Multitasking - Default mode – Meditation – Mindfulness – Creativity
I assume we all know what a monkey mind is? We also know that staying for too long within the monkey mind (mental chatter that goes on in our head) can feel rather stressful if the mental chatter is too much or tends to be paranoid, negative and frightening (more so for some). Nevertheless, the monkey mind is essential here and again. I will explain why.
Basically, there are networks in our brain that activate when we focus on the outside world and when we let our minds wander. Yoga is defined in the Sutras as “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha” – translating as “stilling the mind” or “yoga is the removing of the fluctuations of the mind”. So, we can assume that to be in yoga is to have a more focused mind that limits unnecessary thoughts and let us see things more clearly. It is removing cloudy perceptions. It is also seeing things as they are right now. This is the enlightened state of our being or to be fully awake at the moment. To achieve this, we use in yoga exercise something called dristhi for better concentration, let us remember, dristhi translates as a “focused gaze”. It is a means to develop concentrated intention. One of the limbs that lead ultimately to the experience of yoga is concentration. You can read more about dristhi here.
In the monkey mind, our thoughts may be running wild. We wonder here also why a person said what they said, thoughts arise about our past and the future. Often (as we will see later, bad memory comes easier than good memory - unfortunately or in some instances, fortunately, another innate evolutionary consequence), so being for too long in this state may make us feel sad and alert. It is scientifically accepted that meditation helps us to deal with the monkey mind or influences the impact upon us and this is marvellous! One reason to practice yoga and meditation, right?
When we tend to think too much about the past and the future, our evolutionary imprint tries to avoid danger and protect us. Now, this can be important so as not to repeat certain dangerous situations in the future (like not running away from a tiger) but does not necessarily make us feel good or happy. Studies assert perhaps due to evolutionary reasons that we recall bad memories more easily and in greater detail than good things. Researchers also say that negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to our memories.
Nevertheless, this narrative can also be important. In our monkey mind, we think of others, ourselves, and in a way this self-referencing is helping us to shape our view of "who we are", we remember the past, and envision the future here and can decide on new goals and visions.
However, modern lifestyles and modern bodies, influence not only our ability to perform classical postures but also our brain networks don’t allow us either to be fully focussed (as technological gadgets distract us a lot) or enjoy the benefits of pure simple mind wandering. Most of us don’t dedicate much time to mediation and seem to be distracted by technology and therefore constantly switching from one task to the next. We write an email, click to read an update, play a game, or/and read an email at the same time listening to something different.
So, in a summary, there is the task-positive network and the default network in our brain. The first one is more active during “attention-demanding” tasks and the latter when our mind wanders.
Often a criterion for a job is “how good are you at multitasking”? – but our brain can’t really multitask, our attention switches from one thing to another and this constant switching requires lots of nutrients! Only if you know both of the tasks 100% is this switching backwards and forward easier and less energy-consuming.
Now ask yourself the following: How many times have you picked up your phone today to look at notifications or to see if you have received a new message or whatever? Do you know how much time you spent on social media, games, or other activities on your phone? It is said that on average a person spends 2 years on Facebook! Wow!
So, as it looks, everybody has become a “multitasker”. Just look around and see how couples talk to each other and at the same time checking their phones, how people go jogging with at the same time listening to music, ride a bike (or a car) with at the same time talking on the phone, teenagers do their homework simultaneously listening to something on their phone, watch a film etc.? Do you read or reply to emails as you are listening to a podcast or/and watching a film? How many windows are open on your computer? How many windows deal with different tasks? Do you stroll down your newsfeed as you are listening to something or somebody?
When we actually do more than one thing, as explained above, we shift our attention constantly from one thing to the next and back. This becomes critical when we are trying to focus our attention because it requires so much energy.
Did you know that stressed people shift their attention considerately more than others from one task to another?
Now, if you shift your tasks constantly (so, as to avoid maybe even being bored, that is, you spend lots of time on your new phone or any other gadget), you are not processing but constantly depleting your neuro resources. Some people switch tasks 100s of times a day on a computer, we check our emails constantly, but every time we shift our attention from one thing to another, our brain uses a neuro-chemical switch, and this needs nutrients (e.g., glucose) to do so.
