Archive for the ‘Mindfulness Practice’ Category

The New Brain Ecology: Connecting Brains, Bodies, and Minds!

December 29, 2008

The Platform: The New Brain Ecology:  Connect Body, Brain and Mind!

The Twitter: SpaceSuit Yoga.com is migrating to another blogisphere!

The Big Idea:  Create a trustworthy go-to space where cogent commentary and top quality coaching take brain, body and mind fitness to the next level!


The new year is almost upon us and with that, SpaceSuitYoga will soon be migrating to the newly renovated, bodiesinspace.com.

Bodiesinspace.com  is being designed to help you navigate the complex world of neuroscience, neuro-plasticity,  brain fitness and brain injury  interconnected with the health of the body and mind.   Look for our special reports by the Virtual Visionary Tobey Crockett illuminating  indigenous perspectives on aging along with SpaceSuit Yoga  and guest contributer columns on mediation practice and art for the brain.   Prepare to applaud the winners of the 1st Bodinesinspace award for brilliance in social entrepreneurship and design!  And check out our new coaching  and teleseminar programs specializing in collaborative partnering in managing  health,  creativity practices and best strategies for performance!

Finally, come 2009, you’ll be able to surf through text, image and podcasts on the new interactive zine site!

So somanauts and neuroleaders, suit up, prep your multi-sensory antennae and  get ready to map out

BETTER BRAINS

AGELESS BODIES

SPACIOUS MINDS

In the meantime, remember to “Plug In.”  Host a Brain Awareness Week on Facebook, on your site, at  your school, in your health center, place of worship or  office. 

 

brainawareweek

 

Wishing everyone a healthy new year, one marked by vision, imagination,  integrity and insight!

Dr. M. A. Greenstein a.k.a. Dr. G.

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

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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…)

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.



Meditation: There May Be No Better Time Than Now.

December 1, 2008

For those who have been following the Mumbai Siege and the news on the New York Wal-Mart mob murder, I suspect you are as stunned and horrified by the tragedy and madness of late. These are (sigh)… challenging times.

Yet in today’s edition of The New York TimesWeek in Review, we read the following: ‘No matter how stressful the conditions, some of us are just genetically inclined towards calm…. or else we learn to manage the neuroticism.’ I’m not sure claims of suffering from high level cortical stress count in a case of neuroticism. Sure, in Jewish and Italian jokes this side of the Pacific, the motif of the suffering mother lends itself to Freudian and Hollywood overtones. But we’re in the age of a paradigm shift, where cultural stereotypes give way to real time strategies that manage the sweaty, messy corporeality of stress: Crying, Screaming, acting out — the drama of human emotion makes it damn near impossible for some of us to calm ourselves down.

One might think this is all a chicken or egg question, but as contemporary neuroscience makes clear, stress–-be it PTSD, sudden shock or chronic stress endured by those in untenable situations–shuts down thinking. Period. The effects can be neurologically devastating: In the U.S., University of California, Irvine researchers have shown that short term stress like long term chronic stress, reduces cellular connections in the hippocampus, the brain region identified with operations of learning and memory. At a time when stress levels are soaring through roofs of homes sliding into default mortgages, we really do need to find a collective way to calm down.

In weighing the options, meditation seems to make a difference, both in reducing stress and in creating some powerful neurological grown patterns. Notable research conducted at mindfulness medical clinics set up at UCLA and at Harvard signifies a movement toward using meditation to mediate stress and poor health. Harvard researcher Sarah Lazar has already shown that Mindfulness Meditation is correlated with a growth of cortical tissue in the frontal cortex and insula (the area said to integrate emotionally relevant, sense perceptions.)

insula_amygdala_brain

QuBitTechnologies, 2007

I invite readers to peruse this blogsite for how-to’s in stress-reducing, meditative breathing practice, or write in for suggestions of practices that bear relevance to your current situation and learning style.

May the breath be with you.

Dr. G.

Core Neuroscience Concepts 7 & 8: The future is in our hands and brains!

