That is: Meditating really hard on your immediate-present and not letting stray thoughts take over. -The Eckhart Tolle stuff.
And while there is nothing wrong with this type of meditation, another type more similar to Zoning-Out is also important to your mental abilities, and your mental health…
It helps if you think of your mental states as a spectrum, just like being fast asleep or fully-awake & caffeinated.
Mindfulness Is On One Side, Daydreaming Is On The Other:
On one end you have perfectly-concentrated Mindfulness, and Un-Focused, wandering, Mind”Less”ness on the other.
-Almost like Daydreaming.
Both of these extremes, and all of the odd mixes in-between are useful.
But since “The Power of Now” became a best-seller, most researchers seem to aim their work at the benefits of mindfulness and “Focused Attention”.
“The Power Of Now” Is Fuel For The Cult Of Productivity:
This is in no small part due to that movement becoming an economic juggernaut, especially for Corporate Productivity.
And everywhere you look, people are trying to use it to improve their careers, despite the fact meditation was very non-careerist in its origins. Funny, eh?
And though it may seem a bit of a Slacker-cousin in relation to that productive-focus, the understudied & maligned Un-Focusing meditation still has benefits of its own found in the realms of Creativity, Insight, and Problem-Solving.
Furthermore, you cannot train yourself to be permanently in the a state of constant-mindfulness.
You Can’t Be In Just One State All The Time:
Just as everything in life operates somewhere on that spectrum of extremes, constant-mindfulness would be like deciding to take so much Provigil that you never sleep again.
Or just ask anyone who’s new to the discipline. Even starting-out is not easy.
If you tried it for long-periods, you’d probably either pass-out or go nuts, like some of the weekend-warriors who go on hard-core meditation retreats and end up in a “Dark Night Of The Soul”-experience.
Our Minds Are Built To Wander:
And actually, !SCIENCE! says that the mind isn’t really built to be focused for that long at-all.
More to the point: Actual Studies reveal that our minds Naturally-Wander about 50% of the time we’re awake.
Whether it’s on-purpose like in the “Open Monitoring” creative-type-meditation or not.
Mental-Wandering Carries An Evolutionary Risk:
And if you think about that from the point of Evolution, mental-wandering could be an Extremely-costly thing.
-For example, what if you were out under a tree on the Serengeti and daydreaming instead of being mindful while a Leopard sneaks up behind you…
So: if we still have that built into us despite all the obvious costs, from the stigma of “Lost-Focus”, to misplaced car-keys, all the way to Kitten-Chow, there Has to be some real actual benefit to it.
That carries an evolutionary risk.
(esp. viz. leopards)
So there -Must- also be an evolutionary benefit.
-Otherwise the dreamers would all be kitten-chow.
But We Get Benefits Along With That Risk:
And research shows there is!
And that the name “Daydreaming” is very apt. Because worries, unresolved issues, future plans, and other random thoughts creep in, all mixing together into Creative Insight.
-Just like Sara Mednick talked about when you take an Actual nap.
And because of that freedom, your brain can free-associate in new ways, likely with your brain’s “Everything Must Make Sense Immediately Traffic-Cop” mostly turned-off.
You might even get answers to questions you never thought you’d answer or didn’t know you had.
MindFulness Is Great For People Who Over-Ruminate:
And though MindFULLNess has been cited as both great for Focus and Happiness because it can partially shut down the “Default-Mode Network” just like LSD,
-It can also be so obsessive in its focus that the benefits of this spacing-out or wandering meditation don’t really happen, and you lose the Creativity.
This Shortcut To Creativity Actually Happens To Everyone!:
One other interesting phenomenon that can trigger or support mind-wandering-creativity is similar to the gun-dissassembly scene in the movie, “Layer Cake”.
That is, doing something routine to occupy most of your conscious mind with a set of mundane tasks that you’ve memorized, so that you’re at-least 50% on “Autopilot”.
And this somehow frees the Imaginative side of your mind to go off and wander, coming up with all kinds of new ideas through that unhindered association.
EUREKA! Starts With Mundane Repetition:
Many people throughout history have had all kinds of these “Eureka Moments” while doing this exact type of mundane, routine things that their brain already knows how to do.
-Archimedes himself was rumored to have actually been
commuting on the subway in the shower at the time he discovered displacement and invented modern irrigation!
And this other route is one more way you can be creative, without even deliberately meditating at-all; just like The Father Of All Science, himself.
Find A Simple Routine To “Take Your Mind Off It”:
Sometimes this zoning-out might happen when we don’t even notice it, or put it in-motion deliberately. Yes, I hear all the Type-A personalities laughing through the internet-wires at this. But when it does, if you can, let it run.
One more odd signal you might be doing this is: misplacing or accidentally moving things without really noticing.
As long as you’re not having Dementia-like memory problems, the fact that your mind is able to “Drift” during some tasks can just be another sign of you being in that creative-insight-state.
So if you ever get into the Meditation thing, be sure to try both types, depending on your needs.
They can both be good for you, so Check out the details at the Links:
“Why Zoning Out Is Good for You” video, by The Science Of Us
“Brins de mousse” photo, by flickr user Anne
• Source: NYMag, The Science Of Us
• More Coverage: Leiden University-Meditation makes you more creative | Daydreams At Work, by Amy Fries | The Upside of Your Dark Side
• Source Studies:
• J.Mindfulness-Prior Meditation Practice Modulates Performance and Strategy Use in Convergent- and Divergent-Thinking Problems
• PsychSci-Inspired by Distraction, Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation
• PsychSci-Inspired by Distraction-Full [PDF]