Improve Brain Function Through Meditation
A practice like meditation, even in a completely secular context, can be a very powerful tool for improving brain performance.
If you wish to be able to hit like the pros at the Australian Open, what steps should you take to improve your tennis game? The first step would be to play tennis. Practice. You would also want to practice more general strength and conditioning, such as running or lifting weights.
But let's say you wanted to become a better basketball player. You wouldn't play tennis. You would practice your jump shot, not your serve. However, you would also want to follow a similar strength and conditioning routine.
The same thing goes for mental exercise. Practicing crossword puzzles won't make you a better chess player. But if you do meditation practices, "it might make you better either at doing crossword puzzles or being a good chess player or maybe even being a better athlete."
So says neurotheology pioneer Dr. Andrew Newberg in a lesson on Big Think Edge, the only forum on YouTube designed to help you get the skills you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world. Newberg uses fMRI and other neuroscientific tools to study religious experiences in the brain. In today's lesson, he discusses how meditation can improve brain function, in both the religious and the secular context, as well as the work context.
"If you're at your desk and you feel like the world is just flying around you and you need to take a moment," he says, "you can literally just sit there at your desk, put everything down. You can close your eyes and hopefully you can close your door or block out your ears and just concentrate on your breath."
After following a meditation exercise that Newberg recommends, "you will feel that little bit of rejuvenation," he says. This may not make you the next tennis or chess champion, but "you'll feel a little bit better focused, and you'll be able to go back to concentrating a little bit better on whatever the next task is at hand."
Sign up for a free trial subscription on Big Think Edge and watch Newberg's lesson here:
How to meditate at your desk:
-Put everything down.
-Close your eyes for about a minute or so and just concentrate on your breath. Just feel your breathing in. Take a deep breath in. Hold it for a moment. Let the breath go out. And as you do that, just concentrate on that breath coming in and the breath coming out.
-If you want to, you can actually focus a little bit on some of the areas of your body, especially if you have some discomfort or stress you're feeling, maybe a headache or something like that, you can concentrate on that a little bit.
-Let yourself feel it, and then each time you feel it then just go back to the breath, breathing in and breathing out, and if you do that for 60 seconds, maybe 2 minutes, then you can open your eyes back up and return back to your work.
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Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.
- Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
- Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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