calm in viewing visual art; and

b) Those who find the visual complexity of a mandala, the perfect sensory road to travel on in the quest for time/space centering of one’s “self.”

Put in everyday (well sorta) terms, visual meditations call on rehearsed neural circuits that enable the human brain to “pattern recognize” in ways that stretch beyond ordinary looking and seeing. Pattern recognition, after all, is basic to the acts of looking and seeing.   As the great anthropologist and cognitive theorist Gregory Bateson pointed out, “pattern recognition” is that which binds mind to life. Or as AI theorist Ray Kurzweil maintains, pattern recognition constitutes the first sign of biological intelligence (something that can be shared with non-biological intelligence, presuming we program the “thing,”).  Following this line of thinking, rehearsed pattern recognition creates the neurochemical connections necessary for the production of  new “brain maps” —  neural networks that correlate with learning and memory retention.

Practice, in other words, creates greater synaptic connections in our brains that form and correlate with sense perceptions, images, ideas, feelings and intuitions. With respect to using visual meditation as a way to reduce stress, some evidence suggests the less complex visual image, the easier it is to perceive and focus attention upon.  Let’s take. for instance, the act of attending to a single image like this week’s Hubble Telescope shot of a globular cluster of stars in the Northern Sky!

hubble

Northern Sky, Globular Cluster M13 captured by the Hubble Telescope

If you’re prone to nature mysticism (C.F. William James), then you might first sense the awesome beauty of the cosmic start system. If you’re given to the metaphysics of geometry, you might pause on the elegance symbology of a cosmic circle. But if you’re interested in using the image of a cosmic star system to train your attention toward calmness and stability, then I suggest bringing along with visual attention, your sensory awareness of ordinary breathing. As one learns from the ancient Buddhist practice of mandala gazing, its the repeated experiential pairing of “looking” and “breathing” that helps one move from image perception and analysis to image experience. Meditative looking, to put it neatly, is embodied.

Today, neuroscientists reporting on perception and cognition, tell us that visual meditation experiences, like all other visual experiences, are synthesized in the visual cortex, related to other areas of the brain, e.g. the somasensory cortex. By adding breathing to the mix, visuality is further grounded in the body of experience.

Or to put it another way,

Bringing the art of breathing to the art of meditative visual image gazing transforms the neuroscience, if you will, of the visual experience.

What then do we make of the complex patterns one finds in Buddhist mandalas or Islamic mosque imagery, such as we find anew on Phil George’s sublime surfboards?

To be continued in my next blog….

Synaptically yours,

Dr. G.



The New Meditation Mandala: Surfboards Gone Islamic

December 7, 2008

The Platform: BBC story: Surfboards Gone Islamic! Work by Phil George

The Twitter: Surf Sufis: InShallah! Ride the Wave to Bliss!

The Big Idea: From Pattern Recognition to Ritual Meditation: Surfing Wires New Neural Maps Using Islamic Art.

I’m excited to share the work of Phil George, my dear Australian compadre whose luscious surfboards have “mapped” the beauty of Islamic meditation imagery on icons of Australian culture. Talk about whole brain, pattern recognition and creating new neural networks by way of visual and moving images!

Check out the following BBC article and video:

BBC: ** Sydney art fuses surf with Islam **
An Australian artist creates a range of Islamic surfboards to create a greater understanding between East and West.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/7769028.stm >

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGTcMRsJpyI&eurl=http://www.unsw.edu.au/

pgeorgecasula081

Phil George, BORDERLANDS, 2008, Casuala Powerhouse Arts Centre

George’s boards capture in one gorgeous icon, the complex histories of art, culture and geo-politics, now the stuff of heated, ugly warfare! In the hands of the artist, ugliness is transformed into a thing of beauty, culture, a thing of dignity and ancient meditation practice …. morphed into a modern ritual of fluid wave motion.

Surf Sufis arise… and may the breath be with you!

Dr. G.

Neuroscience 2008: We Sleep to Remember!

