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Workshop - Stuff by Members
Written by Alex   
Thursday, 23 September 2021 16:40

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2 

Operational Modes & Main Applications

  

system modality - primary modes

Anyone who uses technology will be familiar with the concept of operational modes; usually presented as menu choices on most devices. Your 'phone for example may have a 'photographic' mode, a 'go online' mode, a 'games' mode, a 'text' mode and a 'make a call' mode. 

On digital devices, we can sometimes operate more than one mode at a time, for example, stay online and make a call, but this is NOT the case with brains. The most important thing to remember about operational modality in brains is that the system can only operate in ONE primary mode at a time. 

If we had a system manual for ourselves, it would begin with these basics:

 

"All biological software operates in two main 'primary' operational modes; these are: 'growth & repair' mode OR 'protection' mode".

 

On every level, growth/repair and protection modes are mutually exclusive behaviors, because it requires completely different chemistry and genetic expression to set up and maintain each mode. We can switch modes very fast, but we can't use both modes at once. 

Primary modes of operation are overall processing modes, which direct both the type of things processed and the manner in which they are processed. Operational modality fundamentally affects the immediate systems we are embedded in; our brains and bodies, through our hormones and neurotransmitters controlling our emotions and behavior; resulting in the system setting up overall mind and body 'states' in line with the predominant modality.

 

 

growth & repair / protection 

These are 'primary modes'. Although on the micro level there are hundreds of behavioral functions expressed by a cell, and on the macro level multiple behaviors are expressed by humans, all behaviors on all levels can be classified as based in either growth or protection responses.  

These 'primary' modes set parameters for the system's overall behavior and affect all processing carried out within the system as well as our motivations, moods, aims and goals. Simply, modes affect everything; behavior, neurochemistry, sensory awareness, immunity, emotional responses, memory, imagination, learning, IQ and cognition. 

These two primary modes cover our primary evolutionary directives, which are, 'avoid harm' (protection mode) and 'pursue benefits' (growth/repair mode). This, when it comes down to it, is basically what all organisms must do. All mammals (and possibly all creatures) use growth mode and protection mode. Both of these modes have clear physical effects. 

In growth/repair mode (GRM), all 'normal' operations take place. Blood flow and nutrients dynamically adapt to supply whatever networks we are using the most (thus, some types of MRI scanning can measure blood oxygen levels to tell us which areas or networks of the brain are currently 'busy'). Repair programs can run (including DNA repair) and all essential 'housekeeping' maintenance (everything from removing toxins to turning short term memories into long term ones) can be carried out. Growth (the birth of new neurons and the construction of new connections between neurons) takes place in this mode in response to learning. A healthy organism spends most of its time in GRM by default. It keeps us in good health and in optimal condition for learning. 

System requirements (see last chapter) are always prioritized. It is essential (ie, a biological imperative), for the system to have an appropriate matrix (ie, a context appropriate to our current phase of development) in order to successfully engage GRM. It is also essential to spend regular time in GRM to avoid becoming stuck in protection mode, and having an established matrix enables this. 

Protection mode (PM) kicks in whenever we (consciously or unconsciously) don't feel safe. PM makes us more cautious and wary, less outgoing, and in cases of serious emergency initiates the fight or flight response. 

In 'protection' mode, blood supply to the frontal lobes closes down, as blood and nutrients are sent to the muscles, bones and peripheral nervous system, prepping us for upcoming hassle. Protective and defensive responses depend upon fast automatic reflexive behavior (rear networks) rather than slower conscious reasoning or logic (frontal networks). To facilitate this process, stress hormones constrict the forebrain’s blood vessels, forcing more blood to go to rear networks in support of these anticipated rapid responses. Constriction of blood vessels in the gut and forebrain respectively repress growth, digestion and conscious reasoning. 

It is very, very important to remember this. Digestion of nutrients stops, blood pressure and heart rate remain permanently elevated, the immune system closes down and all repairs and construction stop. The system needs to resolve the danger; nothing else matters until the danger is resolved. 

It is impossible to learn well in these conditions, because 'secondary modes' (see below) cannot be engaged with the system in protection primary mode. All of the system's resources are dedicated to looking for and evading harm; there is no time or energy or processing power available to pursue any benefits. 

On biology's part this is very, very sensible; it's of no use stopping to consider what might go well with fish for dinner, or what to say to a friend later, when something is trying to eat you. 

The thing is, protection mode is designed by biology for emergencies, which it 'expects' should occur with ever-decreasing frequency as we mature and learn more. Currently, however, many of us get stuck in protection mode on a permanent basis. One of the main reasons for our getting stuck is biological imperatives not being met, and they are usually not met either because we don't know about them or because we fail to recognize their lack as being the actual cause of all our problems. 

 


The hypothalamus is the portion of the brain that 'reads' environmental signals for danger or benefit. If it perceives input signals as dangerous, the stress response will activate the pituitary gland. 

The pituitary gland initiates fight or flight mode. The hormones released by the adrenal glands (near the kidneys) cause the blood vessels in the trunk to squeeze and push the blood to the extremities (muscles) for us to get ready to escape the potential danger. 

Under chronic stress (anxiety) our immune system, which protects us from bacteria and viruses, is suppressed. The immune system requires growth & repair mode, which uses a great amount of energy, so when the adrenal hormones are very high it shuts down for the duration of the danger. 

Anxiety hormones squeeze the blood from the brain's frontal lobes and push it to the back of the brain, while increasing blood supply to muscles and bones. This is why we are less intelligent and thoughtful, but faster and more athletic, when under chronic stress. 

This 'fight or flight' mechanism is meant to be a temporary emergency measure, but we can get stuck in protection mode when biology believes we are in circumstances that constantly promote too much stress, which leads to anxiety and fear. Many of us tend to be less physically healthy and intelligent than we naturally could be, due to being stuck in protection mode with chronically elevated anxiety hormones. 

What shifts us out of protection mode fight/flight responses and back into GRM is the relaxation response (RR); which resets the HPA axis to balance after the danger has passed or been successfully navigated; returning us to growth & repair mode. The immune system turns back on, blood flow returns to frontal lobes and away from extremities, the danger is past, and we experience emotions of relief and satisfaction. 

The relaxation response happens automatically when the danger is resolved, but if the input coming in tells us that the danger appears constant, it cannot be resolved. That's how we get stuck. Those curious to know more about the physiological details may follow references.[1] 

To avoid our being distracted here by wondering, 'but how do we get out of protection mode if we are stuck?', I will explain the techniques for doing so towards the end of this chapter. 

 

system modality - secondary modes

The primary mode determines which secondary modes the system is able to access. 

Secondary modes are very limited when we are in protection mode; we have a menu choice of fight/run/freeze/hide (or camouflage). The choice will depend on the nature of the threat and how experienced the individual is. It's not a big repertoire, but it keeps us alive in emergencies, which is what it was designed for. 

A working system in growth & repair (GRM) primary mode automatically engages its main developmental program; emergence or 'entelechy' (best defined as biology's natural striving for constant adaptational improvement), for this is what it is doing. If it runs successfully, its main output is a more intelligent, more skilled, more experienced you. 

 

stretch, relax and salience

Assuming GRM is engaged, the entelechy program uses 'secondary' operational modes, the most familiar of which in terms of conscious experience are stretch mode and relax mode; we associate the experience of relaxation with input (taking things in), and stress or 'stretch' mode with output (doing or making stuff), but there is another secondary mode which is often missed because of its brevity, and that is 'salience' mode. Salience mode is where we make (often very fast) decisions and switch modes.   

As far as current research can determine (2021) these three modes appear to be employed during all GRM processing; that is to say that one of them is always in operation for as long as we remain in growth & repair primary mode, as we are intended to do for most of the time. The cycle of these modes even continues during healthy sleep, where due to lack of external input the system turns its processing power on itself for housekeeping tasks. 

Secondary modes affect all levels of processing and all behavior; from the concrete sensorimotor to the abstract cognitive. They are used in learning, memory, relationships, creativity, decision making and problem solving. 

 

stretch mode

In 'stretch mode' the system is putting ideas into practice; trying out new stuff, practicing known stuff, searching for new information or working on current projects. Blood flow is directed to the peripheral networks we are likely to require for increased directed behavior and their associated rear networks in the brain. The 'desire' part of our pleasure system, largely responsible for motivation, is activated in stretch mode.

 

 

Biology uses the word, 'stress' in a very specific way; unlike that of the popular media. For biology, stress means stretching; NOT straining. You may have encountered the same definition in physical exercise training terminology - we 'stress' and 'relax' muscles to increase their density and strength. a muscle is stressed and relaxed in order to do work, whether that 'work' is picking up a pencil, talking, or lifting weights in the gym. The term 'stress' is used in the same sense biologically with regard to the brain and mind. To 'stress' the mind, we engage it in challenging experiences, and to 'relax' the mind, we assimilate and understand those new experiences. Unknown becomes known; learning is a repetitive process of stretching and relaxing 

Stretch mode is NOT the same thing as the protection-mode-governed 'fight or flight' response discussed above; that is what the stress response provides in cases of emergency such as immediate physical danger. Ordinarily (in growth & repair primary mode) both the stretch response and relaxation response are used for learning. Every time we stretch and relax the brain, it grows stronger. So in the biological sense, stress and relaxation are both very very good –otherwise we would never be able to learn anything! But just like when working with physical muscles, if we overdo it, stress becomes strain; anxiety (which is what the general public and media call ‘stress’, hence the confusion). This is why it makes things clearer to use the terminology 'stretch mode' instead of 'stress mode'. 

Repetitive strain always leads to malfunction and eventually breakdown. In the body, it leads there via injury. In the brain, strain is damage, and unresolved ongoing damage causes chronic anxiety.

 

relax mode 

In 'relaxation mode' the system is being receptive and taking new stuff in, or assembling and considering what we know in different ways. Blood flow is directed to the central and frontal brain networks where memory is consolidated and defragged; housekeeping programs run; the immune system goes to work repairing any cellular damage and destroying any toxins; nutrients are digested and proteins are built and transported. Imagination plays with ideas, and a lot of our creative inspiration occurs in this mode. This is where we get the ideas that stretch mode will later carry out.


 

 

The relaxation response (RR) is the 'fulfilment' half of our pleasure system. It occurs when our brain chemistry changes in response to assimilation, success, satisfaction, fulfilment or comprehension. During this response, heart rate and blood pressure slow down, production and maintenance of brain cells increases, memory (which starts off being filed randomly) defragments and files its contents coherently by association, and stress hormone production is turned off. These changes leave us feeling very comfortable, happy and satisfied, yet still ready to pay attention and interact if something interesting or inspiring comes along.  

 

The RR engages relaxation mode which is vital for successful learning and memory. Even if we just rest quietly for 10 minutes after learning something new, we retain more information. Quiet resting after learning not only helps us to remember, it also results in the retention of more detailed memories.[2]
 

 

salience mode 

In order to learn about and operate in the world, an organism needs to do more than just pay attention and interact with its surroundings. It also needs to learn which sights, sounds and sensations in its environment are the most important and monitor how the importance of those details change over time. Salience mode is all about discernment, separating or uniting data, taking unconscious or conscious decisions and discerning what is relevant; which is a crucial basic function of all intelligence. 


 

During this mode we discern the differences and similarities between things which enable categorization, association and inference, and on these processes our mental abilities and the whole of intelligence depends. Associations are the simplest kind of relationships we can understand. Extracting relevant features in the context of everyday life (concrete) and extracting relevant features in the context of learning (abstract) are treated as one and the same. 

