Some people think that meditation puts the brain into deep relaxation or even switches it off – WRONG. It switches it ON!
24 August 2021 | beando_admin
Meditation puts the brain on a higher, much healthier and powerful level. In our MMb work at beanddo we often examine the difference between unconscious reaction and conscious action.
Often, when we are in unconscious reactivity mode we are operating inside our Default Mode Network (DMN). The ‘default mode network’ is a specific type of neural processing that occurs when the mind is in a ‘passive’ state, or in other words, when we are distracted and our attention is untrained. We might often slip into this mode when we are performing tasks of limited cognitive demand such as walking to the shops or even at that long and pointless meeting.
Continued periods of mental rumination might be daydreaming, getting caught up in the ‘not-me’, projecting into a fictional past or future by reconstructing or revising memories (often so that they feel different) or envisioning the future. We might be distracted by our surroundings, social media, advertising, thinking about the intentions of others, and so on. With Modern Meditation we learn to ‘observe’. We soon realise that these thoughts that appear, ‘think’ themselves. They don’t have any explicit goal other than to follow and satisfy your own interpretations about the world, others and yourself – most of which is not real. It’s no coincidence that your Ego also inhabits your habitual default mode.
The default is then a wandering, ruminating mind which follows its own impulses and narratives. We have very little control over the creation of thoughts. For example we might often say, ‘a thought just came to me’, or ‘something has flashed into my head’. We never say, ‘I created’ or ‘made this thought’. It just happens like most of the other stuff you think, feel, experience and respond to.
You can see an model of this cycle below:
It’s no surprise that research detects links between over-activity in the default mode network and mental distress like stress, anxiety and depression. The default mode of humans appears to be that of mind-wandering, which correlates with unhappiness, and with activation in a network of brain areas associated with habitual self-referential processing – the ‘I, Me and Mine’ thinking that we can transcend with meditation practice.
This is because when we fall unconsciously into our default mode network we inadvertently activate the fight or flight response which as we know is part of our older brain. Remember your brain can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening outside your head and what you are creating inside your head. In response you fall into your default mode which in turn flushes your system with cortisol and adrenaline.
So your mind/body carries out automatic actions it needs to (remember like walking, driving etc) but you are not present. The really cool thing though is that the default mode network seems to show lower levels of activity when we are engaged in a particular task like paying attention, say in meditation.
It’s known that meditation practice can disrupt and reduce the negative impact of your DMN cycle via open, non-attached, observation cultivated in your Modern Meditation four part practice See here. Principally, by ‘observing’ you are shifting something that is mostly unconscious into something conscious. This is the start of you waking up, taking conscious action and working towards better well being from the inside out.
When you choose to be conscious and practice meditation and take inspired conscious action (to make happy work) we are actively choosing to activate meaningful, empowering, cognitive complex behaviour in the here and now. We know this activates the elicitation of dopaminergic activity, and the resulting opioid-dopamine interaction results in a perceived state of ‘bliss’ or ‘flow’.
We are rewarded for being conscious, present and here and FREE!