Posts Tagged ‘Change Your Brain’

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.

Touching Story: NPR reports Brain Adapts to Hand Transplant!

October 15, 2008

Twitter feed from NPR:  

Yesterday (Oct 13) NPR reported on the success former amputee Dave Savage is having in adapting to his new hand transplant.   Do notice, the term “adaptation” here points to the capacity of Savage’s brain (and central nervous system) to remodel neural networks in order to operate his new hand.

Courtesy of Jewish Hospital, Kleinert Kutz and University of Louisville

Courtesy of Jewish Hospital, Kleinert Kutz and University of Louisville

Savage’s story is rather touching, to say the least, and puts a kinder, human face on the harrowing Silver Spring monkeys epic that pushed neuroscience into the study of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.

For NPR’s report on the neural implications of Savage’s hand transplant, go to: 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95593579

For the story of the Silver Spring Monkeys , see Sharon Begley’s discussion in TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, or Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley’s narrative in THE MIND AND THE BRAIN.

And for readers of SpaceSuit Yoga, the implications:  The lessons of neuroplasticity are so far-reaching as to push us all to rethink and recontextualize our work, our creativity, our lives with respect to the innate power of our brains.

Wonders never cease!

Dr. G.

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.

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.

Play-Doh and the Brain

June 18, 2007

Play-Doh and the Brain

What does Play-Doh have in common with the human brain?
A strange question for those in the field of neuroscience but for the Play-Doh artists of yesteryear as well as today, the query makes a kind of intuitive sense. Play-Doh, after all, was and remains one of the first (non-toxic) malleable stuff we get to smooosh, jab, twist, learning the very important sensory lesson of plasticity. (For you Freudians, even our own “doo” doesn’t have that kind of moldability!)

Now granted the kind of plasticity said to be native to the brain is not geared toward hands-on sculpting, although there are days when some of us feel like our brains have been through the Play-Doh press. But for those of us who remember the power we felt manipulating the soft, rubbery and colorful stuff, the untold possibilities of neuroplasticity hold immense promise.

As a young grad student in dance and movement therapy studying sensori-motor and imagination capabilities of the brain, the first inklings of neuroplasticity came forward in the discussion of mental practice. I remember flying to Chicago with a colleague to interview Dr. Edmund Jacobson, whose research on mental practice and relaxation response had greatly influenced my mentor Dr. Alma Hawkins. Hawkins was a visionary in her own day, bridging the history of mystical practice (meditation), creativity and neuroscience in hopes of coming up with an empirically ground pedagogy for young dance and movement therapy students.

Today, meditation and mental practice are both at the heart of neuroscience research and as we are learning, its effects on neuroplasticity is helping to turn over nearly two centuries of scientific studies built on the mechanistic premise that nerve cells are non-adaptive and that the functional organization of the brain is fixed and unchanging.

Call it Play-Doh for the brain, but I say the story of neuroplasticity is the best news to break in the arts, education, sports, health and fitness. For you somanauts, the orbit and directive have both been made clear: “The brain makes culture and culture makes the brain” (Warren Neidich). So “train your mind; change your brain” (Sharon Begley).

By the way, for those interested in testing their neuroplastic potential this summer, check out the Aging Body (or not) workshops that will be held in August in the Rocky Mountains! See http://www.spacesuityoga.com and click on Summer Workshops.

The future is ours to mold!

Dr. G.

*For those working with students grades K-12, be sure to read the recent NY Times article (June 16, 2007), on the skillful use of mindfulness practice in elementary schools and hospitals, to the benefit of participating students.

http://select.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?emc=tnt&tntget=2007/06/16/us/16mindful.html&tntemail0=y