Salience mode allows very fast transfer of data within the brain, and this mode occurs transiently when switching between stretch and relaxation modes and for longer periods during sleep. The 'salience network' is engaged when we have achieved the critical mass of information necessary to make a decision; prioritize what is important to us and ascertain what is relevant in current particular circumstances. 

Salience is crucial for all ordinary activities. There is a million things bombarding us with input all the time; our eyes, our ears, our skin and other sensory organs. Out of all those things, which particular bits of information do we most need to pay attention to at this particular instant to drive appropriate behavior? Salience provides the mode in which the brain constantly solves this problem.[3]   

Salience occurs whenever an unconscious (and sometimes conscious) discernment-based probability computation is made -for example, we may detect that we now have enough information about something to go ahead and interact with it, or we may decide that we still need more before starting. We may feel it is time to stop looking at more and more available options and choose which one to focus on right now, or we may decide to stop focusing on one particular thing and open up the options by considering other possibilities. We might decide we want to stop reading and go to bed, or to get out of bed and do stuff. Unconscious processing uses salience mode for these mini-decisions all the time, as well as bigger issues such as 'How does all this information fit together?' 'Should I choose this option?' 'Is this the right thing to do?' 'Can I fit these into this?' 'Is this the same as that?' 'Have I seen that before?' and, most importantly, 'What is relevant here?'. 

These are the kind of thoughts which occur whenever we engage salience or 'discernment' mode. During sleep we don't notice modes changing, although we may notice the results of saliencemode as dream imagery, when memory is being defragged and recategorized. 

Ordinarily, visually we perceive a wide field of view in front of us, but we only focus our attention on a small part of this field. How do we 'decide' where to direct our attention, without thinking about it? The dominant theory in attention studies used to be 'visual salience'. Visual salience hypothesized that humans pay attention to things that 'stick out' from the background. However, new research shows that our attention is guided more by how 'meaningful' (personally relevant) we find an area or item or person within our view; not necessarily those concrete factors that are most visually outstanding.[4] 

It is likely that salience mode is also engaged in the split second decisions made in protection mode, currently I don't have any research data on this, so may update this later when I do.

 

The overall process of relax-salience-stretch

Here is an example of the three secondary modes in a simple context: imagine you are a volunteer in an experiment where you have to while away a couple of hours in an unknown room. The room contains a selection of coloring pens and adult coloring books, and you are told you can use them if you like, but you don't actually have to do anything. 

Chances are you'll explore the room, then sit down somewhere and idly flick through some of the pictures to see what they are like. This is relaxation or 'open mode'; the system is relaxed, the mind wandering and looking for something of interest.   

You notice some of the pictures are very interesting and complex, while others are rather dull. You decide to choose a cool one of fractals to color in, but tere are several choices. This is salience mode: shall I color a picture? Which one is the most inspiring?  

You narrow it down to three, and then select your favorite. Which colors to select? Ok let's do this. 

Now you are in stretch mode; you set about creatively coloring in the picture whilst making sure you can finish in the allotted time. Once it is complete and looks good, you re-enter relax mode and admire your work. 

We can get stuck in any of these modes. If we get stuck in stretch mode, we find it very difficult to relax, and don't like to leave anything unfinished. If we get stuck in relaxation mode, we lack motivation and become apathetic. If we get stuck in salience mode, it becomes very difficult to make even the simplest decision; we have to ask others to decide for us. 

We all accidentally 'crash' and experience these symptoms from time to time. Getting stuck in any secondary mode causes the system – sooner or later - to switch primary modes into protection mode, because it knows that something is clearly wrong.

 

Ctrl/Alt/del 

If we know how to escape the crash (or how to escape being stuck in PM permanently) and 'reset' the system into the required mode, we can avoid this, and that ability relies on recognizing what you feel like when using each mode, and having enough practice at shifting modes. I'll talk about it more in the techniques section below.

 

Anatomical and functional networks 

Each of these three operational 'secondary modes' coincides with the use of a functional network in the brain and a particular brainwave signature; these have been measured via fMRI and EEG respectively, and these days with a whole lot of other methods that make brains look beautiful and positively trippy.[5]  Look: 

 

 

Your anatomical networks comprise your brain's hardware architecture, and if you want to study those you can follow references.[6] Your functional networks (or 'Large-scale operational networks') are not the same as anatomical networks; they are more like main routes used most regularly on the internet; they unify local area networks so that they can function (and connect) together in a dynamic, essentially temporary, manner. They use the information highways between networks and parts of networks recruited for coordinated tasks; and it helps to think of them as circuits or processing pathways. 

To keep the difference clear, anatomical networks are relatively permanent; they grow to a certain size then increase in density and everybody's are very different. Functional networks fire up as needed and are relatively similar across individuals. So, imagine anatomical networks as a circuit diagram of hardware, and functional networks as the routes of software data flow within that matrix.

 

Below are the three functional networks associated with the three secondary operational modes in GRM.

 

 

  (front of brain is at top)

Relaxation mode uses the functional network known as the 'Default Mode network' (DMN). Neuroscientists are very uncoordinated about naming things, and this network is also known as the 'Imagination Network'. Mind wandering, invention, planning, creativity, learning, innovation and dreaming also initially use this network.[7]

 

Salience mode uses the functional network sensibly known as the 'Salience network' (SN). 

Stretch mode uses the functional network known as the 'Central Executive network' (CEN), aka 'Executive Attention Network', 'Cognitive control network', or 'Task Positive Network' (TPN). Lots of names, same network. That's biologists for you. 

Despite overall similarities, the details of your functional networks (of which areas dynamically connect to which other areas) are unique to you; functional networks are epigenetically modified just like anatomical networks; that is to say they change throughout an individual’s lifespan and are uniquely shaped by maturational and learning processes, within the large-scale neuroanatomical connectivity of each individual.[8] The more hardware connections existing in anatomical networks, the more complex functional processing can be. 

Brains also differ from each other in terms of resting state activity, and it's not an even playing field. If there is activity in certain brain networks when the brain isn't doing anything, then that person is generally predisposed to do better than others on the tasks which rely on that network. For examples, skill in language and executive function tests is linked with stronger functional connectivity during rest in the frontal and medial (middle) areas. For memory retrieval, stronger resting state activity in the medial areas indicates greater skill. Skills in both language and memory are reflected in strong resting state activity in both areas.[9]

 

relax & stretch as 'open' mode and 'closed' mode

As well as functional networks, operational modes coincide with specific behaviors which those functional networks enable, and on an experiential level we perceive these modes as our 'states of mind'. A change of mind state corresponds with a change of functional network and different processing modes, so we may think of these 'functional states' occurring in context of operational modes as our general 'operational state'. 

 

Different names, same concepts:

 

 

 

 

Relax mode

 

 

 

Salience mode

 

 

 

Stretch mode

 

 

 

Open mode

 

 

 

Salience mode

 

 

 

Closed mode

 

 

 

Default mode network

 

 

 

Salience mode network

 

 

 

Central executive network

 

 

 

Imagination network

 

 

 

 

SN

 

 

 

 

Task positive network

 

There's no need to remember all these different names, or what functional networks are used, to work with modes. The information is here so you can translate science papers ansd recognize what is being talked about. But for greater comprehension here I do want to associate stretch and relax modes with 'open' and 'closed' modes, so bear with me.

 

In relax mode we are receptive, calm, paying attention, observing, listening and concentrating and taking stuff in. Our operational state is open-minded; the mind plays with new ideas in a receptive way and is open to suggestions, daydreaming, imaginative prediction, creative ideas, innovation and scientific speculation. Associations are gathered together and new comparisons made. This operational state is known in the colloquial as 'open mode'. In open mode we tend to be intellectually curious, creative and imaginative, with a propensity to cognitively explore both abstract information (ideas and arguments) and concrete sensory information (sights, smells and sounds, etc.). In this operational state, we literally see things differently and in greater detail or 'higher resolution' in terms of basic perception.[10] 

Sleep occurs in open mode and is an important part of learning, as almost all memory consolidation takes place during sleep; the 'relaxation' half of learning. This is why we can wake up in the morning having somehow solved a problem that we couldn't make sense of the night before. During the night, the mind has made the necessary associations (and may have actually built new brain connections) to resolve the problem. Many people don't get enough quality sleep, so although they pay attention and understand information, they are often unable to remember it. 

Salience mode is the operational state in which motivation or inspiration has already presented itself and we are motivated to interact, but are not yet certain which course of interaction to follow. For example, someone has offered you a choice of snacks, but you're not yet sure which one to choose. Once you do, you switch to stretch mode ('closed mode'), reach out and take one. 

Stretch mode is known as 'closed mode' because the mind ceases meandering in creative speculation; a decision has been made and we now follow up that decision with focused, deliberate, appropriate behaviors for the next stage of processing. In stretch mode we like to try new stuff out, face the unknown, express creativity, explore, practice and innovate along specific lines. 

Now, remember what happens when too much stress causes strain; anxiety hormones shut down the blood supply to our frontal lobes and we are unable to think clearly. Conversely, though, with no challenges and no stress at all, motivation falls and apathy sets in. In a healthy, GRM state we are automatically jolted out of apathy by boredom - we feel uncomfortable doing nothing and we go find something interesting to do. But long-term low motivation without resolution can result in depression and poor self esteem, getting us 'stuck in a rut' with no incentive to change. 

Our comfort zone should thus include both relaxation and stress, but not too much of either.
 

overview of the process

Remaining in Growth & Repair primary mode enables a cycle of relaxation, salience and stretch secondary modes, and this process is required for us to learn anything new or to make any new memories. To initiate and maintain growth & repair primary mode, we must feel safe, anxiety-free and reasonably comfortable. 

In this operational state our neurochemistry primes us to be ready to learn, improve, explore, perform or examine. We engage lateral thinking or 'divergent thinking'; the ability to think of a wide variety of ideas, all somehow connected to a main problem or topic. Our unconscious aim in open mode is synthesis; bringing together things of relevance for consideration.   

Regular open mode access correlates with superior divergent thinking skills. There’s evidence that being in open mode regularly is associated with having more 'cognitive reserve', which gives you protection from the harmful effects of dementia.[11] These are correlations not causes, so it may be that superior divergent thinking skills cause regular use of open mode or it may be the other way round. Chances are though, biology being what it is, that both are true. 

Open mode also encourages complex abstract thought, often in pictures and shapes, colors and patterns, or geometric representations, that help the mind make more complex associations. 

When the unconscious computes that it has reached a 'critical mass' of relevant data to process in open mode, it switches to salience mode, does a fast transfer data-dump to facilitate more complex processing, and makes a decision. The unconscious aim in salience is inference; to help evaluate the ideas for usefulness within the given domain, problem or topic, allowing us to select the 'right' idea. 

Once a decision is made, this initiates stretch mode or closed mode. In closed mode we find ourselves motivated to interact, often initially we desire to seek out new information to 'fill in the gaps' between the known stuff and the new ideas. The unconscious aim in closed mode is analysis, as we explore the context or evaluate the task. 

Closed mode means we close our minds to irrelevant input and distractions and focus on doing something, rather than speculating. We stop theorizing and do the experiment. When we perform a critical mass of required 'doing' behaviors, salience mode tells us it's time for a break. Taking a break (or a nap) back in open mode allows us to unconsciously coordinate and process all the information and update long term memory accordingly. We effectively 'catch up with ourselves'. If you get stuck during a project, go do something different that's relaxing. Allowing the system to catch up with itself regularly speeds productivity overall. 

This pattern of processing: (relax-salience-stretch-salience-) repeats itself during a 'processing cycle', and the end result of it is that we have made new connections in the brain and learned, invented or created something new. We have adapted in a beneficial way.   

