Monday, January 22, 2007


I came across a very interesting article on the CNN website entitled "Daydreaming is brain's default setting, study finds". Here's part of what it says:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Daydreaming seems to be the default setting of the human mind and certain brain regions are devoted to it, U.S. researchers reported Friday.

When people are given a specific task to do, they focus on that task but then other brain regions get busy during down time, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"There is this network of regions that always seems to be active when you don't give people something to do," psychologist Malia Mason of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital said in a telephone interview.

When Mason asked people what was happening during this down time, the answer was clear.

"It's daydreaming," she said. "But I find that the vast majority of time, people aren't having fanciful thoughts. People are thinking about what they have to do later today."

Her team has chosen to call it stimulus-independent thought or mind wandering.

Neurologists and psychologists have debated what goes on when people are not specifically thinking about or doing something, and there had been general agreement that the mind does not simply go blank.
So this is the mind left to its own devices. What really interested me is the possibility that there's no real reason for the mind to behave this way:
"Although the thoughts the mind produces when wandering are at times useful, such instances do not prove that the mind wanders because these thoughts are adaptive; on the contrary the mind may wander simply because it can," they concluded.
I've been known to assign daydreaming as a remedy to an obsession with controlling the mind. Some people make a project out of meditating and are very harsh with themselves when the mind wanders away from the meditative support so that they are tense throughout the meditation period. Such people need to ease up. If you are like this, just give yourself permission to daydream for a particular period of time until you become relaxed. This may take a week or two. Then slowly re-introduce the use of a meditative support. Bring the mind back to it in an easy and spacious way. Never scold yourself for daydreaming. Just gently bring the mind back to the support without forcing, without straining. Then your meditation period will truly be one in which you both rest and train the mind.


  1. I wish I had know about this back when I was in elementary school. I frequently got in trouble for not paying attention. I could have told my teacher that I was having "stimulus-independent thought". I'm sure she would have been impressed.

  2. What a refreshing approach. I tend to be one of those tense types and also one for whom daydreaming has always been a favorite pastime. I love the idea of deliberately daydreaming to ease into meditation. Thanks as always for the insight!


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