Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Chronic means never ending or always present.  By definition, there is no rest or reprieve – it goes on forever just like the Energizer bunny.  This study shows that ceaseless pain does not allow the sufferer’s brain to take a break.

While most of us, thankfully, are not in chronic pain, many of us are chronically distracted.  Might this too affect how our brains function?  Without the mini breaks that were once common in daily life, our brains have become switched to a constant go provoked by unending stimulus.

Indeed, we often go in several directions at once, multi-tasking in an effort to get items off of our “to-do” lists and onto our “done” lists.  Seldom do you see people just driving, they are often also talking on the phone and possibly even e-mailing as well – trying to get it all done.

My experience with never-ending stimulus comes in the form of my two children, whose constant chatter and verbal requests of “Mommy! Mommy!” occasionally drives me to places I don’t want to go – especially while cooking dinner (or breakfast) or trying to get to an after-school activity on time.  Maybe the overloaded feeling in my head is simply a response to too much noise.

There might be a simple way to combat this constant state of on – turning off the mind.  Though this may seem simple to accomplish, it is not. The good news is that, according to “Train your Mind, Change your Brain,” by Sharon Begley, (Ballantine Books, 2007) our brains have the ability to not only grow based on mental training (i.e., thinking) but we can alter how our brains work and connect based on mental training through meditation.  This means that we can train our brains and thereby affect our emotions. 

According to Begley, mental training through meditation focusing on love and compassion increases happiness and contentment.  Rather than reacting constantly to what happens to us based on our outer environment, meditation literally rewires the brain, providing us with the ability to more easily summon calming, happy thoughts and remain in control. 

Begley cites studies indicating the longer the training, the bigger the impact.  Signifying that, perhaps, our ability to be happy reflects how often we have practiced having calm, happy thoughts. This falls in line with the chronic pain study’s findings. It makes sense that, if chronic pain can impair brain operation, then chronic meditation might have a profound healing influence.

After all, as Aristotle said, “Happiness depends on ourselves.” And “we are what we repeatedly do.”

In meditation, a mantra is repeated. Maybe if I can repeatedly meditate around “the reason I say your name so much is that I love you,” wisdom imparted by my daughter Maggie, I can become a bit more compassionate and loving, and even possibly learn to be patient around dinnertime.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.