What is the Ajna light? Or how to entrain your brainwaves into desirable states of mind (Part 2)

Written by: Ben Kennedy

Here is part 2. Read part 1 first.

This post is a much deeper exploration of the Ajna light and it is for informational purposes only. Personal experimentation should be done using your own judgement of your unique physiology and mental health.

I have spent over 100 hours on the light at this point focusing on the key states for me: Alpha, Theta and Gamma waves.

Wade

out

into

more

interesting

internal

space

.

Hafiz
Persian Poet
14th Century

HOW CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENT FREQUENCIES?

If you’ve ever been diving, different brain wave states can feel like different areas of the ocean.

Beta
The surface of a rough sea – thoughts are waves in the ocean wash.

Alpha
The head is just under the waterline and you can still feel the current.

Theta
A few metres down, it’s calmer and quieter with bright light from the sky shining through the ripples above.

Delta
Deep down where the water is dark and notions of space and sensation slip away.

Gamma
A surge upward in the sky looking down on the ocean, a bird’s eye view of the waves.

Lambda
In the universe looking down on the planet from space, in many ways very similar to Delta in that it’s dark and sensorily deprived, yet expansive beyond comprehension. Exploring Delta or Lambda eventually evaporates into the same experience for me.

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HOW CAN I GO DEEPER AND INTENSIFY THE EXPERIENCE?

Breathing

I found using the following Wim Hof breathing technique was the best way to begin sessions under the light.

1. Deeply inhale in as much as you can.

2. Exhale as minimally as possible – just enough to facilitate the next inhale.

3. Do this 30-40 times to oxygenate your bloodstream.

4. On the final breath exhale fully and then hold your breath for as long as possible.

5. When you have to breathe again, inhale and hold for a further 15 seconds.

6. Do this for 3 rounds holding the breath longer each time.

After 3 rounds of this the colours and patterns will be radically enhanced.

Eye movement

Moving my eyes underneath my closed eyelids left and right during the light flashes created multiple after images across the horizontal plane of my visual field. Up and down added the vertical leaving a ‘+’ shape of light diffusing across the darkness behind my closed eyes. With each successive flash a new set of after images was created. This accelerated the kaleidoscopic effect and saturated the patterns. It made the experience more energising and I left the session feeling like I had experienced Gamma rather than my current setting of Theta.

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IF I CAN IDENTIFY THE DIFFERENT BRAINWAVE STATES WILL I BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE MOVING BETWEEN THEM IN EVERY DAY LIFE? 

I focussed exclusively on Alpha for 15 hours using 60 minute sessions to identify moving from Beta to Alpha. Modern life (excessive exposure to pollution, screens and advertising) forces the brain to stay in Beta for longer than it should. This results in over stimulation causing the adrenals to pump too much cortisol into the system contributing to an overactive mind and feelings of anxiety.

The relaxed state of Alpha is so pleasurable it’s fairly easy to recognise. It’s also a ‘semi-sleep’ state which happens just before actual sleep.

Learning to identify an overactive mind in every day life allowed me to pause and calm down. It created a sense of ‘dropping back’, slightly slowing down and allowing things to happen. One can then observe events and consciously decide how to act, rather than automatically having knee jerk reactions to situations. In reality the brain is shifting between these states all the time, but the knowledge of being more frequently in this state under the light helped me to recognise the feeling more accurately.

 

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HOW CAN I USE THE LIGHT TO HELP INDUCE LUCID DREAMS?

Learn to identify the Alpha state. The mind is much more suggestible at this point because it’s the stage just before you slip into sleep. Using intentional phrases such as “I will remember to recognise when I’m dreaming” repeated as I was falling asleep in this stage dramatically increased the likelihood of becoming lucid.

Combine this with a cue in daily life such as asking yourself “Am I dreaming?” when you check the time or walk through a doorway during the day and eventually you’ll do this action in a dream and recognise the situation for what it is.

To confirm you’re dreaming, check the time or study your hands and look away before checking again. If they change significantly then you are! (For deeper understanding around this topic I recommend books by Stephen LaBerge).

If you’re new to this, the first few times where you understand that you’re dreaming, you may get so excited that you wake yourself up.

