It’s time to give daydreaming some respect.
Instead of being dismissing as a giant waste of time, daydreaming should get thecredit it deserves. That’s because letting your “monkey mind” wander and explorefreely — even when you’re meditating — has real benefits that can help you becomecalmer and more positive — about yourself and the world around you.
You may have heard that the goal of meditation is to draw the mind into single-pointed focus so you can be present and live fully in eachindividual moment. Well, meditation and the way the mind works are not that simple.Balance is beneficial, especially for our minds. We should consider easing up onrigid intentions to give our daydreams the chance to take us somewhere unexpectedbut worthwhile.
Daydreaming is an alternative to the traditional meditation process
Instead of controlling every aspect of the meditation experience with an “agenda” about how it should go (let’s thinkabout cultivating a gentler unfolding of who we are). In place of feeling bad whenwe don’t reach some predetermined goal, let’s give ourselves the space to examinehow we metabolize our experiences in life, and how we might embrace the real waywe practice meditative activities.
Most meditation styles follow some kind of specific guideline. Often you are instructedto focus on one prescribed object — breath, mantra, compassion, a focal point withyour gaze, etc. If you notice that you wander away from said point of focus, thenyou:
1. Acknowledge you’ve done so.
2. Let go of whatever stole your precious attention.
3. Come back to the focal point.
Clearly, the traditional single-pointed style of mediation is a great approach formany. Even science is proving its benefits. This style helps develop deep focus,presence in the moment, and the strong ability to concentrate — all wonderful qualities!
But all too often, the mind wanders, as is its nature, and we must coax it backto the focal point. Again, and again.
Though that experience is good work too!
But, sometimes after meditating, we reflect and realize we had to try to come backa lot. Or perhaps we never ended up making it back and stayed distracted. That canleave us feeling disappointed, discouraged and insecure about our ability to meditate.
What happens when you let your mind roam freely?
Let’s wonder for a minute what might happen during meditation or while going aboutyour daily routine if you just let yourself flow with your own natural rhythms?
You’ll still breathe and think, and there will still be effort, merit and benefitto the experience.
This is your “default mode network” and if you follow your daydreams for a bit andlet this organic thought process have its way, where will it take you?
The default mode network — or just default network — is a pretty new concept inneuroscience. It refers to agroup of brain structures that researchers say appears to be even more active whenyou’re in a resting state than when you are consciously paying attention. The defaultnetwork is for daydreaming, imagining the future, replaying memories, and wonderingwhat others are thinking. It’s the mode our brains “default” to when not given aspecific task but we can easily snap out of it.
Daydreaming doesn’t mean your mind isn’t engaged. In fact, something very powerful is going on in your brain when you let your mindwander.
The surprising benefits of daydreaming
Believe it or not, there are quite a few studies on daydreaming and they show ithas real benefits at work and on your own personal time. Some even say that daydreamingis a side effect for smart people with so much brain capacity that they can’t stoptheir minds from wandering and exploring ideas. And daydreaming while meditatingmight actually bring on a more positive and peaceful experience.
So when you drop into a daydream, these are the qualities you’re feeding:
When your mind drifts into default mode, a big crop of interesting ideas or thoughtscan spring up. Since your mind isn’t being constrained or controlled, you make roomfor possibilities and the freedom to think about them. This freedom allows new ideasand points of view to arise. Creative thought bursts out from its tight little. Solutions you’ve beenseeking are suddenly just — there!
And remember your imagination? You may not have tapped into it in ages but you canaccess it by daydreaming.
Next time when you fall into a daydream, allow yourself to imagine the best daydreamyou’ve ever had and unleash those supercool and sometimes-suppressed creative braincells.
2. Ability to envision the future
When we daydream, we expose our hidden dreams and desires to ourselves. What ifthis or that dream came true? We allow our minds to go there… and enjoy the feelingof it.
When I set intentions for my future, in my mind’s eye I give those dreams color,form and life. I have fun with it. I play out what needs to happen or get done inorder for my wish to come to fruition.
I sit with it as a vision, a reality, a true feeling in my heart — I sit with thison my meditation cushion. I literally daydream about it. And when the future eventuallypresents me with this envisioned opportunity, I already have fun and creative ideasabout how I want it to shape up.
3. Receptivity to new ideas
A daydream occurs when we are less rigid. When we allow for less structure, we becomereceptive to a larger range of experience. If we are no longer constrained by lassoingour attention to the tip of our noses and following every breath in and out, wemake room for more possibilities and greater awareness.
Single-pointed awareness is beneficial but it is not the only way to go. Our abilityto be with an experience as opposed to manipulating it opens us up to so much moreof life. We can be receptive to and curious about the sensory sensations aroundus. We can hear outside sounds and not be in conflict with their ability to distractus.
Instead of resisting an experience that feels uncomfortable or wrought with pressureand rules, we can become available to receive that experience in a way that makesit feel freeing.
Being available and receptive to the power of awareness is one excellent reasonfor meditating — and daydreaming.
4. Inner discovery
When your mind wanders around a bit, you might stumble across new and worthwhileterritory. You might be able to see something familiar and develop a deeper understandingof it.
Daydreaming offers the space for you to feel better acquainted with your inner workings,desires, dreams, fears and areas of resistance. You start to understand how youdeal with issues and work out problems. It’s a safe way to explore uncomfortablethoughts and memories and release them. Or it might feel good to just jump on thedaydream train and see where it leads.
Daydreaming is more productive than wallowing or brooding and it’s important tounderstand the difference.
Give your daydreams time to bloom
The benefits of meditation and daydreaming may not show up right away because they’reprocesses, not destinations. But what we push away will often push right back atus even harder. If you constantly suppress your natural tendency to explore yourthoughts and dreams, how will you ever get to know your own mind?
Your mind has set up shop inside the body that you’ve borrowed for this lifetimeso you might want to make friends with it. Give yourself permission to dig deeperto study yourself, study your mind.
A balance of focus, sweet breaths and dreams won’t hurt your meditation practice— it will strengthen it.
|Daydreaming is one great way to be happy. Discover more dos — and don’ts — of happiness for any woman at midlife.|
Christine A. Godwin, Michael A. Hunter, Matthew A. Bezdek, Gregory Lieberman, SethElkin-Frankston, Victoria L. Romero, Katie Witkiewitz, Vincent P. Clark, Eric H.Schumacher. Functional connectivity within and between intrinsic brain networkscorrelates with trait mind wandering. Neuropsychologia, 2017; 103: 140 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.07.006.https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-benefits-of-daydreaming. Accessed9.26.18 170189213/https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171024112803.htm.Accessed 9.26.18.