Some people have a nurturing and enabling dwelling in our hearts. It was constructed by our own life experiences, in our early customs. As we became adults, that internal home gave us a solid foundation and secure refuge. We could be alone, even under stress, without feeling disconnected. And that makes us fitter.
The adjustments to your brain resulting from the interaction between encounters, relationships and physical processes is called neuroplasticity. It’s the way the house in your heart is constructed. And it affects your physical health as far as your psychological wellbeing. If you had a stressful, disconnected, even traumatic life for a youngster, you lived with a continuous stream of stress biochemicals. That caused your mind to build more and more powerful pathways to send and receive those biochemical pressure messages.
Your mind became “hardwired” for elevated levels of anxiety biochemicals. Stress became your default experience. When our internal world, the house in our heart, has been assembled by that experience, we often feel lonely, but we can not find the link we need.
We feel stressed, or angry, or hopeless. For the majority of us, however, it is not all one way or another. We might have a safe inner experience a lot of the time, but under pressure, or in certain conditions, the house in our heart becomes dangerous. We do not feel loved or even loveable. We feel lonely and disconnected, fearful and anxious.
Normal life stresses, like job changes you can not control, relationship conflicts, the passing of a loved one – even caregiving for a loved-one who’s dying – these all cause measurable increases in anxiety biochemicals. They could overwhelm our resources, and leave us “home alone”. If left unattended, the increases in pressure leads to unhealthy remodeling of our brain and nervous system. And once that remodeling occurs, anxiety biochemicals become the “default” biochemical wash. Like drinking the water downstream from a toxic waste dump, your body undergoes high levels of anxiety biochemicals daily.
Cancer. Heart disease. Stroke. Diabetes. Your risk goes up as your anxiety biochemicals increase. But here’s the fantastic thing. This is where meditation comes in. You may place neuroplasticity to work for you. You are able to nourish and grow the house in your heart, regardless of how it was constructed or the mess it could be in now. Just like your own mind/brain interactions can send out more anxiety biochemicals, your mind/brain interactions may also release calming, healing biochemicals.
Your mind can build new pathways that are new, literally re-wire itself to lower your stress reactivity, and provide you a fresh default option. Rewiring your mind takes work. Exercise, relationships, thinking patterns – they all make a difference, but meditation is among the easiest and most effective ways to create this change. And it is completely under your control. It’s a lot easier to reconstruct that nurturing home if you are a believer, and if you feel secure with God. You start to have the relationship, and realize you’re never totally alone.
Though maybe your view about God was poisoned with toxic waste also. Then you may run screaming. But if you believe or not, meditation aids. It’s how your body functions. Meditation bathes your mind in calming, soothing biochemicals – a nourishing”biochemical chicken soup”, rather than toxic waste. And day by day you start to remodel your mind and build a secure and loving “home in your heart”. The more you meditate, the more it helps. The more you build a secure nourishing house inside, the more resilient you become – regardless of what is happening out in the world. It’s a highly effective way to mitigate the negative effects of stress.
Stress happens. We had no control over it as children. We’ve got more control as adults, but even with healthy lives and positive coping, we will all experience anxiety, sometimes quite powerfully and painfully, and for long amounts of time. But you can now choose. You can nourish your mind and body, even through times of debilitating stress. You may heal and protect your mind by building a secure, connected “home in your heart”. You can give your body the tools it needs to recover from damage from the past, to comfort and protect you today, and to weather the storms you’ll face later on.