If this happens, just as you feel yourself waking, ‘spin’ yourself in the dream. Keep rotating your body 360 degrees around quickly and sometimes it can keep your awareness in the dream.

I tried meditating in my lucid dreams. Things really started to get interesting at that point…

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CAN THE LIGHT BE USED TO ACCELERATE MEDITATION?

There are many different types of meditation, but they can be broadly divided into two main categories.

Concentration practices

These use something as a specific object to focus on, whether that be the breath, a sound or a visualisation. When the mind wanders, attention is deliberately brought back to this object. The Ajna light could be used as an object.

Insight practices

This is the observation of whatever arises in consciousness at the specific moment in time whether that be the breath, sensations in the body or thoughts in the mind. It is distinctly different to concentration practice in that consciousness is being observed however it manifests, attention is not being used to focus on any particular aspect of phenomena.

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HOW CAN THE LIGHT BE USED TO DEVELOP CONCENTRATION AND PRECIPITATE INSIGHT?

I am currently practicing Vipassana insight meditation and one of the most challenging aspects of this method is developing enough concentration to be able to witness thoughts as they arise without getting lost in them.

Using the light as a concentration object in the different frequencies was profoundly useful. Seeing the frames of light flashing so quickly gave me the realisation that I can witness my mind thinking at this speed. Suddenly observing my breath as an object became profoundly more precise.

A single second would previously have consisted of two sensations; a feeling of breathing in at the tip of the nose, then a chest expanding feeling at the heart level of my torso. Then the reverse breathing out. These were both observed at half a second.

After many Theta experiences on the light, I began to witness multiple fractions of rising sensations interspersed with sounds from the environment and thoughts of current issues in my life then back to expanding feelings in the chest. It went from two sensations to beyond ten – all within one second. It was like seeing the frames of experience flickering in and out of consciousness like a film in ultra slow motion.

Music is the space between the notes…

The light speed also correlates to noticing other things in much greater detail. Focusing on the vibrations of sound and the silence between the notes made music a profoundly deep experience. Turning the lights off and listening to Teardrop by Massive Attack becomes a near transcendent experience now. Everything falls away and I become the music. Minimal thoughts, just vibrations of pleasure moving through my body. Anything can become a meditation object.

Even pain could be perceived this way as a series of changing sensations. For example on close inspection, my tonsillitis was experienced as a painful stabbing in my throat, then a slightly less painful sharpness, then a fear of the pain continuing, then a neutral feeling with no pain, then a sensation of hunger, then another painful stabbing, and so on.

This created a way of relating to painful sensation which allowed some space between what ‘I’ was going through and how my mind was interpreting the immediate future. I was able to reduce the anxiety around the idea that my sore throat would persist or get worse — majorly reducing the overall discomfort associated to the experience.

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HOW CAN I USE THE LIGHT AS A THERAPY TOOL TO NAVIGATE DIFFICULT EXPERIENCES?

I started my Ajna sessions looking for specific, desirable results and the more I searched for these during deep Theta sessions the less they materialised.

This created a paradox in that I was doing the session for a reason, but only when I let that reason go did the results start to happen.

For me, Theta is much more about surrender than focus. The positive thing that came out of this was that I began to notice when I was doing this in everyday life – wanting something to happen and getting frustrated when it didn’t immediately present itself. This was an exercise in letting go, after setting an intention just allowing things to unfold, rather than trying to force them.

Understanding that I needed to let things go conceptually was easy to understand and verbalise once I recognised it, but in practice very challenging to do on a visceral level.

HOW CAN I USE IT TO CALM ADDICTIONS? 

Sugar and social media are worse than crack. The desire for something sweet or fear of missing out provide such consistent dopamine hits in my brain that I’m often in what I suspect to be a perpetual Beta state.

I realise the more I’m exposed to Alpha or Theta, the more I need to be in these states for genuine insight and creative thought. However, the paradox is that the more I’m in Beta, the more this feels like my default state and I quickly forget that other states are even possible.

It’s critical to schedule practices that induce the desired states such as meditation, float tanks, yoga or using the Ajna light.

