“Why are we satisfied with saying we’re not mentally ill?
Why not focus on getting better and better?”
Transformation requires practice rather than just theory. The mind is ever evolving, never stagnant. Many have thought mind to be found within the brain, yet it is unknown where the mind really comes from or where it resides. The brain consists of many important parts, of which three will be discussed after neurons are understood in relationship to meditation.
Neurons are social cells. They are related to sensation, movement, problem solving, memory creation, and the production of thought. Neurons connect and create mental habits, which become our unconscious reactions. Repeated experiences create these habits and change the way the brain functions. Meditation focus on the elimination of mental habits that contribute to unhappiness. Within the brain, we find three important parts; the brain stem, limbic system, and the neocortex.
The brain stem is formed by a group of cells that regulate involuntary functions. These include breathing, circulation, metabolism, and heartbeat. This is the part of the brain, which controls fight-or-flight. Memorable events that store within our unconscious become survival mechanisms and are found here.
The limbic system is the backbone for memory and learning and contains several important features. Within it, one can find the hippocampus, which is responsible for the creation of new memories and emotional response. The amygdala is the reason one can feel emotion and create emotional memories, being responsible for the impulse of empathy and fear. The hypothalamus is at the base of the limbic system, connected to the autonomic nervous system and therefore the brain stem. The release of adrenaline happens here along with powerful emotional memories “linked to biological and biochemical reactions” (Mingur, 2007). This can be helpful when it comes to life-threatening situations and hurtful as it can distort present reality.
The neocortex is why sentient beings (any living being with consciousness) can reason, form concepts, plan, and use imagination. This is where judgment and understanding, learning, and empathy occur.
Every thought and experience is an interlinking of brain activity. The brain is thus, the physical support for the unseen mind. Meditation provides the experience of understanding the mind through seeing one’s innate clarity. When one can simply observe, the experience itself changes just as the mind shifts.
It is common for boredom to occur in this practice of meeting ourselves. After practicing for some time, the boredom becomes cooling in nature and a sense of joy can be filled within an individual. On the contrary, the initial hot boredom, the feeling claustrophobic or trapped, cannot last with awareness present. Anything that arises becomes a product of the mind and an opportunity to see through the eyes of curiosity. This is the process of creating new neuronal connections, inhibiting old patterns.
What we experience is followed by our intention. With recognition of feelings, perceptions, and thoughts in a relaxed manner, withholding judgment, one is able to manage any situation that comes his/her way. Confusion may arise. This confusion becomes the gift, “the beginning of understanding” (Mingur, 2007). The confusion leads to the transformation.
May we be willing enough to be with ourselves and step into the practice of transformation. All it takes is a little observation!
Wherever you are, be there. Sit upright and take a deep breath in. Let it go and let the mind go as well. Allow the mind to wander as it wishes and just observe it. You may notice a pattern of thoughts or perhaps you go down a trail of thought, engage and get lost in it. When that happens, remember your intention, to observe for the sake of your own transformation.
Transformation occurs with awareness.
This begins from the inside-out.
Mingur, Y. (2007). The joy of living: Unlocking the secrets & science of happiness.
Trungpa, C. (2015). Mindfulness in action: Making friends with yourself through meditation and everyday awareness.
Thank you Valerie Lorig for sharing your timeless wisdom, humor, and text.