“Sometimes I put my legs up on the bed and I lie on the floor. With my back on the floor and with my music pad and pencil ready to go, I can relax and find the alpha state.” – Quincy Jones
So, I was listening to an audiobook earlier today and they mentioned alpha brain waves. This got me thinking about its connection to creativity and our ability to access the alpha state.
One of the best ways to get into this state is to do what Q did, just relax and let your mind go. Sometimes this can be hard, especially if your mind starts throwing all sorts of distractions your way. One way to help deal with this is to focus on your breathing. Yup, basically meditation. Every time you notice yourself slipping into “I gotta call Betsy”, “This is isn’t working” or “How long is this going to take?” just bring your mind back to your breathing.
Pretty soon you’ll be in that state where you’re not quite awake but not asleep either. Pure alpha.
There is however a difference between pure meditation and accessing the alpha state. With meditation you’re out to empty your mind. When using this in a creative way you want to explore those weird connections and associations.
Things like “I want to fly a table covered in mustard come fall” might not SEEM productive but contain the perfect amount of syllables for that lyric you’re stuck on writing. It might also unlock other ideas and associations, like a realization that the song is about breaking free of conventions.
I’ll take an example. We all know Nike’s slogan, right? RIGHT?! Well, not everyone knows about its actual origins.
Advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy had been tasked by Nike to come up with a new slogan. Co-founder Dan Wieden and his team had been working hard when one day he talked to one of his colleagues about criminals. A passing moment, idle chatter, right? Well, later that night as he was mulling this over, his mind wandering, he came to think of the murderer Gary Gilmore. When asked at his execution if he had any last words Gary said: “Let’s do it!”. This sparked something in Dan. During a meeting they changed the wording slightly to the now famous “Just Do It”.
These are the things we don’t really have access to when we’re in “problem solving”-mode. When we’re meditating we instead we acknowledge them but don’t act on them.
A “weird” thing happened that lead me to write this post. First of all, I was relaxing while listening to that audiobook. Well, later when I was thinking about posting two things popped into my head. “Quincy Jones” and “Page 76”. Came straight out of nowhere.
So, as one does when one get these signs I acted on it and there it was. Clear as could be on page 76.
It’s been about 3 years since I read it last. I didn’t even have to think about it. It just came. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind it was just sitting there waiting be brought up.
There are some people who never forget a memory. I remember one such person speaking about her relationships and how it was a burden to never be able to forget. Her partner could describe a situation and she’d jump in and correct him and describe it with such vivid detail that people at times thought she was a freak.
My belief is that we retain everything, we just lose access to it. Most probably for our own benefit. We can probably learn how to unlock those doors. But, do we want to?
There is an interesting part of the brain called the “anterior superior temporal gyrus” which is on the right side of the brain, slightly above your ear. During those “eureka moments” there’s a burst of gamma waves. Don’t worry, you won’t turn into the incredible Hulk. Probably.
The interesting thing is that these actually start firing BEFORE the moment of insight. So, with the right equipment we could accurately predict when the insight is about come. The complete science isn’t in yet. I think that it won’t be enough to just activate this area.
So, how can we use this to our advantage? We can learn how to get out of our own way. We need to have laid down the ground work. Then we just relax and let the body and mind do their thing. Just go with it.
This is what flow is. When we witness a spectacular performance or when someone is on a hot streak. They’ve done the necessary preparation and just let it go.
I’ll just leave you with this little note. You’ve heard about how left handed people tend to be more creative? Well, did you know that the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body while the left side of the brain controls the right side of our body?
If you want to look at a problem with more logic you could try closing your left eye. If you’d rather fire off that creative spark take a look at the problem by closing your right eye!
“I’m a great believer in letting lyrics just flow out, wherever they come from.” – Quincy Jones
Eric Kandel at TEDxMet