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12 June 2008 @ 10:02 am
Awakening the Mind and Focusing  
I’ve read the first few chapters of Anna Wise’s book Awakening The Mind and feel excited and engaged by her research. She offers various exercises for stimulating different brain frequencies individually, leading up to instructions for entering the so-called ‘awakened mind’ state at will. The awakened mind is created by the presence of all four brainwave frequencies (beta, alpha, theta, and delta) working in concert to produce maximum mental clarity, flexibility, creativity, spontaneity, intuition, recall -- the whole package. Wise’s claim is that anyone can learn to enter this mind state through practice by using mental imagery techniques.

She worked with C. Maxwell Cade, the British scientist, yogi, and author of The Awakened Mind (1979), a seminal work that documented the brainwave frequency patterns of swamis and healers in England. After eight years of working with Cade and completion of a master’s in Humanistic Psychology from Antioch, Wise returned to the U.S. to continue Cade’s work. Using his mind mirror, a device that allows researchers to see the brainwaves of subjects under study, Wise measured the brainwave activity of artists, inventors, mathematicians, and scientists. She also studied business types -- CEOs and presidents of corporations. What she discovered was that “the brainwave patterns of high performance, of creativity, and the bursts of peak experience were the same patterns that the yogis and swamis lived in” (p. 4).

Needless to say, I am intrigued by the possibility of using these exercises not only for myself and my family (if they have any interest -- well, do ya?) but also in the classroom with students. Wise’s research, which concludes that anyone can learn to enter the awakened mind state at will, is a Valhalla for teaching and learning. What if I could replace the opening warm-up activities I use now with exercises aimed at preparing the mind to relax and learn?

As I continue to read Wise’s book, I am struck by the similarities between her description of the awakened mind state and Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing process. For Gendlin, the main point of Focusing is to teach people to recognize their bodily signals as a means of bringing unconscious (inaccessible) material to light. Through concentrating on one’s ‘felt sense’ (a non-verbal, kinesthetic experience that serves as a direct referent for some meaning that is well-known to the focuser but that has not yet found verbal expression) of a circumstance or problem, one is able to verbalize material that was heretofore only dimly recognized on an intuitive level.

For me, the process seems very related to Wise’s explanation of alpha brainwaves as the ‘sensualizing’ frequency that creates an essential bridge between ordinary, beta consciousness and theta and delta brainwaves where unconscious and inaccessible material is stored. It seems to me that Wise’s awakened mind techniques simply offer more detailed instructions for performing the Focusing process pioneered by Gendlin. In other words, achieving an awakened mind state is also a means of getting in touch with and opening up one’s ‘felt sense’ of a problem or situation (or field of study, for that matter).

I am extremely intrigued by the possibilities of both these lines of research to help render students’ minds more flexible and receptive to general language learning. I am also hopeful that showing students how to cultivate an awakened mind can make the writing process, particularly in the prewriting and planning phases, a much more enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding endeavor.
Current Mood: enthralledenthralled