• Thich Nhat Hanh and the Science of “Habit Energy”

    In the Western mind, habits can be described as connections between neurons–or bonds–that are strong and induce us to continue a behavior. The more that we do the behavior, the stronger the neural bonds, and the stronger the habit. Journalist Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Life and Business, (excerpt here) was interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air” a couple of years ago, and here’s a quick rundown on what happens when we create habits: Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also

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  • Trauma, Memories, and the Ancient Brain

    What is trauma? According to the American Psychological Association: : Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.  That’s certainly the prevailing definition of trauma. But is there more to it? Assuredly. Trauma can result in myriad symptoms that go far beyond “even headaches and “nausea.” The more I research the brain, the more I’ve

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  • Mindful Moments are Everywhere

    This little robin was just sitting in our driveway, checking me out, but with her back to me, and I just waited, with my camera, taking a few shots, but I wanted to see it fly away when my wife and our dog Zoe came out of the house for our walk. She did and boy did she! We take things like common robins for granted, but when you see them–really *see* them–they’re as amazing as any majestic raptor. Yours in Mental Hygiene, “> The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness

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  • Daily Grateful: On this Earth Day, Don’t be Afraid, We’re All Connected

    April 22, 2014 Everything that you’ve ever known, thought about, or experienced, was the ultimate result of collapsing stars. This isn’t conjecture, it’s hard science. Doesn’t matter whether we want to acknowledge it or not: we are all connected. Everything around us–hell, us included–is just a different manifestation of stuff that was previously something else: all the molecules and atoms, all the different elements that were created by different types of stars, they’re all we are. This shouldn’t be a source of a fear, but of wonderment, and for me, it’s a spiritual feeling of connectedness. Looking up at the night

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  • The Beauty of Life: Amazing HD Video

    The brain reacts to and responds to whatever you present to it, whatever, in essence, you “feed” it. Showing the brain moving, beautiful images and really absorbing them in the moment is actually good for your brain. As Dr. Rick Hanson and others have explained, it takes more than simply thinking positively–we must “dwell” in positive experiences for the brain to really internalize positive moment and convert them into enhanced neural networks of happiness. That’s because our brains developed an innate tendency to help ensure our ancestors’ survival by focusing on the negative, or what’s referred as the brain’s “negative bias.” If you think about

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  • The Ft. Hood Attack, the “Offline PFC,” and the Ancient Brain

    A few days ago, Ivan Lopez, a soldier in Ft. Hood, TX went on a murderous rampage before shooting himself. A day or two later, a military spokesman, indicated that an “escalating argument” precipitated the assault. According to another spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the military had not yet determined a “concrete motive.” Sadly, this is not surprising; incidents like this are increasingly commonplace these days. For those who have followed this blog, you know that the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC)–the “newer” part of our brains that evolved to govern the complexities of thought, emotion, and higher “executive” functions–can be

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  • Daily Grateful: Smile at Cat Ping Pong

    April 1, 2014 Smiling No, it’s not April Fools, it’s just a silly cat video intended to make you smile. It’s really one of the better things that the Interwebs does, don’t you think?? 🙂 [grat-i-tood, -tyood] noun, the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. In an article entitled In Praise of Gratitude,according to the Harvard Medical School, Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.

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  • Daily Grateful: Be Aware, Not Wary

    March 30, 2014 Taking in the good is….good for you. You’ve heard the phrases, “Give me a moment,” or “Let me take a moment.” Moments are all we have. They’re gifts; little parcels of space-time that enable us to live more fully. By enabling/permitting ourselves to dwell in the moments of life more deeply, we’re actually helping shape our brain to do positive things. In today’s post, Rick Hanson explains how that helps–from a technical point of view, while increasingly well-known Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh explains it as only he can. I love that modern science and ancient teachings have finally

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  • Daily Grateful: Jon Kabat-Zinn Sums it Up

    3.23.2014 Jon Kabat-Zinn. For many, the name has become synonymous with modern mindfulness. As a physician who took a break from his work to study Buddhism in the ’70s, it was a decision that helped lead the beginning of the mindfulness movement in the United States. After training in Buddhism, he came back to his practice with the then-fairly radical idea that the benefits of Buddhist mindfulness could help his patients who were suffering from chronic illness. The result was the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts. Read more here. Watch his presentation at the 2014 Wisdom

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  • Part 1: What happens when you practice mindful meditation?

    “It is a tribute to the accumulated wisdom of humankind that a traditional Buddhist meditation practice going back 2500 years, which was originally designed in part to deal with the problem of human suffering, has been successfully adapted to prevent the relapse of depression in the modern era.” ~ Simon N. Young, PhD It’s a source of great debate  among many in the West (not among those who practice and are adherents of mindful meditation, of course; for them, there is no debate): just what are the benefits of mindfulness meditation? This is, really, the core question that can help change not

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  • Bypassing the Automatic Bypass: How Mindfulness Practice can Improve our Relationships

    It’s happened to everyone at some point or another. Someone says something that triggers your sense that you’re being: a) attacked b) disrespected c) ignored d) misunderstood e) blamed f) made to feel lesser than g) some or all of the above. What do we do? Well, it’s complicated, because everyone reacts differently, but in many people, the pre-frontal cortex (PFC)–that executive “Central Processing Unit” and keeper of higher functioning emotions and empathy–can be bypassed. This happens naturally enough during periods of extreme duress or surprise–when you react to avoid another car that suddenly appears in front of yours, or

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  • Daily Grateful: Vienna Teng “Level Up”

    March 15, 2014 This video was recommended by Rick Hanson. I’m glad I checked it out. See if it puts a smile on your face (it did on mine). First time I’ve ever heard of Vienna Teng, but very uplifting stuff. Lyrics are below the giddy and speak to a woman who seems to understand mindfulness well. Enjoy. Level Up so come out. you have been waiting long enough. you’re done with all the talk talk talk with nothing on the table. it’s time to come on out. there will be no sign from above. you’ll only hear the knock

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  • Daily Grateful: Imperfection Made Everything Possible

    March 11, 2014 For those who meditate, it’s called “practice” for a reason–there is no perfect. There are always thoughts, doubts, and more thoughts and issues of self and dwelling in the past, rather than “re-starting” in the now. There is no perfection and, as it turns out, this is true on a cosmic level, as well. You see, after the Big Bang, all matter (then just gas) was being spread out evenly in all directions as space, time, matter, and gravity were being created. But were it not for the minutest of imperfections in the gas (some very small

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  • Spotlight on Jon Kabat-Zinn: Ancient Practices, Modern Mindfulness

    Jon Kabat-Zinn. For many, the name has become synonymous with modern mindfulness. As a physician who took a break from his work to study Buddhism in the ’70s, it was a decision that helped lead the beginning of the mindfulness movement in the United States. After training in Buddhism, he came back to his practice with the then-fairly radical idea that the benefits of Buddhist mindfulness could help his patients who were suffering from chronic illness. The result was the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts. Although I haven’t participated in an any of his

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  • The Powerful Brain of the Corvid will Blow you Away

    Hyperpole? Nope. This gets filed under “What the heck?!” I’ve long been a fan of crows because they’re interesting birds and super smart. A group or collective of crows is known as a “murder,” which appeals to my dark sense of humor. The following video underscores just how incredibly smart they are. Studies back this up, and say that they might even be as smart as Great Apes. According to one study several years ago, “…while having very different brain structures, both crows and primates use a combination of mental tools, including imagination and the anticipation of possible future events, to solve

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