Experiencing Neurosculpting for the First Time
A participant’s first experience with a Neuroscuplting practice at 1440 Multiversity. This post includes hands-on tips and tricks that you can try at home to connect to your vegus nerve, calm your primitive brain, and stimulate your prefrontal cortex!
Full post found here: https://mashable.com/feature/neurosculpting-mindfulness/
“…Wimberger was nothing like the kind of hippyish teacher I’d expected to find at 1440. Her Long Island Italian accent may be softened by years of living in Colorado, but it’s still very much in evidence. She’s calm but firm, poised but no-nonsense, as you’d expect from someone who teaches courses for first responders.
Within minutes of the class assembling, on ground-level meditation chairs drawn around a big red circle on the carpet, Wimberger was explaining the concept of mirror neurons — the bits of our brain designed to mimic the emotions of others — by reference to what she as a kid used to call her Sicilian grandma’s “smell-bad fart face.” After a while in grandma’s presence, Wimberger would end up adopting that same face, and feeling lousy for it.
“We get triggered when someone says ‘Oh, just smile,’ but it works!” she says. “Stick a pen in your teeth, you can actually change your mood.”
Her New York-style, rapid-fire delivery also means Wimberger, a lifelong educator whose seven-year-old small business now has 56 licensed teachers around the world, is pretty damn funny. She sees comedy as “alchemy,” she says, because it’s the only thing that simultaneously calms the lizard brain (neurosculpting step 1) and tickles the neocortex (neurosculpting step 2). “In my next life,” she told me, “I want to be a stand-up comedian.”
In this one, she’s devoted to sharing the good news on neuroplasticity, forming a “bridge” between the world of the lab, the world of more out-there wellness hot spots like 1440 Multiversity. She’s all about how freakin’ high the hurdle is for most of us to truly relax, to even get through step 1 of her process, especially when you’re dealing with trauma, not to mention your own impossible expectations. “We’re like, ‘I saw that meme on Instagram that said JUST LET GO, I should know this!” she says. “No! You can’t just let go!”
Wimberger was kind of dunking on meditation — or rather, on boring old directionless meditation classes that risk forever associating meditation in your brain with dullness. She slams the dull weekends she used to spend in an intensive Zen Buddhism center in Brooklyn — wanting to scream “you’re all fakers!” at the meditating monks on day 1, finally getting settled on day 2, blissed out on day 3, only to go back to work on Monday and get stressed out all over again.
“You don’t have to have an hour-long Zen meditation practice,” Wimberger says. “You can gargle for 10 seconds and shake for 30.”
Gargling, it turns out, is one of the activities that stimulates our vagus nerve — the longest nerve in the body, the one that interfaces with our heart, lungs, and gut. Researchers are just starting to probe the frontiers of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and what it can do for us; currently a pacemaker-like version is used in the treatment of epileptic seizures, from which Wimberger used to suffer (she credits parts of her neurosculpting practice for the turnaround) and certain kinds of depression.
Humming, chanting, singing, even blowing raspberries are low-key means towards the same end. By soothing the vagus nerve — think of a cat’s purring — they help get us out of the classic three primitive fear-driven modes of behavior: flight, fight, or freeze. In our stressful workaday world, we enter these modes more than we know. Try to remember the last day in which you didn’t tense up, hunch up, get angry, avoid facing something, shut down or clam up in some way. I’ll wait.
Which is seriously fine, Wimberger says: that’s our survival mechanisms doing the job evolution designed them to do. Give them credit, they kept you alive thus far. Trouble is, neuroplasticity can’t kick in until we knock all that off. You can read all the self-help books in the world, but you can’t change a habit when you’re stressed. All other things being equal, brains are just naturally drawn to resisting change in everything, especially patterns of thinking.
That’s also the reason for the shaking, which is the first thing Wimberger makes us do after we share our names. We’re told to visualize a difficult moment in our lives, then to stand up and flail our limbs and torso as vigorously as possible.
As dorky as that sounds, it’s a thing. TRE, or Trauma Release Exercise, is a protocol based on a growing number of studies on the tremor reflex. Shaking is supposedly a signal to the body that the stressful event it was preparing for is now over. Shaking isn’t a sign of fear itself; it’s how we regulate the fear. Kids instinctively know this. Your dog knows this. When I arrived at 1440, I joined a class in the ancient Chinese exercise Qi Gong; that too, coincidentally, included a dog-mimicking shake.
Any kind of uncontrolled energetic movement has the same effect; dancing works, yoga doesn’t. But a quick shake is the one thing you can do any time, before a meeting, or before a speech. “‘Shake it off’ is not a metaphor, it is neurological homework,” Wimberger says. “Do it every day, and it will start to subtly give you more control.”
In short, Taylor Swift is the neurosculpting genius of our age.
By this point, the class is rapt…”
Read the full post by clicking here: https://mashable.com/feature/neurosculpting-mindfulness/