Every human uses their brain every second they are alive. The could be sleeping or doing a rudimentary task, but the brain is vital for these actions to occur in the first place. The brain sends messages across the body to the muscles and other organs so they can do their role for the body. With that said, the brain has many tasks that it has to do. It stores our memory, its connected to our eyes so in a sense in builds our reality.
Over the years our brain could start to break down. We could develop diseases that break down the very tissue that our brain constructed of. We can get dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more problems. Doctors will always preach that a great healthy lifestyle is away to help protect your body. Eating healthy, getting plenty of exercise, and in the case of the brain it could be reading books. There is also many other ways a person can act to preserve and improve their health.
One such way is meditation. Mediation helps relax the muscles in your brain as well as regulate activity in the brain.
The brain is one of the most complex organs in the body. The study of the brain and nervous system is called neuroscience. Which neuroscientists study the development and function of the brain and other systems. This type of science dates back to centuries where some of the first people to experiment on the brain were laying the foundation to how the brain operates.
It was in the middle ages where Al-Zahrawi who was first to perform surgical treatments of head injuries. Fast forward to Andreas Vesalius in the Renaissance times who applied the first characteristics to the brain. Laying out an early map to the functions of the brain. He proposed the brain wasn’t just one organ with a single function, but inside the brain are parts that each have a separate task. All of these parts work seamlessly together to make the brain the most complex vital organ in the human body. Jean Pierre Flourens the 1800’s neuroscientist who began a new method of carrying out localized lesions of the brain in animals describing their effects on motor function and behavior. In the twentieth century neuroscience was considered a distinct academic discipline instead of being connected to the nervous system. Today there are several medical schools that dedicate their time to research and understanding how the brain functions.
What even is the Neocortex? Google defines Neocortex as a part of the cerebral cortex concerned with sight and hearing in mammals, regarded as the most recently evolved part of the cortex. In sense it is all about picking up patterns. This can be very important in day to day situations. It can be picking up problems at work or even a game. It is easy not to pick up patterns or discrepancies if you are not in the right mood. Setting yourself in the right mood can make all the difference in performing better on the job or at school. This is where meditation and the Neocortex tunes in. See, your brain can be roughly divided into 3 main parts:
Your reptilian brain which is evolutionary your oldest part of the brain. This part covers basic functions like breathing or your heart beat. This function is built in and so we can’t interact with its duties compared to the other parts. The second part is the limbic system, in here the ability for empathy or basic emotions (fear, pleasure etc.) and drives (hunger, sex etc.) can be found. The ‘newest’ part and most advanced part of the brain is the Neocortex. Thanks to our advanced Neocortex we are able to be self-aware and a lot of our cultural achievements are able thanks to this part like art, language, music and even logic.
Now, how do these parts interact with each other and why do we go on tilt sometimes even though we are ‘such advanced beings’. The answer is simpler than one could think. When the human is facing a problem, the limbic system and the Neocortex are both activated to search for a solution. The thing is, your limbic system is more than often referring to past experiences you made or to the past in general meaning it isn’t searching for the best solution, it is just searching for any solution. Your Neocortex on the other hand is analyzing everything, it is trying to get a rational answer, it is trying to get the best answer for everything. The main difference is that your limbic system is giving an answer almost six times faster than your Neocortex and since the human is naturally impatient, you are just going to rely on your gut feeling. This means in return that more than often you’re doing mistakes out of habit or just simply put you’re unconsciously telling yourself, ‘it worked before so it is going to work this time’ which we all know isn’t true.
This is where Meditation and your Neocortex comes into play. Meditation is a method to train awareness and by training awareness you are going to be more actively using your Neocortex because that is the part of the brain that controls active awareness. Your brain is a giant muscle and every part can be trained to some degree, if you are going to mediate on a long term base you will be able to make better decisions, calls and be overall a more complete person since you’re going to be able to differentiate habit mistakes from irregular mistakes more.
With that said there are many specific types of mediation that can help. Even just sitting around for fifteen to thirty minutes could have a significant impact on your day according to Doctor Rebecca Gladding. She is a clinical instructor and attending psychiatrist at UCLA. She preaches Mindful Wellness. Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It is awareness of the present experience with acceptance. The key to this is mediation. At times your feelings can overload your senses and can cause you to see situations differently then how they are actually happening. For example if a person feel’s anxious people they are more likely to assume that something is wrong. The brain in this situation would see this feeling and it would connect to times where these anxious feeling were correct. This could happen even if there are no real correlations to the current situation and past experiences that the person may have encountered. Meditation comes along helps a person practice constructive analytics. It can do this by helping a person flush out all other thoughts. Which any situations will make it easier for a person to block out ideas and memories that would not serve any use to the situation.
What is mediation? Meditation is basically a training method for your mind. When certain things happen to you, your mind generates a certain response whether it be happiness, frustration, anger etc. The way your mind has been inculcated is the path of least resistance and the path it wants to take, and will take the path you are most common to unless you know how to mitigate it. Meditation teaches you how and makes it easier to override the process. The main point is if meditation is too easy, you’re doing something wrong. You might be getting yourself really relaxed, but is it possible that’s all you’re doing?. But as you meditate, your mind wants to grab onto the thoughts and not your breath. The course of least resistance is away from your breath and back into whatever thoughts are vying for your attention. Every time you go back to the breath, you train or teach yourself even, to take the opposite of the path of least resistance. This is coupled with the fact that half the time when you meditate, your mind says, ‘I’m tired.” Stop concentrating on the breath and just kick back and let a guided meditation do most of the work.’ But every time this comes up you learn to drop it by returning to the breath and not listening to the thought no matter how loud and powerful it can get. When you first start meditating you have this thought and then come back to the breath. But there’s still a trace of this thought floating around in your mind and eventually it pulls you in again. As soon as you realize your back in that thought again, you turn your awareness back to the breath and away from the thought. But then it pulls you in again. And then you drop it again. You do this over and over and over. But as you practice you get better and better and faster and faster at recognizing it. You start to figure out how to do it most efficiently and quickly, seeing and dropping thoughts before they even become thoughts at all.
After doing this hour after hour, you gain a skill. One day you realize that you don’t have to be sitting on a cushion to use this skill. I can’t really explain how it’s done, but it’s just something you learn from continually focusing, coming back to, and holding your attention on the breath. It’s like if you ever do a lot of push-ups, eventually you will realize, ‘I can flex my pecs.’ You couldn’t flex them before, and you don’t really know how you learned to do it, but now you can just do it.
So when I’m driving down the street and I get cut off, this magnetic, powerful idea pulls at my attention. But I’ve done this so many times before in my meditation sessions. It’s not my first time at the rodeo. I know how to just drop it. I don’t need to take that path of least resistance into anger because I have had so much practice choosing not to just take the path of least resistance and get pulled into the thoughts. That said, just because I’m better at dropping a thought process doesn’t mean I always choose to. In fact, I still get irritated a lot, but not usually right after meditation. I think it’s more than just being better able to drop unhelpful thoughts though. I think it stems from the fact that after you do this process with literally every thought you have, and put hours and hours of practice in, your mind almost has this other mode where its immediate reaction is not to get pulled into the thought processes or emotions, but just to let it float by. This is how I feel after a meditation session. It’s like my mind is so used to not letting any thought or emotion draw me in and start the thought process, that it takes a whole hell of a lot to produce an idea or thought magnetic enough to pull my mind into the old environmental trigger and thought process response mode.
Gladding, Rebecca. “This Is Your Brain on Meditation.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 May 2013, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/use-your-mind-change-your-brain/201305/is-your-brain-meditation.