Plasticity and making connections (especially new ones) rely on this process. Imagine that you move home to a nearby place, and you want to figure out which is now the best route to a friend's house or a local store. Chances are you'll try several possible potential routes until you know which one is the quickest or easiest or most pleasant (depending on your personal priorities), then you'll discard all of the other routes in favor of this one. This is exactly how the brain grows new connections. When we face a new unknown, such as 'Which route is fastest?' we start off in 'open mode' exploring (open to all potential possibilities); discernment (salience) then leads to a decision or resolution of a choice, and we then move into 'closed mode' where we focus on the choice taken. 

Summary:

Healthy stress and relaxation are both in the service of growth & development; we stretch and relax intelligence by playing with, doing, making and exploring new things (stretch), and imagining, understanding, remembering and comprehending them (relax). We learn well in all GRM conditions; the stretch mode exposes the system to new, unknown conditions and the relax mode assimilates them into the known. This is how intelligence grows.  

The system cannot learn with only stretch mode or only relax mode; it needs both, and it needs them to occur in cycles on a regular basis, for any new learning (including beneficial change) to occur. 

Relaxation mode alone results in chronic depression and apathy, and the system begins to degrade through lack of use (literally, through lack of mental exercise). Stretch mode alone results in chronic anxiety and burnout; the brain literally burns out connections without a regular relaxation response, and this too causes degradation. 

Both these conditions result in the system reverting to protection mode until the problem is resolved. If it isn't, we're stuck.

 

Sticky problems

Problems with our getting stuck in particular modes are not the only reasons intelligence development is interrupted. Many of us are what could be called 'stuck in a matrix'. That means we cannot develop beyond our current context. 

This is sometimes a knock-on effect of being stuck in protection mode, but it can also happen for other reasons, such as: 

We don't have or don't perceive a new matrix to move into. 

We are too busy or hassled with wrong input to pursue developmental changes. 

Chronic illness or injury.

 

 

matrices can fail to form for three reasons: 

We have insufficient input to complete the current developmental phase. 

There is no apparent platform to progress into. 

There is insufficient energy available to continue development. 

 

To understand what this means, it is necessary to understand what exactly it is that 'shifts' when we go through a phase shift' and change matrix, and this is not easy to explain because self-awareness is often vaguely defined. 'Self identification' sounds a bit cosmic, and 'locus of consciousness' does too. These terms do all describe, though, the thing which shifts. In a very real sense, what shifts is 'you'. Your point of view. 

You will have experienced this in one way; the difference in sexual awareness between childhood and adulthood. As a small child you never looked at anyone from a sexual point of view, although you still discerned physical attractiveness and you knew about sex, you had probably seen animals or insects having sex, but it was just part of reality; nothing special. As an adult, you have a totally different perspective on sexuality in not just yourself; in everyone else too. You understand people's insecurities, behaviors and motives and all sorts of stuff about which you were clueless before. That's a phase shift. You suddenly have much broader awareness and comprehension of yourself and of reality in general. 

It may surprise you to know that we are designed to pass through at least six such shifts of awareness during development, and only one of them concerns sexuality. 

A good explanatory analogy: imagine the course of your development as a game. You, the player, begin at level one and progress through the levels. To proceed in a level, you need to collect a certain number of skills for each level. This of course requires a lot of practice playing the game. Once you have collected the set of skills for your current level, you are allowed to move on to level two, although you still retain the skills from level one if you use them regularly. You now play in order to acquire the second set of skills, and so on. This is pretty much exactly what goes on in development. 

It's easy to relate to 'you' as a game player shifting levels, and although it's not so easy to imagine the concept of 'you' moving location inside your own brain, but that is in fact what is going on. 

In your first matrix, the womb, you have very little conscious awareness because most of the work going on requires unconscious processes. You float in a sea of sensations and you dream, consolidating experiential memories, for much of the time. You learn a lot of unconscious awareness about motion, which you put into practice rolling and pushing and kicking about inside your mom. You learn some basic bodily control and you practice breathing, sucking and grasping. You start to recognize differences in touch and taste, later sound, and other sensory apparatus develops ready for input. 

You are now ready to shift matrix, and the matrix you should be shifting into is the arms of someone who cares for you; an ally. This new matrix will furnish you with a platform, input and energy for abilities you don't yet have yourself – the ability to calibrate your senses, control your motion and move about in the local environment carried by your ally, safely experiencing new input. This will be your greatest resource for the next developmental phase. 

Your new matrix has enough factors in common with the old one for you to relate to it; it has the same heartbeat, the same temperature, the same texture (skin) the same voice (only not so muffled) and makes the same movements you grew accustomed to in the womb. These similarities are comforting, make you feel safe, and help you stay in growth & repair mode.   

Now, the important thing is that your awareness, your consciousness, whatever you like to call it, must shift its nexus of operations to the location of each new brain network as it develops sufficiently. If mental development fails to shift, all the skills of these new networks will only be used in service of (and from the point of view of) the previous matrix.  

To get an idea of what this means, imagine the game levels again. Let's say level one was all about shooting ducks and whacking moles, or whatever, and the skills you needed for that were tool use, hand-eye coordination, attention and motor response speed. Ok so you've developed those skills, you've had lots of practice. In level two, let's say you are supposed to locate treasure and rescue prisoners, and for those tasks you will need the skills of spatial navigation, stealth and observation. Of course, you retain your skills of attention, tool use, etc., that you got in level one, but you can now use them for locating treasure and rescuing prisoners and also for shooting ducks or whacking moles. Once acquired, skills may be used upon any level. That's how it's all meant to go. 

What happens if you get stuck is this: you will only venture into level two in order to use level two skills (spatial navigation, stealth and observation) for shooting more ducks and whacking more moles in level one. You will never learn how to locate treasure or rescue prisoners; the abilities that level two skills were intended for. You're not operating from level two; you haven't 'moved in' to that level; you only raid it for improving level one mole-whacking skills. You'll carry on operating from level one, and all of the game's skills on every level will be dragged back into the service of level one, no matter how many levels you access. Creativity will be used for shooting ducks and whacking moles. Intellect will be used for shooting ducks and whacking moles. Any future development of skills on other levels will be used only in the service of level one, and sure enough, shooting ducks and whacking moles will be all the system ever gets to do. 

 

That's what being stuck in a matrix means. 

When people first start to understand this they may become concerned that certain epigenetic triggers they missed in childhood are irreplaceable; for example it is somewhat difficult for adults to get hold of breast milk, and we are unlikely to find anyone willing or strong enough to carry us about in arms. Nor can we find the time to spend ages playing in the same way babies do! But these 'missing' triggers are not unique; that is, we are adaptable enough for epigenetic changes to be induced by various different means. So I'll address ways to get unstuck in the practical sections of each chapter as we go along. 

The useful thing about knowing which triggers we may have missed is that it helps us to make a more informed calculation of where we possibly got stuck and what level we are currently operating from.

 

PROGRAMS 

basis for everything: the processing cycle of emergence

Whenever we are in growth & repair primary mode, the emergence 'entelechy' program runs. This is the core program for the development of mental abilities and it's an algorithm; a simple series of steps required for the successful development of life, brain and mind. It is repetitive and occurs in cycles akin to a spiral staircase progression, but it is not regular; the time required for each phase is modulated by differing circumstances. 


 

The most difficult thing to grasp about the emergence program is that it is applicable across a large variety of domains, much like the same laws of physics affect light, sound, water, people, machines and planets. This means that many different applications can all use the same underlying code, regardless of whether the domain is physical material and concrete, or mental and abstract. 

This has led to some confusion for those who mistake correlation for cause and effect. The fact that human behavior follows the same patterns as physical emergence or story archetypes does not mean that one has 'caused' the other; in terms of emergence it means that the same causative factor (the program) affects many different domains. 

Brains are designed to take advantage of this property and use the same processes for concrete behaviors (such as seeking and gathering fruit) or abstract behaviors (such as seeking and gathering information or ideas). We differentiate between concrete and abstract using the same calculations we rely on for differentiating between fact and fiction, or waking time and dreamtime. 

Using the same network for both concrete and abstract procedures is the main reason why we need to develop brain networks in the right order. Concrete circuits provide the foundation for later abstract computations, and concrete experiences provide the foundations for abstraction itself. 

This pattern of development is so deeply embedded that we can use very early concrete skills (such as babies waving their arms) to predict later abstract skills such as speech ability[52] and understanding stories.[53] But more on this later... 

Emergent systems like brains follow certain rules known as psychophysical laws which describe some of the ways minds operate. (Obviously, the mechanisms that generate such laws are not only happening in brains; they are applicable to all emergent phenomena).[12] 

For examples: Pieron's Law (the system (in this case mind) is quicker to make decisions when the two options to decide from are of high quality); Hick's Law (the system is slower to make decisions when the number of alternative options increases); and Weber's Law (the system is able to select the best quality option when there is a minimum difference between the qualities of the options. The minimum difference is small for unimportant qualities and big for important qualities – there is a linear relationship between quality and minimum difference. This last law can also be applied to changes in stimulus as well as in quality, for example, light, sound or weight). 

Hebb's law of plasticity (cells that fire together wire together) has recently [2018] come under fire, largely because people didn't really understand it in the first place – it is more accurate to say 'areas that fire together wire together', because different parts of neurons (and different types of neurons) connect together in different ways. The important issue is that the 'coincidence = connection' rule still holds. 

Our interest here is the emergence of mind as a system, and how to help that system to develop or improve our faculties; processes such as imagination, prediction, perception, memory and learning. These faculties have their own programming rules; for example, their foundational circuits must be subjected to relevant input at each phase of development in order to realize their full potential. Changes always occur according to an underlying repetitive pattern in operational modes and functional networks. 

Here are the operational mode shifts that take place during one processing cycle. 

 

You do need to experience the pattern from your own point of view, of course, and become aware enough of it going on such that you recognize what each bit 'feels' like. Now that you know what's going on, you'll start to recognize what mode your system is in at different times.  

It is to be hoped that you will make a habit out of noticing this, because doing so will speed your progress quite a lot. Recognizing programs running their subroutines by subjective experience, and working with the stage you are in, immediately enhances that experience. 

Everything that we do contains this repeating pattern; it is the common processing cycle which underlies everything minds can do, as long as input is correct and the system remains healthy and balanced in the green zone (see below). Understanding this underlying pattern enables us to work with biology to deliberately improve functions like memory, imagination or learning skills. 

Note that the periods of salience following a relax phase are shorter, whereas the periods of salience following a stretch phase are longer, forming a phase in themselves. 

Phases are steps in the emergence process. The time taken to complete one cycle of the process is extremely flexible, depending upon the complexity of the data under consideration. For example, the processing task of recognizing a cat could take milliseconds, resolving 'Which pants should I wear?' or learning to draw an accurate cube could take seconds or minutes, deciding where to live or learning to ride a bike could take weeks or months, and solving complex problems like Fermat's theorem or learning to be a surgeon could take years. But the same processing cycle is going on regardless. It's going on right now so that you can understand these words, or type your own words, or realize that you want to stop reading and eat. 

This program is the basis of everything healthy minds do. The reason we can do so much complicated and varied stuff with it is the same reason why computer programs can do so much complicated and varied stuff with the same processes and the same essentially simple binary code. Complexity emerges from simplicity, and simplicity arises from complexity. That's what emergence is all about.[13] 

As you learn more about it, you'll start to recognize the overall emergence process in any task you do. We all go through this series of events all the time.

