ARTISTIC COMA

When I left off last time, I said we would be going for a walk. Well, it ended up a week of shovelling snow. And then another week. Got a hunch it could last a long time. So can’t wait any longer for that walk.

As your ability to meditate grows, you will be able to induce what is called “the artistic coma”. Which starts with taking a walk until you are mildly tired. As you walk mull over the IDEA (project) you want to meditate on. Don’t try to figure out what shape it will take or what means you will use to get this or that effect. (If need be, read my previous blog on meditation).

NOW – on arrival back home take a bath or shower – still thinking of your project in a desultory way. NEXT – dry and warm, go into a dim room, sit in a low comfortable chair and quiet your mind. Stay there, not quite asleep, not quite awake. This state is beyond all thinking and feeling. It’s timeless and spaceless. You could be there 20 minutes or maybe an hour or two.

HOWEVER – at some point you will feel a definite impulse to rise. OBEY it at once. You will be in a kind of somnambulistic state, indifferent to anything but your project. GO straight to work on your project. The state you are in is where artists work. Some call it their “no self”.
AUTHOR AGREES- William Faulkner: “and when I put down what the voices say, it’s right. I don’t always like what they say, but I don’t try to change it.”

KEEP PRACTISING

By practicing this Artistic Coma exercise, which develops your ability to bring on this deep state, you can make yourself a good instrument for the use of your own genius. Scientific study has shown that during meditation, the body goes into a physiologically unique state unlike any of the other three known states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, dreaming).

HUNCHES

Also meditate on your hunches. Good things could be in store. Be you call it a hunch or your sixth sense, write them all down or they will escape you. Use a small notepad that you can carry with you at all times. Make use of them by reviewing them just before going to sleep at night. In the morning, enjoying your drowsy reverie, review them again. Who knows what they may tell you. Could be you will win the lottery.

Psychologist, Timothy D. Wilson writes in his book, Strangers to Ourselves, “The mind operates most efficiently by delegating a good deal of high-level sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jetliner is able to fly on automatic pilot with little or no input from the human “conscious” pilot. The adaptive unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner.”

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SOCRATES – KNOW THYSELF

That wise Greek philosopher knew what he was talking about. When you know as much about your inner self as you know about the car you drive, you know that what some call MIRACLES are really the power within you.

EDIT YOUR BRAIN – DEVELOPE MIND CONTROL – WHERE TO START? – Do the things that bring you joy – the things you want to spend your time on. If you keep jumping from one thing to another – thus not getting anything done to the best of your ability – your plastic brain will have no idea of what you really want. According to scientific research, your brain does not like multi-tasking. So give your brain a break by offering it powerful stick-to-it directions.

A REMINDER – You know how it is when you go in search of something, and then wonder why you are, say, down the basement without a clue why you are there. It is because you have muddled your brain with a dozen other thoughts.

THOSE ‘MIRACLES’ – ARE YOUR OWN ‘SUPERSENSE’

Make whatever your aim is KEY. To do that, both SOLITUDE and SECLUSION are important. Let your brain have both to perform without interruption. Keep family and friends at bey. In other words, plan your work time so your brain is allowed full freedom, does not have to continually back track and thus allows you to concentrate – reach your inner self.

There are a few who work under noisy pressure- the deep concentrators who have learned to tune out all distractions. Deep concentration can blot out the TV, the phone, even your yowling cat. More on that a little later.

Edison is a good example of seclusion and solitude working when he was a telegrapher in a lonely mountain town. “I became aware of messages or directions coming to mind as I sat there through the long nights and began the work I was directed to do.” He believed that under these conditions he was the instrument of a Supreme Intelligence necessary to carry on the work he never would have accomplished on his own, saying his schooling was meagre and he knew nothing of electrical or mechanical science.

Today we know much more about the power of our minds – that what Edison called the Supreme Intelligence is your marvelous plastic brain – capable of miracles if allowed the proper conditions for deep concentration. Deep concentration puts your everyday mechanical thoughts into abeyance, allowing you to perform at the Superconscious level. Everyone has this illimitable resource – this vast storehouse of information. **SEE MY two BLOGS ON CONCENTRATION, Jan. 30 and Feb.11, 2018.

Eliminating negative experiences is necessary in developing your “Supersense”. Anger, for example, is negative and can take you down a steep hill. One way to unlock your negatives and open up the positives is to meditate.

