In Defense of the ‘Constant Chatter’
Mindfulness, presence, flow states and meditation are all popular concepts right now. In an age where we are constantly stressed, constantly distracted and always being pulled from one thing to another, the idea of calming the mind and being able to rise above the constant chatter is very appealing.
But while this is true, it’s also important not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Being ‘present’ is great because it allows you to react more quickly, to enjoy the moment without daydreaming and to let go of stresses, fears and the infamous ‘inner critic’. On the other hand though, there is a value to that ‘chitter chatter’ and to being distracted and it’s important that we don’t forget this.
Why it’s Good to Sometimes Daydream
The key point here is that while mindfulness and presence are good, they shouldn’t be sought after as the only valuable brain state. In other words, we should also value the benefit that can come from simply letting the mind wander and from daydreaming about things.
Whereas mindfulness and flow states are synonymous with the front portion of the brain shutting down, daydreaming is achieved when we engage our ‘default mode network’. This is a series of interconnected brain areas including the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex and the parietal cortex among others.
Together, these brain areas allow our mind to wander through memories and ideas while we are busy doing monotonous tasks. This is why you’ll often find yourself daydreaming when walking, when washing the dishes or when doing a host of other things.
And it’s this brain state that Albert Einstein credits with his discovery of the special theory of relativity. He attributes his ‘dull’ job at the patent office with allowing his mind to wander so that he might uncover ideas that would change the world forever.
Many other geniuses, creatives and other key influential figures also describe similar processes leading to their breakthroughs and discoveries. This is also when you or I are most likely to solve problems facing us in our daily lives, or just to imagine some wish-fulfilling scenario in which we’re performing in a rock band. And guess what? During all these experiences, you couldn’t be further from presence or mindfulness.
So the moral of this story is that the default mode network is another brain state worth focusing on and that your ‘inner critic’ isn’t all bad.