The neuroscience behind mindfulness

Why is it that simply paying conscious attention to breathing is so powerful?

No matter what culture, religion, or spiritual tradition you examine–this is in most, if not all of them. This 11-minute audio is from last night’s FaceBook Live hangout. Included is an excerpt from Dr. Dan Siegel‘s “Creating Harmony With Breath Awareness.”

Included is an excerpt from “Creating Harmony With Breath Awareness,” by Dr. Dan Siegel, Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. A leader in the field of contemplative neuroscience, Dr. Siegel explains:

Mindfulness involves attuning to our own intention. Of course, mindfulness itself is an intentional state, so we could say that this creates the following tongue twister: An intention to pay attention to intention to be mindful. This appears to be a reentry loop of mental reinforcement that lies at the heart of the experience. Intention to attend to intention.

An example of this kind of intrapersonal attunement would be the practice of breath awareness. You are aware of your in-breath. The mirror neuron (a neuron that fires both when a person performs an action and when the person observes the same action performed by another) and superior temporal areas (which play a significant role in the executive attention network of the brain) as a part of the resonance circuits, automatically—through SIMA (sensory implications of motor action)—anticipate the out-breath.

With a beat of time, the out-breath indeed comes and there is a match between what was anticipated and what is happening. That matching creates coherence. Naturally the awareness of the out-breath entrains an anticipation of the in-breath, which when it comes, integrates SIMA with here-and-now awareness and reflective coherence is created. This may be why the breath is such a powerful, and common, focus of mindful awareness. It is also interesting to note that each relaxed half breath takes about the interval D. N. Stern (The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003) defines as the present moment.

We are never not broken

Akhilandeshvari by Paola Suarez
Akhilandeshvari by Paola Suarez

Transformation, in my experience, sometimes requires navigating through some nasty territory: “Joe, watch out for the alligators!” my friend Rich counseled me one day during my divorce. I’ve come to realize that the real value of meditation, breathwork, etc., is the way it builds resilience, the way it strengthens the ‘inner gyroscope.’ Resilience is only going to become more important as life speeds up and as we gain more and more power by way of technology. Resilience and transformative learning are what I strive to teach.


She who is never not broken. Akhilandeshvari is a Goddess whose power is in the heartbreak, the soulbreak, and all the breaks life deals us. Now that I know of her, I am grateful to have Akhilandeshvari’s energy to work with when I feel shattered and broken. She reminds me to see these times as opportunities to grow and remake myself. -Paola Suarez

Never Not Broken

Akhilandeshwari reminds us that in transitions, when we are metamorphosing and are no longer the caterpillar and not yet the butterfly, there is a wonderful opportunity to choose how we want to put ourselves back together. How will we recreate ourselves? How will we transform our old hurts, current pains, and future goals? How will we ever grow and change if we already had this all figured out? We are constantly breaking down to build back up an authentic self.

-http://www.geneticsexualattraction.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2605

Hindi goddess Akhilandeshvari
Hindi goddess Akhilandeshvari
"Watch out for the alligators, Joe!" -Joseph Roberson 2012
“Watch out for the alligators, Joe!” -Joseph Roberson 2012
Akhilandeshvari Nataraj -Joseph Roberson 2014
Akhilandeshvari Nataraj -Joseph Roberson 2014
Akhilandeshvari & Wheel of Fortune -Joseph Roberson 2014

New resilience-building class!

Breath-centered Practices for Resilience

WHY: If you want to master stress rather than escape it, this class is for you. From world leaders to homemakers, from cyber-citizens to those living off the grid, resilience training can make the difference between mere survival and thriving, between being stressed out by the daily tempest and surfing the tempest like a master. If you want to create a stronger inner gyroscope–with less wobble, this class is definitely for you.

WHAT: A short yoga practice to prepare the body for breathwork and meditation. Breath and meditation techniques for building mental and emotional resilience. This is not a traditional pranayama class; we will combine ancient techniques with cutting-edge research from the military and law enforcement.

