Where Meditation and Modern Neuroscience Collide: Feature Interview With Author Lisa Wimberger

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Since I (Diamond-Michael Scott) was a kid, the inner workings of the brain have been a fascination of mine. It was the subject of my very first term paper at the Catholic Jesuit High School I attended. This led to a steady diet of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Psychology coursework in college, touching upon some of the latest advancements taking place in the field of brain science.

Today, as a human performance/self-development junkie, I continue to read books covering the fascinating developments in this space. Specifically, the realm of neuroplasticity holds great interest — a field that examines the brain’s remarkable ability to change and adapt in structure and functioning throughout life. This ability of the brain to rewire and reshape itself is of endless fascination to me. 

Recently in Denver, I met for coffee with Lisa Wimberger, founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute and co-founder of the NeuroPraxis App to discuss the synthesis between neuroplasticity and meditation. A New York native who is the author of seven books, Lisa holds a Masters's Degree in Education from the University of Stonybrook, NY, and a Foundations Certification in NeuroLeadership. Through the use of the Neurosculpting® modality, Lisa runs a private meditation practice in Colorado teaching clients who suffer from stress disorders.

She began her meditation practice at age 12. Hit by lightning at age 15, and clinically dead on multiple occasions, Lisa utilizes her traumatic experience as a vehicle for transformation.

Here is a summary of what Lisa shared in our enlightening interview discussion 

You had a very early experience with meditation. Can you offer us a brief snapshot of your journey? 

I’ve always been fascinated with growth. Initially, it was metaphysically and spiritually based. And I was a meditator as a child, very much into understanding human behavior. But I had a lot of physical and emotional trauma that I was unaware of growing up in Long Island, New York. Actually, some of it I was aware of. But I wasn’t aware of what to do with it. 

How were you trying to cope? 

I kept relying on my meditation practice which was actually not helping to resolve the trauma. It was helping me cope but not move toward resolution. So any damage that had already been done wasn’t healing. I was just kinda putting band-aids on it. 

What did you discover from this experience?

Because the nervous system learns by what is repeated, the fact that I hadn’t achieved resolution from the trauma meant that it was getting stickier, more entrained, and more long-lasting. So the more I put band-aids on, the longer the trauma stayed.

I then encountered some life and death experiences from a seizure disorder which was the result of the trauma I’d experienced. It got so bad that at some point I said this is ridiculous and I need to heal. 

So where did that lead you? 

So I kind of walked away from the meditation metaphysical aspect of growth and healing and went down the neuroscience pathway because I needed to understand my nervous system and my brain. I was trying to unlock the reason I was having seizures and how that related to the trauma I’d experienced.  The wishing, hoping, and praying certainly wasn’t giving me the answers. So I turned to neuroscience. 

Describe your jumping-off point. 

I did lots of self-study as well as took courses. All of this was not for a degree but because I simply needed to heal. Out of this, I developed a 5-step meditation process that was structured based on what science was telling me I needed. This was very different from the meditation practice I had become accustomed to which was very loose. 

Interesting. So what was the end result of this? 

So, I ended up creating a protocol that reconditioned my nervous system. It stopped my seizures. And it repatterned my stress response very efficiently. This as opposed to Western Medicine which said that I was going to have to deal with it.

Once all of this happened I gave my life over to it. 

That was 15 years ago. I had my last seizure and knew that I needed to share this with other people who were traumatized from either emotional trauma, mental or physical abuse, physical trauma, blunt force trauma, whatever the trauma was that the nervous system was creating meaning around. 

Sounds revolutionary. 

At that time there really wasn’t a good manual to teach the nervous system how to resolve itself and make it better. 

All of this reminds me of the book “The Body Keeps Score.” Have you read it? 

I have. I loved that book. It was absolutely inspirational to me. The author Bessel van der Kolk was at the forefront of understanding that one could unwind a lot of physical or emotional trauma through nervous system conditioning. He opened the doors for that. 

Are there other authors that have inspired you? 

I love the work of Peter Levine as well as all of the great leaders right now in the neuroplasticity field. I am a big fan of David Perlmutter and his approach to nutrition and neuroplasticity.  So there’s Peter Levine and the somatic approach and van der Kolk and the psychological approach. The beauty here is that all of it leads to the same thing. 

What about the work of Joe Dispenza? 