November 27, 2008

The Platform: Society for Neuroscience 8 Core Concepts

The Twitter: The Human Brain….it gets curiouser and curiouser!

The Big Idea:  Curiosity is the natural province of the human brain!  

Of the 8 Core Concepts put forward recently by the Society for Neuroscience, Concepts 7 & 8 may be the most important to drive home, not just to kids and teens but to culture changers and thought leaders of any age: What makes these two concepts so special?   Gather for yourself:

7.  The human brain endows us with a natural curiousity to understand how the world works. [Notice it doesn’t say why the world works]

8.  Fundamental discoveries promote healthy living and treatment of disease.

     [http://www.sfn.org/index.cfm?pagename=core_concepts]

For those of you who worship at the temple of the incurious, I guess you can stop reading here.  But if you stay with me, I bet it’s because you, like many of us, wish curiosity would come back into style, not in the form of paparazzi gossip feeders but more in the way of thirst that drives explorers, artists and scientists to wander this earth, striving to reach new vistas of insight and understanding. Those of you who saw the recent Werner Herzog film Encounters at the end of the World, will have an idea what I mean.  Or check out http://www.stellaraxis.com, a stunning project organized by my dear colleague Lita Albuquerque, who like Herzog, received National Science Foundation grants for art and science expeditions to study the biosphere of Antartica.

By emphasizing curiosity as a given condition of the human brain, SfN sets up the logic for neuroscience itself, that is, to pose questions about the very thing that enables us to be curious, i.e., the brain extended by the nervous system.  In a world suffocating with information overload and in a country like the U.S. that has shown venal scepticism towards scientific endeavors, it’s a rare day that we chance to relish scientific achievement.  Still, leaders of SfN assure us that neuroscience is that field that will astonish us with “unexpected discoveries that can benefit humanity.”

A colleague recently wrote of neuroscience as perhaps, the single most creative field study within his lifetime.  Given my reading and in light of conferences I’ve recently attended, I would have to agree: We are witnessing the rapid emergence of a science that overturns some of the fundamental questions of human physiology, psychology and philosophy while bearing out the truth of others. And with that revolution comes the development of new technologies that allow us to penetrate into the mysteries of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, TBI along with a host of other brain and nervous systems disorders!

Of the many disruptions, one of my favorites is the evidence pointing to the neuroplastic ways in which we ourselves can change our brains and transform stress, injury and unhappiness through daily practice of meditation or focused states of attention.

I will return to these subjects as they are at the heart of my mission in setting up this blog along with a new one that will launch in weeks to come!

Stay tuned and for those in the States, I’d like to dedicate this Thanksgiving holiday to all of the researchers, inventors, intellectuals, artists, coaches and teachers who dare to use their curiosity and encourage others to do so!

Happy Turkey Day!  May the Breath Be With You!

Dr. G. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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!


NeuroLeaders Pay Attention to Brain/Mind/Body Connections

October 29, 2008

The Platform: NeuroLeadership Summit 2008, Day 1

The Twitter: Psssttt! It’s all connected — brain, body and mind!

The Big Idea: Rethinking leadership from an interdependent whole-brain, whole-body, whole-mind networked point of view!

David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute and organizer of both the NY and Sydney meetings this year, noted last evening that today’s most urgent issue, as seen by companies and businesses across the global sphere, is the crisis of developing leadership. With that in mind, Rock invited world-class scientists to give keynote talks — presentations which should help this year’s summit partipants picture a new paradigm of “best practices” when approaching the question of developing leadership.

For yours truly, it was a deep and gratifying pleasure to be immersed in an arena wherein scientists, coaches and consultants seriously broached the topic of new neuroscience and the myriad of ways to connect body, mind and brain in human learning, performance and innovation, be it at home, school, in sport or in the workplace.

