In cognitive science, you’ll come across discussions of the two modes of neural activity, focused and scattered. In focused you’re working with a relatively small set of related chunks of information, for example solving a problem. In scattered your brain is ping-ponging around seemingly unrelated pieces of information and making neural connections between them, dreaming would be one example of this.
In meditation, you’ll come across types of meditation that are geared towards focusing your mind, and those that specifically strive to unfocus your mind. This isn’t coincidental, the meditation is targeting one or the other cognitive state.
Coding From Home
Today I was working on a piece of code for work and getting inexplicably agitated. Getting agitated itself isn’t inexplicable, but usually, I can identify the source. Maybe I’m stuck on finding a solution, or there’s a deadline or some outside distraction in my life. The point is I can usually identify the source of the agitation and that helps me accept or address it. Today was different, it was just a feeling of discord and agitation that I could not shake.
Suddenly, I knew exactly what it was. My significant other was meditating in an adjacent room and was listening to gentle audio geared towards unfocusing the mind. The sound was only barely reaching me, but it was perceivable… and it was working. The agitation I was experiencing was my focus being relentlessly eroded by the audio. It wasn’t loud or aggressive, it was just dulling the edge of my focus and my mind was basically trying to reconcile it. As I said, I work from home, so am just one citizen of a shared space, and not wanting to ask them to disrupt their perfectly considerate behavior, I took a break, and let their meditation finish. When the audio ended I then went back to the code. Bingo, the agitation was entirely gone.
Dang, that was effective audio!