Open Sky Insight

YOU ARE WHAT YOU THINK.

More precisely, your brain becomes what you train it to be. We can change our brains simply by what we choose to think about and practice.

YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD.

The beauty of neuroplasticity is that it doesn’t matter how old you are. The brain can make new neural connections and change — even using focused thought alone.

WE ARE ALL CONNECTED.

All living things are energy and we are all connected. Mindfulness allows us to become aware that our differences are superficial and that life is a web of interconnectedness.

About Kathryn Klvana

Kathryn Klvana is curious about what the mind can do. She is an actress and writer with more than 25 years of professional experience. Her voiceover work includes documentaries for National Geographic Explorer, The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel, national television and radio spots, and numerous corporate videos. She works frequently as an on-camera narrator and host.

In the past decade, Kathryn pursued her interests in meditation, intuition, healing and consciousness. She discovered dowsing, and was so taken with the age-old technique for finding water, she wrote a book about the subject. Kathryn considers herself a curious skeptic – she is fascinated by intuition but keeps two feet firmly planted on the ground.

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Blog

Mindfulness of Emotions

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

I often think of meditation as a way to empty my mind and to simply let go.  But there are times it can be helpful to use emotions as the focus of a meditation. I find this is especially true when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, agitated or upset. When I am in an emotional state, it can be  hard to get clarity. To me, it sometimes feels like a big blob of emotion has me trapped. But when I take the time to slow down, close my eyes and focus on my breath, I gain the space I need to look inside myself. What exactly am I feeling at this moment in time? I recently had an emotionally upsetting experience and was feeling distraught. In the morning, the experience hung on me like a grey cloud. So I took a few minutes to do an emotion meditation. What was I feeling? In my head, I spoke to myself, naming the emotions I was experiencing. Sad, I feel sad. Hurt, I feel hurt, too. Angry. Angry, yes, a bit of that. And then the most surprising thing occurred. Relieved. I realized that a part of me felt relieved that this experience had occurred. Instead of being trapped by sadness, a part of me had embraced the truth and was already transitioning and moving forward. Recognizing that was empowering. Daniel Siegel, author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, calls this emotional naming process, “Name it to tame it.”  We turn our focus inward to “recognize and acknowledge a feeling, without being consumed by it,” says Siegel on his website. Emotions are transient. They are not constant. They do not define who you are. Just because you are feeling sad at this moment, it doesn’t mean you are a sad person. In fact, taking the time to meditate with focused awareness can not only change what you are feeling right now, but it can literally change the physical structure of your brain for the better.

Neuroplasticity and Three Blind Mice

Mouse Three blind mice might hear a heck of a lot better than three normal mice. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Neuron. Even in just one week, mice kept in total darkness had rewired their brains with more auditory connections and the ability to process sounds faster and stronger than normal mice.

That’s the amazing thing about neuroplasticity. Our brains adapt and change, no matter how old we are. The mice in the study were adult mice, not youngsters, so there’s hope for all of us, regardless of our age.

The most exciting part is that these changes were happening in adults, since it is long known that the adult brain is less plastic than a child’s,” said Hey-Kyoung Lee, a Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist and co-author of the study. She told The Washington Post,   “We were really, really shocked.

Lee and her collaborator, University of Maryland biologist Patrick Kanold, also tested what would happen with mice deprived of hearing. They got similar results. More connections were made between the thalamus and the visual cortex, strengthening the sense of sight.  Their study adds additional proof that our brains are not set in stone in adulthood, but remain moldable throughout life.

That’s another reason to start a daily practice of meditation. If we make meditation a regular habit – in a sense turning off our normal sight and looking instead within, we can reap the benefits of neuroplasticity and change our brains for the better. You can read about the mice blindness study here.

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The Morality of Meditation

Everywhere you look these days, there’s another study touting the benefits of meditation. With just a few weeks of meditation practice, we might be able to reduce anxiety, increase attention and boost creativity among other things. Now it turns out that a person who meditates might not be the only one reaping the benefits.

David DeSteno, a professor at Northeastern University, conducted a study that showed that people who participated in an 8-week meditation course were much more compassionate towards strangers in distress than people who had not completed the course. He outlined the study in a piece in the Sunday Review section of the New York York Times last July.

Dr. DeSteno set up an experiment in which the participants came into a room with three chairs, two of which were already occupied. The study participant of course sat in the empty chair. At that point, a person on crutches hobbled in, moaned in pain and leaned against the wall. Like a Candid Camera set-up, the two other people, who were paid to participate in the scenario, ignored her, and the study participant had to make a choice. Follow suit, or give up his own seat. Fifty percent of the meditators chose the compassionate option, compared to only 16 percent of the non-meditators. DeSteno speculates that the reason for this difference lies in meditation’s ability to make us aware of the interconnectedness of all living things.

If meditation can make us more compassionate towards strangers, imagine what it can do for the important relationships in our life.

Turning inward mindfully for a few minutes each day can allow us to have a more compassionate understanding of our spouses and partners. It will make us less reactive with our children when our buttons are being pushed. It can alter our feelings towards our neighbors and co-workers. It literally can change our world and it all starts with a few deep breaths. You can read more about Dr. DeSteno’s experiment here.

Change your brain, one thought at a time.

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One of the most exciting developments in brain science is the understanding that we have the capacity to change our brains, no matter how old we are.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by making new neural connections. Sometimes that happens out of necessity, like when there is an injury or impairment and the brain compensates. But it can happen by thought alone, as shown by recent studies on meditation that indicate boosts in attention, mood, and even multi-tasking productivity.

In other words, we can change our brains simply by what we choose to think about and practice.

I’m fascinated by what’s possible by working with our thoughts. Can we become happier, more successful in our endeavors, more in tune with our intuition? The answer is yes, and I believe it doesn’t take more than a few minutes a day. In my blog, I’ll share studies that further our understanding of what the mind can do, and information I think may be helpful about meditation, neuroplasticity and intuition.

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