How does one rewire the brain so that mindfulness and compassion are automatic responses to stress.
We are born with specific physical parameters, but if we eat right, take care of ourselves, and work out, we can build muscle, flexibility, and endurance.
The same can be replicated for our minds – by working out our brain with mindfulness and other practices, we can boost concentration, flexibility, and intelligence, and build new neural pathways and networks.
Christopher Willard (author of the forthcoming book: Growing Up Mindful) suggests a simple basic mindfulness meditation:
- Adopt a comfortable posture that can be sustained for a time
- Set a timer for 3 minutes at first – later this can be increased.
- Bring your awareness to your breath. This can work as an anchor (Other anchors could be ambient sounds, counting, or even an image you find powerful or calming). Just invite your mind to rest there.
- Soon, the mind starts to wander – this is normal – every time it wanders, gently guide your awareness back to your anchor.
This might seem very simple, but every aspect of this practice is building the muscles of our mind.
What happens each time we focus on or return to the anchor?
- We build Concentration
- We detach from our thought stream every time we return to the anchor. This is a practice of letting go In-the-moment.
- Each time we are kind to ourselves when our mind wanders, instead of criticizing ourselves, we are exercising and strengthening our Self-compassion for challenging moments in our lives.
- Each time we focus on the anchor, every time we notice our mind is wandering, that is the moment of Mindfulness—not a moment of failure.
This practice strengthens our neural connections and over time helps us build a map of our mind, notice our habitual thought patterns, and develop patience and compassion for ourselves and for others.
Will be happy to hear from you on your experience of the mindfulness meditation.