The following piece, penned by Dr. Ilene S. Ruhoy, originally appeared as Mind, Body, and Soul Connection in the Winter 2022 issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine, available now for digital download and print orders.
I am a neurologist and as such use terms that describe consciousness in a clinical manner. These terms include obtundation, coma, cataplectic, akinetic mutism, and vegetative. They are descriptors of depressed or lowered states of consciousness, yet there are also elevated states of consciousness that bring us closer to the deep truth of who we are. For example, meditation, which helps us find those higher states of being, has been proven to also have positive effects on the brain. Studies on regular meditators have shown increased volumes of the temporal lobes that are involved in memory, focus, sensory processing, and more.
Our health can improve when we find our way to these elevated states of being.
I often lead patients in guided meditation during a visit in order to aid them in establishing a mind-body connection, an integral part of healing. Accessing states of consciousness for heightened awareness and a mind-body connection can be accomplished with regular meditation. In getting to know and understand ourselves at our core—beyond our surfaces and facades—we are allowed to have a deeper conversation with ourselves so we can make better and healthier decisions.
Consciousness is not only a mind-body connection but also a state of personal awareness of our connectedness in this universe.
This personal awareness of who we are allows us to ground ourselves and see through the modern and cultural norms that have led us astray from our own inner power. And it is this inner power—that inhabits our consciousness—that motivates us to see who we really are and how we are connected to the universe. It is this power that rights our paths and helps us find our way. It is the source of our truth and being in that truth helps us make better decisions in our lives.
The brain is complex and quite amazing.
Its ability to transcend what we believe to be rational is often beyond comprehension. I have patients with synesthesia whereby sensory pathways are crossed and so they may see numbers as colors or objects as sounds. Some patients experience aphantasia where they are unable to visualize objects or events in their head. Seizure patients tell me stories of heightened experiences and a feeling of higher consciousness during seizures.
We are not all the same.
Our brains differ—just as no two individuals hold the same pattern of fingerprints. Anatomically, the cortex, the thalamus, and the forebrain have been implicated in the experience of consciousness. My personal favorite is the claustrum, held within the neocortex, with wide-ranging connectivity, which functions as a relay station of sensory integration. I see the claustrum as the conductor of the symphony of our brains, it allows signals and messaging flow in and flow out to engage various anatomical regions of our brain. It has been argued that the claustrum might form the foundation for the neural locus of consciousness.
I meditate regularly and have for many decades but over the years my meditation looks differently. These days, I meditate when I exercise. I find that when I do, I better enjoy the run, the walk, the dance—and at the end, I have a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in this world. I also still meditate at night before bed to ground myself from the challenges and lessons of the day. I will sit and breathe any time I feel overwhelmed, indecisive, or not grounded. I will allow myself to feel deep because it is within that depth that true love and knowing is found and there is no room for reactive decisions full of fear or full of judgment.
I want to empower you to use meditation as an important tool for your health. Meditation is important for the health of your brain but also to access a state of consciousness that syncs your mind, body, and spirit and it is in that place that the benefits to our health and wellness are limitless.