 

What is going on in each processing cycle

Although each application (eg., memory, learning, creativity) uses the emergence process in it's own unique way, the fundamentals of processing remain the same. It's very useful to know these, because they enable you to analyze any process in the same way, rather than having to remember individual details about each process. All mind processes are variations on a theme, and this is the theme. 

There are keywords in each phase you can use as mnemonics that explain what sort of basic processing occurs in each phase. They are marked in bold below: 

 

step 1 

Gathering 1 (Open mode /gathering together/many into one/different into same/basics) 

Emergence always begins with the collective actions of many similar individual entities. If we could translate emergence code command lines directly into English, this one would read: 'gather together a lot of small, very similar items that are immediately available, all into the same place doing similar things'. In biological physical domains, this is stuff like gathering together cells which will later form an organ. In human behavioral terms, it may be gathering together data from what is already known, what is already in a database (memory), or it may be listening to and assembling ideas together from which one or two may be chosen, or it may be gathering tools or resources in preparation for a physical task, with a focus on assembling basics or resources.  

critical mass (When you gather things together into one place, you will eventually run out of room. In biological programming, 'critical mass' means 'enough to trigger a phase shift'. It might be enough data, enough experience, enough signals, enough practice, enough cells, sufficient repetition or enough items. The system continues gathering until critical mass is reached.)  

phase shift (the system makes strategic decisions, switches states to step 2 and displays new processing behaviors and properties)

 

step 2 

Seeking 1 (Closed mode /moving out/one into many/same into different/basics) 

Now the program is looking for differences rather than similarities (this may be searching for new data, different information or experience relevant to the issue; exploring new possibilities, different ideas or methods, seeking new solutions to problems). We start to separate and classify abstract ideas or concrete items into different territories to explore for different input or for different tasks. 

critical mass (as above) 

phase shift 



step 3 

Coding 1 (Salience /unification/many into one/different into same/basics) 

Coding always involves unification of different things by providing a conduit between them (operations on data such as translating, assimilating, associating old with new, unifying, connecting, association, modeling, copying, updating memories, changing formats and operational modes.) Insight arises during this phase which may be later used for pure creativity (see step 6). 

critical mass 

phase shift 



step 4 

Gathering 2 (Open mode /gathering together/many into one/different into same/details)  

The second 'gathering' stage differs somewhat from the first, in that instead of just gathering things together we are now imposing some kind of order upon them (we are gathering experience, practice, items or data with a focus on similarities in details rather than in basics; this leads to organization, classification, categorization, order, synthesis, timing, synchronization, control, creativity). Instead of being 'open to all' ideas; we are focused on having ideas within the constricts of a specific domain. In this stage, we often use new data or materials for already established purposes; this is how we think of how to build better huts, better tools, better clothing, better machines, etc.

 

critical mass 

phase shift

 

step 5

Seeking 2 (Closed mode /moving out/one into many/same into different/details) 

Exploring variations on a theme, analysis, innovation, invention, assessment, learning from mistakes, considering new possibilities). In this stage, we often use old data or materials for new innovative purposes; a spoon could be a door latch, a ceramic tile could be used as a heat shield, a firework could be a rocket, let's put a hut on a wooden platform and call it a boat, what if telephones could be mobile, etc. Practical creativity also occurs in this phase; we turn our creative ideas from step 4 into actual real life inventions and creations. If some wannabe chemist is going to blow their eyebrows off, it will almost certainly happen during step 5.  

critical mass 

phase shift

 

step 6 

Coding 2 (Salience /Unification/many into one/different into same/details) Comprehension, autonomization, coordination, competence; this is our final pre-output stage where everything is assessed for clarity of association and, basically, whether what we are doing or about to do is, as far as we can compute, appropriate, coherent, reasonable and 'everything makes sense'. Pure creativity based on insight and exploration, such as the discovery of new elements, or the invention of a new material incorporated into a new tool or item, or finally 'sussing out' the shape of a benzene ring, suddenly realizing that the butler did the murder in the library with a candlestick, or grasping the solution to a maths puzzle, often occurs suddenly during this phase. 

critical mass 

phase shift

 

 

Steps 1-3 of the process may be thought of as dealing with the basics, steps 4-6 as dealing with the details. Gathering together phases use processes that result in synthesis, seeking phases use processes that result in analysis.  

Because we all imagine things in different ways, below are two examples that will assist with remembering the steps of this program:

 

What it looks like in real life (example of the emergence program in the concrete domain of physical development): 

 

Gathering 1 (Open mode /gathering together/many into one/different into same/basics) 


 

 

The contents of two different sex cells have merged into one. Many identical cells now gather together within one fertilized egg and await further instructions when critical mass is reached.

 

Seeking 1 (Closed mode /moving out/one into many/same into different/basics) 

 

 

Some into different: cells move out, migrate and differentiate. A mass of identical cells spreads out and separates into individual types. (In concrete domains, this is a literal spatial change. In abstract domains, it is an association and memory change; the chemical environment directs the location of cells in terms of abstract memory storage or in concrete tissues).[14] 

 

Coding 1 (Salience /unification/many into one/different into same/basics)

 

 

Unification of the different: networks of conduits form between tissues, which are transformed into organs, forming parts of systems.

 

Gathering 2 (Open mode/gathering together/many into one/different into same/details) 

 

 

Systems form and synchronize. The different structures are now assembling into a coherent functional unified whole with all parts working together.

 

 

Seeking 2 (Closed mode / moving out / one into many / same into different / details)

 

 

Variation: sensory apparatus forms; one nervous system forming many different variations on a theme for processing 'expected' input of different kinds. System checks occur within the organism's brain during sleep time, assessing whether critical mass is reached.

 

 

Coding 2 (Salience /Unification/many into one/different into same/details)

 

 

Unification of many systems into a completed body (= critical mass of hormone signaling = phase shift = birth). 

 

Condensed example of the emergence program unfolding in the concrete domain of evolution 

 

Gathering 1 Replication /Population  

Seeking 1 Adaptation  

Coding 1 Genetics /Heredity  

Gathering 2 Speciation

 

Seeking 2 Variation  

Coding 2 Epigenetics /Heredity 

 

This should be enough to exemplify the emergence program as a concept in your mind. You know that it is a process, and you now know what sort of operations occur at each phase of the process.  

And that's all you need to know, because processes in the mind system tend to be used for multiple applications, just like they are in your computer software. That's why, when we learn to deliberately direct a process consciously, it affects all sorts of other applications (for example, directing your attention in order to improve learning also improves your attention control in all other applications, so things like memory, productivity and creativity improve too.) If you improve a process, even by simply giving it optimal conditions in which to run, you improve all applications used by that process, across the board, from concrete to abstract.

 

Main applications using the emergence process 

Examples of applications using the emergence process include imagination, association, perception, memory, learning, creativity and intellect.  

You don't need to learn about all these in order to make useful changes, because you remember the process, and experience will soon enable you to recognize the pattern from a subjective pov regardless of the application or domain in which it is being employed. As you noticed above, different phases employ different operational modes. These motivate different behaviors, different emotions and different types of thought, so you will soon find that regardless of details, you can recognize which part of the process is going on by observing emotions, thoughts and behavior. You will then know what to do and when (what input to provide), in order to improve or enhance mental abilities.  

This is one reason why learning to change your own operational mode at will is such a biggie (and we're doing that at the end of this chapter) – Volitionally shifting into open mode is the equivalent of the ability to press 'run'; the ability to initiate the first stage of the learning process, the association process, the memory process, the creative process and so on. It puts you in 'the captain's chair' for creating beneficial change and fires the warp engines.  

To familiarize yourself further with the pattern, below are examples of the process at work in three different applications: learning, memory and creativity.

 

Learning, memory and creativity programs 

Here is a summary of the emergence process in learning, memory and creativity: 

 

Learning cycle

Concentration

Observation

Modeling

Practice

Variation

Comprehension

Memory cycle

Receiving

Perceiving

Encoding

Consolidation

Retrieval

Reconsolidation

Creative cycle

Speculation

Inspiration /Insight

Conception

Execution

Valuation

Realization

  

How emergence works in the learning cycle:  

Concentration open mode 1 (gather together and pay attention to what you already know relevant to the issue, topic or task); salience 1 (discern when a critical mass of known data/resources is assembled and whether new data/resources are necessary).  

Observation closed mode 1 (go and seek specific new relevant input and assemble it).  

Modeling salience 2 (discern relevancies and irrelevancies, model relevant stuff, dump irrelevancies).  

Practice open mode 2 (combine new input with old and consider how the new data relate to the known data); salience 3 (discern which associations are most likely and expedient).  

Variation closed mode 2 (test run alternatives and variations and possibilities to see which work best).  

Comprehension salience 4 (wire in associations between old knowledge and new input).

 

In real life, when learning, most of us have low (if any) awareness of which phase of the cycle we are in at any given time because either the process automatically unfolds, and we've 'got it', or it doesn't, and we assume the topic or task is 'too hard' for us at this stage. Most learning is unconscious, and the system doesn't waste energy constantly informing the conscious mind of how things are progressing. But generally, whenever we are in open mode, unconscious learning is going on, and whenever we are in closed mode, conscious learning is going on. Salience mode coordinates the two and transfers data from unconscious to conscious and vice versa.  

So, knowing which mode you are in gives you a big clue with regard to what phase you have reached in learning any given subject, behavior or task. Ordinarily, if you are having ideas you must be in open mode and if you are carrying them out, you must be in closed mode, but there are exceptions to this rule during 'special states' (such as 'the zone', which athletes and gamers describe).  

In learning anything, what is happening in the brain is plasticity; a change from unwired to wired in one or more connections between neurons, in response to appropriate input. What we actually experience is an overall change from unknown to known in terms of comprehending the particular domain we are learning. In experiential terms, we feel that we start off not knowing much about something or how to do something or what something means, and we end up understanding it or knowing how to do it competently, whatever it is.  

Open mode encourages greater awareness of unconscious processing, and closed mode increases greater conscious awareness. Both are necessary for a reliable learning experience. By 'reliable' I mean one that you do not forget. In relax mode/open mode we are receptive to unconscious knowledge; everything we hold in memory plus whatever we are able to imagine and predict. In stretch mode/closed mode we are consciously seeking specific input from external sources. In salience mode we are merging the two sources of input and new knowledge emerges as the output / and what emerges from this is new knowledge – we add to the database of memory and the possibilities for prediction and direction.

 

How emergence works in the memory cycle 

Reception open mode 1 (gather together and pay attention to input. Input enters via our senses and networks 1-3 as a stream of information about temperature, light, pressure, sound, smell, movement etc. Our senses take in what something looks like, smells like etc, from the incoming patterns of light frequencies and shapes of chemical smell molecules. These are 'percepts'). For new memories to form at all, input must be received and perceived. Comparison of new percepts with known concept images leads to recognition; salience 1 (discern when critical mass of known data is assembled for perception or whether more input is necessary).  

Perception closed mode 1 (compare the patterns of input to the patterns we already have in our memory - stuff we are already able to imagine). From similarities and differences to previous patterns of experience (known concepts) imagination constructs a new pattern that forms an ‘inner picture’ of what is going on “out there”. We begin to ‘re-cognize’ –make an inner picture of what the item or event is.    

Encoding salience 2 (The system needs to distinguish between significant, salient experiences and those that carry less importance, giving priority to the transformation of the former into long term memory. Critical in this process is the emotional load or ‘weighting’ of an event. This is why heightened states of emotion – including fun - facilitate learning and memory.) If something is important enough to remember, chemical signals cause the genome to make new proteins. The proteins are used to build stronger connections between all the networks that took part in the experience (plasticity). When hardware connections become stronger or denser, more and faster processing may be done using them. While this new construction work is going on, we store the memory in short-term like RAM, just as a computer does if the data or application use is recent and you might need it again soon. If a series of related important experiences is ongoing, we hold essential immediate information on the ‘clipboard’ as ‘working memory’.