Again, time is limited to tell all (more will be fleshed out post summit) but here’s the beef on today’s keynote talks — which by the way, are followed up by generous amounts of time for question and break-out focus group discussions:

From the first keynote by Dr. Amy Arnstein to the last one of the day delivered by Dr. Kevin Ochsner, the frame for Day 1 stretched across a psychological continuum: Arnstein cogently tackled the neurochemical correlates to interrupted moments of perception and cognition (either by way of daily stress or by profound mental illness); Ochsner closed the long intense day by chunking the complex study of human emotion into a bite size expose on the neuroanatomical correlates to strategies that effect emotional experience and behavior, e.g. “reappraisal” of emotional narrative. (Arnstein gets two thumbs up for a spiffy visual presentations. As one researcher noted — the cartooned versions of neurotransmitting processes signaled well with ‘low noise’ residual.)

With the frame set by these two talks, were some real nuggets of 21st century thinking — the sort that reinforces the hard work reseachers, thought leaders and cultural changers have put forth for more than half a century in communicating

1) the value of “insight” in innovation and
2) “mindfulness” (or meditation) experiences in modifying how we use our “attention” in goal directed tasks.

Within the break out discussions, some facinating and tough questions were raised by the audience regarding cross-cultural imprinting and bias in charting the neuroscience of perception, leaving a door open to comparative cultural studies, especially with developing leaders in the global sphere is concerned.

While all of the keynotes were delivered in impeccable style, Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang’s lunchtime presentation clearly touched my brain and heart in his clear and playful deconstruction of cultural definitions of “mindfulness” experience to make room for the semantics of a neuroscientifically informed picture of brain/mind/body operations and connections that enter into the “mindfulness state.” As one who first came to mindfulness through the Martial arts, Yuan placed before us the challenge of knowing how to engage attention and awareness in a way that helps us “integrate” body/mind and brain in the experience of “being” (as to be distinguished neurologically from “thinking or doing.”) In response to Tang’s talk, David Rock offered a tip he found helpful in his study of mindfulness, namely the strategy of distingushing between narration (interpretation) and direct experience — each having their own correlates in brain anatomy and brain chemistry.

As I have noted on this blog, the brain/body/mind connection is one we can’t emphasize enough. It speaks of a new way to recognize our very humanness as a function of emergent networked processes, allowing us to integrate in a multi-dimensional fashion, a host of relations between what and how we think/feel and do.

The message from today’s proceedings: The responsibility of developing effective and even inspiring 21st century leadership rests on the shoulders of the somatically and neuroscientifically aware.

One can find the summit proceedings schedule on the NeuroLeadership.org website.

More manana.

Syaptically yours,

Dr. G.

P.S. A self-referential historical note regarding the inception of the blogsite: I wrote my dissertation in the late ’80’s on “attention and awareness training” practices used by American performing artists. Sometimes a good idea like cheese, needs time to age. Please write if you have questions about the literature on attention training.

Neuroleadership Summit 2008: Quantum Mechanics Dates Neuroscience!

October 29, 2008

The Platform: NeuroLeadership Summit 2008: Opening Keynote Address

The Twitter: WOW!!!!!!Quantum Mechanics Dates Neuroscience and finds an attractive mate!!!!!!

The Big Idea: Attention Changes the Brain as understood from the standpoint of Quantum Mechanics….

Yawzaa! Talk about brain training for neuro-leaders at the quantum level!!!! The first night of the NeuroLeadership Summit 2008 in New York City has blown everyone’s mind with a turbo charged presentation by Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D., UCLA and his mentor, the visionary Quantum Physicist and Author Henry Stapp. Schwartz, who appears to nearly jump out of his skin with enthusiasm when speaking, uses baseball metaphors for delivering “fast balls” on the question of “attention” in Q.M.   Schwartz’s key point? Bringing neuroscience and Q.M. together in a unified field theory over-rides the inadequacies of Newtonian physics in coming up with plausible mathematical formula and explanation has to how we can observe and understand, with reasonable veracity, the movement of large bodies, like the human body.