Guy (the creator of the light) describes how Alpha and Theta are serotonin releasing states and movement towards these encourages more enlightened behaviour.

Biting nails

By training Alpha and Theta into a habitual pattern in the mornings it reduced general stress.

When you close your eyes, if you concentrate closely you’ll find that the darkness behind your eyes is, in fact, illuminated. This subtle light is in a constant state of flux. It is in essence the Ajna light, but in a very delicate form. Whenever I found myself biting my nails, I substituted the behaviour by closing my eyes and focusing on the evolving patterns. Then taking taking four deep breaths. This sometimes evolved the desire into a state of calm and allowed me to let the feeling go. Practicing this increased the likelihood of relief.

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HOW MUCH CAN THE LIGHT REVEAL? 

I was on my fourth 60 min default Alpha setting (around 12 hours total using the light) and my eyes involuntarily opened half way and my eyes were streaming hot tears. The water formed droplets on my lashes which refracted the Ajna light causing an intensified version of the strobes.

My vision was a series of sensations of abstract colour flooding in from where my eye had partially opened and a background of shadow above where my lid remained half closed. I felt an orchestra of beauty and sadness running through my body and mind in patterns of sensate energy as the prismatic distortion overwhelmed my senses, drenched in curiosity and trepidation. The kaleidoscope was infusing body with mind and mind with body.

Words and concepts begin to fall away, leaving visceral feelings, emotional tone in a pattern of flowing energy.

My mind shifted further and I began to see the world as a reflection of myself. Everything and everyone became part of my being – everyone I loved I saw as an aspect of my consciousness which I cared for and all the hate and disgust with the world as a reflection of what I have not come to terms with yet. This was immensely inspiring and terrifying at the same time.

I believe the light is a very powerful tool for exploring altered states of consciousness. It can open up both good and bad aspects of the subconscious, so it should be treated with the upmost respect. It has deepened my meditation practice in ways I could never have predicted, and I am extremely grateful to have been exposed to it’s potent healing properties.

What is the Ajna light? Or how to entrain your brainwaves into desirable states of mind

Written by: Ben Kennedy

The following is a series of answers to questions I had when I heard about the Ajna light and the claims about its potential effects.

The questions will mirror my journey, first as a beginner and then get deeper as my time on the light and curiosity developed. (I have spent well over 15 hours using the device across 25 sessions at this point.)

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WHAT IS THE AJNA LIGHT AND HOW WOULD I USE IT?

You lie with closed eyes underneath the flashing LED lights with headphones playing relaxing music. According to its creator Guy Harriman, the light can entrain your brain waves to access certain frequencies which correlate to deeper or higher states of consciousness.

The Ajna light at Yue Float in London.

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WHY SHOULD I USE THE AJNA LIGHT?

If the light can change the quality of your mind via the different frequencies, then your direct life experience can potentially be changed as well. I was intrigued by this possibility. Creativity, bliss or rejuvenation on demand? The implications of this are profound.

As a human being you are functioning in and as your mind. The quality of the rest of your day will be entirely determined by the quality of your mind.

Sam Harris, Waking Up

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WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT BRAINWAVE STATES AND WHY WOULD I WANT TO ENTRAIN THEM?

Most people are in the ‘Beta 12–30Hz’ brainwave state of consciousness the majority of the time. This is in the middle of the range. By moving deeper one is likely to experience more stillness and relaxation, by moving higher one can potentially gain access to more intense and stimulating states of mind. The most healthy, powerful minds have access to all of these frequencies and move between the optimal depending on the situation.

Delta (deepest frequency)
1–4Hz
Reported characteristics:
Dreamless sleep
Deep physical restoration of body
Connection to the unconscious mind
Extreme bliss
States of empathy
Should be avoided if you have ADD or ADHD

Your brain is in this state when it’s in the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep. Advanced healing of body and mind occurs during this period and it’s where the unconscious mind and intuition are born from. Extreme bliss and states of empathy are experienced when the mind is awake and aware that it’s in this state.

