by Lawrence Ball
LEARNING TO BLEND RELAXATION, ENJOYMENT AND LIGHTHEARTEDNESS WITH STRONGER AND STRONGER CONCENTRATION.
It is not necessary to suffer or to get tense in order to learn or to study. However more people than not do both to the point of causing themselves considerable emotional damage as well as impairing the learning process terribly. One of the main reasons that this happens is that society as a whole does not understand that inability to learn, absorb information and to concentrate generally is not just a question of gritting teeth and struggling harder. The missing part is that in order to be able to continually expand and develop concentration and learning, one needs to keeptwo important parts of one’s self in the picture together – the deeply relaxed intuitive creative unconscious part and the logical arithmetical conscious rational part. All too often today a student will disengage from his or her fun/creative/daydreamy part and a separation occurs. Study becomes SERIOUS! Too serious. In order to do anything well there must be a befriending of the activity. To study merely for a qualification for example may be desired in some cases, but if problems develop then the most effective solution will involve enjoying the process.
It’s a challenge facing every human being: how to be more efficient and enjoy life more at the same time. Not only students stand to gain by theunderstanding of this.
Experiments have been conducted with electro-encelographic metering of brainwave activity, specifically by Geoffrey Blundell. There are four types, or frquencies, of brainwave activity which correspond to different depths of brain function. At the shallowest level there are Beta waves (13 to 30 cycles per second) which correspond to mental arithmetic, logistical thinking and the more concrete level of operation. Then Alpha waves (7 to 13 cycles per second) representing a waking daydreram, creative, more flowing type of mental activity. Further down in depth are Theta waves (3 to 7 cycles per second) – a trance, meditation or sleep state and lastly Delta, waves (half to 3 cycles per second) representing either very deep sleep, or shock. The pioneers of this research use these machines to train individuals to attain a state where all four levels of activity are present together. This is called the ‘Awakened Mind’ state and is considered optimal. I feel this is a very significant statement. It reinforces my view that study is a phenomenon which at its best and most effective is a fully enjoyable activity with no limits to possibilities and efficency.
This very precise perspective shows that a block or a problem with study such as panic, or irritable mood, or lack of motivation is not some mysterious unfortunate condition or the result of ‘laziness’ but simply that the joy of thinking, considering, imagining, and reflecting has not been correctly understood or engaged. With this yardstick of the anticipation of learning AND being in a good state, the problem becomes understood as not just to ‘try harder’ but to realise that enjoyment is the soil for any wholesome progress which then is not such a monumental screwing up of the mind’s face (with furrowed brow and stiff upper lip).
There is no subject on the curriculum that deals with study methods, taking care of one’s state of mind whilst studying, or any other support of students who run into difficult times. There should be one. Either students somehow work out for themselves how to survive and keep their ‘end’ up or they don’t.
Before attempting to continue studying or working, first take a minute or two to establish some degree of calm mind and physical groundedness. One method is to (perhaps close the eyes) be aware of your breathing process. This takes awareness away from the panicky thoughts and establishes a soothing image which calms. It’s one’s mental state that needs to be made calmer and needs to become more pleasant to experience. With practice, and the awareness that panic is happening AS it happens, it is possible to catch this demon by its tail and melt him (or her) into a more useful and productive creature.
I often tell students jokes ! (see my jokes section) as I find that the fun part of them needs to be more involved in study, and anything you can do to remind yourself of things that make you laugh, feel happy, or contented – without of course losing your connection with the work at hand – will help to lighten, strengthen and generally involve you in improving your speed and quality of learning. There are some jokes available on this site.
Physical exercise. If you are someone who does not ordinarily do a medium amount of physical exercise then this may help the mind-body balance. An active physical body is often less prone to mental or emotional stress.
Stretching exercises or yoga postures between periods of study are good. Like ‘awareness of breathing’, this uses the body to insulate the mind from overload, negative thoughts, and panic generally, by putting energy and attention of a positive sort from the mind into the body and learning to deliberately steer oneself into a positive state that is strong-rooted.