Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., has just published a landmark book called, Brain Longevity (www.brain-longevity.com). In it he describes research performed by the doctor who was chosen to dissect and study Einstein's brain. When compared to the brains of intellectually average men who had died near the same age (76), the only difference found was an enhanced Area 39, which researchers believe is the most highly evolved site in the brain. "When people have lesions in Area 39, they have great difficulty with abstr act imagery, memory, attention and self-awareness," writes Dr. Khalsa. Einstein had an abundance of glial cells in Area 39, which serve as 'housekeeping' cells, as opposed to a measurable excess of 'thinking' cells. The job of the glial cell is to support the metabolism of the thinking neurons. The presence of these extra glial cells is what had enlarged Einstein's Area 39. Other experiments were performed that validated the hypothesis that Einstein had an enlarged Area 39 because he was in effect a "mental athlete" who had "trained hard" all his life. One of the ways he did this was via the extensive use of his imagination.
In addition to enhancing your creativity, developing this mental muscle can improve your memory, reading effectiveness and the speed at which you can think. Every memory course I've studied includes exercises for developing your imagination. The Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Method is based on a vertical-visual reading strategy. And when developing computer software, I find it much more efficient to think a series of screens than to think the paragraphs of words required to describe them.
When I did the visualization exercises in Kevin Trudeau's Mega Memory audiotape program, it wasn't clear how I was going to apply these techniques to my work. While I don't use peg lists or picture stories on a daily basis, I do think more visually now than before. For example, when designing a user interface, rather than thinking in words, I now think in "screens" more proficiently. I see the mouse pointer clicking a button and the next screen popping up. Instead of talking about these screens in my mind' s ear, I am seeing them in my mind's eye.
In studying Evelyn Wood's reading program, I learned that a fundamental strategy for increasing reading speed is to silence subvocalization by "trusting my eyes" and thus reading visually. My mental reading process went from:
Building up my visualization muscle helped me do this more effectively. Admittedly, there are times when I still catch myself subvocalizing. Sometimes I want to read slowly, such as when reading conceptually dense material that is new. However, when I want to scan a lot of material very quickly, I am now able to cover more text in less time with greater efficiency. Developing my "visualization muscle" played a key role in helping me become a more flexible reader. My memory seemed to improve even if I wasn't using the techniques. It became easier to take "mental snapshots" of images and to convert ideas I am thinking or reading about into pictures or symbols. For knowledge workers, perhaps the highest leverage use of this visualization muscle is for beginning projects with the end in mind. Not all visualizations are created equal, and the best visualizations are the ones that generate the most effective actions toward project completion. If at the end of each day, you can reflect on the day's activities and honestly detect progress toward your goal, then you are on the right track. Over time, through additional trial and error, you may find that you can refine y our visualizations to further enhance their effectiveness.
"The results you create depend on your clarity." Norm Levy
Some people are better at this than others. However, I know that it is a skill that can be developed because I have done so myself. The following four exercises have been helpful in developing my imagination.
Before continuing, I must emphasize that you should not do these exercises if you are prone to extreme mood swings or have problems with depression. See Chapter 9 for details.
Any time you have a free minute AND it is safe to briefly close your eyes, look at a nearby object, close your eyes, and notice if you can see its image in your mind's eye. If not, look at the object again, noticing more of the details, and close your eyes again. With your eyes closed, try to "zoom-in" on the image and notice the lines, colors, dimensions, etc.
If this seems a little mind-boggling, here is a slight variation: close your eyes and think about what your TV or computer monitor looks like. Sometimes when you turn a TV off, the picture shrinks down to a little white dot in the middle of the screen. Put a "white dot" in the center of your mental TV. Imagine that dot gradually getting larger until it fills the screen, and as it grows, imagine seeing the object you were trying to visualize earlier.
If you still don't "see" the mental image, try leaving your eyes open and defocusing. If you have ever looked out across the distance or at a blank wall and noticed that your mind wandered somewhere else where you weren't seeing the distant scenery or the wall, this "daydreaming" state is what I mean by defocusing. Try "daydreaming" the object.
Another variation is to use the telephoto lens technique. When you look at an object, notice that you can zoom-in on a particular aspect of the object, or zoom-out to see the scene in its entirety. When you close your eyes, try zooming in on various aspects of your mental image to see them more clearly, and then zoom back out again. Alternating between looking at the object and closing your eyes may help you refine your visualization incrementally.
Try starting with very simple objects like the letter 'A.' Write this letter on a piece of paper and then try to see it in your mind's eye.
Another way to break this learning process down into manageable chunks is to focus on a single color at a time. For example, look at a tree, then close your eyes and try to mentally match the exact shade of green.
If this seems difficult, mark your calendar to try this exercise again tomorrow, in a week, or even a month. You may be surprised that taking mental snapshots is easier after your subconscious mind has had time to incubate the technique.
What I like best about this exercise is that it can be done during what would otherwise be wasted time. For example, I sometimes do it while waiting in a reception area with nothing to read or while standing in a line where it is safe to close my eyes for a few seconds.
"Some things you see with your eyes, others you must see with your heart." from the movie, Land Before Time
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