MEDITATION – A PRIMARY TOOL – One medieval mystic called meditation “a oneing exercise” because it makes us whole. Some call it boring. However, it is the power that refreshes and can make the quantum leap from intellectual knowledge to creativity. So try it again – or start it now – once a day for one week. Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet place. Close your eyes with the idea of holding your mind still without forcing it. If you begin to get results make the period a little longer but do not strain the mind.

Some meditators choose a small object (nothing flashy) say a ball of a flower. Hold it in your hand and confine your attention to it. Just it. If you find yourself thinking, call your mind back to the object. It is essential not to think intellectually. When you are able to think of (say the flower) and nothing else for a few seconds, take the next step. Close your eyes again but go on looking at the flower, thinking of nothing else. Then see if you can let even the flower slip away to reach what might be called total relaxation and mindlessness.

When you succeed, even a little, try holding a creative idea you want to work on(book, invention) in your mind. This will take practice. Successes may be slow, but eventually you will see incredible results. Ideas you held intellectually, and rather unconsciously, will begin to take on color and shape. A reminder – the desire to succeed at anything must be deep within you before you begin to scratch even the surface of success.

As your ability to meditate grows you will be able to induce what has been called “the artistic coma” which I will deal with in my next blog. Here your meditation begins with taking a walk. What could be nicer than that! We will also discuss hunches. Never disregard a hunch – keep all hunches in a small notebook that you have with you at all times.



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LET’S TALK TURKEY, TOMATOES, AND YOUR BRAIN

YOU AND YOUR FLAVOR BUDDIES

Did you enjoy your turkey dinner – or  does the taste of turkey turn you off? There’s a reason. Brain scientists are researching everything these days, including flavor, so what better time to discuss it than the holiday season when the flavor of many holiday dishes are up for grabs.

Every one of our five senses – taste, smell, touch, sound, smell, sight – contribute to the way we perceive flavor which takes up more than its share of our powerful brain.  Most scientists agree smell is the ‘big guy’ when it comes to flavor – some saying as high as 90 %. In other words, when it comes to taste we are led by our nose. Other scientists argue the point.  For example, Gary Beauchamp, Monell Chemical Center’s longtime director, says olfaction is very important but the idea it contributes anywhere near even 70% “is bullshit”. 

Olfactory research is highly complicated, so we’ll leave that smelly debate alone. 

When odor information enters, it goes directly to ancient parts of our brain responsible for emotion and memory. Thus, every person on our twirling planet lives in his/her unique flavor world- dependent on genetic endowment, upbringing, the culture in which he lives and his later food experiences.

When it comes to upbringing, we know that every individual has personal dislikes – many kids “hate broccoli” – as did mine, along with wheatgerm and molasses. One sister hated salad dressing, another sister hated our grandmother’s jellied meat.  I did, too. Both the feel (texture) and sight of the jellied meat seemed disgusting and I decided it would never enter  my belly.  I have no idea how it smelled.

Many tasters are far more picky – nothing too sweet, too hot, too spicy, too fatty, shall enter their bodies.  Food experiences told them what they liked – and that’s what they stick with. However, Danielle Reed of the Monell Center says we can quickly learn to find pleasure in flavors – even ones we initially find repulsive – provided they are paired with attractive rewards – like having a bitter beer with a lover or lovable friend.  I’ll drink to that. 

SO ABOUT THOSE TOMATOES – One of my food ‘pains’ are tasteless store bought tomatoes.  Thus I was happy to come upon Bob Holmes book,TASTE.   He includes a whole chapter (25 pages) on The Killer Tomato and tells us that at the University of Florida in Gainsville, horticulturist Harry Klee is doing something about this tasteless abortive.  “He knows what’s wrong” and knows how to fix it without you “having to pay a fortune for it.”

Apparently our poor tomato has been on a terrible diet – is starving to death!  It is mostly filled with water. It craves sugar but that is too costly to provide. It is picked too green, so the now poor pink thing, along with other tasteless fruits and vegetables, has to travel thousands of miles to get to your grocer.

Klee set up a test-tasting panel, most liking the sweetest tomato, and in his experiments over the years found that the richness of volatile odor compounds could make the brain “think sweet” though the sugar content of the tomato was less. Over and above our taste buds, the aroma molecules are there to defend the plant against predators. Volatiles, by the way, are the reason you should never put a tomato in the fridge.  Chilling turns off the enzymes that are making the volatiles and once off, they stay off. So your tomato is less sweet and less tomato.

In Chapter 7 on the Killer Tomato, Holmes covers a fascinating array of other fruits and vegetables – including the fact that some studies show organics are best, other studies say not so. Chapter 8 covers Cauliflower and much more. Oh yes, and if you are into hot peppers, Chapter 3 is The Pursuit of Pain. Some folks like to burn their mouths out, so he offers hot, hotter and HOT.