November 19, 2008

The Twitter: “We remember to sleep so we can sleep to remember!” — William Fishbein

The Big Idea: Sleep is a prime protagonist in the story of neurogenesis!

Sleep. Aaah, what a beautiful thing!

Yet when we mere mortals are deprived of our zzzzss, we get cranky and frustrated, if not downright nasty in negotiating simple tasks like adding numbers on a grocery bill or attempting to avoid freeway gridlock by rerouting a shorter drive home! Talking to a local Starbucks barista, I learned having no sleep is “way worse than getting sick!”

I’m not sure researchers at Neuroscience 2008 have tackled the nuances of that claim, but of those who are working in the sleep research field, sleep in all of its blessed and disturbed varieties –uninterrupted, interrupted, fragmented – along with napping, is being explored with new enthusiasm.

Looking back on his long career in sleep research, William Fishbein at City University in NY, remarked how far and expanded the field of sleep research had become. Speaking on a press panel of distinguished sleep researchers, Fishbein presented data that pointed up to our neuro-cognitive need for naps. What do naps actually accomplish? Fishbein and colleagues showed that a snooze siesta reinforces the neural networks formed during morning hours devoted to relational (or associative) learning!

As previously reported on this blogsite, napping has moved front and center into the discussion of high performance and human productivity. Fishbein’s research adds to the richly layered network of findings that suggest memory, decision-making, rote skill performance and the substrate of neurogenesis are enhanced with a rested brain, depleted with a tired brain.

The take home message? Sleep, like oxygen, is necessary for growth and survival of the human brain/body on Planet Earth!

Reporting from D.C. this is Dr. G. wishing you an uninterrupted good night’s rest.

Off to Neuroscience 2008!

November 13, 2008

Greeting Somanauts!

I’m off to Neuroscience 2008 where I will spend 4 days with ear and brain to the ground, wall and any other surface that is vibrating with news from the international neuroscience research field!  Thirty thousand scientists, neuronauts and neuroleaders are expected — that’s right, nearly 30,000 brains that have devoted hours of “attention density” to the frontier of neuroscience and neuroscience education. Talk about wattage!!!!transparent_sfnlogo

 

Due to an “embargo” placed on writing before the official press conferences, I will start posting formal review starting Sept 18.  

However, do look for my tweeters now and then.

Speaking of attention density, other news:   SpaceSuit Yoga Advocates the MindBody Project:

With Obama speaking directly to our broken health care system,  BrainMindBody health advocacy groups are organizing to create an ‘Educate Obama‘ campaign.  

Please Join me and others to inform our visionary President Elect and his transition team on the remarkable research in NeuroSomatic Health Practices, namely, the empirical research and education projects in brain/mind/body integration that point to the interrelation of 

increasing stress and rising health costs.

and

decreasing stress and lowering of health costs.

Below are two links for joining the effort of a media campaign to awaken our new American leaders to the benefits of preventative medicine:  This from a letter sent by http://www.worldtaichiday.org/

To Obama and Team:

The Obama Transition Team Site’s Contact Page is: http://change.gov/page/s/contact

A sample intro:

WHY IS STRESS AN INCREASING PROBLEM?

Bill Joy, the Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems estimates that the speed of change is doubling exponentially every 18 months, and the speed of change will only increase in coming months, years, and decades. Change is stressful, even good change.

The change we have faced is daunting, but nothing compared to the next generation’s challenges of managing the stress of accelerating change.

It is in our interest to provide stress management achieving mind/body tools to adults, but particularly to the new generation(s), because their accumulating unmanaged stress of today, will translate into trillions of dollars of health costs in years to come.

To Incoming Medical and Education Officials:

Go to the web page below and print out 3 copies of the form letter. Send a postal mail to the incoming Secretary of Health, the Secretary of Education, and the incoming Surgeon General, to arrive on their desk when they take office on January 20th.

http://www.worldtaichiday.org and follow the links to MEDICAL RESEARCH and EDUCATION PROJECTS!

As always, may the breath be with you!

