“We become what we think about all day long.’ The question is, ‘What do you think about?” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The capacity and power of the whopping 3 pounds of gelatinous squish matter resting between your ears never ceases to amaze me. We are biologically embedded with the innate ability to construct our own realities. It’s quite a miraculous feat, really. It’s arguablly what sets us apart from other species. The power of introspective thought; thinking about thinking. I’ll say it again for extra emphasis, we construct our own realities.
In a Time Magazine article, neuroscientists in the Harvard Medical School performed an experiment to analyze the neural connections that encode memories and learning. Volunteers were taught a short little piano exercise and then broken down into two groups. Group A was instructed to play the piano exercise everyday for five days, two hours at a time. After their practice, scientists conducted a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation (TMS) test to model which neurons were firing and how they developed in the motor cortex.
The second group, group B, merely thought about playing the piano exercise. With their hands set still, they simply imagined themselves playing the short scale. To their astronishment, the TMS of group B displayed the same motor cortex development as group A through merely the power of thought. They, in essence, rewired their brain simply by thinking about it.
More and more people are shedding light on mental practice and exercise across a variety of fields. An ESPN article posted late last week discusses how more athletes are beginning to place more emphasis on training their ‘mental muscle’ through meditation practices that have been endorsed for centuries by eastern philosophies.
The article discusses the power of visualization, and how practicing regulating ones breath can effectively rewires ones brain. The most notable section of the brain that is rewired through meditative practice is the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional conditioning. It is what bequeaths an athlete with ‘ice in their veins’ in clutch situations. Phil Jackson, former head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, was an avid proponent of zen Buddhism earning him the nickname ‘Zen Master.’ With 11 NBA Championships, his record speaks for himself; he is the winningest coach of all time.
Thus far, we have seen the ability of meditation and mental exercises in rewiring ones embedded biological construct to devise new methods of learning, stress release and calmness, and deliverance in demanding situations. The benefits do not stop there, however. There are countless other links to creativity, serenity, serendipity, and most notably in my eyes, the ace in the deck: increased happiness.
What more is there to want in life than happiness? Talk about the ultimate shrine of euphoria.
My Grandpa has been preaching the effects of a P.M.A. (positive mental attitude) for as long as I can remember. A P.M.A. can have restorative effects on ones robustness in times of ailment and discomfort. Using MRI technology, neuroscientists have linked connections between meditation and the left-sided anterior regions of the brain associated with happiness and the limbic system associated with positivity.
Identifying these biological mechanisms will entice a sense of harmony.
With the biological rewiring transfusable; the benefits indisputable; and the implications illimitable. What reason, what excuse could you possibly have, for not engaging in this 6,000+ year-old practice? One more time, for extra-extra emphasis, we construct our own realities.