His Epilogue is The Future of Flavor- where he discusses food favorites, past and present.  “But exactly where we are going is anyone’s guess.”

One Chinese chef pointed out the day’s speciality was Chicken Noodle Soup – BUT it included Japanese udon noodles, Chinese cabbage, cilantro and scallions.  A far cry from the chicken soup mother used to make!

FLAVOR.  A tasty read. 

 

Continue reading

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EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.  ARISTOTLE

INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT vs EMOTIONAL QUOTIENT

“EQ  trumps IQ primarily in those soft domains where intellect is less relevant for success – where, for example, emotional self regulation and empathy may be more salient skills than purely cognitive abilities.”   Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, where he states emotional intelligence can matter more than IQ.

In my last blog I left you with the words As a Man Thinketh so he is, BUT as he thinketh, according to the latest brain research, depends on his emotional intelligence. What you think you will do is often not what you do.

NEED YOUR HELP – We often know what we should do but do no put this into practice. One reason is that knowing about something lives in a different part of the brain (neocortex) than the doing of something (limbic region).  The emotional limbic brain learns through doing. Therefore, in order to turn good intentions into habits of behavior we need to put them into practice through rehearsal and physical experience. Often, after developmental and inspirational training, we revert back to our old ways of feeling, thinking and behaving.

I am looking for more detailed information on EQ brain research.  Jolyon Maddocks has written a book, How to Make Change Stick (kindle edition), addressing the underlying attitudes that underpin a person’s thinking and feeling that then drive behavior and performance – based on the latest brain science.  I have not read her book – am not a Kindle user, so any feedback would be more than welcome – also the names of other books on EQ brain research.

 

 

 

 

would like feeback if you have read

 

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YOUR FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS

It is the mind that  maketh good or ill, that maketh wretch or happy, rich or poor  Edmund Spenser

IMAGINATION – The creative process does not end with an idea.  It’s what you do with the idea –  what you allow your IMAGINATION to do with the idea.  If you want it, you have to work at it.  If you fail, you go again. You don’t let doubt win. You let your imagination put your knowledge to work. Knowledge is far more powerful when creatively applied.

This morning I came across my copy of a small sized book with a huge impact, AS A MAN THINKETH, by  James Allen, and I decided to put it to work.

“Thought and character are one”, writes James as he explores the many ways thoughts lead to action. Men do not attract what they want, but what they are.” He insists upon the power of the individual to form his own character and create his own happiness.

LITERARY MYSTERY Because so little is known about him, Allen is considered a Literary Mystery – a quiet unrewarded genius – though he wrote 19 books.”Did he”, asked David Thoreau “hear a different drummer.”

Obviously, the “different drummer” was his imagination which he daily put to work. After an early morning wakeup, he walked to a nearby hillside and spent an hour in meditation – then returned home to spend his mornings writing. Afternoons  he gardened,  evenings he talked with those who were interested in his work.

He was born in Leicester, England, on November 28, but after his first book moved to the little resort town of Ilfracombe. In 1902, he decided to devote all of his time to writing – a career that lasted only nine years for he died in 1912.  In that short time he wrote those 19 books.  His first book, From Poverty to Power, was followed by As A Man Thinketh – which his wife had to persuade him to publish.  Luckily –  for it was the book that led him to us. He did not bother to copyright his books outside England.

His philosophy became possible when Protestantism discarded the dogma that man is sinful by nature – which William James called the greatest revolution of the 19th century. Allen’s work included Protestant liberalism as well as Buddhist thought.

CREATIVE ACT – Obviously, for Allen, writing was a creative act – the fuel for his imagination. Says Arnold Bennett about writing – it is “an indispensable part of any genuine effort towards mental efficiency.”  Allen was not “born” a writer.  His father’s murder resulted in a financial crisis, forcing Allen to leave school at age 15.  He eventually became an administrative assistant for several British manufacturers – that ending with his decision to write full time in 1902.

This time lapse is often the case of many famed writers – long years spent at other jobs before careers as writers.  Joseph Conrad sailed for 16 years before using his knowledge to become a novelist. Herman Melville was an obscure  customs official for 20 years. Until he was nearly 50,

Oliver Wendall Holmes was an unknown physician and professor. It was with his book, book, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, his fame began. Between then and his writing  the biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, his creativity never faltered.  In 1934 at age 42,

Henry Miller published his first book in Paris, which was finally published in 1961 in his native land. He tells of his adventures in Paris in the 1930’s in The Tropic of Cancer.  (Sorry, I do not have enough information about previous careers of famed female writers).

