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Right-Brain Learning in 30 Days
The Whole Mind Program
By Keith Harary, Pamela Weintraub
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1991 Keith Harary and Pamela Weintraub
All rights reserved.
CREATING A RIGHT-BRAIN REFUGE
No matter what task you wish to master or the nature of the subject you wish to learn, your ability to focus will be greatly enhanced if you take the time to create a special learning environment. On Day 1, therefore, you'll focus on creating a right-brain refuge.
There's a good reason for setting aside a particular day for organizing and equipping your right-brain learning environment: The simple act of choosing a suitable location in which to study should stimulate your right brain (and your deeper unconscious mind), preparing it to absorb entirely new information. As you prepare this room, you should feel much like a child entering the first grade with a boxful of freshly sharpened pencils and a brand new notebook: Just having those symbolic and essential items on hand told the deepest part of you that something different and special was about to happen.
Begin by choosing a location — preferably one in or near your home — that is quiet and peaceful, conducive to such internal activities as fantasy and visualization. Indeed, whether your chosen subject is essentially intellectual (organic chemistry, for example) or physical (tennis or golf), your refuge should enable you to focus without interruption.
Whenever possible, your right-brain refuge should be particularly geared to the subject you plan to study. For instance, if you want to become a gourmet cook, you might create a right-brain refuge in your kitchen. If you are learning to speak Hebrew, on the other hand, your refuge might be in your bedroom or a private office in your home. If you are learning a sport like judo, your right-brain refuge might be set up as a properly equipped workout room or gym. If you are learning auto mechanics, your right-brain refuge will no doubt be set up in your driveway or garage. If you are learning to drive a car, your right-brain refuge might be the car itself.
Make sure these special places are properly equipped. If you are learning to play billiards, your right-brain refuge might include such items as a pool table, cues, chalk, bridge, rack, and balls. If you are learning auto mechanics, you'll need a complete and well-organized set of tools, along with all the appropriate parts and fluids for each particular learning session. If you chosen subject requires an office environment, you should equip the space with comfortable furniture, as well as all the books, office supplies, and office equipment you'll be needing in the coming weeks. If you are learning some athletic skill, you should take this time to gather the proper equipment and clothing, as well as such basic niceties as fresh soap and clean towels.
To the greatest extent possible, your right-brain refuge should be a place in which you feel supremely comfortable on both an emotional and physical level. For instance, there may be several potential office sites within your home, or more than one area in which to work out or tinker around. Choose a spot where you feel you will learn best.
Perhaps most important, make sure to equip your refuge with the special tools of right-brain learning: You should have easy access to a tape recorder to help you through guided imagery exercises and provide you with music. (A second audio source, such as a stereo, CD player, or tape deck, would be helpful as well.) Make sure that your refuge is equipped with a comfortable couch or chair for visualization, guided imagery, and focusing activities; paper for right-brain drawing and writing; and adequate ventilation.
— If you are setting out to master a subject or activity that simply cannot be simulated in the immediate vicinity of your home — skiing, say, or driving — we suggest that you create a right-brain refuge that will at least enable you to visualize the chosen activity. While it's true that the ski slopes may be hundreds of miles from your home, you will still be able to use your right-brain refuge to do a large number of the creative visualization and fantasy exercises so crucial for right-brain learning. You may also use your car as a right-brain refuge as long as you leave it parked while using it in this capacity.
Once you have taken these basic steps toward creating your personal right-brain refuge, you should go a step further and fill your special space with appropriate stimuli for all your senses. If you are studying an African language, for example, take some time to supply your right-brain refuge with African pictures and objects, African music, even the sounds of African wildlife and the tastes of African food. You might equip your refuge with native African clothing or jewelry, which you can wear when studying or doing right-brain exercises. (You may wear these right-brain props throughout the day as well.) These props will surely provide you with an enhanced sense of connectedness to the culture behind the language you are learning. Remember, by deliberately immersing yourself in your subject matter on as many sensory levels as possible, you'll be making yourself especially receptive to absorbing new information on a right-brain level.
DAY 2 UNDER THE VOLCANO
Most of us find ourselves tensing up when preparing to enter into a new learning task. Much of this tension originates with the fear of failure and the belief that learning anything is an inherently difficult process. Psychologists and educators have found, however, that a relaxed, confident, and open-minded frame of reference is much more conducive to learning. Perhaps more important, a state of deep relaxation will help you gain access to your right brain. As the active volcano of complete waking consciousness gives way to a calmer, more centered state of mind, the multisensory impressions and associative connections of the right hemisphere will be freer to emerge.