The nearly two-hour presentation called for a deep deep think on the part of this observer and begs for a gorgeous visual map to point to the multiple vectors of interrelated ideas. Forgive me then, in this brief period of online time to outline the team’s main points concerning a new way to discuss neuroplasticity to an audience focused on the question of leadership, be it in business, education, government or related areas of human learning and enterprise:

1. The Marriage of Quantum Mechanics with Neuroscience: The marriage challenges the Newtonian model of physics, which leaves out the role of the observing agent, the agent that poses questions about the phenomenal world. In the Newtonian model, there is a purposeful blindness imposed upon the role the observer and his or her tools of observation play in influencing the inquiry and observation… hence, the Newtonian science of refutation and double-blind experiments.

2. The Role of Interactivity between the Observer and the Observed: The Neuro-Q.M. theory takes off the self-imposed empirical blinders and moves the question of information gathering and observation to address the interactive aspect of inquiry and observation.  In this model, interactivity between “the observer and the observed” helps to create the potential answer to the question posed. Sound familiar, somanauts?

3. Invoking Attention Density and the Executive Action Template create the conditions for interactivity of the observer with the observed.

Definitions first:

What is Attention Density? Distinct from “concentration,”  attention density involves repetition of attention, as in learning a new skill, like learning to swim, learning to read,  learning to eat only one piece of chocolate,  or even learning to recover from a stroke!

What is the Executive Action Template: This term refers to the executive functions — analytic difference detecting, syllogistic reasoning and decision making — correlated with activity in the Pre Frontal Cortex of the human brain.

Schwartz and Stapp argue for the role of the “impartial observer” — the observer who uses “attention” — and this is important —  specifically, the repetition of attention plus the engagement of intentional executive action to pose questions in an interactive fashion with the phenomenal world and thus discover/create a possible answer to the questions posed.

In other words, for Schwartz and Stapp claim Attention Density and Executive Action are said to be the two determining factors in creating the conditions for the impartial observer and the conditions for the moment probability collapses into a unit of possibilty or “an answer.” Now there is a complex Q.M. theory of how this actually works and I’ll leave it to you dear readers to start doing your own interactive search to learn about the necessary correlation between “attention density” and the “collapse function” in Q.M.

The implications for Neuro Leaders? Schwartz and Stapp point to a radical and “rational” rethinking of leadership and organizational systems models by suggesting:

1) The lessons of neuroplasticity: One can now acknowledge the fact of neuroplasticity — the brain creates the mind and the mind creates the brain — and how it is generated and conditioned by asking questions, by being curious, by the act of paying repeated attention, by making inquiry, by learning and sharing information;

2) Bottom Up Flow of Information: By recognizing the Neuro-Q.M. theory of probability, one can begin to value bottom up information flow.  Workers are not mindless cogs in a machine but rather brain/mind attentive information “workers.” (To better understand the bottom up theory of info flow, check out Steven Johnson’s EMERGENCE: a great study for neuro leaders who wish to take lessons from developing ant colonies, developing cities, developing brains and open systems software practices!)

3) Neuro leadership is hall-marked by invoking a brain based/quantum understanding of the role of attention, interactivity and decision-making in all aspects of human performance.  The Schwartz/Stapp model encourages us to take seriously the interactive possibilities of the brain in relation to the interactive possibilities posed by the use of our other research tools, be it a gene splicer, a sub-atomic particle accelerator.

There is so much more to say but time is running out. Let it be noted that the ghost of dualism clearly plagued the presentation as did the mechanistic semantics of Newtonian physics, e.g., Stapp referring to humans as machines.

‘Oi Vey.’ I will take that one on in another blog.

More tomorrow. Until then, attentive breath be with you!

Dr. G.

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.

Heat Wave!: Brain Cooling Tips for Election Countdown

September 7, 2008

The Platform: Post Olympic Blues — The 2008 Election Season

The Twitter: Stress Deteriorates the Brain!