Put yourself in the shoes of such great authors. How did they keep going after many, many rejections? They were once beginners with only a belief in themselves and their imaginations to carry them forward.

So, we come back to Albert Einstein –  “Imagination is more important than knowledge” Yet always remembering that it is your knowledge that  must be put to work.

DON’T RUSH IT – If you wish for too much too soon, you may not make it. That first “AHA” may take a long time coming.  Repugnant though rejection slips are,  they are an important part of the learning process.

DREAMERS – Allen calls creators “dreamers” – saviors of the world.   Be you a composer, scientist,  sculptor, painter poet, prophet, sage – don’t allow your ideals to fade and die.  “The world is beautiful because they have lived, without them labouring humanity would perish.”

When it comes to art, ‘creativity’ is not a rarity.  Everybody is an original.  Everybody can design.  Rely on your artistic self (personality) to take over.  Whatever your career, writing is an indispensable part of mental efficiency.

In the Magic Power of your Mind, author Walter M. Germain reminds us that numerous personalities  dwell within each of us.  For instance,  Robert Louis Stevenson brought on duel personalities in Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Jekyll an honorable -physician, Hyde a loathsome criminal.

FOR FUN’S SAKE – and a very imaginative trip – how about writing a chapter (it can be very short) about a man/woman with multiple personalities, following through with who he/she becomes when the next personality takes over.  Who knows – you could have a best seller. Be that or not, you certainly will put your imagination to the test – get a glimpse of how much you didn’t know you knew.

Go ahead.  Try it – or some other fun writing (perhaps about a monster on your doorstep). .

When it comes to writing, Germain tells of a split personality case – way back in 1916 – a Mrs. John H. Curran (a middle class young woman with limited advantages) and her alter personality, Patience Worth ( author of many books plus volumes of poetry). Patience could apparently live in the century of her choice using the detailed storehouse of her “collective unconscious”. Potentially, within your brain (the mind) lies the power to make use of all your untapped resources.

Be sure to read all my back blogs on the IMAGINATION.  There is a great deal of information re its use.  Put your ‘thinketh’ to work.

YOUR FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought” is a Buddhist teaching. Influenced by Buddhism, James Allen’s biblical text asserts “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

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SLOW DOWN – AND GET WITH IT

LATELY, I have had far too much on my plate and thus have not had the necessary time for my blog.  As a result, in this short blog I discuss some of  the ways we waste time and I offer a few IDEAS to change that. Ultimately, of course, it’s up to you.  Waste not, want not.

EXTERNAL FORCES pressing on us also intrude upon our inner sanctum.  Morning arrives -Wake up, check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.  Crawl out of bed – grab food (hopefully), go to work, come home, feed kids, fall into bed, watch TV, Check e-mail, send e-mails. Finally drift off. Wake up and do same things all over again. Or add a few more. Chaos prevails – as we keep racing to catch up –  never completing any task to the best of our abilities. It’s called Riding a one-way train to burnout.

It’s never too late to PULL THAT PLUG and slow down. Which means your boundaries must be redrawn and your brain retrained. Retraining your brain will be tedious. Your brain loves to play with you – take the upper hand. But once your brain knows you’re in charge, it will cooperate, it will aid you with those boundaries, and it will help you slow down.

LEARNING TO RELAX is a major step in the right direction. Ask yourself – What are the ingredients I need to make me relax?  Only you know.  Let’s start with the bedroom.  Is it a place you want to be? If not, perhaps you need to mimic the indulgences of hotel living.  Put a hangar on the back of a door – hang a plush robe. Add two extra plush pillows for sitting up and reading. Add only the things YOU need to help you relax.

PATIENCE – Disconnecting from old patterns takes patience. Your brain will fight you.  It likes to do things its own way and takes every opportunity to do so.  To dwell peacefully, you must take the time to make your brain behave. Tutor it by making use of your imagination. I have posted several blogs on using your imagination. It can take you to great places – take your brain from thinking like a disjointed novel to that of  a simplified haiku.

This simplification includes simplifying the space around you (as in the bedroom). Carve out a personal retreat – a place to catch your breath.  A comfortable chair with adequate lighting for reading.  A  hanging plant – or a Palm  if you have the room.  Make use of the natural world around you –  the quiet majesty of a tree outside your window , the soothing mystery of white clouds floating overhead. Let the ephemeral quality of your surroundings engender a sense of ZEN – nonattachment.

