Default Brain Mode

I finally got my girlfriend to start meditating. It was all thanks to a road trip to Saint Augustine and the author Robert Wright. Before leaving, Adaptive Center’s founder, Juan Lesende, recommended Robert Wright’s book Why Buddhism Is True. It is scientific and spiritual, but most of all, practical.

My girlfriend is like most struggling meditators I’ve met. They ALL say the same thing. They ALL say, “I can’t meditate, I can’t focus.” This is common and should be expected. But reading Why Buddhism is True that I learned what was happening. I learned that our brain has a “Default Brain Mode.” This state occurs when the brain is not engaged in cognitive activities. It’s like a screen saver.

This brain screen saver is always running. It lives in the background and usually below the line of consciousness. It creates baseline anxieties and worries. But when we meditate, we expand the domains of consciousness. We become aware of the Default Brain Mode, so we can study it, and interrupt it. We can do this by bringing our attention back to our breath or whatever else we decided to focus on. This quiets the Default Brain Mode. Research on meditation masters that have practiced for thousands of hours has clearly demonstrated this.

Robert Wright’s explanation of the Default Brain Mode changed how I viewed meditation. Before, I would observe whatever came up or occurred. But his explanation gave me something more tangible to study. Now I observe my Default Brain Mode.

This perspective overcame my girlfriend’s resistance to meditating. She still “gets distracted”. But the goal posts have changed. Perfect focus is no longer the goal. Observing where the mind goes when it isn’t distracted is.