- When you are completely immersed into the story of a book or when you are watching an exciting movie and you don’t even notice that time is flying you are probably in Alpha state. There are probably about 10 brainwave cycles per second in your brain. This is a great state for learning.
- When, however, you are in multitasking mode, you are writing emails and at the same time thinking about your to do list and on your growing hunger, you might get up to 40 brain wave cycles per second. This is called the Beta state. You might be able to do many small tasks somehow superficially, you might even be proud of yourself of how much work you can get done. But looked at it with a bit of a distance, probably no masterpiece is coming out of this state of mind. And definitely no breakthrough idea.
- Do you remember that you had some great ideas in the shower? Or during your morning run? Or that you – almost dozing off in your commuter train – recalled the name of an old acquaintance that you could not greet by his name when you met him at the train station? These or other ‘Eureka’ moments only happen when you bring down your brain wave cycles well below 10. This is the Theta state. This state is great for ideating, for creativity, for thinking out of the box.
- Finally, there is the Delta state; this could already be in a meditative mode, or day dreaming. Intuition comes in strongly here, so does empathy, your ability to sense the world around you, connect with other people. In a previous blog I wrote about the Hindu concept of the wave and the ocean; that we often try to be the best possible wave, compare ourselves with other waves, even compete with other waves and tend to forget that we are all part of the ocean. In Delta state we experience the ocean, the connection with ourselves, with others, with nature.
The very first very practical implication of this simple categorization: if you are looking for ideas, for break throughs and innovation, you will not get there while fueling your busy mind. Or put differently, the colleague whose mind is about to create a new concept, idea or insight, could very well look like a day dreamer and not exactly look like a hard-working employee.
The second question is: how can you get from Beta to Alpha; and even more importantly to Theta and Delta? Is there a way to purposefully slow down your brain and prepare it for ideating, intuition or empathy?
For many people meditation is a useful practice to calm their mind; I have met people able to get from Beta to Theta within a couple of minutes. Many spiritual practices have been using tools to slow down and enhance consciousness, e.g. mantras, rosary in christian church or Zikir, the breathing meditation in the Sufi tradition. And yes, there are also all kind of substances, both natural and synthetic that have been used for centuries by indigenous medicine men or in modern psychedelic formats. There is quite some noise about increasing use of substances in Silicon Valley and beyond to broaden consciousness and foster creativity and performance on command.
I would encourage you to let mother nature do her trick on you. For me personally, being in nature and in particular in the mountains has an immediate calming effect. The fresh air and the slow movement in nature further stimulate the body. It becomes easier to be in the moment, to use and actually sharpen your senses.
Many famous thinkers have spoken about their strong relationship to and inspiration by nature, e.g. CG Jung or Albert Einstein. Ralph Waldo Emmerson in a speech at the funeral service for Henry David Thoreau described his friend’s many talents: “He was a good swimmer, runner, skater, boatman, and would probably out-walk most countrymen in a day’s journey… The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing. If shut up in a house he did not write at all.” (Richard Louv: The Nature Principle)
Intuitively we have been suggesting to hold our workshops at inspiring nature places. We do walk & talk and start the morning with some physical exercise or meditation to create a different state of mind. In the future we will further enrich these elements of our workshops and experiment with creative innovations.
Now, back to you:
- How aware are you of your states of mind?
- How much time do you spend in ‘Monkey Mind’?
- Are you able to calm down your mind?
- Have you tried out specific techniques or practices to facilitate that process of calming down your mind?
- What are important decisions in the near future that require a clear and calm mind?
- What are areas that require some fresh thinking?
- What formats can you create to foster such creativity and intuition?
Wish you a great year with regular and deep nature experiences
PS: I was recently asked to speak on a panel at the DLD 2019 conference in Munich, a forum that brings together 1500 digital leaders from all over the world. We spoke about ‘slow nature’ in times when screen time and devices contribute to many busy minds. If you are interested in that speech check out the video by clicking here.