The Pathways in My Brain Have Changed!

I think I have created new pathways in my brain via constant meditation and mindfulness practice, like the science of the brain by the Nova institute suggests we could do. Sitting at our regular Tuesday night sitting group my entire body felt in alignment with my mind in a space of deep concentration and alertness. As I sat in meditation, all parts of my body were locked-in together like a solid building structure. I felt no urge for movement, no pain or discomfort in the body meant anything. Even when the teacher rang the bell, and it was time to get out of meditation, my mind and body which were completely at ease, alert and stable did not wish to stop meditating. I think I sat there for the rest of the night with my eyes closed and without much movement. It just felt right. I was alert. I heard every word of the dharma talk and every word that our sitters shared. I wasn't tuned out. I was right there, stable, present and solid.

After we left the session, I reflected on this perfect experience of ease and strength both in the mind and the body that I had not experienced in quite the same way before. I realized it was all due to the love of the practice I had developed during this week at the Abhayagiri Monastery. As I participated in all the meditation sessions and listened to the dharma talks and asked questions about my own practice and my understanding of it, I felt a leap into a different level of ease and knowingness. I can't tell you how effective the response to all my questions was as the smiling monk, Ajhan Sanyamo, answered them. I had been there before, cherished my stay and experiences, participated in all the work meditation, talks and events, but hadn't before voluntarily done extra meditation. This time, I did extra sessions of walking meditation and sitting in my room, all afternoons and evenings. My mind wanted to. I was looking for that ease, comfort and stillness. All agendas of why so and so does this or doesn't do that or all the desires of the heart to have this or that have faded away. It must have been the effect of the monk's responses! I was curious, why this sudden shift of no effort in my meditation? My mind feels like a dutiful, loving and responsive child who has gotten the routine down and is not in conflict with sitting or being in silence. It must be the tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, “The Tipping Point.”

Similarly, this must be what scientists and experts of brain development mean when they say that with consistent and long term meditation the brain's elasticity develops new grooves and pathways. According to Dr. Daniel Siegel, with longterm meditation, the frontal cortex, which is responsible for managing our lives, integrates better with the rest of the brain and becomes a collaborative chunk instead of being fragmented. And that seems to be happening with my brain. Every time my mind tries to travel the old pathways of constantly interpreting, expecting, assuming, judging, etc. , it gets nowhere, because with the new pathways the map of my brain has changed. Negative thoughts and expectations of things to be different no longer stick for long because there is no groove for the mind to fall into. The mind is now craving for peace, concentration and equanimity and it knows where to get them. It has a clear address and route to them. Just follow the breath and let go of all thoughts that are not relevant to what's happening now. This is the new groove in my brain!

I shared with a sitter last night that my stay and practice at the monastery felt as if I had gotten a very strong dose of a peace and concentration vitamin shot. Of course, this experience was not only impacting my love for meditating and wanting to sit more, but, as a result, has enhanced the way I am experiencing everyday difficulties particularly when the results of what I do turn out contrary to my wishes or expectations. In a way, expectations seem to be slowly fading away. The need to plan perfectly and expect my plans to work out is also slowly and effortlessly falling away. The pain that came from holding on to fantasies of how life should be, how my man should treat me and how my kids should turn out or how my name and fame should go, and many other fantasies have dissolved into acceptance, kindness and joy. What is taking place is ease, comfort and wisdom that create more of what I really want at the core and less of what I really don't want. I'm also better able to transfer the insights I gain from practicing Mindfulness to my students and clients.

I am grateful to all the teachers and practitioners of mindfulness. May the blessings of all your efforts benefit all beings.

Dr. Manijeh Motaghy, PsyD. OMC
Senior Consultant & Trainer
Mindful Business Institute