Beyond the Brain 2020: Why we work with a neurocognitive model

A fantastic line-up of speakers at the Scientific and Medical Network’s annual conference “Beyond the Brain 2020“. This group of pioneering scientists and consciousness explorers hold values very much in line with the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence. We are curious and open about the nature of matter and mind and cognizant of the limitations of the Western scientific model. We want to think deeply and dialogue widely about the edges of the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model and understand how all approaches can support health and well-being.

The Utility of a Neurocognitive Model of Mindfulness

Mindfulness Centre Founder and Co-Director Dr. Tamara Russell shared insights into brain and mind using the Neurocognitive Model of Mindfulness as a framework for psychologically safe, cross disciplinary ways to explore matter and mind.

This four stage model is an elaboration of a study by Wendy Hasenkamp that Tamara uses in her clinical, secular mindfulness training, and mindfulness teacher training . A lay summary of the model and it’s every day application is provided in the book #whatismindfulness.

More about the NC Model and it’s application can be found in this book.

So how can this model help to accelerate our contemplative practice and support attainment of (safe) expanded states of consciousness?

How can learning about the brain help us to meet our mind?

In the presentation “Merging the mind and brain to accelerate our contemplative practice” Tamara shared a brief over-view of the four cognitive stages, and three brain networks that support the emergence of mindful states. See Resources below for a link to a talk given at The Mindful Living Show that can provide more detail.

Tamara used a common meditation object, the breath, to illustrate how paying attention to the breath, on purpose, moment by moment and without judgement activates the three core brain networks. Using this framework, she also demonstrated that movements (or indeed any objects) can be inserted into this model and be used to help us practice mindfulness. An everyday application, listening, was also shared.

Image by Fabian Møller 

In the second part of the talk, Tamara demonstrated how the model can be used to facilitate cross disciplinary dialogue. There are such a wide variety of traditions and routes to attain expanded states of consciousness. All involve the brain and matter at some point. Tamara drew on examples from Shamata training, creative, clinical and spiritual practices to illustrate how the model can help those from different traditions dialogue and share.

Using the model as a common framework, different approaches can dialogue in ways that can accelerate our understand and reduce silos between approaches. This is the route to true interdisciplinary working.

In the third part of the talk, Tamara explored ways in which the model supports practices that can be accessible for all. Using this model and neuroscience insights, we can develop practices and practice pathways that are trauma informed and suitable for more cognitively diverse audiences.

A resourceful, live, touching presentation. The way Tamara brings academic content, together with her own life experience is full of humbleness and honesty and additionally, her genuine interest on human souls and bodies.” Feedback from participant Lais Cossermelli.

Other speakers included Dr. Iain McGilchrist, Dr. Peter Fenwick, David Lorimer and Dr. Oliver Robinson amongst others. The videos from the conference are available to Scientific and Medical Network Members. See their site for more information on how to join this amazing group of individuals pushing the boundaries of science and consciousness.

Further Resources

Tamara Russell #whatismindfulness on Amazon. Author William Ingram described this book as “a serious and insightful look at modern Mindfulness. As an author of a book detailing my own discovery of meditation as a way to Mindfulness, I applaud Tamara Russell’s treatment of Mindfulness as a spiritual and secular experience! She shares tremendous insight into how life changing and powerful Mindfulness can be!” William L. Ingram

A video of Tamara talking about the four stage model at the Mindful Living Show.

Try this audio of a mindfulness of the breath practice using the four stage model.

This four-stage model forms the basis of the International Training in the Neurocognitive Foundations for Mindfulness Teachers (run with Brazilian collaborators Iniciativa Mindfulness and Casa Do Horto) and shortly to be launched in the UK (contact us for more information about this course).