Consolidation open mode 2 (categorization; move short term memory contents to long term storage. Whenever we go to sleep, or spend time in open mode, new memories are defragged and moved from RAM into their long-term locations around the entire brain. This is consolidation. We use six different types of memories (sensorimotor, spatial, eidetic, procedural, declarative and working). If you view memory as half a dozen core processors with dedicated hard drives you’ll get a pretty accurate picture of how long term memory is categorized, accessed and stored.) ) It takes practice to get memory categorization perfect, and often experiences are repeated during sleep so that we can assess what should go where; salience 3 (discern when retrieval is required) 

 

Retrieval (recall) closed mode 2 (assess variations of associations to see which fits data request best, and present to conscious awareness. Individual basic concept memories are all made in the same way. In recall, the trick for making detailed accurate memories out of them lies in the ability to recombine them into accurate copies of previous patterns of neuronal firing and coincident association. Each network uses the same graphic template and tag to retrieve (re-imagine) its own part of the memory, which must be re-assembled or 're-membered'. This is because each network stores only its own part of each memory, and they have to be brought together in the correct configuration for every recall. The brain keeps memory parts tidily in their own compartments, like a nice new box of lego, which makes model assembly easier. Once you have used them, it replaces them in the same compartments ready for the next time they're needed.) 

 

Reconsolidation salience 4 (Re-store & update memory. Memories are not constant and unchanging, because current and recent information is added to past fragments to update memories. Each time a memory is recalled, it is updated and altered according to our current understanding, learning, perspective, experience and interpretation. It must then be coordinated and reconsolidated back into permanent storage including this updated information. Sometimes we change our associations with it so much that we recategorize it (remember anything you hated the taste of as a kid, that you now like? To understand reconsolidation, compare your opinion of someone you know now with your opinion of them ten years ago.))  

Reminders or questions or reminiscences do not trigger 'a memory' (and the concept of 'an engram' is just as off-course) -they trigger not an item or a thing, but a process in which imagination constructs an ephemeral product -the re-formation of a past event/experience in inner spacetime. When not being used, that product no longer exists. Memory, creativity and learning are processes; not 'things' or events. A 'memory' is a product of a software process and is a transient rather than a permanent phenomenon; memories are stored in 'bits', much like models built from lego are not stored as models, but dismembered and stored like a box of lego bricks, so that new models may always be built. If you want to reproduce a model made in the past, you just have to put the bricks together again in the same way you did the first time. You repeat the process you performed back then. But you are not the same person you were back then, and your perspective has grown, so reconsolidation happens. 

Learning and memory are different applications of the same process, just as creativity is an application of the same process. All these fundamental aspects of our software can legitimately be viewed as subprocesses of imagination.

 

How emergence works in the creativity cycle 

Speculation open mode 1 (idle speculation, daydreaming, mind-wandering, call it what you wish; ideas, dreams and visions flow through the mind); salience 1 (discern when particular ideas associate in interesting ways.)  

Inspiration / insight closed mode 1 (an idea or task worthy of following up has been selected– we now seek specific relevant input for that idea and assemble any necessary resources. When an idea appears to come from external input or conscious thought, we call it inspiration. When an idea appears to come 'out of the blue' from unconscious processing we call it insight.)  

Conception salience 2 (decide how to proceed. We form a clear model in our minds of the required result and the way to achieve it.)  

Execution open mode 2 (We begin the task required. Here we are likely to hit 'the zone' during execution of the creative task or idea. 'The Zone' is a mental state in which we appear to engage both open and closed modes simultaneously, in that we are totally focused yet open to immediate adaptation to change); salience 3 (discern when you're basically finished or where to take a break.)  

Evaluation closed mode 2 (Assess your work, consider alternatives, changes and variations to see which work best.)  

Realization salience 4 (Realization means 'having made real', or having 'actualized'. What began as imagination – images in the mind - has now been actualized into concrete reality. The task is completed and we may well sit back and admire it, share it with others, or put it to use as intended. ) 

 

Here is a summary of all the information in tabular form:

 

 

application

 

Step 1

 

s

 

Step 2

 

Step 3

 

Step 4

 

s

 

Step 5

 

Step 6

 

Learning

 

 

 

Concentration

 

s

 

Observation

 

Modeling

 

Practice

 

 

s

 

Variation

 

Comprehension

Memory

 

Receiving

 

s

 

Perceiving

 

Encoding

 

Consolidation

 

 

s

 

Retrieval

 

Reconsolidation

Creativity

 

Speculation

 

s

 

Inspiration

 

Conception

 

Execution

 

s

 

Evaluation

 

Realization

 

 

Open mode

 

s

 

Closed mode

 

salience

 

Open mode

 

s

 

Closed mode

 

Salience

 

 

relax

 

s

 

stretch

 

salience

 

relax

 

s

 

stretch

 

salience

 

The thin green columns indicate the shorter periods of salience. 

EEG measurements can reveal what phase we are in at any given time, because our brainwaves change with our operational mode.[15] Nerve cells are active in alpha, beta and gamma channels with different frequencies. This ensures that information can be exchanged between different brain areas in opposite directions simultaneously without the information streams getting mixed up. This pattern underlying the processing of memory contents has been further revealed by research.[16]  

All the things that we do require imagination, learning, memory and creativity. Even the basics of processing, such as perception, association, discernment, inference, prediction and so on require these supporting processes in order to function.  

All the main applications that we use, in fact, follow this same 'emergence' procedure. Exactly this same human software algorithm goes into sculpting statues, riding bicycles, learning calculus, designing great buildings, making a beautiful garden, learning to talk, remembering appointments, composing a symphony, cracking a mathematical puzzle, having a baby, writing a program or deciding what to make for lunch. The program is universal despite the details or their importance. It is dynamic and adaptable; it can adjust to minimal media such as stone tools and sign language, or the most complex technology and code that we are able to present it with. It runs everywhere that life is; in the Arctic tundra, the tropical forest, within the deep chasms of Earth's oceans and amid the bustle of city streets. It is emergence, bringing order out of chaos in self-organizing systems. 

 

relearning how to learn: concrete to abstract 

 

  In the system's reality, there are two possibilities: there is either emergence running, or there is an emergency going on. We are either in growth & repair mode, or we are in trouble. 

The input needed for the developmental emergence cycle to run comes in two forms; innate genetics (nature) and epigenetic environmental triggers (nurture), and both need to synchronize for successful development. Whatever is available on the outside has to match up with the needs of whatever is on the inside; that is, the input given must be appropriate for the stage of development of the system it is given to.  

We know about this in the physical domain due to common sense; you don't give a newborn baby steak and chips and a knife and fork and expect anything other than a massive dry cleaning bill, but we are not so aware of it in the mental development domain, and inappropriate input is one of the main things that gets in the way of rapid learning.  

Just as development requires input from both nature and nurture, natural learning requires input from both information and experience. Natural learning fulfills these requirements by running the learning cycle and providing appropriate input at each phase. When the processing cycle runs smoothly and is not interfered with, learning is easy. If the cycle is interrupted, or input is provided in the wrong order, or the wrong input is given, learning is hard work.   

The order in which input arrives also matters. Concrete knowledge as experience must come before abstract knowledge as information. Why? Because abstract information relies on our experiential awareness of what it is being abstracted from.  

Abstract knowledge consists of information about things. It is known as 'A Priori' ('from the earlier'); because it is derived from that which is already known. We ask questions and are answered with facts. - Who is Alice? Alice is my new neighbor. But no matter how many things I know about Alice, or hear about Alice, I can never really get to know Alice unless I talk to Alice and personally experience what Alice is like. All learning is like this, from riding a bike to doing theoretical physics. We have to be able to relate our abstractions to real life, or there is nothing to abstract from.   

Concrete knowledge comes from experience. It is 'empirical' (derived from sensory experience, exploration and experimentation). This is how science and personal knowledge progress. We form hypotheses and we experiment to see if they are correct or wrong. - Is Alice nice? Let's say hello to Alice and find out. It is also how we judge art: Is this good? - Let's take a look at it and find out. Factual information about artwork or music has no effect on our aesthetic experience and evokes no unconscious response unless we see the artwork or hear the music, which triggers immediate unconscious processing.[17] Then the information makes sense.  

Likewise, no matter how much we learn about the mind and how it works, the information is meaningless in terms of controlling the system. What is needed is experience of using the system as biology designed it to be used. Doing stuff is how we get our 'flight miles'.  

All learning takes place like this; from concrete to abstract. The first things we must all learn are the concrete realities of eating, walking, talking and controlling the body, manipulating objects and experiencing the laws of science first hand.  

You might imagine that concrete experience learning comes first because the brain must build more complex circuits in order to process abstract concepts, but this is not the case; due to the expediency of brain wiring there is a concrete skill or skills involving moving the body metaphorically (in terms of code) related to every abstract skill involving 'moving the mind'. Learning - and making memories, and imagining or predicting - thus use the same processes we use for 'going on a journey' in physical terms. We 'grasp' and manipulate ideas with our minds using the same circuits that allow us to grasp and manipulate objects with our hands. We 'reach out' and 'stretch ourselves' to comprehend them in the same way we reach out and stretch the body. This is what the 'embodiment' of ideas means.  

In abstract learning, instead of using the brain to perform concrete operations, which are teaching the body to move in different ways, you are performing abstract operations which are teaching the mind to move – the software to process - in different ways. Many kinds of learning involve both (ie, there are physical movements to make AND mental calculations to perform, such as, operating an Apache helicopter.)  

There is a concrete/abstract correlation in all learning, of course, because the physical growth of new brain connections embodies the new concepts mind has understood. We learn (and remember, and imagine) by forming new abstract concepts in the mind which correlate to new concrete physical connections in the brain. All learning (and all thought) has this concrete basis - the physical changes taking place between connections in the hardware, and these changes reflected in the resulting changes taking place in abstract understanding via software.

 

Experiencing the learning process 

We need both types of knowledge in the right order then; experience and information, stretch and relax, in order to learn reliably, and the point here is that this is as true of NH as it is of any other thing. To truly comprehend anything, you don't just need to know about it; the system needs the experience of knowing how doing it feels. Of feeling how doing it feels. The experience of playing the piano is thus complemented by learning the rules of music and how to read music. Both experience and information; nature and nurture, are necessary for real excellence in any field, but experience – even if it's the experience of watching another - must come first.  

As far as biology's concerned, the laws of science are unbreakable, therefore experience as input is always 100% accurate. Information as input often isn't, and only experience of reality in terms of experimental results (we do something and see what happens) can tell us that. Experiments thus give us experience as well as information.   

Both mental development and natural learning thus progress from the concrete to the abstract. Obviously one cannot abstract ideas from concrete reality until one has sufficient experience of concrete reality. For natural learning to proceed, then, we need to begin our study of a subject or practice of an ability in open mode, and that means practical experience should commence before theory. We are designed to play with stuff; to mess about with and explore things using all our senses, and discover their properties and behaviors through real time experience.   

How does this apply in abstract domains where there are no concrete aspects? For example, how could one learn something like quantum physics in this way? One can hardly physically experience subatomic interactions! But one can experience the thought processes of another who works in this field, by spending time working with them and paying attention and asking questions, and this way we are likely to find that the patterns of subatomic interactions are close enough to patterns of other types of interactions in the macro world for us to make models to portray the invisible; imagining atoms or chemicals as little balls on sticks. Our models have enough similarity to concrete things 'known' that they bridge the gap between domains into the unknown and make these concepts 'graspable'. Learning in the abstract depends on this 'model-dependent realism' which enables us to design concrete experiments.  

