Mindfulness: Being in the Here and Now

What can meditation do to our body?

Neuroscientist, Ken Mogi, talks about how ‘being in the here and now’ can enhance one’s sense of ikigai.

Finding inner balance

Ken: So Ikigai is very much in the air these days, and I’m going to describe the Five Pillars of Ikigai, according to my book. The first pillar is ‘being in the here and now.’ Maybe you’ve heard about mindfulness, this is a very important piece of Japanese philosophy that is becoming popular nowadays.

And it has very much to do with Zen meditation. It’s a very important part of Japanese philosophy of life. There’s a famous temple in Kyoto. This is non other than Queen Elizabeth, she made a visit to the Ryoanji temple from a visit she made to Japan, and she really appreciated this temple.

This greatly traditional Zen meditation is very much carried forth at Eiheiji temple in Fukui. If you go there, you would meet this Zen priest. This is somebody who carried the torch to North America, Kobun Otogawa.

He was famously the mentor of Steve Jobs, and Kobu Otogawa actually was the master of ceremony at Steve Job’s wedding. Anyway, back to Eiheiji temple in Fukui, so this is not a cinema, this is real-life, this is what you get when you go to Eiheiji temple. If Nick becomes a Buddhist priest, he can do that always, he would be exposed to this kind of this training scheme.

It’s quite interesting, you know, I’m a neuroscientist, I study the brain, it is found that when you meditate, that so-called default mode network is activated. There are many functions of the default mode network.

But in a nutshell, the default mode network is activated when the brain goes into that relaxing mode, when the brain starts mind wandering, when you have daydreams. It will sort out your memory system and also DMN will reduce your stress level.

It is known that walking can also activate the default mode network in your brain. So you don’t have to be a Buddhist priest. Of course, the Buddhist priest would carry things to extreme sometimes.

One thing is what they call 1,000 days circling the mountains, Sennichi Kaihogyo. And in this ritual, the priest go on a hike in the night mountain for 40kms or so, and for 1,000 days. And this is considered to be one of the most difficult training to achieve as a Buddhist priest.

But you don’t really have to do that extreme thing. You can just take a walk, casual walk. And in Buddhism, there’s a thing called Walking Zen Meditation. The idea is that, just by walking, you can practise Zen meditation.

So this is something you could probably try, you know, when you walk around the Australian bush or European forest. Anyway, related to this, the shinrin-yoku, forest bathing, is very much popular nowadays. This idea that by taking a walk in the forest, you can activate your default mode network in the brain, and then many other health benefits.

This idea that you immerse in a certain environment, comes from, example, this idea about Onsen hotspring. If you have been to Japan, Onsen hotsprings are very popular. Even monkeys enjoy Onsen hotspring. This is not a film, again, this is real.

This is what actually happens in some mountain areas in Japan. So monkeys know how to meditate in the hotspring. So in a nutshell, being in the here in now helps you build an inner balance, and this is really an important part of ikigai.