December 22, 2014

The Lazy Gal’s Way to a Consistent Meditation Practice

The Insight Timer app is available in both a free and deluxe version

The Insight Timer app is available in both a free and deluxe version

Many of us are aware of the myriad of benefits associated with a regular meditation practice, among them improved stress management, clearer thinking, and increased capacity to focus.  I am well-aware of these benefits myself having attended an 8-week course at the University of Minnesota in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction  and lectures by the mindfulness guru, Daniel Siegel.  I have extolled its virtues in presentations and recommended it to clients.  Nothing could be better for the brain.

Have practiced meditation consistently myself?  No.  Absolutely not.  My practice has been scattered at best usually because I think I am going to get around to it during the day but I seldom do.  What’s more is I am exactly the kind of person who would benefit from a regular meditation practice- high energy, often overextended, somewhat distractible.

Recently I rediscovered an app I’ve had on my phone for quite some time- the Insight Timer. Like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, I have had the answer to my inconsistent meditation practice all along.   Here are the advantages:

1. I can meditate anywhere.  At least in the winter, it means another 15-20 minutes in my warm bed.  I meditate right when I wake up.

2. The app automatically logs my time so I can see how long I have meditated and on what days.

3.  There is a an opportunity to journal a few thoughts afterward.  This is a delightful bonus because journaling was also something I intended to do but never did.  I can write down a few thoughts usually when I am at the peak of mental clarity.

4.  My iPhone is always with me so I have all I need to to meditate at any time- a chiming bell and a way to record my thoughts.

Any meditation is good.  Consistent meditation is better.  For the first time in my life, I actually know the difference.

What Really Influences Our Behavior?

What really influences our behavior?   Is it the brain as described by the newest findings in brain science? Is it our personality?  Our upbringing? As a coach, I use certain lenses to help individuals uncover personal potential.  Therefore,  it’s tempting to zero in on those aspects to which I am most familiar: personality type (MBTI), emotional intelligence, and the latest in brain science.   However, I have to mindful of all of the factors that might lead to a particular behavior or mindset.

For instance, brain science is currently very popular.  As an individual who worked with brain injury for 25 years prior to starting a coaching practice, I am thrilled with all of the progress that is being made in the field, particularly neuro-imaging.   However, with all of the interest and energy comes the concomitant hype.  Here is where we have to be careful not to attribute any one factor to explain behavior without considering other possible factors.  The truth is, most of our thoughts and acts are a result of what author of A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind by Richard A. Burton calls “a weighing of all inputs.”

In the diagram below, there are multiple factors that influence behavior as seen in the left hand column.  These factors are weighed and the most relevant ones lead to mental sensations, thoughts and actions at any given moment.   If an individual does “X”, “a”, “b” and “c” may have led to that particular action so it’s important to consider all of these.

Adapted from A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind by Robert A. Burton

Adapted from A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind by Robert A. Burton

Meanwhile, what does this mean for people trying to understand one another?   Be careful about getting too narrow in your thinking.  In MBTI personality-speak, we like to say, “You are more than just your personality type.”  Likewise, as we learn about brain science and new findings are revealed, we have to be careful to say, (for instance) “he is behaving a certain way because he has an overactive amygdala at the moment.”

I would also add that the more you can become aware about the multiple factors that may be influencing your own thoughts and actions at a given moment, the more likely you are to be able to mindfully weigh the inputs for your own best possible outcome.  So there is substantial upside to being open to as many lenses as possible to explain why we do what we do, and it’s seldom just one.







Willpower as a Key to Goal Attainment

Willpower actually has three faces, according to Kelly Mc Gonigal,  author of the Willpower Instinct.  There is “I Will Power”,  “I Won’t Power” and “I Want Power.”  Every willpower challenge requires doing something difficult, or taking a path that is opposite what we usually do, or what might be most tempting.  Meeting goals require a significant amount of willpower and it requires that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is very active.

The 3 regions of the PFC corresponding to each type of will power are:

1.  The upper left side of the PFC specializes in “I Will.”  It helps you move forward with or stick to difficult, boring, or stressful tasks.

2. The right side of the PFC specializes in “I Won’t”.  It helps you resist temptations and cravings.

3. The “I Want” region is in the middle and it keeps track of goals and desires.

The prefrontal cortex is the most sophisticated and energy consuming part of the brain.  In order or the prefrontal cortex to serve us well, it needs adequate glucose through the foods we eat, sleep, and training via meditation and other mindful practices.   In addition, it needs external support by way of removing external distractions, clear definition of goals, and encouragement from others including family, friends, and coaches.

