A Guest Post by
Browser tabs are great. Emails, tweets and feeds update so you can switch tabs and see what it is. But what happens when you switch in the middle of a juicy post, mindmap or other creative jaunt? You break continuity at the mercy of an insatiable beast. And breaking continuity can spell disaster for your output.
Ideas are ephemeral. The act of putting them down is a way of preserving them. The mind already computes at high speed and distraction is just too easy. I often wish I didn’t know about ALT-TAB (I’m a PC) which easily switches this in-progress Google doc to that third-party app which just dinged!
After all, it’s the real-time web and it HAS to be important.
What was I saying?
Ideas and the Mind
Fortunately the mind can be harnessed. In fact its real power becomes available only when it is. Why? Because the mind is layered and each layer has its own fluctuation. To get to the layer where ideas are generated, surface fluctuations have to be stilled.
Say you’re a diver and your favorite body of water is very turbulent one day, so you don’t go in. On another day conditions are perfect and you dive. When you do, you find treasures that couldn’t be seen from the surface.
The mind’s fluctuations are called brainwaves. There are four basic brainwaves: beta, alpha, theta and delta, each with its specific cycles per second. Brain states are a combination of these with one or two emphasized depending on the state.
Delta is sleep, but also the deep unconscious (darkest ocean depths). Theta is serene, meditative awareness (depths sunlight penetrates). Alpha is relaxation and comfort (floating atop gentle currents). And beta is conscious functioning in the world (driving to the ocean).
Some ocean creatures that live where sunlight doesn’t reach have bioluminescence which is a wonder to see. The unconscious (delta) may be dark but it stores treasures. In theta we access some of that, and all our creativity. Alpha relates to fantasy and visualization. Beta is logical thinking, problem solving and external attention.
Trouble with beta is that too much of it leads to a churning of unfocused thoughts. And without alpha there isn’t creative recall, for alpha is the bridge from reflection to output.
Single-tasking is actually a form of reflection. The reflective mind is concentrated and unified, making use of logical processes and intuitive ones. To produce anything, everything has to move in the single direction of that thing. Multitasking is like being a jack of all trades, but master of none.
Flowing with Ideas
An idea won’t reach fruition unless you engage the “reflecting pool.” You may not even craft the idea at all. For example, “attentional-blink” happens when two pieces of information are given in rapid succession and the brain doesn’t process the second one because it’s still thinking of the first. You have to flow with an idea and follow it.
The reflective mind is a flow state, which can also erect a dam so an idea can concretize. Often reflection takes place best at times other than the moment of creation. In fact, it’s way of life, an orientation. Your accumulated reflections establish a resource from which you draw at the time of production. There’s in-the-moment reflection too, but without a cultivated well this dries up fast.
Inner and outer stillness engenders reflection, and dipping daily into an alpha-theta state solidifies it. Really good ideas are submerged. The inmost layers of the mind will gladly let them surface but you have to be present. If you’re gasping for oxygen in the infostream, you can’t be present.
There are some apps below to ‘force’ reflection and one-pointedness, but in the end this is an internal discipline that must be developed. Interiorizing the mind is where ideas are watered. Here are some ways to do so:
- Look into the distance
- Look at nature or a cityscape
- Watch the sky or sunrise/sunset
- Watch and/or listen to water
- Look at inspirational images
- Turn on a fountain
- Use a rain stick back and forth
- Play a drum with a steady beat
- Read wisdom literature
- Learn breathing and relaxation techniques
- Learn meditation
I’ll be monitoring this space so please use comments to give your input and ask questions so we can dive deeper together.
Thanks, Pamir! I’m going to take my time exploring those tools!
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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