I love how the early Yogis, developed quite a sophisticated understanding of how the mind works. This term, as part of the body sensing course we have been exploring the Pancha Maya Model of the human experience. In this model, different layers are described which demonstrate our inter-relationship between our bodies and our minds.
One of the layers is the Wisdom layer, or layer of personality. And in my reflections of this, I have been struck with the potential connection this has with modern understandings of how the mind works.
Modern Neuroscience describes something in our brain called the “Default mode Network”. When our mind wanders where does it go? Usually down well trodden paths and thoughts. The Default Mode allows up to daydream, remember and imagine. It is also often where we go when we are on “autopilot”, when we are not focused. It involves the amygdala, our emotion centre. It is said to the part of us that narates our lives. Over activity in this Default mode is associated with anxiety and depression. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to restore balance to the Default mode network, and switches on its opposite, the focus centre.
I’m curious about whether the ancient yogis where describing the Default Mode Network with Vijnanamaya Kosha. This kosha is the layer of our personality and habits. It holds the potential for wisdom, in both thoughts and actions, but is also obstructed by our less helpful thoughts and habits that have become part of our personality and ways of responding to the world.
For example, how do you talk to yourself - with kindness and compassion, or with harsh criticism? Ever do something wrong and call yourself an idiot without thinking? That's your Default network speaking.
Some habits, such as cleaning our teeth, are helpful. Others are helpful for a small part of our life and then become less so. Others are just not helpful at all.
Mindfulness meditation in formal and informal forms gives us a choice. Do we respond as we have always done? (the default mode) Or can we make a choice to respond in a way that reflects our greater values and intentions?
The key is practice. Every time we practice a new habit, we strengthen a part of the brain. Eventually, if we do this over and over our default settings can reflect a place of wisdom rather than habit.