Here are a few ways you can boost your willpower when it is being tested:

1.  Immediately boost willpower by slowing breath to 4-6 breaths per minute.  That is approximately 10-15 seconds per breath.

2. Increase willpower by stepping outside for fresh air and a “green break.”

3. Take a refreshing power nap.  Even 10-20 minutes can restore and re-energize the PFC.

4. Use imagery to address a craving. Temptation is like a wave on the ocean.   Rather than battle it the temptation, allow it to crest like a wave and dissolve gently into the shoreline.

5. Remove distractions and temptation.  Nothing can drain the PFC more than expending it’s energy trying to resist temptations that are in your immediate environment!  Think of it as running in place but not moving anywhere!

There are many other ways understanding the nature of willpower can help you reach your goals.  Stay tuned to future blogs where you will learn more about this topic and how it can help you uncover personal potential.



Three Ways to Use Psychological Type to Increase Willpower

Much has been learned about the nature of sefl-control and it’s role in addictions, procrastination, impulsivity, and unmet goals. There are many new books on the market on this topic.  Less than a year ago, I attended an all day workshop on willpower. Trying to understand the nature of underdeveloped willpower is a hot topic as it contributes to so many frustrating outcomes. According to the American Psychological Association, Americans name lack of willpower as the number one reason they struggle to meet their objectives.  There are many factors that contribute to the presence or absence of willpower including hunger, fatigue, and even goals that lack personal incentive.

Knowledge of your personality or psychological type can also be helpful in managing willpower in at least 3 ways:

1. Building awareness around typical willpower issues based on psychological type can help you understand why you might falter.  For example, an ENFP type who has poor follow-through would benefit from knowing that ENFPs tend to be attracted to new opportunities and projects, especially after they get the basic gist of it and only details remain.

2.  Knowing your type can inform your goals and even solicit  assistance  to help you attain your goal.    For example, an ENFP is often challenged by details and follow-through.   Setting goals that specify increased attention to details rather than “just finish it”  helps to clarify where the energy needs to be directed.  Having someone whose strength is follow-through and details or an external device or system to address these needs can help as an external source of willpower support (remind and encourage you).

3. It is well-known that tasks that tap into the 3rd and 4th functions of a personality type require additional energy.  Therefore you will have more success if you are well-rested and have extra energy.    Shifting from easily accessed functions such as extraverted intuition in the case of ENFP types (Ideas! Possibilities!) to 3rd and 4th function behaviors (logic, sensing and details) can be a challenge.   A critical structure in willpower is a well-developed prefrontal cortex.  This is the most sophisticated structure in the brain and the one that uses the most energy and glucose. The prefrontal cortex inhibits impulses,, and it serves to initiate behaviors. It is the seat of judgment and holds the capacity to evaluate choices.   It is the CEO of your brain that says “do this” and “do that”.    Therefore be mindful of energy resources when you need to operate out of preference.




Meditation: An Adult “Time-out”

Meditation is often associated with Buddhist monks or beautifully peaceful women on fluffy cushions. Individuals may be uninterested in exploring the benefits of meditation because they cannot relate to the meditative archetype, a transcendent and serene being. Recently, a client inquired about learning how to meditate but was skeptical  about whether she would be a good candidate.

Meditation isn’t about expections, I started to explain. It’s like, like a …maybe think of it as an adult time out! At the time, I blurted it out in jest but when I started thinking about it, it isn’t a bad comparison.

Many of us who have had children know about the all-powerful time-out when a child is behaving badly. It’s a actually too bad that time-outs are often used as a punishment rather than an important time to settle down before returning to the scene with a clearer mind.  In our house, it was called “The Thinking Chair” but it was almost always used when I had had enough of their antics.   If I known then what I knew now, I could have expanded the Thinking Chair into an opportunity to teach early self-regulation.   The Thinking Chair would be a wholly positive experience.  Oh well.. lost opportunity. They are all grown up now.