Theta
4–8Hz
Drifting into sleep
Dream imagery
Reduced anxiety
Powerful creativity and insight
Spiritual connection

As you are falling into sleep your brain accesses this frequency and moves in and out of it throughout the night. Vivid visualisations are often experienced. Theta is the state that is often stimulated by meditation and is naturally accessed more frequently by creative people. REM sleep (the part where you dream) happens here.

Alpha
8-12Hz
Pre sleep
Relaxed
Bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind
Pain relief
Stress and anxiety reduction
Blissful states of mind

This is the stage where you can program your mind happening just before you wake up or fall asleep. After much experimentation, this became my preferred setting. The sense of letting go and lucidity was combined with heightened sense of awareness throughout my body and I reliably left the sessions feeling relaxed and focussed.

Beta
12 – 30Hz

This is an important frequency to understand at the beginning of an Ajna journey.

A healthy balance between the brainwave states is key. In the West, a large proportion of society is overworked. This results in the brain being in a Beta brainwave state too much. This leads to an unhealthy amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) being released into the body, an inability to turn off the mind, sleeping disorders and eventually more serious conditions. Increasing Beta waves in these individuals can make their symptoms worse.

Having acknowledged the above, in healthy balance, Beta waves can provide the following benefits:

Motivation
Enhancement of language and reading skills
Effective treatment against ADD
Reduces Fatigue

Gamma
30-100Hz
Increased focus
Improved learning and short term memory
Enhanced senses
Bliss and compassion

This is the state of hyper brain activity, great for learning and Gamma waves are associated with the formation of ideas, language, memory processing. For me it felt like consuming high quality caffeine – gives great stimulation and focus for several hours but it’s using a lot of brain energy. At the end of the day I needed a good nights sleep after an intense Gamma session.

Lambda
100-300Hz
Profound levels of insight
Personal original creative problem solving
Mystical out-of-body experiences
High degree of self-awareness

This is reportedly the state that monks can get into after years of meditation. I tried this on the ‘pure’ setting – 20 minutes of only Lambda using binaural beats on the headphones at a matching frequency and found it to be too much. I left feeling disoriented.

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IF I’M A BEGINNER WHAT SHOULD I START WITH?

Use the Schumann setting for 15 mins to see how you feel (this moves between Theta, Delta and Gamma frequencies). Every body is different and optimal dosage will vary. Some people come out feeling 15 mins is enough whilst others need 30 mins or longer. ‘More’ is not better. The real changes for me started after about six sessions of 30 mins+.

I experimented with the light intensity ranging between 7-20% and found 12% to be optimal for me. (If you’re Asian you will potentially be more light sensitive so start with 7%.)

I have a demanding job in a capital city and find my mind racing sometimes, so I found the relaxing Alpha and Theta settings the most beneficial to start with. If you have any trouble sleeping, then start with the creators’ default setting of Alpha for 15 mins and build from there.

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WHAT SHOULD I USE IT FOR? 

It depends what your goals are. I experimented with using it in the early morning before work to energise me for the day and specified my own custom settings.

Energisation

Use 30 mins ‘Theta – Gamma – Theta’ if you want to feel in the zone. Theta acted like my ‘gateway drug’. It put me in a relaxed and receptive state of mind to entertain the Gamma mid point which is highly stimulating (and felt like too much in a pure dose). Using Theta on exit also helped to smooth the edges of the experience.

Relaxation

Alternatively, it can drop you into very peaceful brainwave states which can put you in a very calm place before bed and aid deeper sleep.

Doing 30 mins of ‘Theta – Delta – Theta’ put me in a relaxed state, the nearer to bedtime the better. (During my experimentation phase I did 60 minutes of Delta before work which was deeply relaxing at the time, but left me gazing into space and unable to follow a conversation for hours afterwards – which I would not recommend if you’re trying to make a positive impression!)

Problem solving

Theta is the state of deep meditation and the Alpha state accessed just before it forms the bridge to your unconscious mind. I found formulating a question about a particular problem before going into a default Theta session frequency would often result in solutions I hadn’t previously thought of.

This had a gestation period – sometimes it would take several hours after the session before the idea would come (see the ‘potential placebo’ comment at the end of this section).

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WHAT IS THE BEST STRATEGY FOR SOMEONE WHO IS STRESSED?

