Meditation, Pathways and Neuroplasticity

In 2006, I started my meditation practice. A series of crazy unprecedented events took me to a buddhist meditation circle on a beautiful Wednesday night in Miami. I had no idea that a seed was being planted that night, and that seed would become the most significant part of my entire life. My whole entire journey and purpose, from this one seed. 

First, this writing is not here to teach you but here to show you love along your way and you can take what you need. 

When I started my meditation practice, I had no idea what I was doing nor did I understand why I needed to do it. I just knew it made me feel so much better and I wanted to learn more about where and how this was happening and I have been learning and will continue to learn as long as I am alive and able. 

Meditation, Pathways and Neuroplasticity 

Meditation is not about becoming more relaxed but you will be more relaxed once you start to meditate. The point of meditation is to focus on a subject (your breath) and disengage from your thoughts by honoring the space you are holding for yourself to breathe (to heal). 

There are supposed to be some intentional cognitive processes of attention and awareness going on in meditation. “Not thinking” is not the point as it’s often made out to be, rather it’s simply an aspect of the entire process of becoming aware. 

Automatic and controlled processes (ACP) are the two categories of cognitive processing. All cognitive processes fall into one or both of those two categories. The amount of “processing power”, attention, and effort a process requires is the primary factor used to determine whether it’s a controlled or an automatic process. An automatic process is capable of occurring without the need for attention, and the awareness of the initiation or operation of the process, and without drawing upon general processing resources or interfering with other concurrent thought processes.[1] Put simply, an automatic process is unintentional, involuntary, effortless (not consumptive of limited processing capacity), and occurring outside awareness. Controlled processes are defined as a process that is under the flexible, intentional control of the individual, that he or she is consciously aware of, and that are effortful and constrained by the amount of attentional resources available at the moment.[1] Wikipedia 

You are not actively resisting thoughts in meditation. You are in fact allowing thoughts to arise as they inevitably will. Allowing them to come and go, while directing and sustaining your attention on the meditative object (your breath), while also maintaining awareness of your present experience. A lot is going on here and discipline will be required. Dont be hard on yourself. Organizing your thoughts is not the goal of meditation. It’s the opposite. Become aware of the thoughts. Bringing full awareness to then and then redirecting your awareness back to the subject: your breath. 

Relaxation and clarity of the mind is a secondary effect of the intention and purpose of the overall practice of meditation.  I know that can sound tricky. This whole time you are thinking you need to meditate because you are stressed out and anxious and the reality is that because of meditation you will be relieved of those things; but you need to start first. The calm that you are  searching for will come naturally in the process of you creating your meditation practice. This practice is my sacred culture and may also become yours.  

Meditation is not directly involved with spirituality but it may be an effect or a personal intention for some people. (It is my personal intention and effect most of the time) It is not the primary function or goal. 

Meditation is not about breath work but, it may improve the way you breathe, if you make this your personal intention. (I have made it mine)  It does not involve controlling your breathing, enhancing the breath, or becoming a better breather. (But I use it as a tool in my breathwork practice) Meditation involves utilizing the breath as a meditative subject. 

You cultivate your general attention as an eminent skill of mind, by continuously directing your attention to the breath in this practice and sustaining your attention on the breath during your process. Continuously noticing, observing, and examining the breath, by creating your own comfortable rhythm, not trying to influence it at all, while also somehow maintaining awareness and clear intention. (Go ahead – stop reading and take a few really deep breaths and hold the last one and then release with a sigh) See how you feel after. 

It’s not about controlling your breathing but you may use breathing methods and techniques (Wim Hof) to enhance your meditation practice. (I do) This combined experience may optimize your breathing skills. (It is optimizing mine) When I meditate I disengage from my thoughts by honoring the space I am holding for myself to heal and I honor it by bringing attention to what sustains my very existence, my breath. 

Does this all make sense? I hope so because it most certainly works and I highly recommend that you learn more about it. 

Let’s get into our brain a little bit. Much like a physical trail or path on the ground that you keep taking, we program our brain everyday with the things that we do. In other words the more you do something, the more it becomes you. 

A series of connected neurons send signals from one part of the brain to another creating the path for us to continue taking the action. Our neural pathways- create awareness and this ability increases our neuroplasticity. In other words, after doing the same thing 5 or 10 times, it becomes second nature to you. 

Think about when you first started driving a car-a somewhat complicated process: position your hands, brake at the right times, follow all traffic laws, and keep an eye on other drivers. Now, driving is probably something you can do while… (Don’t text and drive) So if driving which was once so complicated is now something that you can do with such ease then your learning skills really are next level!

The brain can change and adapt to new strategies in the face of stress and/or trauma as well and it can create new optimizing pathways to help manage these painful or difficult emotions /situations and can help you adjust to stressful events while helping you maintain your emotional well-being. 

This change that occurs when we create new neural pathways is called  neuroplasticity. This flexibility gives the authority for you to change the very habits/programming/routine/ path that you thought was ingrained forever. With some training, the brain can create new ways for you to deal with your life. 

*Neuroplasticity is the science behind the growth mindset. It’s the reason we can develop skills and knowledge through effort, practice, and persistence.

You are creating neural pathways in your brain at every moment when you continue doing the things that you have been doing. You and only you can change your pathways and increase your neuroplasticity with the intention and action of your repetitions. Become aware of this authority and begin to change your path. 

What are you doing to lessen your feelings of anxiety? Have you considered a meditation practice? 

Recommendations: 

Guided Meditations: @Masteredmychakras 

Breathwork Coach: @Benpeltonplan

NeuroEmpowerment: @Pathwaveslife 

What I listened to while writing this: Spotify Link: 

What I listened to while writing this

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One Comment

  • Great article! Very relatable! Thanks for your insight on Meditation and Neuroplasticity!

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