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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mindfulness and the Brain

I am very excited to have discovered a new mentor in the field of neuroscience and mindfulness. Dan Siegel is an accomplished psychiatrist and neurobiologist who is helping us understand the connection between Mindfulness Based Practices, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, etc. and the brain. I continue to be thrilled to learn how effective our modern science is getting at quantifying the benefits of mindfulness practice.

By engaging in mindfulness practice our brain is encouraged to improve its functions in many different ways. There is a particular area of the brain benefitted by the practice; the middle pre-frontal cortex has nine related functions (The Mindful Brain, Daniel J. Siegel MD). Dan Siegel suggests a simple definition of the mind to be "the process of regulating information and energy flow." He goes on to suggest that these nine functions constitute a comprehensive description of mental health. Over the next few weeks, we will look at several of these functions and how they relate to mindfulness and mental health.

These nine functions include the capacity to regulate fear, express empathy, insight and intuition. They are the building blocks of conscious awareness and mental health. By practicing mindful meditation we enhance these functions and improve our quality of life. Modeling these practices for our children will help the next generation as well.

Take a few deep breaths even now, check in with the body and notice the mind. As you sit and breath with awareness, "pay attention to your intention" in the words of Dan Siegel. Allow all the processes in the mind and body to happen while you sit with an attitude of gratitude.

Be Mindful,

Steve