Train your brain to access the Alpha frequency. It bridges the mind to its unconscious state which opens up communication again and allows an intuitive awareness to reset the system and recharge by accessing more Alpha and Theta waves naturally.

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ISN’T IT ALL JUST PLACEBO?!

I have experienced some powerful states using the light which I have rarely encountered by other means.

It could be that by reading the proposed effects (see the reported benefits of different brainwave states above) it then primes your brain to experience them, or think it has. I was skeptical going in, but felt a noticeable difference before and after in almost every session using the light.

If it was placebo, then entertaining this possibility didn’t reduce the desirable effects the light was having.

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WHAT’S THE CREATORS’ BACKGROUND?

Guy Harriman used to work with Steve Jobs at NeXt computers, then Cisco as a chip engineer. He then retired from the corporate world to become a monk and opened a wellness centre in Chang Mai, Thailand.

He created the Ajna light after experiencing the Lucia light (a similar product) and realised its healing potential in a more efficient design.

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HOW CAN I ENHANCE THE EFFECTS OF THE LIGHT?

Breathing

I experimented with different techniques whilst under the light.

The most effective for me was five deep breaths, followed by holding the breath for seven seconds and repeating this as a continuous cycle during the session.

This intensified the light patterns and increased the likelihood of more vivid experiences.

Gradualism

I found the further away the frequency from the Beta baseline, the more of a challenge it was for my mind to achieve. Jumping straight in to Lambda for example was too much too soon. The mind is a sensitive instrument and should be approached the same way as the body in the gym – with gradual and increasing challenge moving from gentle to intensive.

I should note here that when I refer to using ‘Theta’ for example, I was using the creators’ setting of Theta which is actually a mix of frequencies with Theta as the dominant character. The frequencies then combine and synergise. I found using ‘pure’ setttings of 100% of a single frequency to be less effective. As a result using binaural beats on the headphones was not appropriate because these entrain one specific frequency and they wouldn’t match the fluctuation provided by the default settings.

Music

Experiment with different tracks and find one you resonate with and then use it consistently. This formed a trigger in my mind that whenever I heard the piece of music, my mind was primed for a light experience.

In conclusion, I think the light is a powerful tool for energisation, relaxation and creative insight. A deeper exploration of using the light in combination with other techniques is coming soon.

A Manual for Your Brain or How to Remember What You’ve Read

Written by: Ben Kennedy
Topic: Learning

I wrote this post because I was having trouble remembering the details of books I had read several months ago.

Distraction was becoming an increasingly serious issue and I wanted to focus on material that would help me to retain and utilise the information I learned more effectively.

The world is evolving more quickly and being able to adapt by rapidly learning new technical skills and their underlying principles will be one of the most powerful human assets in the future.

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PART 1: FOUNDATION

Below is mainly a summary of key concepts from the book A Mind For Numbers by Barbara Oakley.

LEARNING

There are 2 modes of learning in the brain:

1. Focus mode – like a pinball machine with tightly spaced bumpers which allows fast connections for the thought ‘ball’ to ping against. It uses familiar brain pathways and is conscious, logical and rational.

2. Diffuse mode – the bumpers are spaced much further apart allowing more broad ranging ways of thinking. This is used to understand new ideas and make creative leaps. Unconscious and non linear.

It’s best to alternate between the 2 modes. Spend time focussing intently for a period of 25 mins, then let the diffuse mode take over for 5 mins by going for a coffee or a short walk. Repeat this cycle 3 more times (making a total of 100 focussed minutes in 4 sessions), then take a longer break.

Procrastination (neural discomfort about a task) is the biggest inhibitor to learning. Use the Pomodoro timing technique outlined above to overcome this by deciding to focus on process rather than final outcome. I use the focus keeper app for this.

“I’m going to work on this for 25 minutes and then take a break” (process) versus “I’m going to finish the final design.” (product)

Practice and repetition is particularly important for understanding challenging topics.

MEMORY

It works in 2 ways:

1. Working memory – 4 ‘slots’ which can be easily forgotten or erased like a blackboard.

2. Long term memory – like a storage warehouse which can have memories transferred to it from the working memory by using practice and repetition via recall.

