The Default Mode Network (DMN) is active when a person is not actively performing a specific task. Default implies automatic thought processes. Research has shown that meditation helps strengthen and make a more resilient default mode network (DMN). The DMN involves many areas of the brain as well as their interconnectivity. They include the hippocampus of the temporal lobe, posterior cingulate cortex of the limbic system, parietal lobe, and the prefrontal cortex. Healthy activity of the DMN includes introspection, day dreaming, imagining scenarios, and revisiting decisions from the past to help better imagine the future.
Excessive mind wandering may draw us to ruminate over past problems or have anxiety about the future. We can get stuck in a default mode of living in the past or obsessing about our future unless we train our minds to be more present. The more the mind wanders, generally the more attention tilts toward anxiety, resentment, regret, and self-criticism.
Meditation is an excellent way to help us be more present and mindful. Some Christians are apprehensive about meditation because it is associated with Buddhism. Yet, the Bible is full of references to meditation. There are many different ways to meditate. We can meditate on God’s word. Another form of meditation is called Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is an exceptional tool to help find and strengthen our connection to God’s presence.[i] Living in and with gratitude of God’s presence with us in each moment will change our self-awareness, it will strengthen our attention, decrease the stress response, and gear us more toward love and compassion. All of these ways rewire the brain.
Here is a simplified version Centering Prayer:
- Sit comfortably with eyes closed. Relax and let yourself be quiet. Revel in God’s love and presence surrounding you.
- Choose a sacred word, phrase, or passage from scripture that helps you remember God’s love and presence with you. Let the phrase or scripture be present to you.
- If you find that you are distracted simply return to the word, phrase, or scripture.
- Whenever you are aware of any other thoughts, feelings or images, simply return to your word or phrase that anchors you to God’s love.
- Practice the above for 20 minutes per day. You can set a gentle alarm timer to help yourself know your time.
Centering Prayer is not meant to simply be a 20-minute exercise, but a time to reframe our minds completely so that every moment of our lives we can invite and dwell in God’s presence. The more you practice Centering Prayer, the more you will feel God working in and through you; the more you will prime yourself to receive God’s riches that are hardwired into your being.
Meditation on God’s love and loving relationships will help strengthen the anterior cingulate cortex which will also help you stay focused on your goals. Meditation and mindfulness help us get control of the prefrontal cortex. Better control of the prefrontal cortex will give us better control over the posterior cingulate cortex which is involved in self-referential daydreaming, greater control over the brain’s alarm bell of the amygdala, and greater activation of the hippocampus to stop the stress response. Healthy DMN activity of introspection, day dreaming, and imagining scenarios to plan for a better future can all help us enjoy life and be more present. Unhealthy, automatic, and excessive mind wandering through the DMN will keep us from God’s goodness and joy. Mindfully paying attention to the cues and mental routines that are automatic or unhealthy can help us break free from them.
[i] “Centering Prayer,” Contemplative Outreach, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/category/category/centering-prayer.