Yes, Joe Dispenza. I have to say that I’ve heard amazing things about his work and industry. Have not read any of his books. Haven’t been to any of his programs. But I know from my clients that we are life-minded. I assume that I would probably love his work too. 

So looking back at this point in your journey, can you share with us how your Neurosculpting® work evolved from this? 

I got into Neurosculpting® out of need, out of desperation, out of a nervous system of mine that was not healthy. And out of a medical allopathic approach that said that there is nothing that could be done about this. As a New Yorker, I came to the conclusion that, yes, there is always a way and I will do this. And no one can stop me. So I became a pit bull in terms of my decision and my tenacity to get well knowing that I was going to have to do it myself. That’s kinda what got me here. 

What led you to move to Denver? 

I moved to Denver in 1997.  I was teaching on Long Island and was done with being there and I just sort of randomly chose Denver. The minute I got here I could feel a very different kind of mentality and energy here. The mountains, the groundedness, and the fact that it was a slower pace. And of course all of the sunshine. My body was really happy with all of those things. And I never wanted to go home. Once I got here I knew this was home. I had a sense that something amazing was awaiting me here in my life. 

So briefly take us through your time here.

I’ve done my greatest healing here. And I had my biggest expression of trauma here, where my nervous system was so compromised from my childhood that it all came out here. So I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a charmed life here in Denver. But I knew that being here was all really, really important for my well-being. 

Sounds like the timing was perfect then for this move. 

Yes. This was the space I needed for my trauma to come out. I think if I had stayed in New York, I might have clamped down even harder and my trauma may have just ricocheted around my nervous system longer. I might not have ever gotten over it. I don’t know. I can’t say that I know because it didn’t work out that way. It worked out this way but I had the sense that I needed to be here to do all of it. 

So talk to us about Neurosculpting.® What it is and how someone can find value from it. 

The practice of Neurosculpting®   is a five-step guided medication protocol. So it’s a regimented form of meditation. In other words, you don’t try to shut your brain off, rather you allow your brain to have lots and lots of thoughts. We teach people how to get the brain compliant so that the nervous system will begin to relax without telling someone to relax because that doesn’t work. We get the brain very engaged in an intentionally focused state. This combination of being relaxed with a very intentional focus is the gold standard for neuroplasticity change.

Lisa Wimberger

What were some of your discoveries from this process? 

If someone wants active change, then these two states must coincide when normally they do not. We are either focused on our day and stressed or we’re relaxed and we’re asleep. So the combo of deep relaxation and focused attention is the key to cultivating a nervous system with intention. Once we get people there through our guided process we then help them find where their body is holding the trauma. In other words, given that the body keeps score, we help them describe and define it by having to psychoanalyze it or be in therapy for it.

Can you elaborate more on how this actually happens? 

Because the nervous system is compliant and receptive, we are all able to manipulate it by softening into the sharp edges, by helping the body soften around it. So we’re teaching the nervous system that in the face of this old pattern, we can shift the body’s response. And then the nervous system because it’s very receptive listens and learns that that is possible. At that point, we help the person store that learned moment as a new baseline in the meditation process. And we give them little ways to access that baseline throughout the day so that they can depend on it, repeat it and make it very familiar in their day-to-day life. 

In other words, this process is designed to address the trauma that someone may be facing in their life? 

Correct. Trauma can be about anything, even something like money. Entrepreneurs come to us whose mindsets have been stuck to where they’ve been stressed into believing that they can’t or don’t have enough resources, what could be referred to as a lack mentality. I also get a mentally diagnosed client who is dealing with depression and anxiety and they just need help because their meds aren’t doing the trick anymore. And then I get those with real physical issues like traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury or chronic pain because their nervous systems have learned how to replicate those trauma patterns. 

So in other words the brain becomes habituated into those patterns? 

Every issue has a component of learned behavior that has been habituated. So what Neurosculpting®does is that it takes any behavior you have become habituated to whether it’s mental, physical, emotional, or even spiritual, and gives you the key to edit that. 

Can you talk a little about this whole concept of genetic trauma, specifically how it may be affecting Black Americans? 

You’re referring to Black people and the genetic trauma tied to the legacy of slavery. In other words, is there some validity to that? From what I have researched absolutely. Epigenetics is a measured field of study where we’re seeing where stress responses in one mammal's lifetime can cause genetic changes across family lines that are then heritable. And so absolutely, this genetic stress response can be passed on. 

Can you elaborate on this a bit with an example? 