Synaptically yours,

Dr. G.

What Do Michael Phelps and Jill Bolte Taylor Have in Common?

November 5, 2008

NeuroLeadership!!

I pose this comparative think as today, a very special day in the U.S., when we pick our nation’s leader to take us forward into this new century, I look back over the last year’s responses to SpaceSuit Yoga.com and marvel at the interest that Michael Phelps and Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor have stirred within the online community! In light of the press and audience commentary that covers these two American heroes, I have no problem nominating both Phelps and Dr. Taylor as role models for neuro-leadership.

That’s right, if one takes the premise and profile of neuro-leadership put forward in recent NY and Sydney NeuroLeadership Summits (and as reported on this website), both Phelps and Dr. Taylor model the behavior of one who achieves success by way of brain-based approaches to problem solving, especially in two ways:

1) the rigorous, consistent use of attention to problem-solving by means of task-oriented solutions;

2) the generous offering of themselves as motivational coaches in the service of others.

images-2In the case of Phelps’s winning 8 gold Olympic medals, we witnessed en mass, the results of his paying close attention to all that is required of a star Olympic swimmer, namely,

a) consistent refinement and improvement of his strokes by invoking attention to spatio-temporal agility,

b) highly motivated, goal focused projection of his human energy, and

c) a keen and consistent application of attention to all that it takes to fuel a body to move in pool water like a great Mako shark!

jr_news_taylor_0501z1In the case of Dr. Taylor, who suffered and survived quite nicely, a severe stroke in her left hemisphere, we learn the key lesson through her various online and offline modes of presentation (all previously mentioned on this blog): Regaining access to speech and to Prefrontal Cortex executive functions (analysis, judgment, decision-making) required a kind of Olympic style commitment to “paying attention” to re-learning vowels and consonants, to being able to conceptually distinguish and label right from left.

As Jeffrey Schwartz outlined clearly on the first night of the NeuroLeadership Summit and again throughout the whole of the summit proceedings, “attention density” is that key to changing the brain and thus the very conditions and propensities if you will, of our individual body/mind. And as David Rock was apt to point out, if attention is the protagonist in our mental theater, insight is that beautiful arc we reach as we crystallize evanscent images and thoughts.

The story of Phelp’s prep for Olympic spectacle, the drama of Taylor’s enlightenment — each make for a powerful tutorial on leadership development in training. As for generosity in the service of others, it is clear by their mutual willingness to take their insights and transform them into tools for educating and possibly saving the lives of others, Michael Phelps and Jill Bolte Taylor visualize for all of us the continuum of human excellence in learning and performance.

My SpaceSuit Yoga questions to you dear somanauts, are this:

First, “If you could learn anything about the human brain, about your own human brain, what would you like to know and what would you do with that information?”

Second, “How do you practice “paying attention?”

I welcome your responses and comments. And please know that in the coming months, my institute will be offering special “attention and awareness” training sessions for private individuals and those developing leadership.

As always, May the Breath Be With You!

Synaptically yours,

Dr. G.

P.S. At the time of writing this, it appears Barack Obama has been named President-Elect of the U.S.A.! Talk about attention density and generosity in the service of others!


Use your brain to over-ride the pattern of “shock, fear and dread” in 2008

September 23, 2008

The Platform: The State of U.S. Affairs, 2008

The Twitter: Shock, Fear and Dread in the U.S. (and abroad)

The Big Idea: There are no hopeless situations; only those who grow hopeless about them (George Greenstein, M.D., 1920-2005)

I’ve been receiving emails (and have sent a few myself) regarding the “shock” and “dread” from which people are reeling in light of the bail out crisis and media popularization of the Palin effect. So please allow me today to use this blog to address the neuroscience of “fear” and offer ways to change the neural setting in our brain to recognize the signals of creative problem-solving and hope.

There is no mistake that Barack Obama uses the term Hope, and more precisely, “the audacity of hope” in his attempt to reconnect American citizens to the core principles that shape a vibrant democracy, a politically and economically solvent society.

