How Mindfulness Meditation Benefits The Brain

by Peter Carlson on March 24, 2016

This talk and discussion continues exploring last week’s review of what research is revealing about what happens in the brain to manifest consciousness and a sense of self.  The focus of the current night was on what happens in the brain when Buddhist mindfulness of breathing training is applied to strengthen the neurological functions to manage self-awareness and self-regulation, fostering the process of awakening from greed, aversion and ignorance.

The intention of the explanation is to increase understanding that there are two processes that mindfulness effectively cultivates: a “top-down” function that becomes aware of distorted and dysfunctional self-talk and substitutes more adaptive and functional internal narratives (equivalent to modern cognitive psychotherapy), and a “bottom-up” function that focuses on the feeling tone generated by the emotional and motivational structures of the limbic brain system, disregarding any self-talk, to just experience “feeling as feeling” to decrease impulsive reactivity, as described in the second foundation of mindfulness.  This second function is more in line with traditional Buddhist teachings on the path to awakening.

This was followed by discussion among those present for clarification and sharing of how this applies to lived experience.

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