I recently participated in a week-long most excellent training workshop in Minneapolis on neurotransformational coaching, which is a great love of mine. It blends the big picture spiritual visions (right brain stuff) with the science of the brain (left brain stuff) in order to become whole-brained which is the key to high-functioning happiness in my world.
One of the myriad of fascinating things we focused on was the relationship between something called the Default Mode Network and the Task Positive Network in our brain. This isn’t a “right-brain/left-brain” kind of thing; the networks encompass both hemispheres. But the fascinating thing to me is that they both can’t be “on” at the same time. When one is in use, the other is dark and vice versa.
Why this matters, is that both networks are absolutely imperative to our well being and sometimes we have to learn to consciously shut one off, so the other can power up for us!
The Default Mode Network is where dreams are born. It’s our big-picture place, where we can build community and collaborate. It’s where our meaning resides; it’s the stomping ground for life-purpose. It’s relatively abstract. It’s a place of quiet recovery.
On the other side, the Task Positive Network is our micro-manager. It’s where the minutia resides. It’s the place of step-by-step planning. It’s tangible and solid. It’s our appointment book and our task manager software!
Meditation, prayer, ritual, vacations… these are what we do to turn off the Task Positive Network. Because life isn’t a fun place when we can do nothing but recycle the minutia over and over again in our brains. This is the place of the Buddhist term, “Monkey Mind”. When we just can’t shut our thoughts down. Ouch. I’ve been there.
Now, both networks are super necessary because if we’re stuck in the Task Positive Network a majority of the time, good luck coming up with any new ideas, or innovating. This is the place of stagnancy, joyless living, no vision… Nothing much moves, because creativity is necessary for movement forward.
And if we’re stuck in the Default Mode Network a majority of the time, we can’t bring any of our visions to life. Our dreaming becomes detached and frustrating. We feel like we’re just floating in space, unable to find solid ground.
The truth is, one of THE most common patterns in our American society is to place all of our value on the Task Positive Network. If we’re not doing, doing, doing…we have no value. There is a constant anxiety to produce more and accomplish more and keep going, and scheduling and building. We don’t have time for a vacation, we can’t afford to walk away for a couple of days, and who has time to meditate?!
And that leaves us a society of burned out, stressed out, hyper-vigilant people who are so focused on the minutia they literally cannot see the big picture.
I had an incredible and terrifying dream about this once. In my dream there was an F-5 tornado blasting through my little town, visible to anyone who would bother to look out the window, deafening in sound, but nobody would budge from their cozy chairs in my effort to get them to the shelter, because the Weather Channel wasn’t reporting any tornado. You bet this was my own Default Mode Network begging me to pay attention, pleading with me to shut it down for awhile. I finally listened. (More on that, within my upcoming newsletter next week.)
The April 2015 issue of Psychology Today has a great article on this, called “Eureka!” In the article the author shares the latest research which is that neuroscience has discovered that the brain in idle (the brain in Default Mode Network) is actually far more active than a brain engaged in the minutia. Neuroscientist Marcus Raichle proved in 2001 that when the DMN is taking over, there is a complete party going on in the brain. He described it as “exploding with neurogenesis, crackling with interconnectivity, and burning perhaps 20 times the metabolic resources of the conscious brain”. Therefore, when we veg out, we’re actually building the best, wisest, most creative thought processes which generally spark our eureka moments in life.
Even if you really have no idea what all of this means, the bottom line is this– If we don’t learn the importance of shutting down, turning off, vegging out as a critical component to our accomplishments, success and well being, then we’re going to get stuck, painfully so, and we literally cannot, will not, be able to reason or logic our way through that stuckness.
The bottom line is we have to find a way to make the time, shut down, turn off the brain regularly and with as much value as we give our Task Positive Network, or we will not be using all of the resources we have and our lives will suffer. We have to make time for nothing, or nothing will make time for us.
Please tell me you’re going to rest today. Or soon. That it’s in your schedule with all of your “important” TPN appointments. It would make me very happy if you did.