Obama’s cunning rhetorical move highlights the path of resistance to the Bush/Cheney SHOCK DOCTRINE that has waylaid many voices of contest and innovation, especially over the last eight years. What is the Shock Doctrine? Here I am drawing your attention to Naomi Klein’s THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM, a thick, powerful study of the methods of shock used by students of Milton Friedman (e.g. Dick Cheney) to exploit the psychological and economic circumstances of crises and disasters.

My point is not to unpack Klein’s argument but to indicate a human and cultural pattern of response that we learn from reading Klein: When disaster strikes, shock takes over all body responses — breathing contracts, sweating begins, rational thinking becomes confused… for many, reason exits quickly out the door! An old and trust-worthy mammalian pattern has just set in: FEAR! For those who wish to take advantage, fear offers ideal conditions for exploitation. (Consider the logic: Fear responds to help.)

Turning to neuroscientists, we learn more about the neural conditions that create and perpetuate fear: Writing for Newsweek (Sept 15, 08) Dr. Michael Craig Miller, explains:

“Two deep brain structures called the amygdalae manage the important task of learning and remembering what you should be afraid of.”

The amygdalae, it appears, function like good mental health turbo-networkers, rapidly collecting info that mobilizes the brain/body forces: heart rate, blood pressure, the capacity to reason. The two little clusters of neural networking also interface and connect with networks generating MEMORY.

“The fear system is extraordinarily efficient. It is so efficient that you don’t need to consciously register what is happening for the brain to kick off a response. If a car swerves into your lane of traffic, you will feel the fear before you understand it. Signals travel between the amygdala and your crisis system before the visual part of your brain has a chance to “see.” Organisms with slower responses probably did not get the opportunity to pass their genetic material along.”

Now the important paragraph that points to the generating pattern of collective shock and hysteria:

“Fear is contagious because the amygdala helps people not only recognize fear in the faces of others, but also to automatically scan for it. People or animals with damage to the amygdala lose these skills. Not only is the world more dangerous for them, the texture of life is ironed out; the world seems less compelling to them because their “excitement” anatomy is impaired.” (my emphasis)

Miller’s clarifying essay is just one of many to come down the pike, pointing out the DRAMATIC neuro consequences of being shocked by economic fallout and horrified of the short and long range possibilities of McCain/Palin in office.

So let’s connect the dots and do our simple brain math:

Frying in our own rage and gripped by the mighty handles of fear, our culture, our bodies, our speech, our minds entrain our brains into the rituals of fear: Fight or Flight.

Yet we are not mere mammals. Thanks to our highly evolved brain and thus the scientists, monks, somatic therapists who use their refined aptitude and skills to understand the brain/mind/body connection, we have learned a very important neural lesson that has large historical ramifications:

Fear is a response in the brain/body/mind. Change the brain and we change our body, our mind! Change our mind, our body and we change our brain!

To that end, and in service of offering a slice of whole-brain, somatic sanity to those hungering for a more judicious and delicious cultural pie, the following SpaceSuit Yoga tips for transforming Fear into Calm, Dread into Hope:

1) Practice a BIG IDEA: There are no hopeless situations, only those who grow hopeless about them.

2) Changing our brain begins with changing our breath.

Breath, after all, is the beginning and end of all human life.

To address a pattern of fear that has paralyzed one’s embodied brain and mind, go back to a daily practice of conscious, contemplative breathing. This blogsite offers tips on how to engage a simple practice of easy restorative breathing practices. (See the parent GGI website for links to other helpful meditation sites.

3) Breathing supports Initiation (Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen): To start any activity in your day, remember to notice what breathing actually feels like, what parts of the body are moved or involved in the process of breathing. Sturdy Breath enables A Sturdy Mind.

4) Mental Practice. With a calm and sturdy body/brain/mind, use your powers of Mental Practice to imagine a liberated landscape, a liberated body, an open space of movement and possibility. Picture hope, picture success.