To help you reach this goal, Day 2 will focus on achieving the state of alert relaxation, in which your body becomes deeply relaxed while your mind remains acutely alert. To enter this special state, you will first create a guided imagery tape, in which a series of words and images help to guide you under the volcano of your mind. As you enter the state of alert relaxation, your conscious mind should begin to communicate more easily with your innermost self. Right-brain and left-brain learning skills will then have the chance to more effectively interact, and a powerful intellectual synthesis should result.
Before you begin this exercise, you'll need a couple of basic tools: a cassette recorder and a blank tape. Once you have these essentials, label the tape "Under the Volcano" and retire to your right-brain refuge. Then, when you have at least half an hour of peace and quiet, record the following words on the tape. Make sure to speak slowly and carefully, pausing where indicated.
Hemispheric Hint —If you have a friend with a particularly clear or mellifluous voice, you may want to have him or her read the section instead. It is sometimes easier to enter the state of alert relaxation to the sound of a voice other than your own. In any event, after a week or so you may decide that you don't need the help of this guided imagery tape in order to enter the state of alert relaxation. Instead, you should be able to go under the volcano simply by going through the images in your mind.
Begin your recording with the words below:
Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, stretch your muscles, and relax. Now imagine that warm currents of mental energy are very slowly moving up through the soles of your feet toward your ankles.
Feel the muscles in your feet gradually warming and relaxing as you imagine the currents passing through them. [Pause.] Imagine that the currents continue moving up through your calves [pause], into your thighs [pause], through your hips [pause] and buttocks [pause], and into your lower back and abdomen. [Pause.] Proceed very slowly, giving yourself time for each group of muscles to begin fully relaxing before allowing the imaginary currents to move on to the next area of your body. [Pause.] Feel the muscles in your legs becoming heavy, warm, and relaxed and sinking down into the chair beneath you. [Pause.]
When you feel your legs becoming deeply relaxed, imagine the currents moving in a clockwise motion around your abdomen [pause], then up along your spine [pause], and through the front of your torso into your chest [pause] and shoulders. Feel the muscles in your stomach and lower back letting go of any tightness or tension as the current passes through them. Allow a feeling of general well-being to begin flowing through your body with the imaginary currents as you feel your body relaxing. [Pause.]
When the lower half of your body feels relaxed [pause], imagine the currents flowing upward through your ribs and shoulders [pause], warming and relaxing the upper part of your body [pause], and leaving your back and chest feeling completely warm and free of any stress or tension [pause]. Imagine the currents turning around to move downward through your arms, toward your fingertips [pause], swirling around through your fingers and hands, then moving upward once more and back through your arms and neck toward the top of your head. [Pause.]
Now feel the muscles in your neck and face gradually becoming warm and relaxed as the imaginary currents pass through them. [Pause.] Then imagine the currents flowing out through the top of your head [pause], leaving your entire body feeling comfortably warm [pause], heavy [pause], and relaxed [pause], and sinking down into the chair beneath you.
After you or a friend has created an "Under the Volcano" tape, you may begin the exercise itself. To do so, enter your right-brain refuge and make sure the light is at a comfortable level — not glaring, but bright enough to allow you to read and write. Sit down in a comfortable chair, stretch your muscles, relax, and take a deep breath. Then turn on the tape recorder and close your eyes.
After the recording has finished, turn the tape recorder off (or allow it to switch off automatically) and focus on maintaining the desired state. Remember, do not allow yourself to become so deeply relaxed that you'll find it hard to concentrate. Rather, focus on gently calming yourself and getting into a receptive state of mind for absorbing new ideas while still remaining fully aware of your surroundings. Should you find yourself accidentally falling asleep while practicing this exercise, however, don't worry about it. The moment you wake up and realize what has happened just continue carrying out the exercise, without moving, from wherever you left off. At this point you'll probably already be quite relaxed, so the key will be to become even more deeply relaxed without once again falling asleep.
In order to maintain the desired state of alertness, you may find it helpful to imagine the warm currents passing through your body in a variety of changing colors and patterns. You may also find it helpful to practice this exercise only when you are feeling physically and emotionally rested and easily able to remain awake.