The Big Idea: Save Neural Real Estate This Election Year; Cool Your Brain with Meditation or Mental Practice!                                                                                                                                                    

Sigh… the Olympics are over and now in the U.S., on to prime time political battles. Just when we were enjoying the soaring feelings of watching Phelps win his 8 golds, or drooling at the double men’s diving (when did that sport enter the fray?), our brains are already beginning to fry! Regardless of your party affiliation, the stress that mounts by witnessing the battle at home, will clearly not contribute to “neurogenesis” — what neuroscientists regards as the creation of new synaptic connections in the brain. (One has to wonder how many brain cell connections have been burned over the rise and rhetoric of the new “lipstick pitbull” — Sarah Palin.

So if you want keep your neural “real estate” intact, then I suggest the following SpaceSuit Yoga brain tip for this electoral season: Brain Cooling.

1 ) One of the most well known and empirically tested brain cooling meditative techniques is Zen Meditation. A recent post in LiveScience.com noted an Emory University study that has validated Zen’s effectiveness in quieting the brain’s tendency to be distracted by spontaneous outbursts or a barrage of information flow just as we might find in diagnoses of ADD or OCD behavior. Breath, posture, the ritual of repetition. It’s all there:  As Sharon Begley reminds us, ‘we must train the mind in order to change the brain.’

If not Zen, then start a mental practice of cooling the brain with an image of deep relaxation and restoration, supported by gentle breathing.  Whether it’s a picture of hanging out on Australia’s Gold Coast or laying down on soft green grass by a radiant blue lake in Tahoe; visualize a place where you feel most calm, a place you can easily imagine in your mind’s eye.  Bring your awareness of breathing into the space of that picture and enjoy the deep sense of relaxation that comes with every breath.

(For training in meditation and mental practice, scroll through this blog for tips or contact me for links to meditation training centers in the US and abroad.)

Other mind clearing/brain cooling options: 

3) Take a strong whiff of grapefruit or peppermint oil and let the freshness fill your awareness.

4) Try a  hot, hot, hot steam-bath, a long run, or a focused round of poker or pool.

Brain cooling, in other words, is a mindful method of training the brain to move into a zone that allows for neutrality (what the Mahayana Buddhist’s call “empty space” or a zone of positive thinking. As Alvaro Fernandez, in review of the L. A. Times special on learning and memory, points out: positive thoughts and experience lift our spirits and contribute to “neurogenesis.”  (For a brief and to the point commentary on the neural effects of stress, see Sharpbrains.com — search for “Neural Wreckage”  Feb 8, 2008 blog entry.)

Independents, Green Party Animals, Dems and GOP take note.

MAY THE BREATH BE WITH YOU AS WE APPROACH NOVEMBER 4TH!

Dr.  G.

Focus Focus: More on Mental Practice, Meditation and Michael Phelps

August 21, 2008

 

Phelps, 2008 Bejing Olympics

Phelps, 2008 Bejing Olympics

On the question of mental practice, meditation and athletic training:   I noted yesterday that the great Olympic star Michael Phelps was seen as a child who lacked the necessary focus to 3rd grade academic tasks.  With that in mind, much made of the fact that Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD and it was the practice of lane swimming that helped him “channel” his all over the map energy.

                         (See http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/1998.html)

I won’t debate the cultural psychology or politics of the ADHD diagnosis, but its safe to say that in listening to Phelps speak about his own training methods, we hear the mantra “focus, focus, focus.” Dedicated goal setting, avoiding negative mental chatter, and being with the very moment of his action (a.k.a. the ole Ram Dass mantra “Be Here Now”) — this is the stuff of Olympic athletic mental training.

We also learn that Phelps has the gift of maintaining a relaxed state before a meet and there’s talk that he produces less lactic acid build up in his muscles that most athletes.   No doubt, there are many online (yours truly included)  who are curious to comb through the details of Phelps Olympic genius.