"Sunny Sideways with Oxygen," work by the U.S. artist Terri Friedman, www.terrifriedman.com

“Sunny Sideways with Oxygen,” work by U.S. artist Terri Friedman, http://www.terrifriedman.com

For the “how to’s” and the “go to’s” for stress reduction, breathing meditation and mental practice, please leave a comment or contact me by way of the GGI contact link.

May the Breath Be with you through this trying times!

Dr. G.

P.S. Check out the following sites that address or infer the neuro effects on the 2008 election:

1) http://dir.salon.com/topics/robert_burton/

2) google Newsweek and and search for Michael Craig Miller’s Newsweek essay noted above, entitled Sad Brain, Happy Brain) or go to http://samharris.org and search for the Miller piece.

TED, Neurological Time Outs and A Secular Sabbath

March 7, 2008

I’m working to get images from TED posted onto this blog, in the meantime, a thought about hemispheric time outs: Stroke or Rest?

I mentioned Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED 2008 talk on hemispheric activity and now after a New York Times article on “secular sabbaths,” a brief plug for a hemispheric time out. Rather than wait for the stress of living to force a neurological shut down, NY Times author Mark Bittman confesses to the benefits of a “virtual” out, that is, countering his own OCD addiction to high tech interface with a “secular sabbath.” I don’t think it’s just technology that holds us neurologically and psychologically captive — it’s the need to step off the wheel of “samasara” as the Buddhists call it, the grinding cycle of life that becomes an imprisoning routine when not embodied.

My mentor and Contemplative Movement teacher Barbara Dilley has been talking about “self-retreats,” e.g. a designated time out that gives us a chance to breath and feel our feet on ground, to listen to the sounds of silence, to look up at the stars, free of social obligations and techno-gizmos — laptops, phones or even electron telescopes (revealed at TED and ironically speaking now on the WEB!). Dilley’s suggestion echoes Bittman’s p.o.v.

The benefits? We should ask Dr. Taylor about the effects of stress on stroke victims vs the effects of hemispheric time outs.

Also see Sharon Begley’s discussion on neuroplasticity, meditation and stroke recovery.

Sending breath your way!

M. A. from L. A. a.k.a. Dr. G.

2008 is the Year of the Brain!

January 2, 2008

2008 is the Year of the Brain Brains Brains Brains!Brains Brains Brains!Brains Brains Brains! http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/neurok.html

2007 may have been a tough one for the global climate, global unrest and global media but whew!… What a year for the global (and local) Brain! With the news of “neuroplasticity” to hit the radio, newspapers and book-stores (it’s already all over the WEB), somatic arts and science will never be the same.

With this in mind, I am dedicating this year of SpaceSuit Yoga blogs to sharing all that continues to come my way from the expanded fields of neuroscience and neuro-aesthetics. The first is a highly suggested reading that dovetails Sharon Begley’s TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, namely THE BODY HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN, by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee. Some of you may remember S. Blakeslee’s co-authoring Ramachandran’s 1998 tour guide through the brain. Her new book, written with her son, covers the breadth of neuroscientific research that brings somatics, mythopoetics and the psycho-physiology of human transformation up to date.

In months to come, I will elaborate on these issues and invite colleagues to join me expanding the ways in which we can relate these ideas to real time, creative thinking and action.

For time being, a SSY train your brain/mind tip for faking out the stress of New Year’s resolutions:

1. Don’t make any.

2. Instead, sit down for 5 to 20 minutes, close your eyes and tune inside to your physical, sensual experience of breathing.

3. Next, picture the action, the vitality of performing the goal you have in mind. Picture yourself accomplishing your goal.

4. Continue to be physically “present” with breathing and continue imagining the action you wish to perform.

5. Take one large deep breath, let it out. When you feel ready, open your eyes and go about the business of your day.

This process of contemplation or mental practice is reinforced through repeated practice. For more info, check out the suggested readings or write me at 2docgee@gmail.com

A Happy and Healthy New Year To All!

M. A. from L. A. a.k.a. Doc. G.