“Well-being is fundamentally no different than learning to play the cello.” This is the conclusion that neuroscientist Richard Davidson at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have declared.
Review of Dr Joe Dispenza's book, 'Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself - How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One' -
This book is chopped up into three parts and the first two parts of it really are the foundation of it because it frames the importance and the value of the meditations that follow in part three.
If I were to sum up this first chapter in a few words it would be:
Thoughts + Feelings = test-tube results
Let's unpack this ...
Chapter 1 - Introduces you to a bit of quantum physics and it's important to embrace the concept that your mind has an effect on your world. The observer effect in quantum physics states that where you direct your attention is where you place your energy.
One of the reasons why people have a challenge being able to break away from the way that they are perceiving themselves in the world is because they're trapped in a Newtonian viewpoint of the world, this old belief system.
Descartes and Newton established a mindset that if reality operated on mechanistic principles then humanity had little influence on outcomes, but of course all that was blown apart when Albert Einstein produced the famous equation E = mc 2 demonstrating that energy and matter are so fundamentally related that they are one and the same.
So this directly contradicted Newton and Descartes while ushering in a new understanding of how the universe functions.
'Now after all that, here are a couple quotes from Dr. Joe Dispenza's book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself' "if an atom is 99.999% energy and . 00001 % physical substance then we are more nothing then something." and then he says...
"isn't it ironic then that we keep all of our attention on that point .00001% of reality that is physical?
Are we missing something?'
When understanding that we're living in this quantum universe, then you realize that spending time and energy on what is is really only spending your time on such an insignificant portion that it really doesn't have that much bearing on reality.
Let's look at a study that was done from one of the references in his book.
So they had these three groups of people that had each one of them holding a test tube with DNA and the reason that they use DNA is because DNA is more stable. It's more rigid than cells and bacteria.
had to hold DNA and feel strong elevated feelings of love and appreciation for 2 minutes
Had to hold this test tube of DNA and they also were to be feeling strong elevated feelings and having the intention in their minds to change that DNA.
Had to hold that test tube of DNA but instead of feeling any emotions, all they would do is just hold in their mind the intention to change that DNA
Group 1 was zero difference
Group 3 also had zero difference.
Group 2 had up to a 25% change in DNA.
What's most striking about is that they were able to wind and unwind the structure of DNA just with thoughts and feelings and with their intentions.
Science folks might want to take a look at the study here:
'sustained positive emotions such as appreciation love or compassion associated with highly ordered or coherent patterns in the heart rhythms reflecting greater synchronization between the two branches of the autonomic nervous system'.
In other words the quantum field responds not to what we want, it responds to who we are being.
Think about how you are allowing yourself to be in the world and what kind of feelings and emotions that you're producing day-to-day, habitually and they'll give you an understanding as to how things keep staying the same.
Let's give this more support with another quote from Dr Joe Dispenza's book.
"some of the common habitual thought patterns that people have might be I'll never get a new job, or no one ever listens to me or he always makes me feel angry or everyone uses me, I want to call it quits or my life sucks or it's my genetics I'm just like my mother, so if thoughts and feelings are producing events in the quantum universe then obviously staying in this same type of stagnant emotional state of being is only going to be producing more and more of the same"
Let's talk about these words like never, no one ever, always and everyone. These are known as universal quantifiers and so when when I'm coaching somebody I have them pay attention to the use of those kinds of words because in a sense they are false.
When someone says:
'everyone uses me',
That's not entirely true. I'm sure there's somebody's that's not using you. It only takes one tiny contradiction to make that whole blanket statement of these Universal quantifiers untrue
If you ever find yourself saying stuff like never, always or everyone, say it right back to yourself to prevent programming yourself with false beliefs.
For myself, I might think "I'll never get this video finished." Then I just say that 'never' word right back to myself.
And then I realize that's a false belief! Thinking unclear like that can have me locked into own thinking by using that kind of language.
'I'll never move on!'
'I won't ever get over this!'
'Everything is totally ruined!'
'Why is it always my fault?'
Those are lies that, if said loud enough and with some feeling, it's going to become part of you and built into your neurology and then you'll really believe those toxic lies!
Next I want to talk about this last sentence here where the example is 'it's my genetics, I'm just like my mother.'
There's a study called epigenetics. Epi, meaning above and what that means is you can go above your genetics with your thoughts. Our genes respond to the perception of the environment. If you change your perception, you can actually change gene expression.
For more details on that check out the work by Dr. Bruce Lipton and his work on the Biology of Belief.