WHERE: Sky House Yoga in Silver Spring, Maryland

WHEN: Mondays 7:40-8:40pm

FIRST CLASS: March 20, 2017

WHO: Joseph R. Roberson (my contact email is: joeATjosephroberson.com)

Hallelujah Breath

Lying in bed, mid-morning, listening to H-Nap 2 (from Monroe Products/Hemi-Sync) through my Bose noise-canceling earbuds. I’m wearing a blackout meditation mask (MINDFOLD) that allows me to have my eyes open without discomfort. An Ace bandage is wrapped around my head several times over the mask to block the light more. It also keeps the earbuds in place and blocks a bit more sound. My head has settled comfortably into my favorite memory-foam pillow. In my right palm rests an amethyst egg; in my left, one of rose quartz.

This new breath technique I’m practicing is good so I want to share it with you. It’s not really anything new, except for the way the elements are combined. But it feels like a new technique to me. I feel like it really helps power up and center my gyroscope. It helps me to focus and strengthens the ‘eye’ of my ‘hurricane.’  I like it a lot. Try it and let me know your experience!


 

Hallelujah Breath

  1. Inhale slow and deep and full (Diaphragmatic Breath). Fill your lungs comfortably yet as full as possible. Start at the bottom and fill towards the top.
  2. Hold for a count of 8 with the tip of your tongue touching the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
  3. Exhale long and sweet and slow–with tongue still touching–through a slightly open mouth. The sound will be a gentle “hhhhaaaaa.”
  4. While holding the air out, pump your navel 8 times. Each pump involves drawing, or pulling, your navel straight back as though to touch the front of your spine with the belly button. Imagine your navel is attached to the spine with a bungee cord: after each pump it releases.

Repeat steps 1-4 for three cycles or four cycles. Once you have mastered the technique and are ready, increase each session up to a maximum of eight cycles.


 

If you do try this please let me know your experience. There’s no reason why you can’t do this sitting or even standing rather than lying down.  Oh–and by the way–the mask and quartz eggs are optional.

*NOTE: Below you will find additional details listed as options. I thought it better to keep the instructions short and simple initially, in case you are new to pranayama. You may prefer to think of these options as progressive stages towards the full technique:


 

Hallelujah Breath

  1. Inhale slow and deep and full (Diaphragmatic Breath). Fill your lungs comfortably yet as full as possible. Start at the bottom and fill towards the top.
    *Option 1: Silently count to 8 while inhaling. “In-Hale-Three” fills low lungs; “Four-Five-Six” fills middle, armpit lungs; “Seven-Eight” fills top lungs.
    *Option 2: Inhale in 8 separate sniffs/segments.
    *Option 3: Listen to the sound of your inhale as the syllable “So” or “Sa.”
    *Option 4: As in the Microcosmic Breath, imagine and feel the inhale traveling from your pelvic floor, up the back body and spine, over your skull towards the front until–at the conclusion of your inhale–this movement brings your attention to the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
  2. Hold for a count of 8 with the tip of your tongue touching the round, bony ridge just above your upper front teeth.
    *Option 1: If you can feel your heartbeats, count 8 of them.
    *Option 2: Gently ‘tap’ this ridge with the tip of your tongue with each heartbeat.
  3. Exhale long and sweet and slow–with tongue still touching–through a slightly open mouth. The sound will be a gentle “hhhhaaaaa.”
    *Option 1: Silently intone “Ex-Hale-Three-Four-Ha-Lay-Loo-Yah!” (and feel the meaning!).
    *Option 2: Listen to the sound of your exhale as the syllable “Hum” or “Ham.”
    *Option 4: As in the Microcosmic Breath, imagine and feel the exhale traveling down your front body, down through the throat, heart, lungs, belly, sex organs, until it ends–at the conclusion of your exhale–back at the pelvic floor.
  4. While holding the air out, pump your navel 8 times. Each pump involves drawing, or pulling, your navel straight back, in as though to touch the front of your spine with the belly button. Imagine your navel is attached to the spine with a bungee cord: after each pump it instantly snaps back.
    *Option 1: On each pump, silently repeat “Wa-Hey-G’Rue!” (“Great, indescribable light!”).
    *Option 2: Each pump is actually comprised of three distinct pulls: first, draw your navel slightly back; second, more back; third, as far back as possible.
    *Option 3: The first part of the pull is “Wa,” the second is “Hey,” and the third is “G’Rue.”
    *Option 4: Before you begin the next inhale, imagine/feel this vitalizing energy– generated by the navel-activating pumps–down to the pelvic floor, the origin point of the next inhale.