How Mindfulness Meditation Benefits The Brain

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.

Training The Agile Mind

This talks reviews the lojong mind training aphorism “In order to take unexpected conditions as the path, immediately join whatever you meet with meditation”.  The emphasis of this practice is to train the mind to become quickly, mindfully aware of what is emerging in consciousness, and essential competency to cultivate in vipassana practice.  Peter described recent research regarding which areas of the brain are associated with mindfulness, and how these neural pathways are enhanced to increase self awareness and the ability to regulate emotional reactivity.  After these descriptions, ways that agile and accurate inner awareness can be cultivated, not only by regular meditation practice, but also through finding ways to remind oneself to be mindful during the day.

This talk followed a guided meditation just posted “Agile Mind Guided Meditation”.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MAKING THE MIND AGILE AND ACCURATE