Contemplative traditions such as the nondual practices of meditation and iRest Yoga Nidra emphasize our ability to welcome each moment. Furthermore, they teach us how to proactively engage actions that enable us to be in harmony with our self, in our relationships, and with the world around us; in other words, with life, itself.
In recent years, research with iRest Yoga Nidra shows how welcoming and proactive engagement enables us to meet the challenges of each moment, and enables us to resolve and live free of negative recursive loops of emotion and thinking. This, in turn, enables the underlying peace, joy, and well-being that is our birth right as human beings to move into the foreground of our experience.
Recent research also reveals that the Default Mode Network of our brain (DMN) regularly highjacks our attention, stimulating our brain to wander aimlessly in problematic, recursive, self-referential (I-me-mine) negative thinking and emotions (i.e., the “blah, blah, blah” of normal everyday thinking). Furthermore, research shows that obsessively thinking/feeling this way makes us feel dissatisfied and unhappy in our lives (i.e., we suffer). In other words, our brain’s DMN holds us hostage in past and future thoughts/emotions, overrides our ability to engage in insightful, creative-oriented thoughts/emotions, and makes us feel unhappy and dissatisfied with the way things are. Fortunately, research also shows that the practices of meditation disengages the DMN way that our brain functions, and activates our brain’s Present Centered Default Mode Network (PCDMN), which gives rise to creative thinking and feeling that’s free of recursive, self-referential, I-me-mine, negative ways of thinking. Residing in our PCDMN enables us to feel creative and happy!
Research shows that meditation deactivates the DMN, deactivates mind-wandering, eliminates self-referential narrative, increases our ability to remain task focused, and increases our ability to engage creative insight-oriented thinking. Long-term meditation transforms the resting-state Default Mode Network of our brain, i.e., mind-wandering, self-referenced, I-me-mine thinking, into the Present Centered Default Mode Network, i.e., creative, insightful thinking.
Your ability to disengage your DMN through meditation, which otherwise gives rise to your unhappiness and increased vulnerability to illness, and instead engage your PCDMN, your ability to witness, remain task-focused, and engage creative and insight-oriented thinking, has critical implications for your ability to maintain an ongoing state of health, happiness, joy, peace, and well-being.
Here are two exercises that enable you to quickly shift your DMN to your PCDMN.
1. Feel your right hand. Then, feel your left hand. Then feel both hands at the same time.
2. Allow your attention to be everywhere at the same time: front, back, left, right, below, above, inside, outside.
These two exercises shift you into your PCDMN, or working mind. Here, your DMN or thinking mind, which produces your experience of time, space, self, other, and recursive negative thinking loops, deactivates. Your working mind is no longer held hostage by your thinking mind. With practice, it’s possible for your negative thinking mind to be deactivated, and your creative working mind to be your default mode way of being in the world. Welcome to the wonderful effects of ongoing meditation! The PCDMN is your brain on yoga nidra meditation!
One additional tidbit to reflect upon, which I’ll be addressing in future writings here in the IRI Newsletter Research Corner: Your DMN is implicated in your belief of being a separate self. Conversely, your PCDMN is implicated in your ability to experience your non-separateness with all of life.
Your belief in being a separate self is responsible for your experience of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and suffering. Your ability to experience no-self uproots your I-me-mine misunderstanding of separation, uproots your sense of suffering, and allows your underlying joy, well-being, and peace of mind to become your standard way of being in the world. Isn’t taking time to meditate and practice yoga nidra on a daily basis worth it! My experience is a resounding, “Yes, it is”! Want to make your life and the world around you a happier and more peaceful place? If so, join me, and the millions of others around the globe, for meditation each morning. Let’s all make the shift to the PCDMN.
Research on the DMN, PCDMN
Farb, N., Segal, Z., Mayberg, H, Bean, J, McKeon, D, Fatima, Z. and Anderson, A. 2007. Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 2 (4): 313-322.
Brewer, J., Worhunsky, P., Gray, J., Tang, Yi Yuan., Webe, J., Kober, H. 2011. Meditation experience is associated with differences in Default Mode Network Activity and Connectivity. Proceedings of National Academy of Science. Nov. 23.