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The Nervous System

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Transcript

So now we're going to talk a little bit about what the latest neuroscience has to say about the nervous system. And how that explains a little bit about meditation practice and how we can bring the body back into balance to get a better meditative experience. So I want to talk about the nervous system. And I must say, of course, this all this information comes from my own research, but I'm not obviously a neuroscientist or a doctor. So if I do say anything out of alignment, please let me know and I will correct it. But it's very interesting what the latest neuroscience is saying about the nervous system.

So here's a brief explanation of what I know and how it applies to meditation. You see the nervous system. There's different parts of the nervous system. First of all, there's the voluntary part which we can use to move out and do whatever we need to with our body. And then there's the unconscious part or the involuntary part which is called the autonomic nervous system, which runs our body without us thinking about it. Now, this autonomic nervous system is itself split into two parts.

The first part is the sympathetic nervous system. And the second part is the parasympathetic nervous system. And these two different functions, so the sympathetic nervous system, arouse us out body and is what we commonly know as the fight or flight response. That's the most obvious arousal to get fired up to either fight your enemies or run from danger. So it dumps a whole lot of chemicals like adrenaline and that sort of thing into our body to open up our blood vessels and get our blood pumping. So that we're ready to fight or fight, fly or that sort of thing.

Now, of course, if this is switched on for an extended period of time, all of those stress inducing chemicals in our body and doing ourselves any good, and in today's society, there are a number of people Well, I suppose throughout time, there are always a certain percentage of people who are very overly stressed. And for these people, it's important to try to for meditation to try to bring them back back to a calmer state. Now the parasympathetic nervous system acts as a balance to the sympathetic nervous system, so it brings the level of arousal down and brings you into a calmer state. But here's the interesting thing is if the parasympathetic nervous system is overactive, it may actually bring us too far and make us more prone. Depression, lethargy, laziness, that sort of thing. So from a neuroscience point of view, the ideal state for most of us most of the time is to have these two parts of the autonomic nervous system in balance with each other, and tone down when they're not needed.

So, you know, pretty much switched off, not necessarily switched off, but operating at a low level, so that we can for the most part, remain in a calm state, and only get aroused when we need to when we need to fight for our lives or do something, take action in life. So, of course, the way to bring these what are the ways to bring these back into balance is through meditation and particularly meditating on a calm and neutral object. So if you meditate on say, your breath, or a neutral meditation object, then that those four will bring the nervous systems back into alignment and help create that relaxation response that we're asked to, to bring your nervous system into balance. However, there is another way which is interesting, which I want to talk about. And neuroscientists have now found that our breath can influence our autonomic nervous system.

Now the breath is interesting, because for the most part, it is controlled unconsciously. We don't think about each time we breathe, but we can influence it, we can hold our breath consciously. So the breath sort of straddles this autonomic nervous system and the voluntary nervous system. Unlike the heart, we can't change the rhythm of our heart voluntarily, but we can do with the breath. And what they've discovered is that on the in breath, it tends to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. On the out breath, it tends to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

So to help us get in balance, even more than just meditating on a neutral object is to try to make the length of that in breath and out breath equal. And you can practice this right now, you can do a meditation and just concentrate on having the same length in breath. So you can might count to five, and then have your attention and then count to five on the out breath. And this will physiologically bring your autonomic nervous system back into balance. Now if In addition, you actually visualize the two parts of your nervous system, coming back into balance and being switched off or being toned down, so to speak, this is a great little physiological meditation to help bring you back into balance. Now, I haven't got this particular medical As a guided meditation is just mainly something that you can keep in mind and think about during all your meditations.

So whatever object you're meditating on, just be aware that if you try to keep the length of your breath equal, it will actually physiologically be having effect on your nervous system to help calm your body down and put you in a better state for meditation. Of course, don't get worried about it. If your in breath is a bit longer or your out breath is a bit longer, that worry will only actually activate you and put you out of balance. So don't get too head up about making them exactly equal, but it's a good thing to keep in mind to try gradually to urge your breathing to get into balance with the in breath and the out breath. Okay, so that's a little bit about the nervous system. And we're going to keep talking about the nervous system in between About the buttons in the next video

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