By now you may have you heard about the startling breakthroughs in brain science that have turned our ideas about how the brain works upside down. For years we were told that we were born with all the brain cells we would ever have. If we lost one it was gone and would never be replaced. Wrong!

Exciting New Breakthroughs in Brain Science
In the last few years as brain imagery studies became available scientists have made a startling discovery. Our central nervous system is actually very flexible and dynamic. New neurons are being created all the time and our brain is in a constant frenzy of connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting at an impressive speed. Even more startling is that our thoughts and behavior have a rapid and direct impact on brain structure. One impressive study with Alzheimer’s patients showed that memory was significantly improved in 8 weeks by mediating 12 minutes a day. Further when the patients’ brain was examined at the end of the study the images showed increased activity and enhancement of brain structures that function in memory recall and information access. These are astounding findings and take the body mind connection to a whole new level! It also demonstrates the profound impact that mediation can have on our wellbeing.

For a millennium ancient traditions have used meditation and contemplation to enhance spiritual growth and quicken enlightenment, particularly in the east. We’ve also known for decades about the health benefits of mediation: that it can boost the immune response; lower stress, anxiety and depression; and even slows down the effects of aging. Now we are finding out that these profound impacts of mediation comes from its ability to change brain structure in ways that enhance cognitive function and accelerate our spiritual evolution. If there weren’t enough reasons to meditate before there sure are now!

Yet why do we still resist? Why is it so difficult to carve our 20 minutes a day when we know what an incredible effect it can have on the remaining 23 hours and 40 minutes? One reason is that our brains spend decades forming a stable personality that allows it to go about its day-to-day life to optimize survival. It doesn’t want to give up control. After all survival is more important that optimal health and wellbeing so why take the chance. Maintaining the status quo is a safe bet.

Old habits are hard to break. Biologically, old circuits don’t disappear and it takes a lot of energy to rearrange the brains wiring, grow new synapse and create new neurons. Disruption of old patterns causes anxiety through the limbic system which is the part of the more primitive area of the brain and isn’t as malleable as the more recently evolved frontal lobes that scientist are finding so easily altered by meditation. The limbic system instills fear and uncertainty and causes old patterns of behavior to keep rising to the surface.

The Reasons Not To Mediate: The Four Nooses

The reason it is so difficult to mediate or do anything new that challenges the status quo of the brain is that the older fear ridden limbic system doesn’t like change. Hindu monks and gurus have observed this behavior in themselves and their students for centuries. From their understanding of our nature they have identified the four reasons that the mind consistently comes up with to not mediate. They call them the 4 traps or nooses: sam, dam, dand and bhed.

The more we understand these nooses the greater our chances of finding a few minutes a day to meditate.

• Noose #1: Denial

The first noose, sam, is denial. We wake up in the morning intending to meditate when the thoughts start. “It is not a big deal … I can skip it today … I can always start it tomorrow.” Denial is a powerful strategy. It will justify procrastinating of anything new and deny the importance of the undertaking.

• Noose #2: Bargaining

With discipline we fight back inching our way toward the cushion when the second noose, dam, arises from the mind. This time the brain tries to maintain control and distract us from mediation by offering up something better to do. You make a promise to yourself to meditate the next morning. You set the alarm and go to bed. When the alarm rings, the suggestion will come: “It is still early … I am having such a good sleep … a little longer sleep won’t hurt …” Somehow you are able to work through this hurdle and get out of the bed and sit down to meditate. Then another option will be hurled at you. “It is such a nice morning; I could go for a nice walk instead… I will be doing exercise at the same time … it will be much better than trying to sit here with my eyes closed. ” Remember the brain is protecting the status quo and the last thing it wants is for you to sit on that meditation cushion and try to still it.

• Noose #3 Fear

If you are able to ignore the second trap and continue to sit to meditate, the third trap, dand, will be flung at you. Your mind will come up with fearful thoughts. “Did I leave the stove on? … I don’t have time to meditate today. I must make that important call now or I will miss out … My legs are uncomfortable this can’t be good for them.” There are endless variations of fear that can appear and try to get you away from your meditation.

• Noose #4: Separation

If you’re actually able to get past the first three traps and continue your meditation you’ll encounter, the last and most powerful noose, bhed, or separation. In order to trap you with this tactic the mind will suggest thoughts like, “Meditation is not for me, I am different … I am unique …I’ve tried mediation and it doesn’t work for me… I am a certain body type (personality type or astrological sign) … this is not for me, it is for somebody who is different than me … I am special or I don’t deserve it … I am too old for it.” You name it; the suggestions come in many disguises.

Many of us fall into these traps. We are effectively deprived of the spiritual growth and health benefits of meditation for a lifetime. What can we do to not be snared by the nooses? We can stay aware of these four nooses; identify them as the thoughts arise: “Oh, denial is coming to me this morning.” Call them out for what they are as they arise and move toward that cushion to in making mediation a habit. Over time and with repetition the brain will befriend the process and a new habit –of meditation practice- is instilled.

Even then it’s easy to break the habit and fall back to the old neuronal circuitry so don’t let your guard down. Beware of the four nooses! Use this knowledge protect yourself from thoughts created by the brain to keep control. Make mediation a daily habit and watch how quickly it will change your health, values and emotional life.

Author's Bio: 

A scientist by training and inclination Dr. Brenda Sanders is a former professor of Biological Sciences who taught cellul ar and molecular biology, and environmental physiology.

In 1997 she had an unexpected awakening into unity consciousness which instantly altered fundamental aspects of her personality. After more than a decade of integration and spiritual maturation, she has developed an approached to life that is informed by biology and the natural environment to bring continual connection and insight into our lives.