What the system is attempting to do during learning is (mentally) associate and connect together new information with what it knows already and (physically) construct hardware connections between neurons to allow processing of this extra information. But we don't experience this consciously. What we experience as students is real time thoughts and emotions. Most of the learning process is unconscious, for sensible, energy-saving reasons.  

Does this mean the unconscious mind is doing what we would call thinking, or are its maneuvers entirely automatic? To answer that we have to take a look at what thinking really is. 


 

Thinking: Imagination constantly uses a merger of memory, prediction and current input to decide what's going on and what to do next. This is what we call thinking.  

The majority of thought is always unconscious. Even during conscious thought, most thinking is unconscious. Essentially, thought is processing.  

To get into conscious awareness (our own or other people's), thoughts must be represented in ways that can be consciously understood, for example words, pictures, sounds or symbols. The conscious mind doesn't speak binary, but all thought is processing. 

 

Unconscious and conscious processes 

We usually only call conscious processing 'thinking'. Conscious thoughts; that is, the stuff we are consciously aware of, is the stuff that 'comes up on the screen' in our mind's eye after processing; it 'pops up' into conscious awareness. 

 

We tend to imagine 'thinking' as a specific state of concentration; we don't claim to be thinking, for example, when we are sitting around daydreaming, dancing, getting drunk or watching a movie. We regard thinking as something that we only do when fully awake and concentrating on the subject of our conscious thoughts. We don't call unconscious processing 'thinking', because there is no conscious awareness of its going on, and 'unconscious' implies 'automatic'.

 

Thing is, the vast majority of the processes going on in your brain are unconscious and automatic. At root, biology uses unconscious processes to control what happens in the conscious system. We may think of the unconscious mind as our onboard computer; the 'starship's brain'. It does all the essential maintenance and system control tasks that we don't have time or need to do. It maintains basic stuff like life support, air circulation, temperature and heartbeat, and also complex stuff like auto pilot, tactical responses, repairs, blood chemistry, hormone and neurotransmitter levels. Living organisms have no need to be aware of any of this going on, nor do we need high awareness during automatic everyday tasks. The software can automatically take care of the hardware and only needs to alert the conscious mind if something is amiss or requires conscious participation, like, 'system needs you to go for a pee', which we translate as just needing a pee.

 

What's more, the system likes to get as much stuff running unconsciously on automatic as possible, to free up processing resources for the important stuff like new learning, creating and developing. Thus memory is stored unconsciously, associations and many decisions are made unconsciously, and the vast majority of behavioral triggers go on unconsciously unless anything intervenes. To the brain, conscious thought is just 'what goes up on the screen'; all thinking means processing and all processing starts in the unconscious, including the learning cycle, memory and the functions that we need for speech. Thus, if the unconscious doesn't understand something, the conscious mind will find it difficult to learn and remember.

 

Experience is needed before information for full comprehension of reality for this reason: whatever is new must be relatable to what is already known, otherwise no sense can be made of the new.

 

In order that you can have this experience, what is the item in the picture? Chances are it's completely unknown to you. 


 

I can give you lots of information: it is a S.H.R and it can play music, it is mainly made from woven straw and metal. It has few plastic parts, it has no wheels on, no PCBs and you cannot eat it.  

I can keep giving you more and more facts but they mean little or nothing. You have nothing known to relate this new thing to. If you are told to write down the information and remember it, you are unlikely to remember it for long. But you might just remember it long enough to recall it for an exam, and if you do you will pass, and you still won't have a clue what you've been writing about.  

If you got hold of it and played with it, however, you would probably figure out what it is really fast.[51] And even if you didn't, you would do what intelligence always does when it wants to learn – start asking questions. That's what all natural scientists do, and every intelligence is a natural scientist; that's how we learn. So you would need a 'master' who could answer your questions (and who had plenty of time to do so).  

Being asked questions about it, such as, “What is this?” and having the ability to answer, parrot-fashion, “It is a S.H.R.” doesn't teach you anything. Being penalized for getting the answer wrong is completely pointless and stupid. Yet this is the method we commonly use for 'teaching'. We separate the concrete from the abstract by avoiding direct experience, and the abstract information is left adrift looking for a foundation to anchor to. Unconnected, most of the information seems like airy-fairy nonsense with no relation to our everyday reality. Many of us conclude it is simply beyond our intellectual level, and lose interest in learning.

 

Society versus Biology: the two anti-science dilemmas in current western schooling 
 

   

1 we believe the teachers' job is to tell students what to do, give them information and test them  

The ultimate aim of learning is autonomy within the given domain. We move from needing someone else to show us what to do, toward being able to show others what to do.

 

In biological organisms, there are no teachers; there are just students and masters. Nobody attempts to 'teach' or to push information; a student is simply anyone trying to learn something new, and it is they who must seek the information out. A master is someone who has already mastered that skill. The journey from studenthood to masterhood is the processing cycle of learning. This is how that journey goes in terms of real experience:

  

You start out knowing very little, with no experience. By observing a master, you learn how to use the tools of the trade or domain, you learn the procedures and methods involved, you copy what they do – these are your influences.

  

You practice for a long time by yourself/with supervision until you can do it by yourself reliably, you then try variations and develop your own style, different from previous ways. It will incorporate your favorite influences.

  

You then produce your masterpiece, thus proving you are now a master. This system follows the cycle of natural learning and ensures skill does not decline in any field.   

Since the beginning of our history, hunter-gatherer children have needed to quickly acquire skills that are crucial for survival in the forest, skills like using knives, caring for infants, navigating the forest and recognizing edible and medicinal plants, when they are as young as three years old. Some kids are out hunting with parents at age five. Most infants and toddlers learn by freely exploring their environment, observing and modeling the behavior of others. This way of learning through imitation and questioning is a great way of transmitting skills accurately and explains how the earliest concepts and processes of human culture were first learned and communicated among ancient hunter-gatherer groups; even before we had language. 

Contemporary hunter-gatherers still encourage children to be self-reliant and are less likely to intervene in their learning interactions, because independence and learning from mistakes is crucial in their environment where doing things correctly can be a life or death matter. They also learn to use their imagination in turning the forest's different materials and places into stuff to play with.[18]

 

In what our societies think of as 'ordinary' (school) learning, we are directed by teachers to either view or listen to a great deal of information, and copy it onto external storage (books, computers, files) in the mistaken belief that this will somehow render the data available to our minds in a more reliable way than just reading it does. BUT... it doesn't. We're too intelligent for that; once we can write, we can copy all sorts of stuff down automatically without paying any attention to it whatsoever, especially when doing so avoids getting into trouble for not doing so.

 

Why, after all, do we write stuff down in the first place? - Because there's too much going on to remember everything! We write stuff down for reference so that we won't have to remember it; we can go back and look it up! Because the unconscious knows this, once we write something down, biology is very reluctant to waste energy remembering it as well. It doesn't make ergonomic sense; either the writing is a waste of time, or the remembering is. This isn't natural learning.

 

Only the practical experience of using information in an appropriate context enables our comprehension of abstract concepts and, vitally, adds the essential emotional weighting of experience which makes the concept/s important enough for memory to store. It is of no use reading and writing about riding a bike, and expecting emotional weighting to happen. Reading may give us a basic understanding, but for comprehension we gotta get out there and practice; then the emotional weighting will kick in and the abstract information has something concrete to anchor to.  

Only actual experience; play, modeling and practice, forms and strengthens memory and abilities, and this should not be interfered with by distractions from teachers, who should be answering any questions asked. Indeed, researchers have found that 'controlling behavior' from teachers trying to direct learning is linked with lower student interest, demotivation and loss of confidence in the domain of study.[19]  

Brains have obvious biological limitations; processing input takes up time and energy, and input is all-pervading and constant, so information hits a bottleneck when it gets to humans, following the rule: 'unless it is important to me personally it doesn't get through'. Compared with computers at data processing we may seem slow, but we're not really slow; we're deeply complex. We parallel-process information in much more depth than any current AI does, even though that processing is mostly unconscious. We comprehend; and that means we don't just remember the data and understand how to perform operations on it; we can also get creative with it, use it in totally new ways, invent and innovate. Real Intelligence can add, subtract, multiply and imagine.  

It is very, very difficult for 'teachers' to nurture creativity and innovation, the main skills we need for executive function. Schooling focuses creative thinking uniquely on questions and answers, which is all about scoping for and then pin-pointing the best fit and ignoring other options. There is no option to suggest or ask about other options. It might be satisfying for society's jobs market for teachers to base everything on upcoming exams in each particular separate subject, but this policy distorts the natural, wayward flux of intelligent, imaginative thinking. Often, intelligence is not about solving a problem but about seeing a problem that no one else has identified. Often, the point of departure of a learning journey is a personal wish for something to be true or worth finding out or arguing about, or capable of satiating natural curiosity, whereupon the mind goes into imaginative overdrive to develop a robust theory or idea that has never been proposed before.  

Schooling tames this free-range creativity by making it dull. The open way of honing the faculty is replaced by a closed, material-goal-oriented path compliant to a service or product that can be managed and assessed. Such a goal systematically trashes creativity and unwittingly punishes students for exercising their imagination as nature intended. The structural basis for this passive hostility to the imagination is the grid of learning outcomes in alignment with delivery and assessment in contemporary education.[20] 

 

From biology's pov we are all lifelong students, and biology expects that we will remain students of one thing or another for the rest of our lives. Lifelong learning is just a part of lifelong development.  

When we are healthy, we are curious and inquisitive as well as driven to develop and improve ourselves; that is the source of keenness and our desire for 'speed' in learning and proficiency. We are designed to continue collecting new knowledge and abilities and skills throughout the game of life and incorporating them into our lives, becoming masters at the things that interest us most. A lot of us go astray and end up collecting less optimal things (technology, money, divorces, light artillery, debts, baseball cards) but the drive to develop our knowledge and ability and collect skills is always trying to manifest.  

Some things are the same everywhere, one being students. Even when the context of studenthood is completely different, as is the case in different societies, students remain robustly similar everywhere intelligent life attempts to flourish. Teachers complain about it: “All they want to do is play and mess about”. The idea of playing and messing about with them has thus far eluded academia with the exception of certain rare science masters.

 

Messing about and playing and asking questions is how we learn. Actual real life experience changes the basics of memory formation; recruiting an extra set of neurotransmitter-receptors for future as well as present learning.[21] That is to say, experienced minds form memories using different plasticity mechanisms than 'newbies' even if they are learning about the exact same thing. The way our neurons form new connections thus depends on their prior history; their prior learning experience, and this is a phenomenon called metaplasticity.  

If you read about all the details of NH, for example, but have poor practical experience at actually doing anything, you are not learning optimally and progress will be slow. Once you've got enough experience and have done enough of the basics to control the system, you have the whole of the rest of your life to fill in the informational details AND an extra set of receptors (recruited by your experience) functioning to strengthen all new related memories. You've moved from plasticity to metaplasticity, which is a lot faster.   

One universal thing about teachers is that they tend not to know any of this, so unknowingly neglect the fact that brains (and people) need to spend a lot of time doing things with the example of a master, as well as hearing or reading about those things, in order to comprehend anything meaningful about the subject and incorporate new learning into established knowledge.  