Let’s say you grew up in Nazi Germany and you have some severe stress response to various things, certain sounds, and certain visuals. If you have adapted around that then you can actually pass those on to your offspring to where they are predisposed to stress and fear around those same things. 

But why does this need to occur?

Because this is how humans survive. We have to be able to pass on that threat response. Whenever we have a warehouse of factors that we deem threatening we have to tap into ways to stay alive as a species. All of this is very, very deep in our genetic lineage.  

When you look at the whole plight of people of color, there is so much embedded epigenetic trauma that compounds someone’s ability to heal even when there is perceived equanimity in logistics, in housing, in salary. All of those things are just pieces to the puzzle. And even when there is that perceived equanimity, it doesn’t mean that that person is free and clear of their trauma. The trauma one has experienced may not have even occurred in this lifetime but their lineage has passed on.

So this is where Neurosculpting® can help?

Yes. Neurosculpting®  can go deep into these layers. 

Is there any value in looking back at the past? 

I feel like the past always holds information. Do you always need to know that information in order to choose at this moment to shift into new habits or states? No, I don’t believe so. Sure, maybe some memories come up. Maybe nothing specific comes up. So while there may be a set of things from your past,  you don’t necessarily need to know what that is. You can still explore what’s happening to your nervous system without having to consciously know the details. 

You one doesn’t need to know all this past stuff in order to unwind it? 

That’s correct. Yet so many of us want to know which sometimes slows us down. Wanting to understand, wanting to create meaning, wanting to place blame, wanting to have justice -- all of those things are normal mammal desires for a conscious being. But the nervous system doesn’t care about your conscious functioning, it cares about what’s habituated. Sure, sometimes it can facilitate you going deep but more often it gets in the way and gets you stuck in a very beta state of brainwaves that are not going to help your nervous system release any habituated patterns. 

Can trauma be tied to some sort of cause that we feel like we need to pursue?

Yes. Even something like pursuing justice, trying to pursue some sort of meaningful change that may serve the world can actually hold you back. It’s a very interesting thing because we need those sort of purposeful intents because we are conscious beings and we live in a conscious world. It’s a part of our humanness. So we absolutely need justice. But then when we use the scales of justice as the main parameter for moving forward in our life, all of our energy will always go into tracking inequity versus equity. And that’s exhausting. Moreover, it can attract certain things in your life by virtue of where your conscious intent lies. 

Is there an example you can offer here to clarify this point?

I actually worked for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) as a teenager. While there what I did notice is that many of those involved in MADD came as survivors who lost loved ones. So obviously they were focused on getting justice and equity and fairness and safety to prevent that from happening to others, which is really important. But that then became a lens for them that they often had trouble regulating amid their hypervigilant continued fight to maintain the justice and the progress they’ve achieved. The fact that they were stressed around that hypervigilance often takes a toll on our nervous system which can impede our progress in changing our neurological wiring. 

So let’s talk a bit about your reading interests. Tell us a little about the role that books have played in your life in terms of personal and professional growth. 

Well, I was a bookworm.  I always had multiple books going at a time — one in my purse, one next to my bed. I grew up loving books. Obviously, this was before cell phones and computers so that was helpful. 

Where did you find most of your books? 

Going to the library was my absolute favorite thing. I would smell the books and get so excited. This was one of my favorite activities as a kid and wouldn’t come home for hours. I read voraciously as a child and then became a literature major in college where I read hundreds and hundreds of books because I had to. Loved it! 

So what are your reading pursuits now as an adult? 

[Laughter] I have stacks of books in my basement that I can’t fit on my bookshelf. I love to read. I have to say though that the internet sort of ruined it for me because I now read in smaller bites. So that’s a little frustrating. I also don’t like to read electronically and prefer to hold a book. But also I feel as though I don’t have time. 

And the impact of all of these books you have read?

Books have shaped me completely. They have allowed me to daydream. They have allowed me to examine and plan some things in my life based on what I was reading. They opened my world. They invited me to do things I never would have done.

Can you offer an example here?

What immediately comes to mind is when I read “The Journey” by Tom Brown who is a survivalist. I later signed up for his course and went and learned primitive survival skills. Now as I look back, it's sad to me to see that books are not in every child’s hands like they would have been when I was a kid. They opened everything up for me. 

Are there any authors or titles that have been particularly impactful for you? 