Boredom and the Default Mode Network
It's almost a no-no to admit we are bored. The advance in technology has been amazing, but there is a time for rest and even for being bored (when we are bored we enter the default mode of the brain)! It is important for your brain health to let yourself be bored here and again. It improves social connections!
So daydreaming and let the mind wander has its purpose. However, as explained above, nobody is truly bored anymore, because we seem to be entertained by so many things and technical gadgets, but as mentioned above, when we are bored, we enter or ignite this network, that is, the default mode. Our brain in the default mode is busy sorting out stuff by thinking about past events and contemplating the future. This default mode network is active during passive rest and when we let our minds wander.
Surely, we need a well-balanced DMN helping us plan activities, contemplate future activities that are based on past events, and remember important parts of our personal history. We can use this to heal and understand ourselves better.
If we let it drift off too far and harness too many negative thoughts, we might cause mental anguish. Replaying an ordeal repeatedly in our minds is stressful and does not help. It is the thinking of “what happened” constantly, but if we start to focus on the “why it happened”, it can help us to understand the situation and we can learn from it to be the best version of ourselves in the future. It can help us to understand ourselves better.
Did you know that about 80% of the ‘bad news’ that comes out of your ruminations never materializes?
We mind-wander also to more happy thoughts but we only do that apparently about one-third of the time! This means, two-thirds of our mind-wandering thought content is stressful or neutral and that puts us in less happy moods! So, if you let your mind wander, stay aware that it is not fooling you with too many bad thoughts.
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things. This is the best season of your life.” – Wu-Men
However, if we avoid being in this default mode at all, by switching from tasks to tasks, games, films, emails, etc. we miss out on, inter alia, important autobiographical planning. As explained above, we create a personal narrative, thinking back etc. and with this can create a new vision for our life with new goals.
It is ok to let your mind wander here and again. We don’t have to be “busy” all the time. Just staring out of the window or/and watch the sea, might be even good for you!
On the other hand, if you don’t this and you keep switching from task to task by keeping busy, you may suffer burnout, fatigue and overstimulate your brain.
It is estimated that it will be a real problem if our young generation overstimulates and overloads their brains. There is a real possibility of losing motivation and creativity in the long term. According to Healthline: “Cynicism, apathy, lack of motivation, and trouble focusing can all be signs of an overworked brain” – so next time you are bored enjoy it, let your mind wander and don’t look for a distraction, stop and listen to yourself.
Of course, this needs courage, many of us find this sensation of boredom and being left alone with our thoughts uncomfortable. The Guardian wrote “A 2014 study found that many people chose to administer painful electric shocks to themselves rather than being left alone with their thoughts. One man shocked himself 190 times in 15 minutes.”
Here meditation and yoga can help. I prefer my classes without distraction, such as music, you are invited to listen to yourself in a loving way. Meditation has been associated with reduced activity in the default mode network and becoming aware through a mindful yoga class can help you with enjoying being bored the next time and let your brain sort out the narrative more efficiently. It's all about re-condition yourself!
I still have places left for the next teacher training starting in September. The course is designed to be a self-discovery course. The deadline for enrolment is the end of July. The lead teacher in this training has more than 20 years of experience in practising and teaching the art of Yoga. You will be trained in a small class size, which has immense advantages! You will receive individual attention, and you will learn better! Includes one weekend in a luxurious retreat centre in the south downs!
Sundara Teacher Training gives you the foundation and tools to find your authentic voice and style as a teacher using an inquisitive mind. We are a certified training provider by Yoga Alliance Professionals, and their standards are high! That's why the YAP only allows senior teachers with a certain amount of teaching experience to provide training courses.
Find out more about the senior yoga teacher on this course and Sundara Yoga. Enrolment is open. There are only limited spaces on this course. We take a max. of 6 people. To enrol, a non-refundable deposit of £500 is necessary. With the payment of a deposit, you agree to our terms and conditions. Full payment of the course fee is due one month in advance of the commencement of the course. Instalment payments are possible but need to be agreed upon in advance with the lead teacher.
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“The habit of spending nearly every waking moment lost in thought leaves us at the mercy of whatever our thoughts are. Meditation is a way of breaking this spell.” ~ Sam Harris