Combat DMN

There are better ways to combat the Default Mode Network than a social media feed:

  • Meditation: Mindfulness and other types of meditation create a focused state of mind that can mute or lower DMN.
  • Chanting: repetitive phrases or mantras quiet the mind. Chanting can create a meditative state, even in non-meditators.
  • Yoga: concentrating on the physical movement and breathing can quell the DMN. A daily practice of yoga can change our mind as well as our body.
  • Candle flame: Staring at campfires has an effect on humans and may have been the beginning of meditation. Flickering light reacts with our brains in such a way as to calm us.
  • Rhythmic breathing exercises lead to calm and meditative introspection.
  • Choose your medicine. :-)

    I have observed that regularity is more important than duration – meditating or doing yoga every day, even if one is doing only ten minutes at a time, seems to accomplish more than doing an hour once a week. While there is clearly a benefit to an hour long duration, because it creates more depth, if it only happens occasionally it would have less of an impact. I just now did a quick search about this thought and found this:

    So what is the optimal amount? Well, science is still working that equation out. Many of the recent findings seem to be pointing at frequency rather than duration. So for example, 10 minutes a day, every day of the week, is likely to be far more beneficial than 70 minutes on one day of the week.

    It would have been nice fo find a few links to the science, but perhaps I’ll dive a little deeper into this some other day.

    I find that positive DMN comments can be just as bad as negative ones. Here is an example:
    If I play something awful during a performance a snarky comment from my DMN will not improve my playing. It will further disrupt the flow of the music. If, on the other hand, I play something very cool and beautiful and allow my DMN to praise me, the same thing happens: a disruption of the flow of music. As a result the next phrases I play might be awful BECAUSE I allowed the DMN to comment on the beauty of the preceding notes. In other words allowing the DMN to comment on a work in progress may result in a disruption of the flow, regardless of whether the comment is negative or positive.

    I am sure athletes observe the same disruptive effect.

Default Mode Network meets Notifications

Last week I was thinking about what an unhappy combination the Default Mode Network and Smartphone Notifications make.

Default Mode Network (wikipedia entry) is the constant chatter in our heads. Two minute long video explanation.

When we are not actively engaged in a task we… – Sam’s Garden

When we are not actively engaged in a task we switch to the Default Mode Network of the brain the thinking which arises is discursive (jumping from subject to subject), autobiographical and though occasionally touching on pleasant subjects, eventually highlighting our shortcomings and failures and making us unhappy and anxious regardless of our actual circumstances.

It’s automatic, pre-programmed behavior in human beings.

I think DMN may be one reason why people get so addicted to their social media feeds. They are fighting the voice of their DMN with the fire of constant notifications. Anything to make the internal voice stop. Doom-scrolling, notifications for everything, alerts and alarms all day long, just to avoid the internal voice.

Perhaps app designers read books about neuroscience and know very well that people WANT something to take their attention away from the internal dialog. They know how to get our attention and how to keep it.

Thousands of years ago the DMN was extremely useful because people had time on their hands. They might have been busy during the day but nights were long without lamps and electric lights, without TV or computer or even books. One could spend part of a night staring into a fire (the beginning of meditation?) and one still had lots of time for sleep, especially in winter. The same rumination that drove humanity forward for thousands of years, now makes us unhappy because our lives have changed.

vision 2020 (full version)

The full version of the album vision 2020 is now available on Bandcamp in HD quality – 24/88.2kHz.


(this is from 2019… the word was Camera and I had 25′ to write something… this was the result)

In a world of digital photography she had to turn back to analog picture making. Why do I always do this to myself, she wondered, but Afnan knew that she loved the process she had developed. The word camera comes from the latin word for room and one day she decided to give visual meaning to the life of rooms. When ideas such as that one occurred to her, the rest of the world stood still, at least for a while. Afnan’s boyfriend complained bitterly of being ignored, while she researched how to make her own light sensitive paper. She explained her idea to him like this:

Our eyes only see the present moment. We might be able to see traces of the past, for example in the footsteps that remain for a time in mud, but eyes see the now and it’s the brain that fills in the history. Long exposures, especially at night, can show more than a moment. Take cars driving in the dark with their lights on: the lights become lines and show the history, the lines represent time expired. What I want to show is the traces people leave in a room, over time. For that I need to build a box, a camera, that lets only a small amount of light through to the light sensitive paper, so I can make exposures of hours or days, or weeks or even years. If a woman in a red dress walks around the room several times, will that show on the photograph or will it get swallowed by the image of the room.

He understood her idea and even offered to help her build the camera, using his expertise as woodworker, but mainly he just wanted more attention from her. On one hand he was proud of her for getting so deeply into her ideas, for pursuing them so doggedly. On the other hand it took up so much of her time.

I could try to talk to a boutique hotel, she mused, and see whether they would let me install my camera into a room. But wouldn’t that mean spying on people, he asked. Afnan shook her head vigorously, I really don’t think so. I don’t think anything would appear very material… perhaps if a loon decided to sit in one position for a long time… like for several days at least, then he might appear in the photograph as a shadowy outline. He laughed, that could actually be an art piece within an art piece. Performance art inside a photograph. Maybe I should do that, then you might pay more attention to me. I love the idea, said Afna, and put her hand on his arm.

Robby Rothschild, the album

Singing songs of his own making, and accompanying them with instruments such as the West African kora, guitar, and percussion, Robby draws from the dual wells of tradition and personal expression. Known for his work with the duo Round Mountain and his recent touring as percussionist for Kip Winger and Ottmar Liebert, Robby’s solo work represents a furthering of his search into musical wilderness.

Robby Rothschild

Our friend Robby has made an album and the above link will take you to its Bandcamp page. Robby toured with Jon and me in Florida last January, and in California in February. It feels like ages ago. We had such a good time performing together and were looking forward to more of that… hopefully we can pick up where we left off later this year.

Even if you haven’t seen us perform together you have listened to him play, because Robby played percussion on a bunch of my albums: Dune, Bare Wood, Waiting n Swan, Fete, and the upcoming vision 2020 (full version).

Go check out his music. Robby has a great voice and his words are poetry. He played most of the instruments himself, but you may hear Jon Gagan’s upright here and there and I made a brief appearance towards the end. Can you come up with a little tremolo line, he asked, and I was happy to oblige.

Here is the link to the album Robby Rothschild on Bandcamp.