Anything by Alan Watts speaks to my spirit because he was always thinking bigger than the present moment. Love his thinking around how we are all connected and the blurry lines between past, present, and future. And his creation story made a lot more sense to me than what I learned as a part of my Catholic upbringing. The ‘I’m made from an extra rib’ story didn’t make much sense to me. But Alan Watts talking about how we’re all God, that made sense to me. He is fantastic.

That’s cool. Are there any others? 

I loved horror books growing up. So Stephen King to me is pretty amazing. 

What exactly was it about horror?

Ha, I don’t know, that’s a really good question. Just couldn’t put it down. Maybe it was the adrenaline. 

That’s interesting

Yes, and along these same lines, I’ve always liked psychological books like Sybil and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Those books talked about the schizophrenic experience from a first-person perspective. And then I got into a lot of self-help books when I got older. The inner growth books like Neal Donald Walsh and Conversations With God. And Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements.”

Wow! You must have quite a collection at home.  

Yea! I have a “Brain” bookshelf and a “Spirit” bookshelf. Then there’s the “Science” and “Business and Entrepreneurship” shelves. There are just so many. 

Do you have a favorite bookstore?

Well, I like local independent bookstores. So here in the Denver area, I always went to Tattered Cover. Then there’s the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder which is really cool to go to. When I lived on Long Island there was a bookstore that I can’t remember the name of but loved. And when I lived on the North Shore, there was this fantastic used bookstore that I went to all the time. I tend to like the local independent shops. 

What about digital books?

Ahh, yes, everything now is on Amazon. Sure it’s easy and it’s fast. But you can’t feel it. I mean bookstores have a certain smell. There is something to be said about sitting in a bookstore cafe and having four books in front of you that you haven’t decided on yet. 

And of course, you have published several books. Can you talk about those?

The decision to become an author was kinda thrust upon me. While I always liked to write, I had abandoned the idea of authoring a book many, many years ago. As the story goes, I made it onto the cover of a local magazine. This led to the interest on the part of a book publisher who said that they wanted my book. And I said, “I don’t have one.” And they said, well, “you should write one.” And so I wrote, “New Beliefs, New Brain” which at the time was a great entry point for people wanting to know about mindset and neuroplasticity and how our lives get shaped.

What was that experience like? 

I actually wrote it having no idea how to write one. And it seemed pretty easy but I definitely don’t think the book was a masterpiece. But I was really really fortunate to get Dr. David Perlmutter to write the forward to that book. That’s just something that just doesn’t ordinarily happen. But it happened. So that was my first book. 

Then you wrote your next book?

Yes, that was a definite coming out for me. A different publisher called me this time. Looking back on this, it’s so interesting to observe how people send unsolicited manuscripts all the time and get rejected. None of that happened to me. This was the second time a publisher called and said that they wanted a book. So I wrote Neurosculpting®

Can you describe that experience? 

They wanted more in terms of an audiobook. So along with the print version, we did four unique audiobooks. Because things were flowing for me, I then wrote a children’s book. It was the only book I self-published because of how challenging the children’s market is to break into. I didn't want to wait on that one.  I wanted to get it out to kids who needed it. 

Are there any more books on the horizon for you? 

I do feel another book brewing, I just don’t know what it’s going to be about. But something is definitely coming. 

What sort of advice can you offer to those thinking of writing a book

I’ve had a very unconventional journey into publishing. So I can’t say that I can advise anyone on how to get published because I just kept receiving phone calls. That’s not really the best advice.

On another note, I am curious about what sort of effect reading has on the brain. Any thoughts on that?

Reading is actually really important for the brain. To be able to go into another state of mind is actually doing something positive for the brain as it’s exercising your capacity to empathize, to daydream, to create, and be creative. We actually need that balance as humans. And reading does that. 

That’s interesting

Of course, it does depend on what you’re reading. Certain types of books may be better than others. For example, if you are reading a very technical book it's probably not going to do that much. The best books for your brain in my opinion are those that have a storyline that causes you to go into places of narrative thought. I think those are really important for people.

And the color, text, and feel of a book are important as well for that’s what allows you that somatic engagement. 

Sounds like an important tool for reshaping the brain

For sure. With reading, you have to hold the book and turn the pages. You are using your hands, using your fingers, using somatic sensory perception when reading. This is not something you do with the computer. Your sense of smell is also involved in reading, particularly within old books. So there’s a lot of fun things they do for the brain. 

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