Meditation: A Practical Way to Retrain Attention – Mindful

Posted: September 15, 2018 at 9:42 pm


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Daniel Goleman on how meditation can help us flex the different muscles of attention.

One of the important things I learned from writing Focus was the new science of retraining an attentional habit, thereby resculpting the brain. The work of people in contemplative neuroscience where theyre brain imaging people while they do a basic meditation, or a range of meditations, is really impressive.

One of the pieces of research that stuck with me was by Wendy Hasenkamp who is now Research Director at Mind and Life Institute. She looked at the basic move in meditation. It doesnt matter if youre doing a visualization or compassion or mindfulness, the basic movement is this: when your mind wanders off, notice that its wandered, remove it from where its gotten attached, and put it back on your point of focus.

The basic repetition is noticing that your mind has wandered, that youve gone back to the default pattern in attention and bring it back to the chosen new habit of attention. And what the research shows is that there is different circuitry for each of these four points:

Every time you go through that motion, youre flexing the muscle of attention. Those are the basic repetitions in a mental gym. You strengthen that circuitry every time you do that, just like you would with a muscle on an exercise machine at the gym. A meditator or someone doing mindfulness is actually changing the shape and function of their brain. Its neuroplasticity, and I think thats very compelling research. It says that what we experience as something very minorOh! My mind wandered. Im bringing it backactually has profound significance for the very wiring of the brain.

This article was adapted from a video interview with Daniel Goleman and Mindfuls Editor-in-Chief, Barry Boyce. If you want to watch the interview, click here.

Looking for more ways to develop focus? Try this 9-minute sensory focus practice from Daniel Golemans new audiobook, Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence.

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Meditation: A Practical Way to Retrain Attention - Mindful

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September 15th, 2018 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Meditation