• 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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  • Daily Grateful: Don’t Just Do Something…

    February 26, 2014 No Zabuton or Zafu required, just a space, a chair or a pillow for your bum, and…you. You can use a guided meditation to focus on, or just be there, with your thoughts, allowing them to come and go, focusing only on your breathing, the ambient sounds around you, or bodily sensations. Sometimes amazing things happen, sometimes nothing happens, sometimes you feel pain or discomfort or have a hard time dealing with your torrent of thoughts. Any and all of these sensations are fine. All are equal and all can be perceived without fear, attachment, or judgment. Wiring

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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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  • 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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  • Free Webinar Series with Leaders in Neuroscience and Brain Plasticity (Starting 1/22/2014!)

    UPDATE: Gold Membership is only $200! What’s great about the “new world” of neuroscience is that amazing discoveries are happening at a furious pace. As researchers continue to discover the incredible things that the brain can do–from building up resiliency to creating new neural pathways ourselves. With so much data and so many leaders in their fields, it’s hard to know where to turn. Too many options can easily lead to brain overload. The good news is that you can now check out, for free, a Webinar series that explains key findings and tools you can use to help improve your

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  • Daily Grateful: Exercise and the Brain

    January 7, 2014 Not new news, but always a good, gentle reminder that exercise does the most amazing things for your body and your brain. According to Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance. In SPARK, John Ratey, MD embarks upon a fascinating journey through the mind-body connection, illustrating

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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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  • 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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  • Daily Grateful: November 28, 2013

    A Day for Gratitude Thanksgiving is, for many, no longer the celebration that it represented, historically. While I won’t go into that specific detail, I do think it’s become the official day of gratitude in this country, without question. Whatever you’re grateful for, immerse yourself in it; spend more time with it than usual. People? Animals? Environment? Helping others? The ability to sate your hunger and slake your thirst? Health? Doesn’t matter; whatever it is, dive in, deeply, and stay there a while. That “taking in the good” is what mindfulness is all about. and it’s what actually rewires our 

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  • Guest Post: Lisa Wimberger – Mapping the Mindscape

    Well into this century, the prevailing scientific wisdom was that our brains were hardwired and fixed, and that we could not generate new brain cells. Fortunately, for the betterment of mankind, science changed its tune. It is now widely accepted, and empirically proven, that our brains are elastic and regenerative. Each of us has the ability to generate new brain cells through lifestyle and nutrition, a process called neurogenesis. The amazing revelations haven’t stopped there. Now we also know that we can rewire our neural mindscape through the same means, and do so at will! No longer are we destined to express

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  • Meditation can Literally Change your Brain…

    …including Decreasing the Size of your Amygdala! We are a data-driven society here in the West. Personally, I’d like to see more reliance on data to help break through the stigma and barriers that are associated with brain “plasticity” and rewiring our brains. The science is real, the conclusions are valid, and it’s just time for the rest of the medical (and patient) community to catch up. Key Conclusions. That’s why this video really struck me. People certainly have a right to be skeptical about “new findings” (coffee is good, it’s bad, it’s good, etc.!) regarding health, but the jury

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  • The Mind/Body Connection: Sense and Sensibilities

    I was listening to Radiolab the other day and as usual, they addressed a subject that’s near and dear to my heart–literally–the mind/body connection. The show discussed how the brain relates to the body, and vice-versa. As always, the show was thought-provoking, but led me to think a bit more about the mind-body connection and how it’s related to trauma. When Your body knows before your Conscious Brain Knows. The latest research reveals that our viscera “knows” extreme experiences before you, consciously, do. That’s because the ancient circuitry in the brain communicates directly with the amygdala in extreme. When the

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  • The Importance of Internalizing the Good

    The phrase neurons that fire together, wire together is increasingly common among neuroscientists and psychologists to describe, essentially, one basic thing: the more of “something” that the brain experiences (it doesn’t care what–it’s just an agnostic recording device, for the most part–although it does “hold on” to negative thoughts, experiences, and memories more readily than it does positive ones), the more it reflects those experiences in newly “built” neural networks. Billions and Billions: You Control the Most Complex Object in the Known Universe …our brain has about a hundred billion neurons in it. In principle, the number of possible states of

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  • Daily Grateful: November 16, 2013

    I don’t have to tell you that there are a gazillion cat videos on the Interwebs, and yes, I’m about to post more. The thing about this particular cat is that it’s unlike any cat I’ve ever seen. The big cat, Maru, is something of an Internet star–very zen, very playful, very , well, personable, somehow. Definitely an unusual kitty, Maru was alone for much of his life, but the owner introduced a new playmate, Hanna into the mix fairly recently. I love how they get along and hope you do too.

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  • Rewiring Yourself: How to Counter the Brain’s Negative Bias

    Ever wonder why the world is in such turmoil, why there is hate in the world? Why people fear those who aren’t “like” themselves? Over the millenia, our brains developed a “negative bias” as a survival mechanism. In short, “negative biases” helped humans survive. Avoid being attacked by a predator? That was a threat for a long time; the brain developed tools to send us into fight or flight modes. See someone from a tribe that’s different than yours–and therefore a competitor for scarce resources?  That’s a threat. So the brain developed a “mind-body” connection the need to develop the

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