Mindful Awareness A 3 Part Series…

Click here http://bit.ly/mindstruckpodcast to listen to the content of this series in its entirety on the Mindstruck! Meditation & Awareness Studio Podcast, episode #12

Part 1. Applying It to Structure, Function, and Health…Circumventing The Stress Response 

Part 2…Unpacking A Non-life threatening Stress Response…We Have Options: Fight, Flight, Rest & Digest

Part 3. Meet the Dragon & The Princess

Mindful Awareness…

Often, I speak and teach on this fundamental information so I decided to curate this knowledge into 3 parts so it is easy to digest, comprehend and accessible to come back to reference.

  • How we apply Mindful Awareness to structure, function, and health.
  • How meditation changes the brain
  • The benefits of meditation
  • Highlight the physiology & anatomy of a stress response,
  • Give a solution to the stress response and
  • Teach you how to meditate and shift your nervous system out of a stress response.

 

“One of the most revolutionary of human gifts is our capacity to see clearly

To be present, interested, and connected to our own lives in a

Wise and compassionate way”

~ Jack Kornfield

 

Meet the Dragon!

AKA The Limbic System is made up of

  1. Hippocampus
  2. Amygdala
  3. Hypothalamus

 

     The Hippocampus

  • Deep inside the temporal lobe of the brain
  • Storehouse for memories…good and bad
  • Memories are coded and recalled in categories
  • Stress memories activate a stress response

 

     The Amygdala

  • Responsible for our emotional responses to the memory

 

      The Hypothalamus

  • Relays information from the Amygdala
  • Shifts and stimulates hormones levels in the bloodstream to change
  • Elevates adrenaline and cortisol
  • Supports the fight or flight response
  • Costumes the body getting it hormonally ready for fight or flight

 

Here is the flow…

Thought (stress memory)->Limbic system On Boarding-> Waking the Dragon

  • Memory is retrieved by the Hippocampus…coded as “stress”
  • Information is relayed to the Amygdala…emotional response occurs
  • Amygdala relays information to the hypothalamus to drench the body
  • Adrenalin and cortisol are released into the bloodstream
The Dragon is officially Awake!

 

Remember just for a moment what is going on in the periphery of the body

  • The sympathetic nervous system is preparing the body to fight or flee

With this…a perfect feedback loop is set up

  • Body elicits hormones & physical responses
  • Brain checks in with blood levels of cortisol and adrenaline…denotes stress is still present
  • Hippocampus continues to draw up and code memories as stress
  • Amygdala continues to support the emotional reaction
  • Relays information to Hypothalamus
  • Hypothalamus baths the body in Adrenaline and Cortisol
  • Brain checks in….and the cycle is repeated…UNLESS it is interrupted

 

This loop feeds itself over and over until it is interrupted

In this scenario, the stress response is based on a memory, a non-life-threatening stress response is occurring repeatedly and perhaps even chronically in the body…unless it is interrupted

  • Creates a chronic sympathetic arousal
  • Chronic stress states
  • Ultimately chronic disease in the body

 

Chronic stress responses in our body left unattended: Life Zapping!!!

  • Increases inflammation
  • Damages the Mitochondria of the cells (the battery packs of cells)
  • Damaged cells can’t hold a charge
  • Dying or damaged cells sputter out toxic waste…free radicals
  • Just like car emission waste

 

Free radicals

Toxic waste products of dying or damaged cells create toxicity in the body which is represented by inflammation in the body:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • HTN
  • Type II diabetes- insulin and blood sugar responses
  • Fibromyalgia syndrome/symptoms
  • ADHD-> brain inflammation-> precursor to Alzheimer’s
  • Implicated in cancer

 

 The Value in Getting to Know and Befriending the Dragon
  • Identify your well-rehearsed scripts, patterns, and triggers & themes
  • Identify our patterns that make up our stress responses
  • Observe them mindfully, objectively, non-judgmentally
  • Pay attention in our moments
  • Become familiar with what wakes up our internal dragon
  • Becoming aware of our stressed-out self
  • Begin to know when the dragon is sovereign
  • Feel empowered to do something about it

 

Now, Meet the Princess

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)…She is a Princess in every sense of the word. The location of the PFC is the front-most part of the outermost matter of the brain.

When the PFC dominant…when the princess is awake… we are:

  • Logical
  • Creative
  • Language-based
  • Inspired
  • Motivated
  • Full of wonderment
  • Compassion
  • Our best selves

It is through the PFC we can connect with our best self!

However, …in order for the princess to function well and support us at the highest level, we must know …

  • She fatigues quickly
  • She requires flawless fuel…the perfect balance of carbs, fats, and protein
  • She is NOT developed until our 3rd decade as humans
  • She is vital to spiritual expansion
  • She absolutely brings our best self-online

 

The PFC <~> The Limbic System

Inversely related

  • When the dragon is awake
  • The princess is asleep
  • When the princess is awake the dragon is asleep

 

The Princess learns & thrives through novelty & curiosity

The Dragon learns and thrives through fear

 

How do we consciously wake up The Princess?

Meditation! Presence! Awareness!… http://www.expandingpathways.com/meditations/

  • Connect with our body and being
  • Observe with non-judgmental curiosity!
  • Allows space & pauses for observation, curiosity, and noticing
  • Without judgment
  • This…Lights up our PFC
  • This…Sings the dragon a good night song!

 

The truth about the structure of the brain

  • Networks of structure which get stronger and thicker the more we use them
  • Thought is a neural network
  • We strengthen signals and grow more networks with increased function
  • The gray matter of our brain grows in density and volume with use
  • What we focus on grows!
  • We can use, tap into, grow, expand, and thicken our PFC!
  • Turn the Princess into a Goddess

 

In a chronically stressed out person

The Dragon…The limbic system, in the temporal lobe of the brain

  • Thickened with increased volume and density
  • Just like our musculoskeletal system
    • The more we use a muscle the stronger it gets
    • The thicker it gets
    • Increased endurance
  • The brain works like this too!

 

Volume and density of the brain in areas unused will likewise shrink and prune themselves.

 

Candy for the Princess…The PFC

(our best self, our highest expression of ourselves)

  • Curiosity
  • Wonderment
  • Imagination
  • Rest & digest

 

Candy for the Dragon…The Limbic System

(our stressed-out self)

  • Fear-based
  • Stress-based
  • Thoughts and emotions

 

Now that we know there is something, we can do… we are empowered!

 

Now I ask… which wolf will you feed?

A Native American elder was asked how she became so wise, so happy, and so respected.  She answered:

” In my heart there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate.

It all depends on which one I feed each day.”

I ask again…

Which wolf are you feeding?

Which part of your brain are you feeding?

What are you choosing?

 The part/one we feed will thrive!

 

Until next time, if nothing else… remember,  peace in your internal world largely and profoundly… if not miraculously, transfers over to peace in the external world.

Peace In~ Peace Out!