• 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • What is mindfulness again, anyway?

    Of all the things I realized that I’ve never posted, mindfulness is, surprisingly, at the top of the list. Odd. Well, it’s odd for a blog that’s called The Ancient Brain and Modern Mindfulness. So, in an effort to address that void and provide some clarity on the subject from my point of view, I’ve included some brief descriptions and definitions from my brain to yours, below. Being in the Moment: Children are, Adults, not so much. The truth of the matter is that we are comprised of actions and behaviors that become largely ingrained in our brains as “habits.” As

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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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  • Why Do We Hate Ourselves So Much?

    I once had this pin, and put it up on a cubicle in my workplace back in the early ’90s. Not everyone thought it was funny or even understood the “joke,” but it seems appropriate today. Only in this case, I refer not to upper management, but to our own selves administering the beatings. Why is it that we beat ourselves up here in the West? Is it because so much is expected of us ? Is it because our culture is so focused on “winners” and “losers”? Enough already? I was reading a piece by Pema Chodron recently and

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  • Sensational Maps: Mind / Body Emotional Experiences

      Source: npr.org According to research conducted by Lauri Nummenmaa, a psychologist at Aalto University, “Our emotional system in the brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with our situation.” Nemmenmaa led a team of scientists in Finland to ask ask people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies. The results, as shown above, were “surprisingly consistent,” even across cultures. “Say you see a snake and you feel fear,” Nummenmaa says. “Your nervous system increases oxygen to your muscles and raises your heart rate so you can deal with the threat. It’s an

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  • Dharma Punk: How One Angry Young Man’s “Rock Bottom” Journey Turned into a Mindfulness Movement

    For many (most?) people, the pain of existence requires some form of escape: for some, it’s food, for others, drugs or alcohol; for still others, it’s obsessive work or other obsessive behaviors and actions. But for all, these are attempts at escaping something that cannot be escaped–only accepted and “observed” as conditions of the world. For many, hitting “rock” bottom is the reason for changing, for attempting to improve themselves and trying something different. That was the case for me, and it was, as I found out, the case for a group of punks in California some years back. One

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  • Daily Grateful: Alaskan Husky Pup Howls for the First Time

    December 22, 2013 Taking in the good is a key to rewiring your brain, and sometimes it’s just as simple as experiencing something pure and joyful. God, I love this. Creatures being creatures in the sweetest way possible. The universe can be harsh and unforgiving, but it can also be beautiful. And this is beautiful. Enjoy. Yours in mental hygiene, The ancient brain and modern mindfulness

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  • What is Mindfulness? Psychologist Mark Williams Explains

    “Mindfulness is a form of awareness, really, so we’re all aware sometimes that just as you’re wonderful description of getting up in the morning and as you were driving to work with all these things going through your head, we also know that sometimes we can naturally switch that off sometimes if we take the time to take a walk with a youngster, you know, three or four-year-old, and they’re going very slowly along the road and they’re looking at things.” – Mark Williams In his book, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World,  Mark William,

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  • Houston, we have a problem…

    (…but it doesn’t have to be). The amygdala is considered by many to be the root of many of our anxiety and stress problems, and that’s true. That’s because this very small, “older” almond-shaped part of our central processing units was grand when it came time to run away from a predator or fight off a competing tribal member. Today, the “modern amygdala” can contribute to a world of pain. But it’s more complicated than that–your amygdala can be tamed. Salience Network: Reacting to Bad News–and Good. According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, as we evolved as a species, we grew

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  • Mindfulness at Work: Ram Dass and Pema Chödrön

    Earlier today I was reading through Ram Dass’ blog (from a 1989 article) and a recent piece by Pema Chödrön and they both wrote about ideas regarding the workplace that spoke directly to me. I thought I would post snippets and discuss them a little in the context of mindfulness, acceptance, and letting go of old patterns in the workplace. If somebody is a problem for you, it’s not that they should change, it’s that you need to change. If they’re a problem for themselves that’s their karma, if they’re causing you trouble that’s your problem on yourself. So, in

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