What is your attitude towards life right now? There exist many wise cliches on the…
(Not) Seeing Is Believing by: Cynthia Beard
One of the main concepts we emphasize at the Neurosculpting® Institute is referred to as “neuroplasticity,” or the ability for neurons to change over time. In other words, neural pathways can strengthen or diminish over time, based on whether or not those pathways receive reinforcement.
Conventional wisdom used to teach us that adult brain cells die off over time, due to the aging process, diseases and trauma, or abuse of substances such as alcohol and other drugs. A major shift occurred when neurologists started to explore the limits of this belief and discovered that the brain continues to grow new cells in adulthood, contrary to that earlier hypothesis. Since then, neuroplasticity has continued to expand as a research field, in part due to improvements in technology.
One example of technological development is the way that research scientists are able to use fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology to “see” what is happening in the brain. Through this procedure, they have observed that dendrites (branch-like extensions of neurons that facilitate communication with other nerve cells) can grow rapidly, with examples of significant lengthening occurring in under two weeks.
Not all dendrites grow that quickly, but science has taught us that the possibility is there. We’re still learning about the functions of dendrites in the brain, and research published this year suggests that dendrites might play a much more varied role than previously believed.
I can’t see my dendrites, but I like to imagine how they might change over time based on activities and habits (including Neurosculpting® meditations and complementary practices) that enhance neuroplasticity. Even without seeing my brain mapped out using imaging technology, there is enough scientific evidence to where I do not have to “see” (or otherwise observe through direct sensory input) neuroplasticity in order to know it happens. There are also somewhat analogous types of rapid biological changes that are evident through sensory observation.
Recently, I experienced a deep paper cut on my thumb, and I immediately cleaned and dressed the wound with a bandage. The next day, I changed the bandage and noticed that the paper cut looked a little less severe. Within a few days, the cut had completely healed to the point that I couldn’t find a trace of the wound.
Now, to be clear: I’m not saying that skin cells are the same thing as dendrites. Our fingers are not little tiny brains. But my paper cut still hinted to me that if I don’t have a fixed number of cells in my thumb (which I can observe directly), then perhaps I don’t need to undergo an fMRI in order to know that my brain is continuing to develop through principles of neuroplasticity.
Cynthia has practiced meditation most of her life, although she didn’t realize that was what she was doing when she was a child. She discovered Neurosculpting® as part of her preparation for a transformative trip to post-earthquake Haiti in 2012. In the midst of massive trauma, a meditation she had learned from Lisa Wimberger is what allowed her to navigate an intensely difficult situation on the ground in Haiti. She was immediately hooked and jumped at the chance to undertake the Tier 1 facilitator training in 2013. Since then she has also completed Tier 2 training and is excited about contributing to the expansion of the Neurosculpting® modality.
Cynthia is also a lifelong musician who holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Texas. In its own way, her doctoral dissertation is intimately connected to the meditative work that Cynthia is so enthusiastic about.
Cynthia is actively involved in social change movements, and she believes that meditation is integral to healing our society’s collective wounds. She enjoys bringing Neurosculpting® into spaces that are focused on creating a better world for us all, and providing a safe, nurturing environment for those who desire to cultivate compassion and empathy.