Too much “STUFF” skitters our thoughts.

Now, hopefully, by following my own advice I will get my next blog off in reasonable time. In it I am going  back to imagination.  Especially in this day and age it is your most important asset.

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INTUITION NOW ON BOARD

YOUR DESTINY  I have spent a great deal of time on imagination – offering useful tips as part of a practical guide to the fulfillment of creativity.  But how you use the power of your malleable brain comes down to your CHOICES – meaning that you must have great faith in self (and others) to manifest your dream.  Do not confuse your brain,  Take the time to think through your CHOICRS – then follow through.

I am just the messenger offering the advice of many.

INTUITION  Some of the finest accomplishments are the interplay of intuition and imagination.  Intuition can happen immediately or after an incubation period where the mind rests. You suddenly “know” how to finish that book, that painting, that piece of music, that invention. For intuition to thrive, you must train your conscious mind to be subservient so it does not upset your sensitive subconscious by being opinionated and arrogant.

Intuition isn’t just luck.  It takes advantage of opportunities. It helps you see opportunity when others are blind to it. Intuition means different things to different creators.

  1. It is an immediate “knowing” without conscious use of reason.  The “aha” point.
  2. It is an aspect of mental power allowing you to contact the subconscious with ease.  Little used by most, it is what we call a hunch or a vibe.
  3. It is a spontaneous feeling of truth – another level of  seeing.  It is not a flight of fancy, but rounded in objective experience.  It is not mystical or occult.  Since the subconscious “knows everything”, the answer is synonymous with the question.

Intuition works best on a large bank of personal memory, garnered from experience and deposited in the unconscious. As a key to success, it is limited by interest, experience and schooling in your area of greatest focus and expertise. For instance, ask a mathematical prodigy the cube root of 21,952,000 and his answer is automatic.  No figuring it out.  The answer is apparent because he “sees” the UNIVERSAL LAW which automatically yields the answer.

YOUR CHOICE – Whatever your choice of the three above, they all reflect the difference between mere understanding and really knowing.  Your rational knowledge is elevated to a higher level.  A “high altitude overview”.  A musical prodigy is similarly intuitive.  In composing a symphony he also sees and grasps a UNIVERSAL LAW. (On the internet see “Searching for Universal Laws and Rules in Music”).

HUNCHES – To put your mind in a receptive condition – RELAX.  Let your body go limp and your mind will, too.  Now, concentrate on what you want and hunches will come.  Grab them.  Execute them as that little voice tells you to. Do not reason or argue. Do it! Intuition does a zigzag like lightening, instantaneously and unconsciously.  At this higher level of knowledge,  you FEEL it.

INTUITION HOW-TOS – Frances E. Vaughan points out in her book,  Awakening the Intuition, that intuition is really about learning to TRUST YOURSELF – trusting your subconscious to bring you aid from a higher level than you usually function on.  This level is where the artist’s magic lies. Psychologist Abraham Maslow refers to this kind of person as “self actualized”. He/she has passed beyond the need for confirmation from society – has contacted something more vital within, which nourishes even in the face of hostility or indifference of others.

Basically, intuition calls for getting your mind out of the way.  Says author Adele Rogers St. John re creating her fiction:  “My whole effort is to get myself out of the way and let something else take over.  When something takes over the story gets written in jig time and is far superior to anything I alone could do.”

THE LIMITLESS POWER OF CREATION FLOWS THROUGH ALL OF US. Intuition can be developed to produce “genius” in individuals even thought to be mediocre. The limitless power of creation flows in all of us.

“In subtle ways we tell the intuitive mind what we expect of it, and we get what we expect,” says Philip Goldberg in his book, The Intuitive Edge. “If we doubt its capacities or distrust its contributions, we make intuition, in effect, hesitant.  Its appearance will be erratic and its input ambiguous.”You don’t want that – so respond with enthusiasm, trust its capacities. Let your creativity thrive.”

INTUITION APPRECIATES HUMOR – including whimsy and absurdity. It responds to playfulness, likes to party – have fun.  Humor and intuition, says Goldberg, have in common wild, illogical leaps that can often be as practical as they are entertaining.  So  periodically invite your intuition (and imagination) to a party and send your conscious mechanical mind on a vacation.

Mark Twain’s characters used to talk to him.  He heard their dialogue spoken in his mind and simply wrote it down. He placed great reliance on his intuitive powers, he believed in hunches and always “listened to the voice”.