Physical motion and procedural behaviors are a crucial part of early learning. Teachers want you to sit still, be quiet and read, or listen to, information about things. As a student, sitting on your ass copying down facts all day long deprives your brain of valuable experience (and oxygen), and your unconscious mind does not forget this fact because boredom and stasis are states that it regards as dangerous. Consequently it spends a lot of time moving neurotransmitters and hormones about, trying to motivate you to desire more experience. The system cannot understand why you don't respond, so it pushes you; to want to try out the unusual, to approach the unknown, take risks, boldly go beyond the final frontier, get out into the real world and have adventures, sell your soul to rock & roll, sex and drugs and let's go shoplifting and melodramatize emotional responses and make up lies, gossip and rumor because they're more interesting than boring mundane reality... etc., etc., which is why it's so difficult to concentrate.

 

This is largely why students are what they're like. Intelligence plus imposed boredom equals over-the-top thrill seeking and an input-deprived imagination desperately making up bullshit to keep itself occupied. When life is not as interesting and dynamic as it naturally should be, we will do all manner of things to make it more interesting because the system knows that boredom kills brain cells.

 

The difference between a teacher and a master 

What students need in order to learn effectively is good examples; someone who is really good at doing something who doesn't mind being watched, copied and asked questions, which they will endeavor to answer. A master 'masters' a domain and qualifies by producing a 'master-piece'. Masters master subjects; arts, sciences or skills; they do not 'master' students; ie, they do not tell them what to do unless the student is interested enough to ask, because masters know from experience that what you are doing or learning must be interesting and inspiring to you personally, or you will not learn or remember it very well, if at all.

 

If you are really interested in something, nobody needs to remind you to pay attention. A student's role is to ask questions about what they want to learn, seek answers and attend (pay attention to) demonstrations, which may be had all the time the master practices their art or skill.  

As far as the unconscious is concerned, a master's role is to answer questions; not ask them. 

 

This is another reason why students are what they're like.

 

Masters do not 'teach'. The student directs the learning pace and direction. A master is a guide; someone who has been on this particular journey themselves and are showing us the way, pointing out dangers, dead-ends and pitfalls along the path, accepting mistakes as a crucial part of learning and never, ever rushing through things. If the student doesn't turn up for a while, the master doesn't mind at all; the studen't life is none of their business.   

Students are people who wish to learn to do something a master can do. As a student, in copying the master you attempt to perceive not only the correct movements and methods but also the master's patterns of thought; how to think along the same pathways, make the same connections, come to the same conclusions, etc. We actually learn more from prompted self-explanation compared with instructor explanation, or compared with other study techniques such as taking notes, summarizing, thinking out loud (without the reflection and elaboration involved in self-explanation), or asking more questions. Self-explanation is a powerful learning strategy because learners generate inferences about causal connections and conceptual relationships that enhance understanding. The process of self-explanation also helps the learner realise what they don’t know, to fill in missing information, monitor  

understanding, and modify fusions of new information with prior knowledge when discrepancies or deficiencies are detected.[22] Thus, if you imagine that you have to explain a subject to a newbie, and try to explain it to yourself, you will learn it faster. 

 

Attending to a master is also subject to relationship compatibility and the provision of a safe space. The mind cannot learn at all well from those we do not like or trust (or do not know). We're designed to learn from those familiar to us whom we trust and respect the most, and we learn best of all from those we love; in a comfortable, safe space that we feel at home in when facing the unknown. If the master is a stranger but we are accompanied by parents or close friends, safety can still be established, giving time for the master and student to get to know each other.

 

We have to feel safe and truly enjoy being where we are, whoever we are with, and doing what we are doing, in order to learn well. It is impossible for any school to provide that kind of environment and loving, coercion-free nurture for every individual student.

 


2 if you make mistakes you will be punished 


"Wrong! Do it again!"

(Pink Floyd, The Wall)

 

"The key to science (and life) is being wrong. We (scientists) are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress. One of the biggest and most important tools of theoretical physics is the wastebasket." 


(Richard Feynman)

 

"We must all be willing to be wrong. Such an inclination is liberating, for it allows us to investigate potential answers - however unlikelythey may be - to the difficult questions inspired by this vast, wondrous universe. Not only that, a willingness to be wrong frees us to pursue any avenue opened by evidence, even if that evidence doesn't support our original hunch."
 

(Steven Ross Pomeroy)[23]

 

In school, wrongness and mistakes are things we are all taught to secretly or openly dread. Being wrong and making mistakes gets you punished – you get bad grades and failed papers and many youngsters also have unstable, coercive parents to deal with as a result. Failing grades and papers in this society, we are told, means you don't get a well-paid job, which fate is expressed via parents and teachers as the ultimate failure in terms of society's ideal. The trouble is, both biology and rationality as expressed via science diametrically oppose this view, which in real life prevents progress.

 

In real life, and in real science, we only learn via mistakes. That's what practicing is all about. We recalibrate and fine-tune our abilities, ideas and knowledge according to feedback from our unconscious computations of the difference between the actual and the theoretical, until eventually there is no difference. That's how learning works; we gradually become less and less wrong. It is our mistakes (and observing the mistakes of others) which force us to more closely examine and practice aspects of issues that we have not understood so clearly.  

Testing, including self assessment, is fine so long as it is seen as a measure of current understanding; not a measure of potential ability, and so long as it is time-independent (ie, a student who takes three weeks to understand a concept in full has just as valid an understanding of it (if not better) as one who takes three minutes.) We all learn different things at widely different speeds, and this is allowed for naturally in self-education.  

This fear of mistakes is a real dilemma, because school conditioning to fear and avoid mistakes, based on a very real fear of social sanctions for those who 'don't fit in' or 'didn't do well' acts to prevent the development and practice of rational thinking or use of the scientific method. Long term knowledge and memory is sacrificed for the promotion of short term declarative memory – the ability to remember a bunch of facts long enough to repeat them again in an exam – which is what parrots can do with brains the size of a pea.  

We use this ability habitually for years; to pass exams and tests, then once out of school and in work, we forget about most of what we are supposed to have 'learned' and never access it again. We continue to use the same methods on TV, newspaper and social media news; regurgitating stuff so that we appear to know what's going on in the world. But when we continue to think using the same method, short term regurgitation becomes the limit of our intellect. We repeat the stuff off TV or social media like we used to repeat the teachers' information, and then we forget it.

 

In other words, we are taught in school how to appear to know stuff, instead of how to know stuff. Thus as an adult approaching learning, we skim a few basic facts and blag our way through. Being thought of as 'right' matters more than being right. If it looks like we may lose an argument, we panic rather than enjoying the learn-from-mistakes process.

 

Aiming for the fictional (the appearance of being clever or competent) rather than the factual (actually being correct and competent) doesn't affect the real world in any way, it just makes it harder for us to understand it and to function effectively in it, because we never get any smarter; we give up the process of learning, to concentrate on the process of appearing clever.

 

Researchers have measured the point where a new behavior starts to become automatic, and the results enable you to assess your own progress: when you get something right 85% of the time, you're learning at an optimal rate. In other words, the learning curve is optimal when we make mistakes 15% of the time.[24] 

 

Decoding the brain's learning algorithms 

The 'imagining machine' that is the mammalian brain learns by the scientific method: making predictions, doing experiments and learning from its mistakes. Learning is guided through a process of trial and error. Imagination makes predictions about the consequences of behavior. When the prediction does not match reality, the brain receives feedback to learn from the error, fine-tuning factors in behavior.  

Brain cells communicate through two types of electrical signals when learning: simple spikes, which encode information regarding the predictions that the cells are making, and complex spikes, which encode information that is sent back to the cells, informing them of the error in their prediction. Simple spikes indicate the making of predictions and complex spikes indicate the provision of feedback. This trial-to-trial learning from error produces both gradual improvements and quantum leaps – phase shifts - in performance. 


making predictions 

Neurons organize into small groups of about 50 and together make predictions, sending the output of each group member simultaneously. The neurons that make up these groups share a critical feature: they all receive the same error signal. Therefore, the fundamental computational unit is not a single cell, but a small group that learns together from a common mistake. 


learning from prediction errors 

Simple spikes correlate with the intensity of movement; that is, a greater number of simple spikes means that the system needs to respond more quickly to achieve the goal.

 

The direction of the error affects the probability of generating a complex spike, whereas the magnitude of the error affects the timing of the complex spike. Therefore, prediction is encoded in the rate of simple spikes, whereas the feedback of the predictions error is encoded in terms of timing of the complex spikes.

 

Our system architecture is not the same as that used in AI systems for an important reason – memory conservation. Instead of all the cells receiving complex spikes after an error, cells are organized into small groups, each specializing in responding to specific errors. The groups appear to be organized based on a preference for error in only a small part of the task space, and this protects memories. When we experience an error in one direction (let us say, 'not enough'), it causes learning by engaging groups of cells which register that error. If on the next trial we experience an error of 'too much', the new error engages a different group of cells. As a result, new errors do not erase long term memory; they result in two independent short-term memories, both helping to get the next prediction 'just right'.[25] The 'just right' version will be stored long term as we rest or sleep after practice.

 

This process describes both how the brain learns and how science works. We take a guess, we do experiments to see if it's correct, and we learn from errors.Thus, for a non-anxious person exploring any field, being wrong is the only way to learn and in fact feels pretty good. It often feels identical to being right; it's a big relief. Because exactly the same aim is achieved for the learner either way -they are now one step closer to the truth. Reason to celebrate! But school doesn't teach us how to learn like this. 


Tech use or abuse 

Well, you may think, we're grown up now and we live in an age of technology, so we can educate ourselves. Not if we maintain the same learning habits! Certainly we are much more likely to retain information that we are actually interested in and feel is relevant to our real lives, but the habit of reading lots of text or listening to lectures and writing stuff down and expecting to remember it is still pretty useless in terms of real learning.  

Abuse means inappropriate use; i.e., using anything in ways likely to cause more harm than benefit. Technology is designed to enhance us; not reduce our capabilities, but we don't tend to only use it this beneficial way. Technology that can enhance us is stuff that enables us to do things we can't do by ourselves (like seeing or hearing for a long way); stuff like microscopes, telescopes, radio and the internet. But with current schooling habits (habits that will remain the default for all our lives unless we replace them), we misuse tech. We don't use tech to enhance ourselves; we do the opposite. Our memories are awful since we started storing data externally and using it as the mainstream instead of as a backup/learning device. That's what books etc. are supposed to be for – they're a backup; passing on data when the main system (the mind of the author) cannot be there or is dead. Whilst we are still alive, we're supposed to pass on data by practicing our abilities, communicating with each other; showing each other how to do things and asking/answering questions about how things work.

  

 

It's been established via research that we've become awful at navigation since the advent of GPS. Instead of using it to augment our own ability, we don't pay navigational attention any more, and then complain about the tech when it makes a mistake and gets us lost. Mobile interfaces leave users less spatially-oriented than either physical movement or static maps. Handheld navigational devices, used wrongly, have been linked to lower spatial cognition, poorer wayfinding skills and reduced environmental awareness. People are less likely to remember a route when they automatically rely on guided navigation. Without their device, regular GPS users take longer to negotiate a route, travel more slowly and make larger navigational errors.[26]  

While physical navigation and static maps require engagement with the physical environment, guided navigation enables disengagement. Ongoing use of navigational devices leads to a negative feedback cycle, where people become more reliant on their devices and less spatially aware.  

If you don't think spatial awareness matters because you don't travel much, think again; remember that all concrete skills fprm the fpundation for abstract skills. If your spatial memory and navigation skills are poor, your ability to navigate your way through complex intellectual concepts will also be poor.  