Let's get right back on track now that we've looked out some of the ways to begin breaking the habit of being yourself. Changing the words and changing perception.
Now let's use this in more beneficial ways.
In terms of quantum creating, can you give thanks for something that exists as a potential in the quantum field but has not yet happened in your reality?
I'll go first and share a silly example. Let's say that I picked some kind of weird bizarre notion that hasn't happened yet. Let's say my goal is to win the Academy Award for Best Actor when I'm a hundred years old. I haven't had any acting lessons but let's just use this as an example.
Now its your turn to think about how to apply that to yourself.
And before you do that, here is another quote that I think is valuable to share...
'In terms of quantum creating, can you give thanks for “something that exists as a potential in the quantum field but has not yet happened in your reality? If so, you are moving from cause and effect (waiting for something outside of you to make a change inside of you) to causing an effect (changing something inside of you to produce an effect outside of you).
When you are in a state of gratitude, you transmit a signal into the field that an event has already occurred. Gratitude is more than an intellectual thought process. You have to feel as though whatever you want is in your reality at this very moment. Thus, your body (which only understands feelings) must be convinced that it has the emotional quotient of the future experience, happening to you now.” -Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
When you think back to that test tube experiment where thoughts plus feelings produce test-tube results, that people were able to actually make shifts in DNA. So when you recognize that this is real, that makes it a lot easier to be breaking the habit of being yourself by understanding the true value of being able to control your states of being in ways that are far more empowering for you and are a greater representation of the 'you' that you'd rather be.
Below is a video review of the Dr Joe Dispenza book, "Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One".
Download Your Free MP3 meditation based on the script from Dr Joe Dispenza's book 'Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself'
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Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and test them in brain scans. What she found surprised her — that meditating can literally change your brain. She explains:
Q: Why did you start looking at meditation and mindfulness and the brain?
Lazar: A friend and I were training for the Boston marathon. I had some running injuries, so I saw a physical therapist who told me to stop running and just stretch. So I started practicing yoga as a form of physical therapy. I started realizing that it was very powerful, that it had some real benefits, so I just got interested in how it worked.
The yoga teacher made all sorts of claims, that yoga would increase your compassion and open your heart. And I’d think, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m here to stretch.’ But I started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.
I thought, maybe it was just the placebo response. But then I did a literature search of the science, and saw evidence that meditation had been associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life.
At that point, I was doing my PhD in molecular biology. So I just switched and started doing this research as a post-doc.
Q: How did you do the research?
Lazar:The first study looked at long term meditators vs a control group. We found long-term meditators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex. Which makes sense. When you’re mindful, you’re paying attention to your breathing, to sounds, to the present moment experience, and shutting cognition down. It stands to reason your senses would be enhanced.
We also found they had more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making.
It’s well-documented that our cortex shrinks as we get older – it’s harder to figure things out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds.
So the first question was, well, maybe the people with more gray matter in the study had more gray matter before they started meditating. So we did a second study.
We took people who’d never meditated before, and put one group through an eight-week mindfulness- based stress reduction program.
In this excerpt from the documentary "The Connection," which tells the stories of people adding mind-body medicine to their healing practices, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar talks about the connection between the mind and body during meditation.
Q: What did you find?
Lazar: We found differences in brain volume after eight weeks in five different regions in the brains of the two groups. In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:
1. The primary difference, we found in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.
2. The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.
3. The temporo parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.
4. An area of the brain stem called the Pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.
The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels.
Q: So how long does someone have to meditate before they begin to see changes in their brain?
Lazar: Our data shows changes in the brain after just eight weeks.
In a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, our subjects took a weekly class. They were given a recording and told to practice 40 minutes a day at home. And that’s it.
Q: So, 40 minutes a day?
Lazar: Well, it was highly variable in the study. Some people practiced 40 minutes pretty much every day. Some people practiced less. Some only a couple times a week.
In my study, the average was 27 minutes a day. Or about a half hour a day.
There isn’t good data yet about how much someone needs to practice in order to benefit.
Meditation teachers will tell you, though there’s absolutely no scientific basis to this, but anecdotal comments from students suggest that 10 minutes a day could have some subjective benefit. We need to test it out.
We’re just starting a study that will hopefully allow us to assess what the functional significance of these changes are. Studies by other scientists have shown that meditation can help enhance attention and emotion regulation skills. But most were not neuroimaging studies. So now we’re hoping to bring that behavioral and neuroimaging science together.
Q: Given what we know from the science, what would you encourage readers to do?
Lazar:Mindfulness is just like exercise. It’s a form of mental exercise, really. And just as exercise increases health, helps us handle stress better and promotes longevity, meditation purports to confer some of those same benefits.
