Mindfulness is a state in which you are conscious of your thoughts, your emotions, and your place in the world – without judgment. Meditation and mindfulness when combined can help to calm your mind and rebalance your brain. It helps to train the brain to focus on sensory perception and motor behaviors as you experience them, you learn to attend to sensations from the world around you and from within you such as your thoughts and emotions.
This component of the MNSTR Method is one that I've implemented since April 2022 I had so many misconceptions about what meditation was all about and how to do it but I started small as I did with the other methods. Each practice made me want(and need) more of this mental calm that was so accessible and has worked well for me through guided meditations. Research that uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning technology has found that meditation has the effect of quieting the activity in the brain’s amygdala. That’s why after you meditate, the general effect is that you feel calmer. Meditation also increases activity in your brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC), making you feel contented and more at peace. In sum, meditation makes you feel better because it helps to restore balance to your brain especially these days in a world of sensory overload and changing your perspective on the constant flow of thoughts + feelings that we experience on a daily basis. These days I'm able to remind myself that I'm more than just the flow of thoughts in my head, meditation has helped me to separate who I am from how I feel or what I'm thinking about ... to not put my brain on a pedestal as the brain is merely an organ doing its thing in our body, processing memories, thoughts and more.
Below are some of my favorite guided meditations, one to start the day, one for the afternoon, a focus meditation (which has helped me a lot with my skating practice), and a nighttime sleep meditation to end my day. I listened to a short cast on Blinkist called The Baggage Reclaim Sessions hosted by Natalie Lue, she suggested the concept of the 'self-care sandwich' of doing 3 short meditations at different times of your day. I fit them into the times that I have 10 minutes to myself. It has helped to keep my mind calm even on the busiest of days... a meditation shortly upon waking, a session in the afternoon and I end the day with a sleep meditation (it works better than any sleep aide that I've ever tried, great for those who find it challenging to unwind from your day). It made a huge difference in my mood when I practice the self-care sandwich with the help of the Declutter the Mind app. I've provided the guided meditations with Youtube links but I highly recommend downloading the free app for uninterrupted guided meditations. (Find the download links below)
MINDFUL WAKING MEDITATION
This has been a great way to start my day while doing dynamic movements like stretching for the first several minutes of the meditation to wake my body up, I open up the curtains and face a natural light source to do this. It will bring more awareness to your intentions for the day ahead.
MEDITATION FOR FOCUS
The focus meditation is my favorite as it brings me to the here and now while having open awareness for my environment, it teaches me to focus on my breath and when thoughts do come into my mind, I let it fade away just quickly as it entered my mind. It's great for training your mind to let distractions be and keep your focus.
A 20-minute meditation to gently guide you to sleep, I recommend that this is the last thing that you do while you're in bed. I've had trouble sleeping in the past due to overthinking and this helps me to stay present preparing the mind and body to fade to slumber. Recommend for those who have trouble falling asleep.
MEDITATION FROM A NEUROSCIENCE PERSPECTIVE
Recent discovery highlights that the brain isn't hardwired or fixed even in adulthood, it is constantly changing throughout a person's life. Everything we do changes the brain in some way. When we practice a skill, the brain regions we use actually grow bigger, and when we don’t use parts of our brain, these regions shrink. This is what scientists call neuroplasticity. (Craimer 2021) So how does meditation change the physical structure of our brain? Here are some thoughts...
Meditation increases the white matter in the brain which is the part that sends and receives information between different parts of your brain. It develops the channels of communication between them. The corpus callosum is a huge bundle of white matter fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres to your brain. A couple of studies have shown an increase in white matter density in the sagittal stratum and corona radiata which is linked to a better mood. These increases in white matter enable better communication between different parts of the brain. This could help explain how meditation increases our ability to regulate intense emotions and stress.
YOUNGER BRAIN AGE
As we get older, our brains lose mass. one study that compared the brains of meditators with non-meditators by age found that the cortical thickness of 40-50-year-old meditators was the same as that of non-meditators aged 20-30. In addition to this overall effect, meditation leads to increases in grey matter in key brain regions. For example, meditators have increased volume in brain areas linked with attention, sensory awareness, global body awareness, and visual processing. This fits with the logic of neuroplasticity. The more we use certain abilities, the larger the brain structures related to those abilities become.
CALMS THE BRAIN
We can understand that meditation helps regulate stress...Some skeptics see meditation as just a glorified form of relaxation. But an increasing amount of evidence is showing that practicing meditation causes physical changes in specific parts of the brain that govern the stress response. One clear indicator of this is the finding that the amygdala is smaller in meditators than in non-meditators. The amygdala works like a trigger to fire off the body’s fight or flight response. A smaller amygdala might indicate a reduced tendency to freak out in the face of stressful situations. There is also evidence that meditation enlarges several brain areas responsible for regulating emotion. For example, meditators have a larger than normal lower region of the hippocampus, an area shown to act like a brake to stop the release of stress hormones.
HIGHER PAIN THRESHOLD
Looking at the participant’s brain scans, researchers found that the dorsal anterior cingulate of the meditators was thicker. This increased thickness was correlated with reduced sensitivity to pain. We know from other studies that this area of the brain is central to the emotional response to pain. So perhaps the greater size of this region allowed the meditators to tolerate a higher temperature by unconsciously regulating their response to the painful stimulus.
POSITIVE BRAIN WAVES
To detect rapid changes in brain activity, scientists use EEG sensors... it allows scientists to detect rapid electrical fluctuations called brain waves. Alpha waves are the soft lighting of consciousness. In alpha, we feel relaxed and available, not overly fixated on any specific thought or action, yet awake and alert. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to boost alpha levels in the brain, even outside of actual meditation. This could be part of why we sometimes feel calmer and more relaxed after a session, and why long-term meditators report feeling more at ease overall.
*THE ABOVE IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE CALM WEBSITE WRITTEN BY AVI CRAIMER. LINK BELOW IN THE SOURCES SECTION.
Practicing meditation can positively stimulate the brain and also helps to rejuvenate your body, prolonging life. A 2010 study performed by researchers at the University of California at Davis showed that practicing intensive meditation can increase the body's supply of the enzyme telomerase. As we age, the 'caps' at the ends of DNA strands called telomeres can deteriorate and lead to cell damage. The enzyme telomerase strengthens telomeres, making sure that both DNA and cells remain healthy. But this isn't the only job of telomerase. The same study revealed that people with higher levels of telomerase also experienced more happiness and resistance to disease. So these people not only live longer, healthier lives but also experience more contentment. (Chopra + Tanzi 2013)
I hope you will take up this practice and see the benefits for yourself if you haven't started this practice yet. I didn't think that I could do this before I started my practice as I always had an extremely busy mind but it was exactly what I needed. It helped train my focus and brought me to the present, with my mind not constantly thinking about the past nor fretting about the future. I experience very little anxiety lately due to this practice and other practices in the MNSTR Method. If you have any thoughts or questions about this page or would like to share what your meditation practice is like, feel free to CONTACT me with the subject line: Meditation.
Avi Craimer, *The Neuroscience of Meditation, Calm Website <https://blog.calm.com/blog/the-neuroscience-of-meditation>
Deepak Chopra + Rudolph E. Tanzi, Super Brain: Unleashing the explosive power of your mind to maximize health, happiness, and spiritual well-being
Dr. Mclean Bolton, The Voice (NAMI publication) <https://mpfi.org/how-does-mindfulness-change-the-brain-a-neurobiologists-perspective-on-mindfulness-meditation>