So, listen to the voice within you.  Take the time to develop the art of listening with your inner ear and inner mind  – take the the counsel that comes from your deeper self.

 

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IMAGINATION4

IMAGINATION 4 – INCLUDES BOTH THE USE OF IMAGERY AND MUSIC.

By doing a quick imaginary jaunt daily, you can vastly improve your imagination.  Peter Russell in The Brain Book offers some exercises to improve your imagination and your memory. In one exercise, you climb inside a petunia. What does it feel like to be inside? What does it feel like to be a petunia.  Pick any object yourself.  Feel it.  Smell it. Jump into it.  Take your own trip.

The power of fantasy provides us with resources of both sides of the brain.

Linda Verlee – Teaching for the Two Sided Mind – points out fantasizing is something everybody does, but few use it as a tool. It is also a great benefit in problem solving. Albert Einstein’s fantasy of himself riding a ray of light was important to his discovery of the Theory of Relativity. He made clear: “I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind.”

Says Verlee – Ask a student to think about a noun, and the answer comes from the left hemisphere.  Ask the student to become the noun, and the answer comes from the right. The fantasy from the right “is like watching a movie” except the student can manipulate his fantasy while he cannot manipulate the movie.”

Looking for a NEW YOU? Imagine a TV screen and you doing the things you want to do. Act as you would like to act. Experience it. Run this film over and over in your mind. As discussed in an earlier blog, REPETITION is a big key to success.

William James, in discussing the greatest discoveries of the 19the century: “The faculties of imagination and belief remain the least known and least used of all mental faculties – yet they are also the most powerful.”

MUSIC AND IMAGINATION – Musical activity is very powerful, involving nearly every region of the brain that we know about, and nearly every neural system – it is closely tied to your emotions – and anxieties.  The music involves structures deep in the primitive regions of the cerebellum vermis and the amygdala – the heart of the emotional processing in the cortex.

We all know how filmmakers use music to harness our emotions – that creepy music as an actress in fear of her life is wakened by the opening of a supposedly  locked door.  Or, on the other hand, how a baby is soothed by the singing of a lullaby. Or how a  love song can move us to weeping. Music manipulates our feelings. It ties into our motives, fears, desires, memories – and much more.

Some of your best ideas may come while you are listening to music – perhaps spurring an important memory or digging up a forgotten fact.  When the flash comes, jot it down immediately.

Music can throw your emotional drive into high gear. Aaron Copeland in Music and Imagination, published in 1952, explores the creative process and its relationship to the composition and performance of music – noting that music is an emotional and comparatively intangible substance.

Copeland says composers are not always clear as to the role criticism plays at the instant of creation.  “They don’t seem to be fully aware that each time that one note is followed by another note, or one chord by another chord, that a decision has been made.  They seem even less aware of the psychological and emotional connotations of their music” and discusses how important it is to be cognizant of even the smallest contributing factors to the piece (without allowing this to cramp your creativity.)

MUSIC A HUMAN OBSESSION

A marvellous overview of  music, including the chapter, What Makes a Musician, is the book, This Is Your Brain on Music, by neuroscientist, Daniel J. Levitin. Levitin runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, where he holds the Chair in the Psychology of Electronic Communication.  He argues and demonstrates that music is an obsession at the heart of human nature – perhaps even more fundamental than language.

LAST WORD ON IMAGINING  (neuroscience)

One of the reasons we can change our brain by imagining, says Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain that Changes Itself,  is that “imagining an act and doing it are not as different as they sound” When you close your eyes and visualize, the visual cortex lights up just as it would if you were actually looking at the subject. “Brain scans show that in action and imagination many of the same parts of the brain are activated.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMAGINATION3

As we launch into our third session on IMAGINATION, let’s start with Jane of Seth book fame who says: “imagination and emotions are the most concentrated forms of energy that you possess as physical creatures. Any strong emotion carries with it far more energy than, say, that required to send a rocket to the moon.”

Obviously, that plastic brain of yours has a lot of power.  In fact, Jack Cole came up with more than a plastic brain – using his imagination to create the comic strip Plastic Man – a super sleuth who could stretch out like a slingshot.  Cole’s friend, Alex Katzly says “Jack was a wild man mentally.  Anyone who knew him knew he had one of the wildest imaginations.”

Said Gil Fox, Coles editor at Quality Comics, “I’ve known them all and I have never seen a mind like his.”  Plastic Man could bend, stretch, flatten, twist, shrink, curl, tie himself into a sailor’s manual of knots, and disguise himself as a table lamp.