CHUNKING

A chunk is a compact synthesis of key ideas.

They can grow large and complex but still only take up one ‘space’ of the four working memory slots.

Chunks are most easily built by:

— Focused attention on the topic
— Understanding of the material
— Practice and repetition

Recall is a very powerful form of ‘mini testing’; repeating the freshly learned material from memory. Mistakes are useful because they highlight gaps in your knowledge.

‘Transfer’ is applying a chunk acquired in one skill and using it to learn another more quickly.

Interleaving learning will accelerate progress. Practicing different aspects of the topic of varying difficulty levels in the same session.

Flexibility in composition is also required for expertise once the key chunks have been acquired.

Avoid ‘illusions of competence’ i.e. fooling yourself that you’re learning when you’re actually not by:

— Using deliberate practice of more difficult material
— Testing yourself (recall is a good way of mini testing)
— Minimise highlighting (less effective than note taking)

Einstellung (a ‘rut’) is an existing chunk which stops you from solving a problem in a new or creative way.

Luck happens when exposing yourself to more and more ideas and ways of thinking so that you are more likely to spot opportunities.

BEATING PROCRASTINATION

Successful learning involves bit by bit and day by day building of solid neural scaffolds. The same way a body builds muscle – gradually.

— Keep a journal of what does and doesn’t work.
— Commit to a to do list the night before so that the diffuse mode can strategise the list whilst you’re asleep.
— Reward yourself regularly, but delay these until after a task is completed.
— Watch for procrastination cues.
— Remove distractions
— Create a backup plan for when you procrastinate
— Eat your frogs first. Work on the most difficult or uncomfortable item first when you are fresh.

DEVELOPING MEMORY

Practice and repeat key concepts to chunk them and store them in long term memory.

Humans have outstanding visual and spatial memory systems.

Visual – create evocative, synaesthetic images to help remember something.

Use meaningful groups which simplify material. Associate numbers with years, create sentences to remember the first letters of a verbal sequence. “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” for the rainbow colour sequence.

Employ the memory palace technique.

USEFUL STRATEGIES

Summarising key concepts in your own words in book margins or handwritten notes is one of the best ways to understand and remember material as you are absorbing new information.

Metaphors and analogies help your brain to visualise and compare new information to existing chunks in your mind and learn faster.

Even imperfect ones are highly effective.

Reviewing answers in a test or points in a presentation after taking a short break helps to employ the diffuse mode to analyse the material from a ‘global perspective’.

Another way to effectively employ the diffuse mode is to review the material with other people who can help you identify where your focus mode maybe making errors.

Fear and excitement are very close psychophysiological responses in your mind. When anxieties about a presentation or exam come up use this fact to tell your brain “I am excited to be progressing my career” or “I am excited by the chance to learn”.

Amy Cuddy’s work on power posing is also useful here which offers scientific evidence proving how you hold yourself literally makes a difference to your confidence level. Leaning back in your seat and placing your palms on the back of your head signals to your brain (and others) that you are relaxed and in control. This decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases testosterone.

If you’re worried about an upcoming situation, drop into diffuse mode for a moment or two. Use the 4 step ‘box breath’ (inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four and repeat) to centre yourself and then return to the task.

Learning is a process. Traditional education focuses on end product which can be anxiety inducing and lead to procrastination.

Growth mindset. When the mind concept is approached like a “muscle”, the more you use it, the stronger it gets (when used with alternating rest periods).

PART 2: GROWTH

This section is mainly taken from ideas put fourth by @zaoyang on deep learning and the book Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin.

COMPOUNDING

Building on the idea of learning as a process is that it is also “intellectual compounding”.

Buffet and Munger used this concept to build mental models of the world which allow them to make decisions quickly processing vast amounts of data through many different decision tress in very short timeframes.

Intuition is simply reading a lot (understanding and retaining this information so it can be processed quickly).

This allows someone to turn slow or inaccurate fast thinking (intuition via diffuse mode) into more reliable intuition.

Success is indicated by how someone makes decisions. Investing your time in the right area at the right time is a skill, not purely ‘luck’.

Reading and note taking allows your brain to use both focused (reading and retaining) and diffuse mode (creative) to wander and make associations after the digestion of the material.