Anyway, one of the many benefits of meditation is to train your mind to notice when you are off track, or when you are relying on unhelpful cognitive patterns of the past to respond to the present.  Certainly it always helps to step away from a stressful situation to gather your thoughts in the moment.  However, most of us don’t notice when we are in that chaotic or rigid state of mind in the first place so we just keep going.  Meditation prepares the brain to notice those situations unfolding so we can take a step back and achieve clarity.  Another good analogy to describe meditation is that it is like going to the gym to lift weights so you can lift something for real later.

I meditate but do not I head into the woods to contemplate the sound of one clapping hand.  I use that phrase as a caricature to describe what meditation is not, especially for the average participant who might feel that they aren’t “the meditating type.”   There are enormous benefits to the regular practice of meditation and one should not judge themselves to be a poor candidate to do it due to misconceptions about what it actually is.




Meditation: Cultivating Positive Habits of Mind on Fat Tuesday

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!  Recently I came across a lecture series about practicing mindfulness meditation.  I am a fairly consistent about meditating but sometimes I go for long periods where I don’t meditate at all despite being well-aware of its benefits.  I began to follow this lecture series as a way to renew my meditative practice.

Oftentimes people who seek out meditation are expecting relaxation or even a transcendent experience. You can become more relaxed as an overall benefit or perhaps experience transcendence as you learn to take a step back from a situation that might otherwise mire you in needless suffering or unfocused thinking. However meditation is not for relaxation or transcendence per se.

The lecturer describes meditation as cultivating positive habits of the mind, much like you would tend a garden. The act of meditating allows you to provide a fertile ground for positive thoughts while mindfully weeding out what inhibits growth.

One of the critical steps in preparing oneself to maximize the benefits of mediation was the notion of taking a “moral inventory” of one’s thoughts and behaviors.   What might be standing in the way of your personal growth? I hadn’t heard this notion of moral inventory connected with maximizing the benefits of mediation. It certainly made sense when the lecturer laid out the rationale:

Mindfulness must be practiced within the wider context of one’s life…personal ethics…a disordered ethical life will disrupt our efforts to practice meditation much like weeds in a garden.”

So he suggested taking a personal moral inventory in light of these five ethical aspiration:

1.  I will endeavor not to harm others.

2. I will endeavor not to steal.

3. I will endeavor not to misuse sexuality.

4. I will endeavor not to use false speech.

5. I will endeavor not to consume toxins.

The first 4 are in many ways obvious. You certainly can cause harm to yourself and others directly.  You can harm others by stealing their possessions or ideas. Misuse of sexuality can cause significant suffering. Bending  the truth is also quite harmful.  The 5th ethical aspiration was very interesting though  for it went beyond overeating, overuse of alcohol, smoking and drugs.   The lecturer states:

“Today guarding our minds against intoxication would necessarily include the type of information we take in. Like other stupefying substances, we can become addicted to media stimulation.”

We certainly can lose ourselves in TV, the internet, and social media.  If there is anything that can lure one into the trap of mindlessness, it’s media stimulation.  Yes. Yes and hmmmm.

So today is Fat Tuesday followed by a period of 40 days of reflection and ethical self-appraisal.  This period corresponds with the spring preparation theme, the idea of preparing the ground for a bountiful garden. What better time to prepare oneself for personal growth?   As for me, ethical aspiration #5 is probably a great place to start.



Meditation and the Christmas Tree Brain

The Christmas Tree Brain is my recent blog posting about an asynchronous macro-state of brain activity as measured by an electroencephalogram  (EEG).  It is based on the work of Dr. Dario Nardi.   It is characterized by various brain regions firing at different amplitudes and frequencies as a result of electrical activity in the brain.   Colors of blue, green, yellow and red, illuminate the EEG screen, with an overall look resembling a Christmas tree.

This whole brain pattern comes from transcontextual thinking where seemingly unrelated thoughts and concepts are quickly blended and related in the brain, often resulting in extremely creative and often vastly entertaining output.  Those who are most likely to show this pattern have psychological preferences for extraverted intuition namely ENFPs and ENTPs and to a lesser extent, INTPs and INFPs.  Apart from any neuro data,  it is well-accepted that ENFP/ENTP types are adept at connecting elements that normally don’t go together and are energized by this.   They can also be major procrastinators with poor follow-through when the exciting suddenly becomes routine.

It may come as no surprise that many comedians, talk show hosts, journalists prefer extraverted intuition. Some of these types might be Dr. Suess,  Robin Willians, or Conan O’Brien.   Experiencing the creative output of one of these types can be both exhilarating and tiring.  Seriously, who doesn’t want Robin Williams to tone it down a notch sometimes?

