The details about how each patient was helped – and just what brain mechanisms were trained and strengthened – differed from case to case. Part of the training was learning about how the brain works – it helps to know the story about how mindfulness and mindsight are working.
The brain's middle-prefrontal cortex – just behind the eyes – is located close to just about everything. The middle-prefrontal cortex regulates the flow of sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts through the brain. Stepping back from the feelings and thoughts and watching them strengthens those middle-prefrontal regulatory neurons.
Mindsight promotes these middle-prefrontal functions:
- Bodily regulation (keep heart and intestines working well)
- Attuned communication with self and others
- Ability to have emotional balance (gives live meaning and energy – without too much emotion, which is chaotic, or too little, which is rigid.)
- Extinction of fear
- Flexibility – pause before respond
- Insight into self
- Empathy with others
- Morality: to realize we are part of a larger whole, and we can imagine a greater good and can act for it
Maybe, like Einstein, you have a natural integration and awareness that separation is a delusion, that the reality is that we, all together, consititute one organism. Or maybe, like Jill Bolte Taylor, a traumatic brain accident woke you up. But for the rest of us, we won’t get to Carnegie hall by practicing every once in a while. We won't arrive at equanimity and empathy by meditating half an hour a week. It takes practice every day. To become who you are: practice, practice, practice.
Video: Dan Siegel on Mindfulness and Neural Integration. 18:27
This is part 4 of 4 of "Mindsight."
Previous: Part 3: "Perceiving, Not Just Having, Thoughts"
Beginning: Part 1: "Practice, Practice, Practice"