Understanding Your Busy Mind
Default Mode Network (DMN)
When our brains are not focused on something specific we can slip into a network of brain areas known as the Default Mode Network, or DMN. This happens about 47% of the time in our day (consider what your experience is when stuck in traffic, waiting in a line, or while floating).
DMN activates the parts of our brains that are focused on the self, our future, our memory, our emotion, and the imagery associated with each. Our brains enter into problem solving mode while DMN is activated; DMN is a judging state, with a bias towards negative evaluation. In DMN, you may find yourself asking: What’s wrong? What should I fix?
With sensory deprivation therapy, our goal is not to get rid of the DMN, but to change the bias of this mode to a non-evaluative awareness of the present moment.
A Guide to Floating for the Busy Mind, Step-by-Step:
Step 1 – Notice:
Recognize thoughts as just thoughts. Humans have between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts each day, with more than 90% of them repeat thoughts from the day before. Nearly 80% of these thoughts are negative. They aren’t even necessarily personal, and many aren’t true to reality.
We can image our thoughts as cloudy weather passing through the sky. We don’t need to grab onto them and we don’t need to push them away. While we can’t change the weather, we can focus on the fact that the sky remains clear and blue behind the clouds. That which we resist, persists!
Step 2 – Pause & Breathe:
As you breathe in and out, check in with your body. Where in your body do you feel the breath? Across your nostrils, the back of your throat, your chest, belly, or rib cage? Perhaps you simply feel a general sense of the whole body breathing. Or it can be useful to label the breath, silently noting ‘inhale’ as you breathe in and ‘exhale’ as you breathe out.
Step 3 – Offer A Moment of Kindness:
Grounding yourself by resting your hands on the center of your chest, feel the tenderness of your heart, or perhaps take a moment to reconnect with your intention for floating (perhaps to try something new, or to offer yourself a moment of ease, peace, quiet reflection).
Step 4 – Reconnect:
Turn your attention to your body’s sensations. Notice where your skin meets the water. Notice your heartbeat, your pulse.
Step 5 – Cultivate:
See if you can use a kind, friendly, curious, ‘beginner’s mind’ attitude to your experience. As soon as you notice your thoughts wandering to a source of stress, like a to-do list, pause, breathe, and start again without judgment.
It is actually in these moments, when you greet your experience in a non-judgmental way, that you are rewiring your brain’s default state to be less negative and more supportive to your well-being.
Step 6 – Start Over Again
Diane has been studying and practicing in the areas of mind-body healing, mindfulness, meditation, and compassion cultivation most of her adult life. She currently teaches classes and offers presentations and workshops on the topics of mindfulness and compassion for a variety of businesses, organizations, non profits, and the community. http://www.dianehetrick.com