While this brain state can be a decided  advantage in many areas of life, it can also lead to peaks and valleys in creative energy because the proverbial switch is either firing on all cylinders or it’s off because it is waiting for the next spark to set off new energy.  It can also be a  liability if no one is able to follow your line of thinking.  As an ENFP myself, I have experienced the benefits of this:  incredible creative energy, clever turn of phrase, and  spontaneously turning a mundane activity into an event.  I have also seen the glazed over look in people’s eyes when they don’t get what the hell I am saying or I can’t get inspired to do anything and procrastinate looking for that spark.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that one can use to ameliorate the downside to Christmas Tree Brain.  One of them is meditation.  Meditation is not a relaxation exercise.  It is training the brain to be aware of what it is doing and make gently make corrections.  If one is rigid in his thinking, meditative practice can make those patterns easy to detect in the moment.  Likewise, a mind that is distracted or wildly off topic can also be gently reigned in if it is trained to do so.

Meditation won’t change an individual’s personality, it will only enhance it giving a larger array of ways to behave given a particular situation.  If you have the gift of transcontextual thinking, at times, you have to know when to stop riffing and get to the point.  Or let someone else talk.  Or know when you haven’t been understood so you can circle back and clarify.  You have to know when you are distracted and not following through.  You won’t lose your yuletide mojo but you will know when it’s overdone.  Meditation leads to an enhanced state of awareness, something we all can use to maximize our strengths while managing our blind spots.

To try a sample 11-minute meditation led by Dr. Daniel Siegel, follow this link.


Cognitive Blind Spots and New Year’s Resolutions

Cognitive blind spots. Everyone has them.  Cognitive blind spots are often manifested as repeated patterns of ineffective behavior or resolutions to change that seem to fall short of the goal.   The nature of blind spots is that one is perceiving limited data or is using inadequate methods of judgment to address a problem.   This phenomenon is similar to the blind spots you have when driving a car.  There are certain visual fields that are not readily apparent and you must mindfully check those areas for other cars or use a device to identify those vehicles. Similarly,it is difficult to correct for cognitive blind spots because you often lack the insight and resources to do so.  If you had these perspectives and remedies operating effectively already, then goals would always be met and change would be easy.  Such is not the case and that is where outside support in the form of coaches, teachers and mentors can be helpful.

Have you ever noticed the plethora of self-help books  in the bookstore?   What used to be a few shelves of books mostly by Wayne Dwyer or Dale Carnegie is now an ever-expanding selection of  remedies and advice that seem to provide a temporary burst of ideas and energy, but ultimately leads to limited meaningful change.  In other words, if self-help books were so effective, why would there be a need for more and more of them?   I am not opposed to using a self-help book as a vehicle for personal insight, and in fact, I have a collection of these books myself.  However, there is a tendency to default to the well-worn path in our minds despite our best intentions, often leading to frustration and despair.

Personal coaches can help by providing additional insight and accountability.  In my practice, I use the principles of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, my background in brain science, principles learned in my coach’s training and some meditation to assist a client in the process of change.  Following is an example of how this process might work:

A client may come to me with the complaint that even though he has no shortage of great ideas, he doesn’t seem to follow through on any of them.  He gets very excited about his new schemes and in fact, he can enthusiastically gather support for his ideas among his coworkers.  Inevitably, once the crescendo of excitement starts to recede, he loses interest and the project is never completed.  What’s more, this is a pattern that has been repeated so often, his coworkers do not take his ideas seriously anymore.

After getting as much information as possible using open-ended questions, I am likely to use one of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instruments (Step I, II, or III) to provide additional insight into the client’s preferred ways to perceive and judge information.  Why?  The MBTI provides reliable insight into a client’s cognitive strengths and probable blind spots.

In this case, the client is an ENFP which is essentially characterized by someone who is cognitively energized by new ideas and possibilities, the ultimate brain stormer!  However, a typical blind spot for an ENFP personality type is inattention to details and a dislike of routine.  Once the initial burst of excitement has worn off, it is much more difficult to finish the task.  What’s more, wherever an individual has a blind spot, there tends to be a defensiveness.  Solutions are often blocked by an unwillingness to admit there is a problem in the first place or that the problem is your challenge not someone elses! It’s the my coworker who is so obsessed with details that makes this so difficult to implement!