As the world gets faster with AR, VR, AI and Crypto the ability to invest in your own intellectual capital will be the most valuable asset.

MINDSET

A fixed mindset is the most damaging mental model. EG “I’m just not good with numbers”.

However, “I can learn to get better with numbers” is a growth mindset and the most desirable place to be.

These can be different for each skill set. For example, you may have a growth mindset for physical items at the gym but a fixed mindset for maths and a fixed mindset for humour.

It takes conscious work to change a mindset. It is one thing to intellectually understand that you ‘need’ a growth mindset, but if you have a fixed attitude it has been ingrained from childhood and must be unlearned and the new growth mindset consciously experienced repeatedly to become a new belief.

Most people have so much going on in their lives that they find it hard to study and learn new subjects so their mental models (decision trees) never grow big enough to make smart decisions or handle truly complex ideas.

CHANGING MINDSET

Approach each fixed mindset and turn them one by one. “I’m just not good with numbers.” Take a beginner course (using the techniques in part one above) and go as simple as you need to begin and avoid procrastination. Once mastered, do an intermediate course and then an advanced. Through conscious learning you will have proved to yourself that your brain is in fact “good with numbers”.

This ‘chunk’ will then transfer “perhaps I can learn other subjects I thought I was no good at”.

Positive self talk isn’t enough, applied learning is the only thing that will change a mindset.

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PART 3: EVOLUTION

This section has been mainly noted from Josh Waitzkin’s phenomenal book The Art of Learning.

Learning to perform at the highest level requires training your subconscious to deliver explicit focus on demand.

To succeed at a critical moment in time, one has to practice patterns in everyday life so that they become second nature in stressful moments. One needs to build a trigger.

The first question to ask is:

When do you feel closest to serene focus in your life?

Some examples of activities which could build a trigger routine to cultivate a state of serene focus:

10 mins Blended Shake
10 mins Stretching Exercises
10 mins Breathing Exercise
1 min Cold Shower
5 mins Inspiring Music Track

The routine activities should be bespoke to the individual – whatever is most effective and the final activity should be the most joyful and inspiring.

Do this consistently for 1 month recording its use everyday. Crossing off each day helps to build a positive association with a chain of progress.

After fully internalising this routine, do it before an important meeting or event where you need to perform well.

This should put you ‘in the zone’ for the particular event.

Transplant the routine from a prelude to the joyful event to a prelude to work.

A physiological connection is formed between the routine and the activity it precedes.

Once the routine is internalised it can be used before any activity and a similar state of mind will emerge.

The aforementioned routine is useful because it is relatively portable and conducive to a mellow presence.

Once effectively created how do you turn the routine into something immediately useable?

How can I click into the zone at a moment’s notice?

Create a lower maintenance, more flexible trigger by:

Making small incremental changes shortening the routine. After the first month reduce each adaptable stage of the routine by a small amount.

For example week 5:

Remove the shake if you’re not hungry
8 mins Stretching Exercises
8 mins Breathing Exercise
50 sec Cold Shower
4 mins Inspiring Music Track (the first 4 mins)

Week 6:

6 mins Stretching Exercises
6 mins Breathing Exercise
40 sec Cold Shower
3 mins Inspiring Music Track (the first 4 mins)

The key is making small changes so there is more similarity than difference to the routine after each change.

By Week 10 it may look like this:

1 min Stretching Exercises
1 min Breathing Exercise
10 sec Cold Shower
30 sec Inspiring Music Track (the first 30 sec)

Eventually reduce the length of the track until you can simply imagine listening to it and your mind is in the zone.

This concept is based around the most stable of all principles: incremental growth.

Ideally learn the routine in the most inspiring setting you can – anything which initially contributes to the feeling of serene focus will be beneficial in putting you in that state.

The ideal for any performer is flexibility. If you have the optimal conditions then go through an extended routine your body and mind can enjoy.

If not, have an ultra condensed routine and a flexible state of mind.

The chances are your opponents won’t be as adaptable without the same training.

This extends far beyond the boardroom or competition arena. You could be driving your car or crossing the street and be confronted with a dangerous situation where you need to be ‘in the zone’ to save your life.

