• 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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  • 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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  • 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: Silent Hunters

    March 10, 2014 Today’s Daily grateful is brought to you by Tanja Askani, an incredible photographer who lives in Germany. This one is all about one of my favorite raptors, the owl. As Tanya describes this series: People have always been fascinated and intimidated by owls. They are revered and feared, admired and hunted down. While owls are considered the embodiment of wisdom, they are also known as bearers of bad luck and death in many cultures. As creatures of the night and dusk, they have an aura of secrecy. As a consequence, it is not surprising that owls appear

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  • Daily Grateful: Focus, Music, Longevity

    March 7, 2014 This holocaust survivor talks about the importance of living.  Yours in Mental Hygiene, The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness

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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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  • What is Neuroplasticity?

    There was a time, not that long ago, actually, in which the prevailing wisdom among scientists and brain researchers was consistent: The brain stops developing at an early age, and continues to “die off” over the span of one’s life. We now know this to be horribly inaccurate. Over the past 20 years, advances in brain imaging and neural research have revealed pretty much the opposite conclusion: the brain’s neural networks continue to change and grow throughout our lifetimes, even up to and through old age and death. This is pretty amazing in and of itself. But what’s even more, er, “mind

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  • Yet More Evidence: Meditation Reduces Inflammatory Response

    It’s hard to keep up, sometimes–seems like mindfulness research data just keep piling up; a good “problem” to have, indeed. A recent study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France, indicates the first evidence of molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation, specifically, lowered cortisol. “The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels

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  • Daily Grateful: Winter Birds in Vermont

    February 7, 2014 The Daily Grateful is one way to “take in the good,” which is helps rewire yourself, especially if your brain has a negative bias. It helps to experience moments of beauty and really dwell in, or “internalize them,” many times throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a major event, it just has to a moment or series of moments that make you feel good or simply put a smile on your face. Take the time to embrace the many joys that are available to you; really dwell in those moments, and your brain’s neural wiring will reward you

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  • Daily Grateful: Swimming with Orcas

    January 31, 2014 This last day of the first month of the new year, thought I’d share something beautiful and a little scary (isn’t real beauty often a combination of the two?) 😉 What’s interesting–and relevant–about this video is that, for some, this would be the ultimate in “fight/flight/freeze.” Seeing one of the world’s top predators in the wild would make many people, well, less than comfortable. But, like this photographer (we posted about previously), this particular recorder of events was deliriously happy about his encounter with a pod of Orcas. It’s all about perspective. The Daily Grateful is one

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  • Mainstream Mindfulness: “Are we in the middle of a mindfulness revolution?”

    That’s the quote from this Huffington Post article about Time Magazine’s latest cover and theme. As an “armchair pop culturo-anthropologist,” I’m fairly certain that the answer is a definitive probably. 🙂 All the signs are there, really, from Time’s latest edition to a lesser known, but increasingly popular magazine called “Mindful;” from police departments helping their offers deal with stress to the Department of Defense looking seriously at mindfulness as a way to combat PTSD, the country is responding to information overload, stress, and anxiety with something that actually works: meditation and mindfulness. My sense is that because the latest research clearly

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  • Daily Grateful: A Close Encounter with a Beautiful Lion

    January 13, 2014 National Geographic photographer Mattias tells an amazing story of two creatures: one is human, one is a beautiful lion. Quite an experience (good thing she was probably full!). I absolutely love this mindful, very “zen” explanation from the photographer: “I’m an emotional person, sort of a vulnerable person in many ways. I don’t, for example, think that to do what I do, you sort of a ‘Tarzan”…because you have to be the contrary. You have to be soft, hopefully intelligent; you have to read the environment–you have to be modest. Otherwise I would have been eaten, I think,

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  • Daily Grateful – Lion Whisperer

    January 10, 2014 “The interactions have always been boisterous. I’ve learned to de-tune my reactions. No two lions are the same. Lions have dwindled to ridiculous numbers; I’m trying to raise awareness. We will not be seen lions in 20 years if we follow along the same path.” ~ Kevin Richardson Lion Whisperer with lions (and hyenas) in the wilds of southern Africa. Um, wow? If a man can insinuate himself into a pride of lions without being torn to shreds, what ELSE is possible?

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  • West Meets East: Neuroscience and Buddhism

    I was watching this video from the wonderful “Greater Good Science Center” Web site the other day, and just today I was reading an interview in Shambhala Sun with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield about mindfulness and Buddhism in the Western world. It’s not news that the world of Western science and the world of Eastern philosophy are coming closer and closer together, but what’s interesting to me is that the Buddha was apparently quite aware of the plasticity of the brain long before anyone actually knew the true functions of the brain. “Letting your frontal lobe support…non-judgmental, present moment

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