Lama Tsomo helps us understand what to do with our wandering “puppy” minds while meditating, but what about the mind-wandering that occurs in our everyday lives?
In a recent conversation with Lama Tsomo, Dr. Richard Davidson, neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, talks about how understanding the wandering mind can increase creativity.
"Many people report that they get creative insights in periods of mind-wandering. My students tell me that often when I talk about this subject. We all spend so much time focused on exterior events, the exterior world. We get lost in all of our digital devices. We pay very little attention to our own mind. We spend very little time hanging out with our mind. And so, we sort of hijack whatever opportunities we have, and our mind-wandering comes out. Human minds wander. This is the nature of our minds. And because we're so externally focused, we experience it as mind-wandering because it’s happening while we're doing other things.
So what if we actually sat and paid attention to our minds? What if we observed our minds, interrogated our minds, and were curious about our minds? One of the things I say to my graduate students is, ‘How much time do you build into your week to just sit and observe the thoughts in your mind? Because you probably have some wonderfully creative thoughts, most of which you're not remembering because you're so busy doing other stuff.’
So yes, it's true that we have these creative insights when our minds wander. But the invitation is that we all may actually have more creative thoughts if we simply paid more attention to what's going on upstairs. And so rather than having the mind-wandering intrude into other things that we're doing, if we actually built in opportunities to become more familiar with the basic nature of our mind, it may be that we'd actually remember more of these creative thoughts and be able to harness them."