flow state device: text under anatomically correct heart drawing ©JOhanna Ringe www.johannaringe.com

Creativity & the Brain: Are you a flow state device?

My big beautiful heart! What a wonderful thing, constantly in motion, constantly receiving and giving, receiving and giving, receiving, and giving in one swift movement. It is not a solitary pump; it is part of the circuit. It is receiving and giving at the same time, much more continuously than our breathing. My heart is constantly receiving and letting go, receiving and giving, receiving, and just letting flow. It is all about the flow state of the blood, you could say: it is a flow state device.

Your heart is a big beautiful flow state device.

And just like your heart is receiving and giving, you, seen as a computational device, are receiving and giving, constantly receiving and letting go of information.
You did not come here to read me going on about anatomy. You came here to learn about creativity and your brain.
And you are probably trying, maybe not very hard, to retain the information I give you verbally, in your memory. As you do that, you actually complicate matters. Your memory works best when you use it unconsciously.

You say, “grasp the concept”, don’t you? You do not say “catch the concept”.

This is why: when you are at the shore, and you take a handful of this very wet sand (not the one that is hard like pavement but the one that is almost liquid) and you lift your hand and open it carefully, the water and the wet sand will drop off your hands and reveal maybe a tiny mollusc, a shell, a little stone. You would never be able to pick this small treasure out of this mud consciously. Most of all because you do not know what you are looking for.

What you do not know, you cannot see.
What you do not know how to name, you cannot think.

So, to grasp a concept you have to take a more liquid approach to information.
You have to make yourself a flow state device: open to receive information and to let it flow through you freely and to release it, to let go. In this process you might find in your grasping hands, in your metaphorical grasping hands, a tiny shell, mollusc, Star, a golden nugget of information.

And just like the human heart cannot work properly when it contracts completely, you as well should stay flexible and go with the flow.

You might be eager to get the information you came for, but this eagerness will not help you find your personal gems in my words. Eagerness makes you rigid, that would be like clawing through the mud with forks instead of your hand. You would never grasp that perfect tiny little shell.
Your memory works much better when you make yourself a flow state device. This is not what we learned at school. In fact, at school we were encouraged to force information into our brains. How well did that work! Do you still remember all the numbers you learned in the history lesson? Yet probably you were able to reproduce them in your tests. It is called binge learning. Completely senseless in the long run but works for school.

Your memory works best when you encounter information and knowledge in a joyful atmosphere and a relaxed state of mind.

Being playful with learning is the best way to learn something you will really need.
So, if you want to learn about creativity, it is best to be open and unstressed, not making any notes, just letting my words and images wash against your shores. Afterwards you can have a nice walk at the beach and collect the driftwood.
You have some information thrown at you, there might be valuable content in it somewhere, and you just act like a flow state device: you receive and let go.
You stand in the waters of wisdom, your arms spread wide and your fingers and your hands open, and grasping the occasional fish or driftwood that touches your hands while you don’t move!

Because information will only be retained in your brain, in your memory, if it connects with something that is already there.

Indeed: information will only be stored in your memory if it is connected to something you already know.
Imagine yourself sitting at some university listening to a Prof rambling on about a subject you have no idea about. If you have no idea about it, you have no words for the concepts he is talking about, you do not understand him even if he is using your mother tongue. Someone would have to introduce you to the subject. You would have to find a way, at best a joyful and playful way, to connect yourself to the subject. You would have to find a memory hook. The sillier the better – works wonders while learning a new language.

Stray bubbles of solitary information may exist in your memory for a certain amount of time, but if they are not connected to anything else, if they are not wired into the network somehow, they eventually will fade away like tears in the rain.

So, be open for the unexpected connections. Wonder: how does this relate to that? Is there any possibility for me to connect those stray ends? What feelings does this evoke in me? The brain will hardwire those connections into your memory. But the paths in your memory need to be walked to stay clear, or to be converted into lanes… information you do not use, even if it is wonderfully wired into the whole, will eventually get lost. Let me give you some advice: do take frequent walks around your good and beautiful memories. Do not visit those dark places so often, it is like paving the autobahn to hell right inside your own brain. Try strolling around those beautiful gardens, instead. Your elderly self will thank you in the future.

And now, where comes creativity into it? Ah well, it has been right there, all along, like the red shoes, like the way home.

You may already have an idea of what sparks your creativity: playfulness, your thoughts meandering about without a goal, being surprised by chance finds, serendipity. That is true. But why does it work? Because you allow your conscious mind to unwind.
In letting go of duty and goals you free your brain from doing what it was designed to do: predict uncertain futures. Nowadays it is not about the bloody sabretooth anymore. It is about your next step, your next meal, your next word, your next move…   always on the run, always just getting along. Stop.

Stop the running. Stop the focus. Stop… and eventually: relax.

(If you have to sit in a deep cave, with a big fire and a closed door of thorny wood to be able to relax that way… well, then go, find your cave a.s.a.p.!)
Allow yourself to stand in the stream of information, of wisdom, of input, absentminded and enjoying the view…
… when all of a sudden a crown hits your hand, you grasp it and put it on your head, because there is more incoming: paintbrushes and pens, strings of colourful pearls and books, the odd easel and a few rags…
they get entangled in your arms and sleeves, it is easy for you to grab them.
Because you were ready. You were prepared.

Open and relaxed, a beautiful little flow state device in full bloom, you were just irresistible to her. To the MUSE.

She came loaded with presents.
She came to stay.
So, if someone tells you to go home, to get out of the way, to go amuse yourself…
why not take them by the word,
and step into the stream of your own consciousness,
letting go of the mind-control,
letting yourself be a-mused?

Welcome to your creative self! I am honoured to be BY YOUR SIDE.

Heartfelt, wherever you are,

Unterschrift Johanna (c) Johanna Ringe 2014 ff. www.dein-buntes-leben.de

P.S.: How about you, are you a flow state device already?