Your brain works the same way any physical muscle does. If you want to make a certain muscle do something different, you want two things to happen: muscle fibers to increase in size and, muscle to use energy better. You need increased blood flow to the muscle and you need changes in the structure of the muscle cells – so it will use energy better. If you want to do this with your bicep you lift something heavy until you reach a point that feels difficult for you…it is new, beyond your comfort zone. Then you rest and the muscle says something like, “I had to do something today that was a little beyond my comfort zone. So, I’m going to remodel myself to make it easier. I’m going to predict that i’m going to have to do this again.” Then changes begin: the muscle cells get bigger and the muscle changes in a way that allows it to get more blood flow.
It seems the same or a similar process happens in the brain. When you begin to stretch your comfort zone a little bit, whether learning a new instrument, language, dance, relationship to pain, how to meditate, practicing mindfulness, whatever you are attempting to change…when you build new skills or practice beyond your comfort zone the brain is forced to do something with that – different brain cells are asked to communicate, different networks are engaged, new neural pathways are required for your new s-t-r-e-t-c-h. The brain says, “Okay, I guess this is something new and I’m going to have to do it.”
When you think of building your brain the exercise analogy is perfect; you have to go beyond your comfort zone, you have to be patient, and you can trust that your little “exercises” are creating literal changes in order to make things easier, even more “doable” over time.
So hang in there. You are doing it exactly right. Practice a little at a time, or a lot. Just keep practicing. Be patient with yourself and know the body and mind are designed to support you and your healthiest self. They actually want you to relax, follow your breath, become aware of your midline, drop into your heart field, and simply rest. Relax. Enjoy. You’re improving your brain !