Certainly, awareness of the problem is the first step.  However, because these cognitive patterns are preferred and well-worn in the brain, it will take more than just awareness to create meaningful change.  The brain is plastic and fully capable of lasting changes.   However, these changes require tremendous effort, motivation and in fact, a dampening down of  default methods of thinking to bring about these changes.   It is similar to a sled hill.  It’s easy to go down the paths that are already well-established but it takes deliberate effort to move your sled and make a new run.  That is how the brain tends to operate.

One way to make deliberate changes is to become mindful of both your present behavior and to create a reasonable alternative.   It is more effective to say, “I will do this instead of that” rather than, “I won’t do that.”   There are several forms of meditation that train the brain to resist existing patterns of thinking and refocus on new ways of thinking.  Meditation is an emollient to smooth transitions in the mind.  Particularly pertinent to the ENFP  personality type whose mind can run a million miles per minute in a million different directions, meditation can be very helpful.   Be mindful of details and following through.  Or at least ask someone who does this well, to help you.   Use your brain storming capabilities often but know what to shift to other modes.

Most of all, realize that change takes time.  The brain requires several opportunities to try out new behaviors before they become readily accessible.  In between the resolution to make a significant change and the actual attainment of the goal can be many challenges.   There is always the temptation to go back to the familiar.  However, with a coach, teacher or mentor that you trust and rely on, your chances of success are greatly improved.

Happy New Year from!   Make 2011 a very good year!

Update on Mindfulness: Overview and Practical Applications

In June 2009, I completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program offered by the University of Minnesota.  This program is a certified version of the one pioneered by Jon-Kabit Zinn at the University of Massachusetts.  The 8-week program consisted of reading the book Full Catastrophe Living, reflective exercises based on the book’s concepts, and a series of awareness exercises such as body scans, yoga and sitting meditation.  Then in May of 2010, I attended the seminar The Brain Changes Itself given by Daniel Siegel and Norman Doige.  This seminar outlined the adaptability of the human mind especially when awareness and intentional focus are present.

I further explored mindfulness through reading the books Mindful Brain and Mindful Therapist by Dr. Siegel, Meditations to Change Your Brain by Hanson and Mendius and Train Your Mind Change Your Brain by Sharon Begley.   I continue to seek out new information and applications for using mindfulness in my life and offering it to clients who might be interested in exploring how it might benefit them.

Mindful awareness is a useful brain tool.  It helps an individual respond to a problem in a constructive manner rather than react to the problem in a knee-jerk fashion. Many of these reactions have been created by years of patterns of reacting to similar situations many times in a maladaptive way.  It is remarkable when you realize that many of these patterns are set long ago and probably have no bearing on the situation that presents itself at that moment.

Mindfulness meditation (one example is breath awareness meditation but there are many others) helps to strengthen the neural pathways of the medial pre=frontal cortex.  The pre-frontal cortex is not only the administrative center of the brain modulating important functions such as attention, flexibility, and initiation of task;  the medial pre-frontal cortex can modulate the activity between the emotional and reactive systems of the brain (For example, the flight of fight response of the amygdala can be overridden by the rational brain that informs the individual that there is no real danger.).  Indeed, mindfulness is brain training.

Overview and Practical Applications (partial list):

1. Building mindful awareness takes practice.  Simply reading about it will not produce significant benefits.  However, one study demonstrated that increases in focus can be achieved even through 20 minutes of breath awareness meditation daily.

2. There are some programs of study that are comprehensive and powerfully life-changing but also require a large time commitment.  One such program is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program.  Currently, one of my clients is using this program as part of a team effort  to restore function after a head injury.  I provide some the cognitive coaching, primarily applying concepts from Full Catastrophe Living and others guide her in yoga and other physical exercises.  Today, she reported that when doing the Warrior Pose in yoga, it was the first time since her accident that she felt grounded and not dizzy. It was a powerful moment and a tribute to the benefits of this program.

3. There are many levels of practice and study to build mindful awareness. One should not shy away from trying because of concerns about competence or time constraints.

4. Not all meditations and practices are appropriate for everyone.  In my own personal experience, the 45-minute body scan put me to sleep and I was distracted by the imagery used in the guided practice tape.  I wrote 2 blogs about this experience: Ommmm or ZZZZZZZ and Zafu and Zabutons There is no point trying to judge yourself because something doesn’t work for you.  Keep exploring.

