I’ve never been one for meditation.
Everyone from my grandmother to my dentist has talked about its benefits—how it teaches you to focus, to ground yourself, to become truly calm and happy. The problem is, I’m not generally a calm person. I prefer kickboxing as a way to release tension, and when my feet aren’t moving, my mind has taken their place, rarely resting throughout the day. In other words, I’m the antithesis of Zen.
Yet I’m also not one to pass on opportunities to try new things. So when I heard that my gym was offering a two-hour meditation workshop introducing a Frankensteinian-sounding technique called Neurosculpting, I figured I would gather my racing mind and give it a shot.
Founded by Denver-based educator Lisa Wimberger in July 2012, Neurosculpting is a process that fuses neuroscience with meditation. Unlike many traditional meditation practices, which teach how to quiet and focus the mind, Neurosculpting promises to reprogram our genetics—specifically how we react to fear. Neurosculpting’s method deals specifically with epigenetics, traits passed down from generation to generation that don’t involve DNA, but rather how it’s expressed. For instance, a car accident your father was in could affect the way you react to the sound of tires squealing, but this isn’t something that’s explicitly programmed into your genetic code.
Sound complicated? It certainly can be. In the workshop I attended, the petite, blonde instructor was throwing around words like “prefrontal cortex” (the portion of the brain that helps you determine if a situation is good or bad) and “amygdala” (which is responsible for fear and happiness) as if they belonged next to “downward dog” and “savasana” in the dictionary of mindful phrases. Confusing, especially if you’re not distinctly familiar with neuroscience. But as she explained, to reprogram your brain, you need to understand it first.
We began by settling comfortably on the floor. “Think of a body part you haven’t used in awhile,” the instructor prompted, a cue meant to prepare the mind for accepting new ideas. I opted for my right pinky toe. Easy enough, but the heavy lifting was about to begin. Our instructor asked us to imagine a situation in which we felt afraid. I grasped something, but instead of pushing it aside—as one naturally does—I focused on it. Remembered it. Felt it all over again. “Is there a color to that emotion? A texture? A word?” she asked. I couldn’t visualize a texture or a word, but was able to shade my fear as burgundy, the color of a bruise when it first blooms. The purpose is to picture the fear in an abstract sense, so you can later imagine placing it in a canister and watching a garbage truck haul it away. It felt better than I expected. These visualizations, coupled with “tapping” a body part—a process meant to reawaken a dormant neurological connection—is supposed to help participants feel S-A-F-E (the occasional spelling of words throughout the session keeps your left brain involved, so you can both feel and think at the same time). And for me, it worked.
While the spelling aspect of Neurosculpting made me feel like I was back in kindergarten, I was surprised at how positively I reacted to the entire experience. For the first time, meditation instructors weren’t forcing me to sit up straight or cross my legs. They didn’t tell me to empty my brain or love myself. By drawing on pent-up emotions like fear and, later, resistance, I allowed myself to process these feelings and move on. It’s like therapy, except the only person you have to talk to is yourself. Granted, that can be terrifying, but it’s also exhilarating—in the most relaxing way, of course.
To find a Neurosculpting facilitator in your area, visit neurosculptinginstitute.com. Three-hour beginners classes will be offered next week (Sunday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.; and Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.) at the Neurosculpting Institute, 639 E. 19th Ave., 303-981-9743.
Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.