Sounds a lot like what our plastic brain is up to.  Especially if you don’t take control. Hold on tight or it will trap you – go in any direction it pleases. The fight or flight response starts in the brain whose information from the senses then enters the thalamus – a central hub for the brain – then hits the cortex where it is processed further.The information has also gone onto the amygdala – the part of the brain that is responsible for strong emotional processing and fear.  The hypothalamus is then signalled.  Neuroscientists – in several books – explain just how busy your plastic brain is.  And how imaginative.

BRAIN NOT A COMPUTER – MEMORIES

When it comes to memories, your brain is not a computer. It decides what it wants to do with the information it receives. Short term memory is not filed so you can find it because your brain is bombarded with information. It’s like when you go from the kitchen to the bedroom planning to get something and are distracted – you are  in the bedroom have no idea of why. That’s because your reason for going there was overridden by something you deemed more important.  You had too many things going on in your head with little time for your brain to record them.

You can insure some short term memory does end up in  long term by continually rehearsing information – like your telephone number. Practice can make perfect. Perhaps.

Long term memory is seemingly more gracious.  The link between two neurons (or more) is a synapse.  At this point in time, neuroscientists believe that synapses are where information is held.  The creation of long-term memories by forming synapses is called “encoding” – the process where memory is actually stored in the brain.  The whole process is very lengthy – far more than can be written here.  One good source is The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett who notes: “The memories retrieved by the brain are sometimes comparable to a hairball coughed up by a cat, the product of a lot of alarming internal mangling.”

TO CONFUSE YOU MORE  – There is strong evidence that nearly everything you experience is stored in in long term memory.  Somewhere.  Your plastic brain really is mind bending. Or quoting Burnett again:  “The brain is a terrifying complex tangle of connections and links, like a ball of Christmas tree lights the size of the known universe.” However, do  keep remembering your thoughts can change the structure and function of your brain – even in old age.

BACK TO IMAGINATION 

In our era, our culture being “realists” we have ignored fantasy or depreciated it.    Sigmund Freud sternly warned us to respect the “reality principle” and not be tricked by “illusion”.  But ask yourself, Isn’t “reality” in a sense “illusion?” Reality is only what any particular culture agrees it will be. Who knows what is “really real”? Science is not designed to investigate what is real , but to investigate that portion of reality for which its methods are appropriate.

Two psychologists, Roger Fretigny and Andre Virel of France believe imagination is not simply one faculty among many, but the “it” of faculties.  They believe that “it” occupies a central determinative role in the history of the psyche – believing we are just as conscious when we fantasize as at any other time.

“The imagination not only systemizes the materials of experience but takes apart both materials and systems to construct new configurations. The universe of thought is too complex and changing for ‘rational’ thought to be appropriate – without imagination our thoughts would become incurably crippled in a closed and ossified system.”

Both Fretigny and Virel speculate that civilizations go through long alternating periods – for centuries devoting obsessive attention to fact, followed by a period of imaginative creativity and heightened fantasy.

GAMES AND IMAGINATION – Games can provide practice in imaginary visualization . They are a great aid to seeing and “becoming” things. Some of us seem to visualize better than others – sharp, bright, and in full color. Others see only grey tones with odd bits of color. Others hazy. Some say, none at all.

No matter where you think you are, you can improve.  The purposive use of imagery is an ancient means of mental development.

To succeed, the mind must be in a state of relaxed attention – alert and receptive.  This receptive state is the key to fantasy. A suggestion is given: “You are a glass of water” and the mind waits for an image or series of images to arise as you “become” the thing.

To relax your mind , get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, become aware of your breathing – like beginning to meditate.  You may wish to dim the light. The idea is to cut out the chatter of the left brain.

You can become anything you want – if a writer become a typewriter, if a painter be the brush, if a musician be the piano, if a neuroscientist be a brain cell.  Give the tool a voice and let it tell how it is being used. Your point of view is major.  For example, you could imagine yourself inside a human tongue, or be the tongue itself.

In imagery rehearsal, if you are an athlete you can imagine yourself going through your whole sequence flawlessly, over and over again.  If you make an error, start over.  You must have a clear sense of how the correct action feels and be able to generate a clear image.

In his book of children’s imaginative games, Put your Mother on the Ceiling, Richard DeMille starts one game in the realm of possibility and progresses that action to the world of fantasy.  He starts one game with the child standing on the floor, then on the walls and finally floats them on the ceiling.  The idea of his games is to learn that your imagination can do it all.  Off you go flying around the lake or the world in your imaginary chair.

