Day Nineteen

DAY 19: AN INTERVIEW WITH Dan Siegel (part 1)

The Power of mindfulness to support a healthy brain

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Video Objectives

In this video you’ll learn:

  • What is presence and how can being more present benefit us?
  • The science supporting the power of presence to transform our biology (down to our DNA)
  • How being more present can slow the ageing process!
  • What is an integrated brain?
  • Why you want to support your brain to become more integrated and how to do it
  • What is the default mode network of the brain and why it matters for our mental health
  • How major and minor trauma effects our brain and what we can do to recover
About Dan Siegel

*click play to listen to the meditation

ABOUT Calm in the city

Calm in the City is a not-for-profit venture which listens and engages with the city communities to bring calm into the heart of the city. It offers Free weekly meditations at Federation Square in Melbourne every Thursday, 8-8.30am, The


When I first began meditating it took time for me to feel comfortable tuning in to the sensations in my body. In fact it wasn’t until I discovered some fascinating neuroscience about a few crucial brain circuits, that the purpose of the body scan and this practice of tuning in to the senses started to ‘make sense’.

The research describes two different brain circuits that lead to different ways of experiencing our lives, each determined by where we are focusing our attention. If we understand these circuits we can learn how to use them to our advantage.

The first brain circuit is called the ‘default mode network’, and is associated with thoughts about ourselves – the story of ‘me’. The default circuit often gets us lost in thoughts about the future, worrying about how we’re going to get things done, and analysing and judging ourselves along the way. It is activated when we are in daydream mode and not focused on anything in particular.

The second brain circuit is called the ‘direct experience network’, and this one is active when we are doing something focused and goal-driven. It’s the brain circuit that is activated when you are experiencing reality directly through your body and senses. This ‘direct experience’ circuit lets you taste the flavours of the meal you’re eating and taste your wine when you're out for dinner, without thinking about what you need to do tomorrow. Rather than narrating, analysing and evaluating the experience, by coming back to the body you are shifting your attention away from thoughts and back to a direct experience of your reality.

Scientists have discovered that these two circuits operate like an accelerator and brake on a car: they can’t be activated at the same time.

Both the ‘default mode’ and ‘direct experience’ circuits play a role in helping us make sense of our lives. We need the direct circuit to help us absorb the world around us, but we need the default circuit to help us create a sense of our identity and life story. However, research has shown that too much activity in the default circuit is associated with excessive self-absorbed thinking, depression and anxiety. 

Mindfulness strengthens our capacity to know which brain circuit is active from moment to moment, and to become better at consciously switching from one to the other. Through regular mindfulness practice we strengthen the ‘direct’ experience circuits and improve our ability to get out of our heads and into our bodies – a valuable skill, especially when our thoughts are adding to our stress.

So today as you practice the guest body scan above, keep in mind that you are strengthening this capacity to know when you are in the default mode and when you are in the direct experience mode and choose which one serves you best at any given moment.

Share what your biggest takeaway from today's interview in the Facebook group or on instagram. 

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