But, just like exercise, it can’t cure everything. So the idea is, it’s useful as an adjunct therapy. It’s not a standalone. It’s been tried with many, many other disorders, and the results vary tremendously – it impacts some symptoms, but not all. The results are sometimes modest. And it doesn’t work for everybody.
It’s still early days for trying to figure out what it can or can’t do.
Q: So, knowing the limitations, what would you suggest?
Lazar: It does seem to be beneficial for most people. The most important thing, if you’re going to try it, is to find a good teacher. Because it’s simple, but it’s also complex. You have to understand what’s going on in your mind. A good teacher is priceless
Q: Do you meditate? And do you have a teacher?
Lazar: Yes and yes.
Q: What difference has it made in your life?
Lazar: I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, so it’s had a very profound influence on my life. It’s very grounding. It’s reduced stress. It helps me think more clearly. It’s great for interpersonal interactions. I have more empathy and compassion for people.
Q: What’s your own practice?
Lazar: Highly variable. Some days 40 minutes. Some days five minutes. Some days, not at all. It’s a lot like exercise. Exercising three times a week is great. But if all you can do is just a little bit every day, that’s a good thing, too. I’m sure if I practiced more, I’d benefit more. I have no idea if I’m getting brain changes or not. It’s just that this is what works for me right now.
Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist based out of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School gives an interview on his findings with meditation and its effects on the brain.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Host Bob Macdonald: Dr. Davidson, what was the most striking thing you found when you studied the meditation experts the Tibetan Buddhist monks?
Richard Davidson: Probably the most striking thing was in terms of the scientific findings was the presence of these very high amplitude gamma oscillations that occurred in the meditation period when they were meditating, but also were very prominent in their so-called baseline state. And I should say that these are if you will professional meditators. These are people who have an average of about 34,000 hours of lifetime practice and listeners can go do the arithmetic at home. But that's a pretty big number.
BM: What was going on in their brains that's different from what would be going on in say my brain?
RD: One of the important characteristics of these long term meditators if you will is that the distinction between the state of meditation in their ordinary state if you will is blurred.
This is the what we think of as the transition from a state into a trait. That is, it becomes an enduring characteristic of their minds and brains, rather than something transient that occurs only when they practice meditation.
BM: Dr. Lazar, you also studied long term meditators which your subjects were not monks. What did you find most interesting when you peered into their brains?
Dr. Sara Lazar: Well we looked at brain structure and what we found is that there's several brain regions where there is more gray matter in the long term meditators compared to non-meditators. And as Dr. Davidson said that when you start meditating regularly that there is a shift that there's a blur between your meditation state and your everyday state.
And so we're interpreting these differences in gray matter to reflect that. That this is perhaps why and how you can get these shifts you're not meditation state looks more like your meditation state - the brain actually starts to rewire itself. And that's what we saw evidence for in these long term meditators.
Sara Lazar Ph.D. Asst. Professor Harvard Medical School
BM: Where did you see that changes in the gray matter?
SL: The most pronounced changes were in the insula. This is an area that's involved in integrating sensory experiences with cognitive thinking. And so you could think of that, sort of in a very loose hand-waving sort of way, as the mind body sort of area. We also found areas in the front of the brain which is an area involved in rational thinking and decision making.
BM: Dr. Lazar, we hear a lot about enlightenment, if meditation really does work. From a scientific point of view what is that possible do you see it?
SL: I think it's important to make a distinction between people who meditate for 20, 30, 40 minutes a day for stress reduction and people who are really committed to obtaining enlightenment. As Dr. Davidson pointed out, you could think of those monks as being professional meditators. And so I think that it really takes that sort of commitment -- full time commitment for many, many years -- in order to reach enlightenment. For the average Joe who's just meditating for stress reduction that that's not really a realistic goal.
BM: Dr. Davidson, you say that meditation could make people feel worse. What do you mean by that?
RD: It can exacerbate depression, it can precipitate psychosis. It can do some harm. It's really important for an individual who may be predisposed and have a history of some psychiatric difficulty to engage in meditation practice under the guidance of a teacher who is both a mental health practitioner as well as a meditation teacher.
And often if a person I think is doing worse it could very well be because the nature of the instruction is not as attuned to where the person is as it might be.
BM: Dr. Lazar, how do you feel about people going to a phone app for their guided meditations without a teacher present?
SL: The apps are like a book or any other recording or any other things that have existed in the past. I think they're great as a supplement but I don't think anything compares to having a teacher that you can talk to about your experience.