Fantasy presupposes a world where ordinary rules do not apply, where nothing is what it seems.  It’s a world where dogs meow and water runs uphill. In the games, the child clearly distinguishes between reality and imagination.

SANTIAGO RAMON Y CAJAL, Nobel Laureate in Physiology, says: “Lose yourself in observation, become the thing you are studying.”  For him it meant becoming a cell neuron.  For Babe Ruth, the baseball was for him as much as his arms and legs.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMAGINATION2

Serendipity – amazing how it works.  I had just completed my first blog on Imagination, featuring George Lucas,  and opened a TV news channel where immediately Lucas was in front of me promoting his latest and soon-to-be released film on Jurassic Park (where dinosaurs come alive again).  I love it when serendipity happens – you feel you are in touch with the universe.

IMAGINATION adds something new to a concept.  It gets past convergent thinking (left brain) to divergent thinking (right brain). It lets us know there is no single “right” answer as we were taught in classrooms – instead, it offers exciting possibilities. It is stepping out into a whole new world – as Alice did in Wonderland.

Imagination is a turn of the mind where the familiar is given a new dimension: “I used to draw like Raphael,” said Picasso, “but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child.”

An artist becomes bored with old ideas and old techniques – and so puts his imagination to work in order to express himself – “see differently”.  Imagination is not a way to merely compensate for what we cannot get in reality.  It is much more complex.  It is our plastic brain’s ongoing activity – that can either be developed and expanded or discouraged and stunted.

As children, our imaginations let us create our own reality.  Adults who continue to use their imaginations do the same thing. To imagine new things is to never grow old.

DALI DEFINITELY NOT STUNTED – The “magic box” of Dali’s brain transformed his 53-year-old love affair with his wife Elena, nicknamed Gala, into a Surrealist myth.  Gala, 13 years older than Dali, is in most of his paintings.  In one, he has two lamb chops balanced on her shoulders – giving many imaginative reasons for this – including that the chops were “expiratory victims of abortive sacrifices” – meaning that he really wanted to eat her.  To show her as a basket of bread, he painted her with one exposed breast (the bread) above folded arms (the bowl)

A creator must give some time every day to drift into a dreamy inner life the way you did as a child.  The Little Brontes with their kingdom of Gondaland, the infant Alcotts, young Robert Browning, and H.G. Wells all led an intensive “dream life” which carried over into their maturity and took another form.  There are hundreds of authors who could tell the same “youth” stories.

COLIN WILSON, in his book, Mysteries, quotes Mathers: “When a man imagines, he actually creates a form on the astral or even on some higher plane; and this form is as real and objective to intelligent beings on that plane as our early surroundings are to us.”

CONTROL NECESSARY – imagination by itself – let loose – is not enough. Although it is the magic ingredient in creativity, control is where the true creative mind shows itself.  To quote Lowes, writing about Coleridge in Creative Process, “The incommunicable unique essence…is its form.”  Michael Faraday, who made several major chemical and electrical discoveries, called the two sides of his creative activity imagination and judgement.

Beethoven’s genius was once attributed by Schubert to what he termed his “superb coolness under the fire of creative fantasy”.

IMAGINATION/FANTASY – Most writers use imagination/fantasy interchangeably. Harvey Cox  in Feast of Fools offers a distinction.  He says in imagination we set aside for a moment our usual decorum and social inhibition – opening doors normally closed to us.  “We may tell off a boss, seduce a gorgeous woman, or even run a spear through an annoying neighbor.  Or we rehearse a coming situation.  Or look at ourselves a year ago or a year ahead.  Fantasy, he claims is advanced imagining where no holds are barred. We suspend all rules, the whole structure of everyday reality.  We become not only our ideal selves, but totally different people.  “We soar.  We give reign not to only socially discouraged impulses, but to physically impossible exploits and even to logically contrary  events”.

Take your choice – in my blogs I am using imagination and fantasy interchangeably. While Sigmund Freud sternly warned us to respect  the “reality principle” and not be tricked by “illusion” we will stick with Ray Bradbury who says it is time to reinstate fantasy: “The ability to fantasize is the ability to survive”. Bradbury is not alone in his opinion.  Says Cox: “Even the most fact-obsessed technician today recognizes that those who make the research breakthroughs are more often the dipsy-dreamers than the relentless grinds.

I don’t know if our neuroscientists exploring our plastic brains consider themselves dipsy – be it they are teaching us our brains are definitely dipsy, regularly playing hide-and-seek with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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