5. Pertinent to the MBTI, I found that meditation is a useful way to balance perception and judgment using the Myers-Briggs model of understanding psychological preferences.

I meditate daily for 20-30 minutes. I started out using Daniel Siegel’s 11-minute guided breath awareness exercise. After becoming comfortable with that practice, I purchased a snazzy pyramid  timer and usually do the breath awareness exercise without any guidance.    Sometimes I will experiment with some of the meditations from Hanson and Mendius.  I try to do yoga several times per week but if something has to be eliminated due to time constraints, it is usually the yoga work.

I have gained enormous benefits from Mindful Awareness practice.  If you are interested in applying this in your own life, I encourage you to try.  Please don’t be judgmental about your progress and know that there are a wide array of meditation practices available to you.  The key is to get started.  Namaste!

Using Meditation to Balance Perception and Judgment

Mindfulness, meditation, and  breath awareness.  Is this all a big fad or can you actually gain a cognitive edge from sitting for 15-20 minutes each day focusing on the breath? A recent study published in Science Daily states even after 4 days of 20 minute breath awareness exercises, cognitive improvement can be measured.   Furthermore, Daniel Seigel and others have linked mindful practices to the building the middle prefrontal cortex area of the brain, the area that integrates cortical, limbic, brainstem, somatic and social input.  In short, the middle prefrontal region of the brain, when developed and strengthened like a muscle, can create a state of self-awareness that allows one to navigate the river of thought and experience without getting stuck in the banks of  either rigidity (too much judgment) or chaos (too much perception).  This notion of modulated balance between perception and judgment has significant implications for MBTI practitioners who use the awareness of the 4  functions (dominant, auxiliary, tertiary and inferior) to coach clients using the MBTI model.

In breath awareness exercises, one is instructed to find on the breath first at the level of the nostrils, moving to the chest and finally deep within the abdomen.  After fully identifying all components of the breath,  finding the place where the breath is felt most naturally is the next step.  Breath awareness exercises are not relaxation exercises, they train the mind to be focused.  When the mind starts to wander as it invariably will do, it is important to take note of that and gently refocus without judgment. From my own personal experience as an ENFP doing these exercises, I am amazed at how many thoughts dart through my head as I attempt to focus on the breath.  Anyone who shares intuition as the dominant function can probably relate to how difficult it can be to maintain focus and follow through on a given task or maintain a topic of conversation  when connections, patterns, and new ideas are emerging, competing for cognitive primacy.  The key is to be aware of what the mind is doing then gently redirect thought within the cognitive system. In my own experience with meditation, I have improved my focus as well as developed an awareness of when I need to to stop generating options and perspectives and use my auxiliary function, feeling, to craft a course of action.  In addition, as my ability to self-monitor my thoughts and judgments has improved, so has my ability to successfully access my tertiary and inferior functions.   This self-awareness assists in creating an elegant shift among the 4 functions all brought about by the strengthening  the prefrontal cortex area of the brain, the area that directs energy and thought throughout the rest of the human brain.

What if someone has a judging function as the dominant function?  Can an ESTJ use meditation to navigate the river of thought and experience?   The answer is yes because meditation is strengthening the fibers of  the brain where self-monitoring  and behavior modulation take place,  not the functions of either judgment or perception.  To use an analogy, it is like tuning up the transmission of a car allowing for improved shifting among the 4 functions.  Whereas excessive perceptive can create chaos in the mind, rigidity is the result of too much judgment.  So, taking the example of an ESTJ, who may be quick to render a judgment,  balance can be achieved by consciously shifting into the fact gathering mode.  In fact, one can go to any area of brain more easily if self-awareness and the ability to redirect cognitive activity is present through a well-developed prefrontal cortex.

Meditation can be tricky.  Many people are turned off by it because it feels like a waste of time. Others are frustrated because they don’t think they are “doing it right.” My first round with mindfulness and meditation was rigorous.  It involved 45-minute body scans, sitting meditations, and yoga.  With all that needs to be done in a day, it may be difficult to fit in all of the components of a comprehensive program.  However, for a less time consuming,  day to day application of meditation, I highly recommend a 20 minute simple breath awareness meditation. With this increase in awareness, it may be possible to shift more easily among the functions of perception and judgment.

*For more information on a good place to start this meditation practice, please see my article entitled “Breath Awareness Meditation” at