Even more critical than these rare moments, these practices can raise our quality of life.

It makes a person more aware of the present moment, the detail of life becomes more explicit. The notion of boredom becomes absurd as we naturally soak in the subtleties of the banal.

Presence taught Josh Waitzkin how to live.

DEALING WITH EMOTION

Anger is one of the most decisive emotions.

99% of competitors are at least somewhat thrown by anger.

First accept responsibility. You are the one who allows themselves to get angry. Seek out situations which make you angry and identify why it is happening.

Are you scared of an outcome or embarrassed? Fear is often the underlying emotion because a weakness has been revealed.

As you learn to channel the energy in a positive way, increase your exposure to more extreme situations which would typically make you more and more angry.

Recognise the relationship between anger, ego and fear.

Develop the habit of taking on technical weakness whenever someone pushes your limits instead of falling back to a self protective indignant pose.

Once this distinction has been made you are free to learn about yourself.

If someone gets in your head they are doing you a favour. The obstacle is the way.

Competitors who block out anger or fear will fail when pushed far enough.

The only way to succeed in high stake situations is to acknowledge reality and funnel it.

Take the nerves and use them, turning your natural states into an advantage. We must be prepared for imperfection.

“I was unhindered by internal conflict—a state of being that I have come to see as fundamental to the learning process.”

By using meditation techniques we can learn to sit with emotions, learning our unique flavours and ultimately discover deep pools of inspiration. Once we learn to ride the waves rather swim against them we can pick up immense speed.

Funnel primal heat into penetrating focus.

Turn weakness into strength until there is no denial of our natural eruptions, and nerves sharpen our game. Fear alerts us, anger fuels heightened attention.

Discover what states of mind work best for you and build condensed triggers so you can pull from your deepest reservoirs of creative inspiration at will.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Great artists and competitors are masters of navigating their own psychologies and playing to their strengths.

They control the tone of the battle so it fits with their personalities. Being true to your natural disposition is critical at all stages of the learning process.

High end learning principles spring out of a deep creative plunge into an initially small pool of inspiration.

Lay a solid foundation by studying positions of reduced complexity (end game before opening) to a microscopic degree.

Once internalised, these principles are applied to increasingly complex scenarios.

Making smaller circles – we take a single technique or idea and practice it until we feel its essence.

Then we gradually condense movements while maintaining their power. This gives us an invisible arsenal.

Focus on a select group of techniques and internalise them until the mind perceives them in tremendous detail.

After training in this way, we can see more frames in an equal amount of time, so things feel slowed down.

Once we have felt the profound refinement of a skill, no matter how small it may be – we can then use that beacon of quality as we expand our focus into more and more material.

Principle of penetrating the macro through the micro is a critical idea in the development process.

Champions emerge from a profound awareness of their unique strengths and who are exceedingly skilled in guiding the battle in that direction.

Creativity is always built on a foundation.

Visualise that you are building a pyramid of knowledge.

Every level is constructed of technical information and principles that explain that information and condense it into ‘chunks’ (see Part 1: Foundation above).

Once you have internalised enough information to complete one level of the pyramid, you move onto the next.

Imagine you are at level ten of the pyramid and a ‘creative insight’ happens where you ‘see’ something from level twelve.

Most people put this down to luck or mystical insight, but this is a missed opportunity.

By deconstructing these insights – studying the context around them (behavioural and environmental conditions) and learning how to identify the relevant causal factors, one can progress to the next level by understanding what led to the creative leap.

Tactics come easy once principles are in the blood.

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CONCLUSION

Specify the overarching goal. Divide into small tasks.

Plan the day’s to-do list the night before and start with one pomodoro session to beat procrastination on the most challenging task first.

Build a trigger routine to put yourself in the zone at the beginning of each day. Cross them off daily on a calendar to create a success chain.

Work on gradually compacting the routine to the point of one single thought.

Once this has been perfected, begin focusing on specific emotions to channel such as anger or situations which put you out of the zone.

If you’re mentally stuck, change your physiology. The mind follows the body in this regard.

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What learning strategies have proved most useful for you? Please share in the comments.