Posts Tagged ‘Mental Practice and Peak Performance’

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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NappingPods:BrainRestforHighPerformance/Creativity!

October 2, 2008

The Platform: The New Idea Lab: The Urban Pod

The Twitter: Cat Naps are back in!

The Big Idea: Deep rest influences creative synthesis of ideas!

Remember kindergarten “quiet time”? — Those rows of squeaky cots, the whispering, the agony of waiting out time until we could get up to play!? Well leave it to science and inventive high tech ingenuity to tap the wisdom of childhood: Napping Pods!

Today high tech napping pods are on the market. Recently reviewed in Wired Magazine and the subject of Google buzz, these “metro” pods are said to promote brain rest with musical and other aids to encourage a neural shift into “quiet time.”

From the standpoint of neural rest, I love it when science reinforces a childhood and an ancient wisdom, in this case, one that has long been recognized by the creative, the somatic and the psychological communities, namely: Incubation leads to creation! Yes, providing an appropriate break for neural rest during intense think-tanking allows our brain to rest in order to digest the onslaught of ideas, feelings and intuitions. Nap pods, in other words, mimic the “rest and digest” processes of our parasympathetic nervous system – the system that allow our bodies to restore energy that we’ve depleted with activity between meals.

The more we learn about the role of parasympathetic nervous system in brain/mind/body functioning, the more we understand why cognitive scientists would target sleep to understand how the brain replenishes itself during naps. And the more we learn about the role of sleep and neural rest in creativity, the more we can appreciate why artists and writers naturally choose to include aimless doodling into their studio practice or why business coaches and psychotherapists advocate relaxation to counter creative blocks, or why leading yoga teachers insist on incorporating savasana (“corpse pose”) and even yoga nidra (“waking sleep”) into one’s daily yoga practice.

So whether you’re brain-storming a new idea, preparing creative strategies for a race, improving “your game” or opening the channels of artistic practice, consider all of the possibilities, both high and low tech for catching some zzzzzzssss!

For more tips on brain rest, feel free to surf this blog. ***

Here’s to Brain Rest!

Dr. G.

***For corporate or private consults on brain and body wellness and high performance, please write to me through the GGI website or leave a comment below.

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.

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.