Updated: May 16, 2021
Want to do something to help yourself feel better? Would you like to experience greater well-being? Are you interested in changing your brain in positive ways that will support your ability to navigate stress and challenging experiences with more peace?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I've got three options for you to explore a Path to a Healthier Mind backed by the research of world-renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson and his team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Healthy Minds Center.
First, a little background
Meditation has countless benefits for well-being. Many have been backed by science over the past 20 years. For anyone who has experienced the results of a regular meditation practice, you know there are also many other benefits to your well-being that can't be so easily measured.
I was watching a great interview with world-renowned neuroscientist and well-being researcher Dr. Richard Davidson the other day. The interview was interesting in so many ways but what I want to share here is his answer to one of the viewer questions. The question was, based on his research and experience, which type of meditation was the best for improving well-being. Dr. Davidson paused and said, "I'm going to answer your question in two ways. First, the most effective meditation is the one you actually do." He took a long pause to let that sink in. Secondly, he went on to explain that based on what they had found in their research there were two kinds of learning and four pillars of well-being that were important, together, in creating well-being.
Q: In your experience, what is the most effective meditation to improve well-being?
A: The one that you actually do. (long pause, meaningful look)
Dr. Davidson's first answer to the question stems from one of his many conversations with the Dalai Lama, who has visited Madison, WI many times in support of Dr. Davidson's groundbreaking research on meditation and "well brains" rather than "sick brains". The Dalai Lama, early in Dr. Davidson's career, challenged him, "Can't you use the same technology and methods you are using to study anxiety, depression and mental/emotional disorders to study happiness and compassion?" After that conversation, Dr. Davidson committed his career to pioneering research doing just that, with groundbreaking results. Davidson himself asked the Dalai Lama which type of meditation he should study and was told, "The one the most people will actually do."
Types of Meditation and the Four Pillars of Well-Being
There are many, many types of meditation. Based on Dr. Davidson's research, they have identified four pillars to well-being, which are themselves related to certain meditation styes:
Awareness: Mindfulness meditation practices
Connection: Compassion and Loving Kindness practices
Insight: Analytical meditation practices
Purpose: Self-awareness and Self-knowledge practices
We have already covered a lot of these in our explorations through MettaPets.
Mindfulness practices are ones like those I am sharing in our Wednesday Wellness posts in the MettaPets Veterinarian Wellness Network.
Metta Meditation is a Loving Kindness meditation practice which supports development of positive connections with self and others that I offer for free on the MettaPets.info website for anyone to experience.
Analytical meditations are those in which you think about something deeply to solve a problem or gain insights into the nature of mind, the world or reality. Most of my 12 years of training in the Mahayana lineage of Buddhism, the lineage of the Dalai Lama, was in analytical meditation. These types of meditations also appeal to people who are very "in their head" and logic oriented, as that tradition is a logic-based tradition.
Self-awareness meditations help us discover who we are, at the core of it all. We use these kinds of meditations to ask questions like "Who Am I, really?", "What do I value?", "What do I find Meaningful?", "What authentically Motivates me?", "Am I really just this body or the "hats" that I wear?" We use all these kinds of self-inquiries to connect with a sense of purpose that guides our life and learn how our lives are important in the complex tapestry of this existence.
Creating Healthy Minds
Based on these four pillars of well-being, Dr. Davidson and his team have developed a donation-based App called Healthy Minds Program, which is motivated by their vision of creating a kinder world. The Program also is structured around the two learning styles that are vital to harnessing the phenomenon of neuroplasticity in order to create lasting positive changes in the brain.
In order for the brain to change, you can't just listen to something and learn it intellectually. You MUST experience it. Experiential learning is not optional if you want to make positive changes in your life and lasting beneficial changes in the way your brain is interfacing with the world around you and inside you. You must learn the concepts and then DO THEM....you must experience them. The Healthy Minds "My Path" Program provides a combination of podcast style learning and experiential learning through daily meditation. This hardwires the concepts into your brain.
The Healthy Minds Club: A Summer Wellness Program for You
I'm so excited about this that I've decided to focus our Summer Wellness Path around the content in the Healthy Minds App. On May 16th we will be starting our journey together using a daily schedule I have created for us. That way we will all be participating in a shared experience and once per month we will have an uplifting and supportive chat about our experiences, ideas, questions, obstacles and learning around these meditations and life concepts. I'm really excited to do these myself and even more excited about sharing meaningful discussions with all of you!
What you will experience through our Summer Healthy Minds Club
Learn simple skills backed by neuroscience to reduce stress and enhance your personal well-being. Think of this like an experiential summer "book club" to get you real results in transformation! But instead of reading a book we will be listening to audios and daily guided meditations, then gathering to discuss those experiences and insights! How cool is that!!!!
We will be using the Healthy Minds Program App by Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc. We will experience the meditations in the "My Path" portion of the Healthy Minds App on a shared schedule. You can download the App for free now by searching "Healthy Minds Program" in your App Store.
The App content was developed by Dr. Richard Davidson and his team at the Center for Healthy Minds in Madison Wisconsin. Dr. Davidson is a pioneer and leading world researcher in Mindfulness and Meditation. Through his research, they have identified four key pillars to well-being which are the foundations of the Healthy Minds program. I love how these cover the important skills of contemplation, mindfulness, self-worth and finding meaning in our daily lives.
The App provides a combination of guided meditations (you choose 5-30 minutes to fit your life and meditation goals) and short 4-8 minute podcast-style lessons which are two learning styles, experiential and didactic, proven to be vital to learning which creates positive changes in your brain.
THREE INVITATIONS FOR YOU
Starting May 16th, 2021, I am leading two Healthy Minds Club programs that you are invited to join, whether you are a veterinarian, a pet parent, or some other category of wonderful human being. You can also explore the material on your own if you aren't interested in exploring them with a community or if you missed these programs.
For pet parents and non-veterinarians: Healthy Minds Club through my Divine PowerHouse Project
For Veterinarians: Healthy Minds Club through the MettaPets Veterinarian Wellness Network
The beauty of the Healthy Minds Program is that it supports us in creating positive inner change and finding meaning in WHAT WE ARE ALREADY DOING IN OUR LIVES. You don't have to go looking for peace, happiness and meaning...you can create it.
Dr. Davidson has unequivocally proven that Well-Being is a skill set that can be learned and developed. Neuroplasticity and epigenetics are strongly supported and scientifically accepted concepts related to our power to change how our mind and emotions engage with our experiences.
But we really don't need science to prove to us what works to support Human Thriving. Those techniques and methods that have survived through the ages have been preserved through centuries in various spiritual traditions around the world precisely because they work.