I am going off line in T-60 min and spending my week leading into New Years on a silent meditation retreat. I will be = increasing my neural networks by unplugging from my social networks.
Can you concentrate long enough to read this? If not, you really should! Concentration meditation is a foundational meditation practice across many spiritual traditions. In concentration meditation (aka serenity or samatha meditation), we return our awareness to one object of meditation to the exclusion of everything else, thereby collecting and unifying the mind stream. Cultivating this practice allows us, with sustained effort, to go more deeply into insight practices and many other meditation and spiritual practices.
Modern neuroscience is also giving us fascinating new information about concentration practice. It changes our brain structure by increasing the density of gray matter in brain regions linked with learning, memory, emotional regulation and empathy. It also increases brain thickness in the prefrontal cortex and insula, and changes the biochemistry of the brain by increasing neuroplasticity, the flexibility of the brain. We’re seeing that it’s possible for a 50 year-old meditator to have the brain functioning of a 25-year-old.
This practice counteracts the overstimulation of today’s world, as reflected in current books like The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr, that highlight the neurological effects of social media, texting, and technology that bombard our awareness with messages, alerts, and feeds. Practicing concentration meditation collects the mind stream and “builds the muscle” of concentration, enabling us to turn away from the constant pull of our smartphones, computer screens, games, and entertainment, allowing us to settle into the serenity of our deeper nature.
Based on information from Cloud Mountain Retreat Center.