So an obvious question is: If there is significant scientific evidence as to the Oneness of all life, then why is it so hard to feel it. Recent neuroscientific research suggests that a network in the mind called the ‘default mode network’ (DMN) may play a significant role. The DMN is a large network of interacting brain regions whose activity is correlated. It is thought to be MOST active when a person is NOT focused on a task (I will come back to this), and is thinking about relationships with others, remembering the past or planning for the future, and in general creating a narrative about themselves that appears as a stable and separate self. Some researchers have suggested it is the seat of the ego.
There is evidence that a ‘default mode network’ (DMN) also exists, at least to some degree, in other animals. So one would think that it is an evolutionary adaptation that began many thousands, or even millions, of years ago. What the DMN appears to do—maintaining our mental state as a separate ‘self’, and maintaining a somewhat constant social dialogue as to the past and the future within our social group or tribe—would have had significant survival and reproductive advantages for our ancestors in the past. And it would be a powerful mental construct.
But today, existence is very different for modern humans, at least for those in the western world. Many of us no longer struggle with sustaining life, but with finding meaning to life. In many cases, this is by attempting to connect with the Oneness. However, the DMN appears to hinder that effort. So a reduction or deactivation of its effect could possibly offer positive benefits. In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal by Michael Pollan, he described clinical trial research on the effect of psychedelics on the minds of volunteers suffering from addiction and depression.
Their DMN became significantly less active and their experience was “described as the dissolution of one’s ego followed by a merging of the self with nature or the universe”. The DMN has also been noticed to be deactivated in certain goal-oriented tasks, and what I would call practices. It is thought that when one focuses intently on a particular task or practice, the DMN ceases its dominating role. It is no longer what one neuroscientist in Pollan’s article called–”the orchestra conductor”. Perhaps this is what takes place in experiences that most all of us have had that are called being in the flow state, or in the zone, or in the pocket. Or what I would call forming a coherent connection to the pulse and vibrations of life and the universe.
So that brings us back to the question posed at the start of this section. Why is it so hard to feel connected to the Oneness? The answer seems to be that our brains/minds and the DMN (default mode network) have evolved to feel disconnected, to feel a separate self, to focus not so much on the present, but on the past and the future. One way to go offline from that part of the mind and to feel connected in the present is to fully engage in a task or practice.
LivingPulse exists to facilitate those practices.