And what can we learn from this athletic genius?  Mental training of Olympic athletes has long been of interested to sports trainers, kinesiologists and sport psychologists but more to the point: Phelps’s own minimalist theory (“Set a goal. Focus only on that goal”) insinuates the brain technology involved in peak body performance.  Sports psychologist Steve Ungerleider offers a somanautic perspective culled from years of researching Olympic athlete training:: 

From his 1996/2005 book MENTAL TRAINING FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE:

Breath, Meditation and Forming Mental Snapshots are two of the four mental practice traits shared amongst Olympic athletes. (The other two being building confidence by means of positive self-talk and learning to use relaxation to cool down and revvv up!)  Yep, taking time to find the natural rhythm of ordinary breathing and picturing the goal — using your imagination to see the goal accomplished — even visualizing all of the steps in getting to the goal — the power of creating a mental “snapshot”  cannot be under-estimated by anyone engaged in sport or movement training.

Here then are glorious mind/brain/body fruits for digesting:  Those fascinated by the challenge of peak performance, be you swimmer, biker, dancer, designer, entrepreneur,  corporate leader or yogic journey woman/man of health, fitness and well-being, the kernel of Olympic truth seems to lie in the story told by those who have imagined and accomplished their goals:

SpaceSuit Yoga/Olympic Mantra:  

Make a goal.

      Focus on the Goal.

          Breath into the orchestrated unity of Mind/Body/Brain.  

                Visualize the Goal.  

                         Feel into the Goal.

 

                                     Be the Goal.

The vast frontier of mental practice is before us — with neuroscience unlocking the neuronal mysteries of the brain/body mapping, and showing the neural networking engaged by meditation, guided imagery and right brain talents like mental practice visualization — students, parents, teachers, coaches, thought leaders and all those seeking the 21 century path of enlightenment are bound to reap the benefits!   

May the Breath Be With You!

Dr. G.

Meditation or Mental Practice: Michael Phelps and his Olympiad Success!

August 20, 2008

The Platform:  2008 Bejing Olympics

The Twitter:  Brain Training for Gold Medals and more!

The Application:  Meditation, Mental Practice, Attention and Awareness Training (AAT)

 

 

A recent article in the New York times noted Michael Phelps’s 3rd grade teacher extending congratulations to Phelps and his family for the gold medal success.  As we learn, Phleps in his early years had the teacher worried that he had “no focus” in his studies. (What 3rd grader has “focus” in academic studies?!!!) With Phelps now drawing world-wide attention to the glory of his strategic swimming, the teacher apologies with a realization: Phelps just had to find the subject that drew out his focused attention.

Expectations of 3rd graders aside, Phelps’s victory is his to savor for years to come for he has proven to himself and to the world that consistent physical and mental training over time can transform our lives in ways that reach beyond our imagination.

 

Clearly, Phelps and his swim team buddies have mastered the art and science of “concentration” or “focused attention” — practices that might be considered comparable to the astounding feats of attention practiced by Buddhist monks submitted to recent neuro-scientific studies.  Turning to the neuroscience camp, we learn the years of focused attention, of bringing “mindfulness” to our actions makes significant neurological changes in the brain.  As science writer Sharon Begley reminds us in TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN,  the matter of morphing brain tissue comes down to a simple fact: You’ve got to want to change it for the brain to change.

No doubt, Phelps and his crew wanted to break records, win gold medals, perform at the top of their game.  The reason for such bold desire? We can leave that to enlightened or nefarious speculation, for the real story here is this:  Hot, passionate, and inspired human desire enables dedicated action.  Dedicated Mental Practice transforms the brain….and body.  

I vote for inviting Phelps and the American men’s swim team into the brain labs of UCLA, University of Washington, or Wisconsin to test their neuronal abilities to “pay attention.”  And then let’s bring in full tilt Olympic education into the school system so that 3rd graders can be inspired to do their thing.

Michael Phelps: You Go Girl!

And to all of the somanauts out there, a SpaceSuit Yoga tip for mental practice:

1) Best way to begin: Pay close and intimate attention to breathing, whether you’re walking, swimming, or lying down.  Notice the feeling of breathing — whether breathing takes up a lot of room or very little room, whether breathing feels fast or slow.  Visualize  breathing — get a sense of where it actually takes place in  your body.

