Have you ever been somewhere when a family member or a friend gently nudges you saying, “hey, you look like you’re a million miles away.” It’d be true. We’ve all had those moments, I’m sure. Our minds go somewhere—nowhere, at times, it seems.
You’re “spaced out” some may say. Although, a more candid term might be “zoned out.” We might still raise a brow. But perhaps there’s nothing wrong with being zoned out every now and then. It may just be of some value.
A Bit of Deep Thinking
Most of us can identify with the experience. We’re doing something and then, unexpectedly, for a few moments, we disappear. When we re-enter the world, we’re not quite sure what happened. Our minds were largely blank, at the time, absent of thought. Our eyes may not glaze over or do anything so dramatic. Still, where do we go?
It’s almost surreal at times. Sometimes, the sensation is best described as a mental version of white noise. We’re no longer conscious of words or any distinct language whatsoever. I dare say we’re drawn inward. Are we just “staring into the distance” or “staring into space,” two common descriptions of the tendency?
In this instance, I think we’re going to other places, perhaps even darker ones. Maybe we’re more deeply thinking about something. The thoughts we have roaming around in our heads require us to disengage for a few moments with the rough and tumble world. Something may be on our minds and is manifested as stray abstracted thoughts.
Maybe it’s not so uncommon. Researchers have discovered that we do indeed spend part of our lives “offline,” so to speak—13 percent of the time, in fact. Given our overall secure way of life, it’s possible to take a break from life for a spell. After all, there are few lurking dangers to assail us while we’re incommunicado.
How About Some Meditation?
By zoning out, might it pave the way to a meditative state? Most wouldn’t necessarily choose to think of meditating as “zoning out,” per se. Still, it’s simply a matter of saying that, much like in meditation, zoning out involves a degree of dissociating. With meditation, it’s termed “clearing your mind.” So, in either case we’re again going “offline” for a while. Maybe it’s just a matter of taking the same path, but reaching slightly different destinations.
While there are various types of meditation, the one many of us would most likely enter unthinkingly tends to be of the more basic type. Our minds aren’t really wandering from thought to thought. It’s just paused and as in meditation, directed towards an object in front of us or in our minds.
As a form of meditation, we derive an array of benefits. These include everything from improving both our focus, as well as our immunity. Physiologically, we also change. Our hearts and breathing slow and our level of stress diminishes. By doing so, our health benefits and we may witness improvement in things such as a lowered level of anxiety or a reduction in things like sleep disorders or pain. Zoning out in a manner that leads to a meditative state clearly has its merits.
Also, aren’t we often told of the importance of being present? Maybe part of zoning out is about being present. For instance, when we zone out, we’re very much “there.” In other words, the notion of what will happen in our future and the concept of the past is virtually non-existent in our mind. In this respects, we’re again benefitting from being zoned out.
I laugh, thinking of how, in a kinder and gentler manner, when we’re zoning out, we’d be commended for actually being present. That’s a lot better then some quip suggesting we, “Come back to Earth.” And don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with allowing our minds to wander about things done in the past or those planned for the future. It’s just not a good place to dwell too long.
A Creative Expression
Ongoing research is examining the changes in our brains that occur when we’re half asleep and the effect on our creativity. Undisturbed by the majority of external stimuli, we’re able to journey down pathways often untrod when we’re thinking too much.
Might this also happen while we’re wide awake? Possibly when we’ve just zoned out. And when we do, some actually go to a place somewhat more constructive. Many value the moments they zone out as opportunities to develop ideas for writing, or no doubt, for some other creative expression.
All this leads one to wonder, does zoning out offer a way to get “in the zone” where our energy, skill, and creativity are highly focussed? Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s led to its own share of delightfully unexpected discoveries and brilliant creations.
Zoning Out On the Run
At other times, we zone out when performing some repetitive action such as running, biking or walking. When we’re casually walking or biking, our minds may begin to dissociate. A part of our brains no doubt always remain alert for changes in our surroundings. The idea is not to become oblivious of what’s going on around us. But on an easy trail, we often disappear and zone out.
Much of the time, we closely attend to our breathing—inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. We do so intently and I’m sure many would agree, in such cases, we almost do enter another realm of our minds. If we are dissociated, very intensely centring our attention, is this the groundwork needed to get “in the zone”? So, ultimately, zoning out might just be one of the stepping stones towards reaching a place where time disappears and highly focussed, we’re at one with what we’re doing.
Worth Our Time
In any case, we must value the time we’re able to spend offline. We have to admit, one of its virtues is the opportunity to take a break from the goings on of life. In this instance, it may be our bodies that are taking the lead and checking us out for a moment. Take a break and zone out for a while.
At other times, zoning out takes us to other places where we hone in on some goal, be it in writing, running, or some other activity. We’re comfortably in the zone where different rules apply. There, our accomplishments seem to have been granted by divine authority alone.
So, every now and then, we zone out. Still, it’s never all for naught, for every now and then, we may get a much needed break. Alternatively, with our hearts and minds focussed, we may land up “in the zone,” laying the cornerstone for some master work.
Cherry, Kendra 2022 “What is Meditation?” https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-meditation-2795927
Warriner, Katie 2023 “How to get in the zone and stay there” https://www.headspace.com/articles/stay-in-the-zone
Sharma, Swarnakshi 2022 “‘Why Do I Zone Out So Much?’ | How To Stop Zoning Out” https://www.calmsage.com/why-do-i-zone-out-so-much-how-to-stop/
Frazier, Matt 2023 “The Simple Art of Meditating While You Run” https://www.nomeatathlete.com/how-to-meditate-while-you-run/