Hemispheric Hint —As you progress through the Whole Mind Program, you'll be incorporating many other exercises and techniques into your alert relaxation sessions. On Day 3, for instance, you'll follow your "Under the Volcano" tape with baroque music, which is said to enhance the alert relaxation experience and, according to some studies, the ability to absorb new information. On Day 2, however, you will focus only on maintaining the state of alert relaxation without trying to do anything else. This core technique will aid you in the days and weeks of right-brain learning to come.
Once you have achieved a deeply relaxed, mentally alert state, you should maintain it for anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour. At that point, you can begin to bring yourself out of the state of alert relaxation and back to ordinary waking consciousness. To do so, wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly stretch your muscles, open your eyes, and sit up.
BASTION OF THE BAROQUE
Back in the Sixties, Bulgarian psychiatrist Georgi Lozanov reported that when his students listened to baroque music, they increased their ability to absorb and recall information. The reason, Lozanov believed, was related to the tempo of the music. At sixty to seventy beats per minute, the rate of baroque music is similar to that of the resting human heart. As a result, say Lozanov and many of his colleagues, the music induces an altered state of consciousness — a state particularly conducive to learning. More recently, this notion has been supported by other researchers studying brain waves. Baroque music, these scientists have shown, stimulates alpha waves, the brain waves associated with alert relaxation and a sense of calm. Since alert relaxation is so conducive to learning, on Day 3 you will add baroque music to the "Under the Volcano" tape you made on Day 2. In addition, you will collect other baroque tapes, CDs, or LPs so that you have a repertoire of baroque music to play as you participate in the various right-brain exercises and as you proceed to learn.
To begin, get a recording of at least two hours of baroque music. Some of the best baroque composers include Bach, Boccherini, Corelli, Fasch, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Vivaldi. We particularly recommend Schubert's "Trout" Quintet in A Major for Piano and Strings, Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D Largo, Vivaldi's Flute Concerto in D, Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 21, and Handel's Harp Concerto in B-flat. Of course, you may have some other favorite baroque compositions, and you may use those instead.
After you have your baroque music library at hand, we suggest you pick twenty minutes of your favorite piece and record it at the end of your "Under the Volcano" tape. Then, whenever you have a bit of extra time, you can use this element to deepen your alert relaxation state.
After you have made these preparations, enter your right-brain refuge. As before, make sure the light is at a comfortable level — not glaring, but bright enough to allow you to read and write. Sit down in a comfortable chair, stretch your muscles, relax, and take a deep breath. Then turn on the tape recorder and close your eyes. As you play the "Under the Volcano" tape with the added section of baroque music, once more enter a state of alert relaxation.
After the recording has finished, turn the tape recorder off and focus on maintaining the desired state. Remember, do not allow yourself to become so deeply relaxed that you'll find it hard to concentrate. Rather, focus on gently calming yourself and getting into a receptive state of mind for absorbing new ideas while still remaining aware of your surroundings.
In order to maintain the desired state of alertness, you may find it helpful to imagine the warm currents passing through your body in a variety of changing colors and patterns. When the music section begins, you may also envision the musical notes and melodies as a cascade of colors.
Once you have achieved a deeply relaxed, mentally alert state, you should attempt to maintain it for a full thirty minutes (including the period of time during which the baroque selection plays).
After half an hour has passed, you can begin to bring yourself out of the state of alert relaxation and back to full waking consciousness. To do so, wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly stretch your muscles, open your eyes, and sit up.
Hemispheric Hint — Your "Under the Volcano" tape with baroque music should serve as a wonderful prelude to any study or work session, no matter what the topic. For the next four weeks, and whenever you need a boost in "getting into your subject" in the months and years ahead, feel free to play this tape before your work session begins.
The right brain is inherently visual. To help you tune into your right brain, therefore, we present a drawing exercise adapted from a technique created by California State University art professor Betty Edwards, author of the excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Not only will the exercise below demonstrate the awesome power, insight, and interpretive skill of the right brain, it will also provide you with another pathway into that realm of your mind.
Before you begin, find a picture you would like to draw. You may choose the picture from an art or photography book, from a magazine or newspaper, from a text book, or from your personal mementos. If possible, choose a picture related to the topic you wish to study. Also gather two sharpened, number-two pencils and a few sheets of 81/2-by 11 white paper. Take these supplies and retire to your right-brain refuge. (If you don't have a desk or writing surface in your right-brain refuge, make sure you get a large, hard-backed book to lean on while drawing.)
Excerpted from Right-Brain Learning in 30 Days by Keith Harary, Pamela Weintraub. Copyright © 1991 Keith Harary and Pamela Weintraub. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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