A moment to pause
How we experience ourselves and others is in part determined by a collection of memories woven together over the course of our lifetime. Our experience can be negatively influenced by these memories (conscious or unconscious), and can result in uncomfortable or intense emotional reactions. When we PAUSE and practice Mindful Breathing, we actually strengthen the areas of our brain that reduce this intensity and bolsters our ability to experience the world in a more calm, compassionate and non-judgmental manner.
In one study, led by Norman Farb, a group of individuals was trained in Mindfulness over an 8 week period. Two significant gains were discovered with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging. First, individuals trained in Mindfulness showed reduced activation in areas of the brain associated with "narrative memories" (the stories that we remember and the stories that we tell ourselves), and increased activation in the areas of the brain associated with what the individuals were actually experiencing in that moment. Second, in the group that was NOT trained in Mindfulness, two areas of the brain resonated together: 1) the area of the brain responsible for our awareness of internal body states (like the beating of our hearts); and, 2) the area of the brain that retrieves long-term memories. In the group that WAS trained in Mindfulness, these two areas of the brain were not coupled.
These results suggest that Mindfulness training increases the possibility that two forms of self-awareness that are customarily active together can be separated: "the self across time and [the self] in the present moment". (Farb, et al., 2007).
Mindfulness training allows us to truly experience what we are experiencing in the moment in a more objective manner. A regular practice of Mindfulness strengthens our ability to PAUSE when we are experiencing uncomfortable feelings or situations. We then have the opportunity to consider the response that we wish to make so that we are actually responding to the situation that is before us, and not clouded by unhelpful thoughts, feelings, or memories.
Please see the audio or printable downloads on my website to help you develop your own practice of Mindfulness.