2. Set aside a little time each day to “pay attention” to your breath and use a timer, so you don’t have to keep track of the minutes.   Master one sequence of time before adding more minutes.

 

 

 

3. Keep a written record of your time so you can 1) notice the sequence of improvements and 2) make a felt, embodied connection between your inner sense of mastery with an outer account of recorded time.

4.  Invigorate yourself with reading on how to motivate and change your brain!  Several suggestions have already been noted in this blog.   For history buffs — check out the “Zen and the Art of Archery” — a classic on mental practice and meditation.

May the breath and brain be with you!

Dr.  G.

More on Strokes and why we all need hemisphere time outs

March 29, 2008

I’m writing this tonite, after a week of travel — much to report from the front lines of neuroscience but right now a personal note:  I’ve just learned that one of my dearest friends and colleagues has suffered a massive stroke.  On the heels of Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk, it seems all the more auspicious to bring to your attention the wisdom of entraining your brain toward relaxation and restoration by means of some contemplative practice. Please take note of the followings symptoms of stroke which Dr. Taylor noted in her talk:From the American Stroke Foundation web page,  http://www.americanstroke.org

If you believe you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs do not hesitate to call 911 for immediate treatment!

 

Suddenly feeling weak in an arm, hand or leg

Cannot feel one side of your face or body

Suddenly cannot see out of one eye

Suddenly have a hard time walking

Cannot understand what someone is saying

Feeling dizzy or losing your balance

Having the worst headache you have ever had

 

 

How to Recognize a Stroke

 

If you think someone is having a stroke, remember the 60 second test:

 

1. Ask the individual to smile.

 

2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.

 

3. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “It is sunny out today.”

 

IF THE INDIVIDUAL HAS TROUBLE WITH ANY OF THESE TASKS, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!

 

 

Reduce your Risk of Stroke

 

Annual physicals

Healthy diet

Be aware of your family history

Maintain a healthy weight for your body type

Quit smoking

Get regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks

Exercise

If diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels

Take your medications accordingly

 

And to this list, may I add: Please give yourself hemisphere balancing opportunities by means of relaxation or contemplative practices like T.M. or Breathing meditation from any number of traditions like Zen, Qi  Gong … or the breathing practices taught by yours truly, SpaceSuit Yoga.

 

May the Breath Be With All of You Tonite! 

TED Day 3: ReCap: TED Breathes!

February 29, 2008

Good morning, a lot more refreshed and ready to share. TED does demand a decatholon approach to energy output and happily this morning, many of us found a space of calm: Yours truly introduced the noble and simple practice of contemplative breathing — a great group filled the room, navigating the qualities of breathing as a human ORGANISM! Yes, I emphasis “organism” as in this conference, we’ve heard one speaker, Susan Blackmore, put forth a deterministic view of homo sapien sapien and our “meme” potential. Waving her arms and stating emphatically, Blackmore claimed the envitable and absolute coupling of machines and humans, transforming us into telememe-machines.Susan Blackmore, Psychologist, Meme Theorist, TED Day 2: What is Life?

Here we find a mixed metaphor with tremendous unconscious potential to confuse us as we struggle to navigate the day to day requirements of our own biological destiny. A matter of mere semantics? I don’t think so. Thinking of yourself as a machine intends a very different picture, a whole set of different assumptions about oneself as a “closed system” that are quite distinct from the picture of being an developmental biological organism, a mammal that has evolved over thousands of years. We are an extraordinary example of an “open system,” Ms. Blackmore, producing telememes or not.

And if there is anything that can reinforce this sense of openness, is our evolutionary, biological capacity for neuroplasticity, for fluidity, for indeterminate growth and change!

All this to say, I am not denying the computational practices that can be used to show human biology, but to encourage a deep think about the difference of using biological and engineering metaphors to capture the future of our whole–brain, whole-body… whole-mind!

More thoughts to come……

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.