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Rock 4 - Mindfulness

Rock 5 - Mind Wandering 

"You are the sky, everything else is just the weather." 

Pema Chodron

Mindfulness and Mind Wandering – Riding The Mental Seesaw

Mindfulness and mind wandering arise from different, overlapping brain networks.  Mindfulness sees us focused in the present, aware of the world, focusing our thoughts on either an internal locus (our breath) or an external one (a task).  Mind wandering is virtually the opposite. When we’re mind wandering we’re speculating about what’s just happened or about to happen. It sees us putting ourselves at the centre of our thinking in relation to other people and events.  It’s discursive, the opposite of the calm focus we see in mindfulness. 

We’re looking at both Rock 4 and Rock 5 together because they’re two sides of a mental see-saw.  When we’re being mindful our mind wandering network is off, and vice versa. These different networks, even though there’s overlap between them, work in opposition to each other.  Both mindfulness and mind wandering are important for a healthy mind.


Mindfulness Gets Respectable

Everything on this site is based on scientific evidence.  Which means mindfulness makes it in as Rock 4 because it’s cleared that evidence bar.  But let’s acknowledge mindfulness does suffer from an image problem. There are several reasons for this, here are a couple;

1.      Whilst there’s a long tradition of meditation in Eastern religious practice, in the US and Europe meditations first hits national consciousness back in the 1960s associated with the mind-altering chemicals of the hippy counter-culture.

2.    Mindfulness has become so popular it has some of the hallmarks of a fad.  Fads express human enthusiasm, but often leave behind the evidence.


Mindfulness Without The Bunkum

Meditation has been studied in detail by neuroscientists.  Mindfulness is popular with everyone from sports stars, soldiers and company executives.  Primary school children do it daily in some schools. Mindfulness books, programmes and apps are everywhere.

At the core of mindfulness is a simple truth.  Over time we can change the physical structure of areas of our brains.  Mindfulness also turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest mode, calming us, lowering our blood pressure, heart rate etc.  These changes in the structure of areas of the brain and how they connect and interact mean we can begin to feel and think differently.

The mind wandering network is as important as our mindfulness one.  It has less books written about it but as you read on you'll discover it is as crucial in helping us build a well-balanced mind.

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