Simply staring out the window

 

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Staring out the window one day long ago in Hamburg

Stumbling round the web today, I happened upon a New York Times article that was talking about how our brains work. The whole thing is worth reading, so I’ll link to it here:

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

However, you don’t need to read the whole thing to get what I thought was the best part. Never hurts if you can slide the word stick-to-itiveness into a sentence…here, enjoy:

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

Did you read that? Daydreaming mode. That’s the best mode. I excel at that one.

Have had some long meandering conversations this summer with some of my favourite people, and quite an unlucky few have difficulty with down time. Time when they don’t actually have to be doing something. It’s a topic I find myself coming back to again and again.

Writing and playing music and teaching are all things that I enjoy. They bring me untold pleasure, and I shine when I’m in my element. Yet, if there’s one thing I’m exceptionally good at, it’s idling. Doing as little as possible.

You don’t put much value in such a thing? Yes, I suppose I get that. Probably not going to change your mind on this one, anyway, which is why I was so thrilled to see the above-mentioned article. Don’t take my word for it.

The creative answers that make the breakthroughs? They don’t necessarily come when you buckle down and try harder. They just might materialise while walking the dogs or catching a street car. Or the one of the best scenarios for daydreaming?

Simply staring out the window.

Go ahead and try it. You’ll be glad you did.

 

3 thoughts on “Simply staring out the window

  1. I am so glad to hear there is evidence this is helpful. This summer I had the joy of revisiting one of my favorite places in the world: a cabin owned by my aunt in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This cabin has indoor plumbing and appliances circa 1950’s, but no television. Certainly no internet, wi-fi or otherwise. We had to drive out of the canyon (a trip of about seven miles) to get cellphone reception. There was plenty to do, but nothing was pinging at us, and sometimes all we did was sit and listen to the creek, breathe the pine air, look at the mountains and let our thoughts run as free as the water over the rocks. It was fantastic. Now that I am home again, I try to grab a mental mini-vacation at least once a day when I start to stall out. Better than staring blankly at a screen, stuck.

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