Here to Learn.

Here to Learn.

Most people reading this will want to be happy and successful, however you wish to define it. Fair enough.

So it stands to reason that most of us will need to ask the question eventually, what that actually takes, what are the actual building blocks.

And of course, there are many variables. Where one went to school, who your parents were, whether or not you do your homework, whether or not you let your vices get the better of you, whether or not they let you into Stanford.

But there’s one interesting thing we’ve noticed: that super successful people are never-ending, perpetual learning machines. Somewhere along the line, they got the learning bug, and it’s still with them to this day.

You meet these people and you can tell, be they seventeen or seventy. They’ve got the bug, they’ve got the vibe. You just know.

Whether their schtick was finance, or business, or science or the arts, they just allowed their minds to be open to the universe and take it all in. And they never stopped. Eventually, this led them to an idea or an angle nobody else had, and BOOM. Rockstardom followed.

We may not be rich, we not be pretty, but as long as we’re learning, as long as we’re determined to keep it this way, our lives are truly incredible things. So bear that in mind, and Godspeed to you.

By Gaping Void

SPACING: letting the brain rest to absorb new data and learn.

SPACING: letting the brain rest to absorb new data and learn.

By Markham Heid

Your attention may be your most precious resource, and you only have so much of it to spread around each day.Work and social obligations demand a portion of it. And it’s easy to occupy whatever is left over with stimuli of one kind or another—whether it’s listening to a podcast or watching a show. For many people, time spent in the shower or trying to fall asleep at night may be the only remaining scraps of the day when their mind is wholly free to wander.None of this may seem like a problem.

After all, why waste time doing nothing when you could be doing something fun or productive?

As long as you’re occupying your mind with (mostly) high-quality content, what’s the harm?“. The research on learning is extremely clear,” says Loren Frank, a professor at the Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco. “To learn something well, you need to study it for a while and then take a break.” Frank points to the evidence on educational training, which has shown again and again that people retain new information best when their minds are given time off to encode and consolidate.

Even outside of study contexts, taking small breaks after digesting new material—whether it’s a news article or an important email—appears to help your brain parse and memorize what you’ve just learned.

To better understand how brains process new information, Frank has conducted brain-scan experiments on rats. He and his colleagues have shown that when rats are allowed to rest after completing an unfamiliar maze, their brains appear to automatically replay the experience of navigating the maze. Confronted later with the same labyrinth, the rats find their way through it more quickly. On the other hand, when rats are immediately confronted with a new challenge after completing a maze, their brains don’t have the chance to replay what they’ve learned, Frank says. Later, when challenged again with the same maze, these rats aren’t able to navigate it any faster than they did the first time.Frank says the human brain seems to work in a similar way. “The brain needs free time to process new information and turn it into something more permanent,” he says.How much free time? That depends.

“We know the brain can get into its downtime state very quickly, and the education research suggests just a few minutes—five to 15—are enough to aid learning,”

The says. The amount of time a mind needs to construct a durable memory probably varies from one person to the next, and also depends on the complexity of what that person is trying to learn, he adds.Experts say idle time likely also helps develop mental processes that are far more complicated than memory storage and retrieval. “The deeper reflective states, where you make meaning of what’s going on and connect it to self and identity and integrate knowledge together into coherent narratives—these kinds of processes only happen when you’re not focused on some in-the-moment activity,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California.When your brain is bombarded with novel stimuli or information, she says, it can struggle to generate purposefulness and meaning. Too much of this can you leave you feeling aimless—or worse. “If you’re stuck in this feed-me stimulation loop, we know that this is associated with the feeling of being out of control,” she says. “It’s associated with anxiety and disconnectedness, and a feeling of, what’s really real?”

Mental idle time, meanwhile, seems to facilitate creativity and problem-solving.

“Our research has found that mind-wandering may foster a particular kind of productivity,” says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has studied mind-wandering extensively. He says overcoming impasses—including what he calls “a-ha!” moments—often happen when people’s minds are free to roam.Schooler mentions the common experience of not being able to recall a word that’s on the tip of your tongue—no matter how hard you try to think of it. But as soon as you move onto another mental task, the word pops into your head.

“I think it’s very possible that some unconscious processes are going on during mind-wandering, and the insights these processes produce then bubble up to the surface,” he says. It’s also possible that depriving the brain of free time stifles its ability to complete this unconscious work.

“I think we need to recognize that the brain’s internal train of thought can be of value in itself,” Schooler says. “In the same way we can experience a sleep deficit, I think we can experience a mind-wandering deficit.”“Many people find it difficult or stressful to do absolutely nothing,” he adds. Instead, Schooler says “non-demanding” tasks that don’t require much mental engagement seem to be best at fostering “productive” mind-wandering. He mentions activities like going for a walk in a quiet place, doing the dishes, or folding laundry—chores that may occupy your hands or body but that don’t require much from your brain.While a wandering mind can slip into some unhelpful and unhealthy states of rumination, that doesn’t mean blocking these thoughts with constant distraction is the way to go.

“I think it’s about finding balance between being occupied and in the present and letting your mind wander—[and] about thinking positive thoughts and thinking about obstacles that may stand in your way,” says Schooler.

There may be no optimal amount of time you can commit to mental freedom to strike that balance. But if you feel like it takes “remarkable effort” for you to disengage from all your favorite sources of mental stimulation, that’s probably a good sign you need to give your brain more free time, Immordino-Yang says.

“To just sit and think is not pleasant when your brain is trained out of practicing that, but that’s really important for well-being,” she adds.

Frank recommends starting small—maybe take a 15-minute, distraction-free walk in the middle of your day. “You might find your world changes,” he says.

thread

thread

noun

a fine cord of flax, cotton, or other fibrous material spun out to considerable length, especially when composed of two or more filaments twisted together.

  1. twisted filaments or fibers of any kind used for sewing.
  2. one of the lengths of yarn forming the warp or weft of a woven fabric.

verb 

  1. to thread one’s way, as through a passage or between obstacles
  2. to move in a threadlike course; wind or twine.

Is it that something is missing or that something is not flowing properly?

I’ve lately realized that more that looking for something I lack, the journey is to open the channels to allow energy to flow in and out, up and down, connecting different layers within myself and around me.

It surprised me to learn that physiologically it’s not that “we breathe”, it’s rather that we just produce a change in pressure in our body that permits the Universe to “breathe us”. Revealing, right?

Instead of muscling through, just produce a small change in the pressure and let the thing, whatever it is, to manifest.

I heard, deeply in my heart, one of my yoga teachers saying that to be able to relax and surrender, our body needs to feel supported.

The guiding principles that apply to the body also apply to the mind.

The body follows the mind, the mind follows the breath, another yoga teacher says.

S/he who masters the breath, masters the world, yoga tradition teaches.

I add that also what happens in the body happens in the mind… and in the organization.

So, s/he who masters the breath, masters her/his organizational journey.

The breath is probably the only thing we can control. The respiratory system is the only in the human body that is autonomous AND conscious. So hardly the one thing we can really influence is our breathing pattern and how much and how long to focus our attention (ergo our mind) on our breath.

I remember a colleague in my former job telling that she loved to scuba dive because she knew she needed to pace and relax her breathing to count with enough oxygen in her tank. Besides, she could clearly listen to herself breathing, and the sound soothed her. Beautifully said!

My two cents today: when things start to spin crazy and I close my grip -in my throat, between my shoulder blades, in my belly- trying to control the uncontrollable-  I just turn to my breath and smooth its rough edges. And stay there for a few minutes.

Breathing in, I am Here. Breathing out, I am Now.