STEP ONE = 20 MINUTES OF SITTING MEDITATION
MAP Training My Brain™ begins with 20 minutes of mental training with sitting meditation. In traditional circles, the type of meditation we practice is most similar to Zen meditation. To begin, just sit down straight up, either cross-legged on the floor or in a straight-back chair. It might seem uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it (a bit!). Now just put your hands in your lap with the palms of hands facing up. Put the right hand on the bottom of your left hand and let your thumbs loosely touch. Hold your arms slightly away from the body but loosely at your side. You can either close your eyes or leave them half-open and focused three feet in front of your legs. The idea is to be somewhat comfortable but nonetheless not so comfortable that you go to sleep. The idea is to be “awake.”
Begin by focusing your attention on your breathing. Funny how you often don’t notice that you are breathing. This is why most meditation practices start with the breath. The breath is always with us and always changing and yet we rarely pay attention to it. Now start to notice how the air goes in and out. Do you notice that little space in time between the out-breath and the in-breath? This tiny space is often called the “little death.” Focus on this space and just count that space as "one." Watch another breath come and go and then count the next empty space as "two." See if you can get to a thousand! If you lose count, just go back to one.
Learn, forget and remember. This is how we learn. So don’t chastise yourself when you lose count because you will – everyone does. Just notice when you lose count, let the thought go, whatever it was and then get back to the breath. After you practice like this a few times, you will get to know your mind – the types of thoughts that occupy your mind and brain day after day and perhaps even get a peek into the person you are between all the thoughts. As Socrates was known to say – “If I don’t take time to know my own mind, who will?”
Just sit in silence for 20 minutes. It is tough and hard to do. It is effortful. This is why it is called “brain training.” You are giving your brain a work-out, no doubt.
Once the bell or timer rings, STEP ONE is over and it is time to stretch out your legs in front of you and even rub your feet a bit to get some blood flowing. Don’t worry if they are asleep or feel tingly. I have it on good authority they will not fall off. Just slowly stand up, again in silence.
STEP TWO = 10 MINUTES OF SLOW WALKING MEDITATION
Now we are going to do some walking meditation - for 10 minutes. Simply stand up and begin to walk VERY SLOWLY. You can walk anywhere but if you are in a group, walk in a big circle. If you are alone, you might walk in a straight line back and forth across the room.
The idea is to move your attention from your breath into your feet. To do this, place your hands behind your back in a light clasp and start to really feel your feet. Pay attention to the weight in your feet and feel the transfer of weight from the ball of your foot to the heel of the next foot as the weight shifts to the other side of your body. We walk all the time but rarely think about it. So let’s think about it.
When you stop thinking about your feet, notice it and simply bring your attention back to your feet. It may seem silly but remember that you are learning a skill – a brain skill that you can use all the time in your everyday life. But you have to train your brain in order to learn this new skill. Just be patient and don’t be in a hurry. After all, this is the only moment that exists.
STEP THREE = 30 MINUTES OF AEROBIC EXERCISE
The last step of MAP Training is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The goal is to move the blood into the brain. You can do this anyway you want -- run on a treadmill or an elliptical machine, spinning inside or out, swimming, whatver it takes to get your heart rate into the aerobic zone.
Warm up for about 5 minutes. And then get into it. Heart rate should be maintained between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate for most of the 30 minutes. To calculate the right range, subtract your age from 220. Then multiply by 0.6. This will give you the 60%. Do the same for 80%. Now calculate your actual heart rate. Simply place two finger on the side of your neck until you feel the pulse, which is blood being pumped from your heart into your brain. Count the number of pulses in 10 seconds, and then multiply that number by 6. This is your heart rate in beats per minute. Now you have all the numbers you need to finish up this session of MAP Training. Check your pulse a few times while you are exercising to stay in the range.
MAP Train your brain & heart together
After 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, cool down for a few minutes and you are done. You can now reap the benefits of MAP Training!
Try to do one session twice a week. Pay attention to how you feel after you are done. Then use this memory to help you do it again…and again…and again, until it becomes a habit. AND REMEMBER — MAP Training is a learning experience – so keep learning, forgetting and then remembering!