When studies find links between tech use and negative outcomes, some have argued that this is just the latest conspiracy theory about technology. But numbers don't lie, and solid research shows deleterious brain changes and cognitive decline in those who use too much tech or stare at screens for too long.[27] Increased smartphone use and selfie-taking are linked to both a lower connection to nature and higher anxiety.[28] But it's not the technology. It is us and the way we abuse technology.

 

If we thought of navigation as a mind-growing challenge, and the GPS as a folder containing a cheat in case you get lost, your navigational skills and complex computation skills would all improve. GPS would be a marvellous tool for youngsters learning to navigate.  

There are genuine tech-related problems that are not our fault, and that will doubtless be adressed as new discovery goes mainstream. For one example, sleep-interference. The blue light emitted by electronic screens tricks our brains into thinking it's still daytime, and then we don't produce enough of the relaxation hormone melatonin to fall asleep quickly and get high-quality sleep. I'll look more at the effects of tech on our abilities in the next chapter.[29]

 

In summary, if we went to school it's likely that we're in the habit of learning things the hard way and misusing technology to replace natural abilities instead of to enhance them. We need to re-adjust to doing it the natural, easy way and the way to do that is to start doing things rather than reading about doing things, and consciously use your tech to enhance your smarts, not replace them. 
 

 

EVIDENCE BASED TECHNIQUES

 

The Goldilocks principle in biology 

(the green zone - a useful model for grasping system states) 

 The idea of the Goldilocks zone or 'green zone' originates with from the story of Goldilocks. If you recall the story, Goldilocks tries out several things in the Bears' house: One porridge is too hot, another too cold, but the third is just right. It's the one which fulfils her needs perfectly. It is this idea of 'too much', 'not enough' or 'just right' that the green zone portrays in context of our mental health states. In biological processes in every domain, there always exist "just right" optimal conditions, circumstances known as the Goldilocks Zone or green zone.  

This is a useful model for assessing lots of things apart from bears' porridge. For example using this concept we can immediately see how mental states relate to each other:

  

 

 

not enough

 

 

 

just right

 

too much

 

 

No growth (decline)

 

Healthy growth

 

Unhealthy growth (eg cancer)

 

Relaxation only (apathy)

 

Stress/relaxation

 

Stress only (anxiety)

 

No learning

 

Natural learning

 

Forced learning

 

Weak immunity

 

Strong immunity

 

Hyper immunity (eg allergies)

 

No interests

 

Healthy interests

 

Obsessions

 

Depression

 

Balanced mind

 

Mania

 

    Here's another way of looking at it:

 

 

 

You can probably think of individuals you know who have slipped outside the green zone in either (or both) directions, or you may have experienced temporary imbalances yourself. Recognizing where there may be such changes is what this table is used for. When problems arise (and problems always arise for all life on earth, everywhere) if we're confused and not sure how we are coping, looking at this can help us to find out far faster than talking about it. All you need is an image of it in your mind.

 

To get this, you don't need to study the chart, you don't need to print it out; just play with it for a while and remember some people's past behaviors and figure out where they must have been on the zone chart. Think about fictional characters in movies; what position on the chart were their roles portraying? Notice how the classic villains are always permanently way out of the green zone? Some of the goodies sometimes dip in and out of the zone; who hasn't seen the depressed detective hitting the bourbon, or the veteran with PTSD? And sometimes, the baddies get back to the green zone right at the end (like Darth Vader).  

Stop playing when you get bored with it. Now, if some newbie asked you to explain what the chart is all about, could you explain right now (without looking at the chart)? How much could you explain? (working this out will tell you what didn't make it into memory yet). Check the chart to confirm which bits you think you forgot, and see whether you remembered anything wrongly. Then forget about it. After sleep, see if you could answer that newbie yet. Your memory may surprise you. That's how learning from mistakes works. You repeat until there are no remaining gaps or errors, and you only view the chart to check your accuracy. (Note: this will not work if you're very drunk or stoned).  

The 'green zone' principle applies across biological domains, and overwrites former simplistic Y/N ideas about what is 'good for you' and 'bad for you'. Remember this! Here's an example: 
 

Old paradigm: 

Not cleaning your teeth is bad, because bacteria grow there. 

Cleaning your teeth is good, because it gets rid of the bacteria.

 

New paradigm: Not cleaning your teeth is bad, because harmful bacteria grow there. 

Cleaning your teeth too much is also bad, because it kills helpful, protective bacteria as well as harmful ones, lowering your resistance to infection. 

How much you optimally need to clean your teeth depends on your personal lifestyle and genetics.

 

The only thing that is always 'bad for you' is being outside the green zone, and you discover your own green zone through experience and practice, remembering that it too will change all the time as you develop.

 

most common NH problems 2 - being stuck in protection mode

A lot of newbies find themselves predominantly out of the green zone at first, and this often results in becoming stuck in protection mode.  

One does not have to work hard to enable mind development; in fact it is far easier and faster to achieve it via beneficial play. But one does have to proactively remove the barriers currently getting in its way. The biggest obstacle to intelligence development (and play) is anxiety, and it is the comprehension of how anxiety affects us and the practice of techniques to eradicate it which leads to beneficial change and the return to the green zone for ongoing healthy development. Anxiety can block natural development at any age, but natural development can be re-initialized at any stage.  

Being stuck in protection mode is a very common reason for failure of NH techniques, so the most important thing to learn first is how to get out of it and back into the green zone and growth & repair mode.  

'Just right' challenging stressors are those which benefit us; they are difficult but also exciting, fun or fascinating. The system is challenged to do something new or improve on past performance. Then, all is resolved after the stressful events, if the relaxation response kicks in. However, if stress becomes chronic (e.g., no relaxation), strain begins. The system (body and brain) move into “protection mode”, in which we have no chance to repair or build new brain connections, no growth or learning can take place, and the mind finds it very difficult to work anything out or learn anything new.  

As well as cutting off blood supply to frontal lobes, an excess of stress hormones and transmitters keep the brain in a state of constant chemical stimulation and the mind very anxious worrying about things, and this prevents us from paying attention to most of our input. In other words, when we are stuck in protection mode, the mind is constantly flooded with an overdose of anxiety hormones; and learning, growth & development are impossible because our entire biology is focused on protection and defense. 

During natural learning, the relaxation response (RR) occurs naturally and automatically but when there are too many ongoing stress hormones present in the bloodstream, it can’t. Effectively in anxiety the relaxation response is turned off, so we have to hack in there and turn it back on, because the RR reduces anxiety hormone levels faster than anything else, with no side effects. To keep hormone levels healthy and in the green zone, the body’s relaxation response should always be activated (where necessary, deliberately) after the stretch response occurs. 

 

Stress means stretching the system, it doesn't cause anxiety; strain does. 

Be aware that anxiety is thought of as 'stress' by the general public because it is presented like that (ie, wrongly) in the popular media. Medically and biologically, 'stress' and 'anxiety' are worlds apart, much like ‘surprise’ and ‘shock’. They are both particular clinical states with clear physiological differences. And it is important for you to learn the difference between stress and anxiety right away, because stress is vital for your intelligence and anxiety is deadly to it.  

Without any stress at all, we cannot learn anything. Stress and relaxation are both healthy physical responses; we exercise a muscle by stressing and relaxing it repeatedly, and we stress and relax intelligence by learning new things and understanding them and by doing new things and mastering them. This is what affects the brain’s plasticity and how we build new brain cell connections. Chronic stress, though, (where there is no physiological & hormonal relaxation) is anxiety, and anxiety prevents plasticity and is a killer, of both body and mind.  

Biologically, anxiety pushes the body into a state of unconscious endocrine (hormonal) shock, causing immune deficiency, rapid aging, exhaustion and mental confusion.  

Currently, 95% of people tested in western societies have raised levels of anxiety hormones that are harmful to their immunity, present risk factors in mental and physical health, constantly kill off brain cells and accelerate the process of aging. If you are not among the 95%, you’re either very unusual or you're neurohacking already. For the latter group, once we recognize anxiety for what it really is and start to control it, we will progress much faster. 

 

What are 'anxiety hormones'?

The term 'anxiety hormones' in popular media means too much cortisol. In the green zone, it is the 'just right' amount of cortisol; the dose which enables rapid learning. In an emergency, too, a sudden rush of cortisol can save your life. But getting stuck in protection mode prompts the release of cortisol all the time we remain in that mode. While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the stress response, and vital to growth and learning when in the green zone, it's a steroid. Higher and more prolonged doses of cortisol in the bloodstream lead to anxiety and have nasty side effects, such as:

 

Impaired cognitive performance  

Suppressed thyroid function 

Blood sugar imbalances & diabetes

Decreased bone density

Decrease in muscle tissue

Higher blood pressure and hypertension

Bloating and oedema

Cardiovascular problems

Lowered immunity, and inflammatory responses in the body  

Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems

  [30]  

 

Cortisol secretion varies naturally among individuals because its control is partly due to gene transcription, so one person may secrete higher levels of cortisol than another in the same situation. It also builds up in the bloodstream over time, so the longer you have been anxious the more of it you may have to get rid of. Busting the myth that worrying will make you thin, studies have shown that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol also tend to eat more food, and they crave food that is higher in carbohydrates than people who secrete less cortisol.    

If you’re a worrier or a ‘nervous’ person and you're overweight, it’s especially important for you to learn how to get into growth & repair mode and reduce cortisol. Simply lowering your blood pressure (which occurs during the relaxation response and when in open mode; see below) reduces your risk of dementia or neural damage. So without further ado, here's how to get out of protection mode if you're stuck: 
 

 

key techniques 2 - switch operational mode  

  

Science is finally giving us a glimpse of what intelligence does and how it does it. There is certainly still a long way to go, but recent discovery has opened up formerly closed doors in terms of brain structure and network function as well as cognitive processing patterns and emotional weighting. What this has enabled for neurohackers is the awareness of how methods work for introducing beneficial changes; in our relationships, our environments, our minds and our lives. 

While some methods for epigenetic change require access to new technology and new drugs, and others require access to scientific knowledge, it turens out that many techniques are remarkably simple and require very little, in fact a great many behavioral methods are free and open source, requiring only you to put time into using them.  

Biology always aims for control, and a great deal of NH is about enabling control - self control, control of biological systems, behavioral control, emotional control, input control and so on. Ever-increasing control is a feature of healthy intelligence development and an important part of our resulting personal power. Control in biology, however, is not about restricting anything; it is about directing ourselves; improving performance and enhancing abilities.  

We'll have a whole chapter on control later, so for now just be aware that one of the most important aspects of biological control for NH is learning to deliberately (volitionally) change your operational modality, because this enables you to avoid becoming stuck in protection mode and is also the best technique for getting back into the developmental green zone quickly if you slip outside in either direction. This really is a big issue because without the ability to get out of protection mode, or to guide ourselves back into the green zone, we cannot develop further. 

The importance of learning this ability therefore cannot be overstressed. Without it, development will be constantly interrupted, retarded and obstructed by too many stressors causing anxiety. We cannot develop any further when stuck in protection mode. Changing operational modes and recognizing snapback are the first things any NH student should learn, not least because it provides a biological 'safety net' for all that comes after.

 

Ctrl/Alt/del

There are several ways to hack the system from a stuck position in protection mode, or out of a crash, but perhaps the most memorable explanation of the idea begins with the advice fondly known as: 'STFU, CTFD' (Shut the fuck up, calm the fuck down). 

...Because this is the first thing most of us need to tell our unconscious to do in order to change things, and as ambassadors for intelligence we must approach the unconscious in gentle, diplomatic and sometimes covert ways that don't involve swearing at it and don't make it panic. In order to reinitiate GRM, we need the unconscious to believe that it is safe, comfortable and anxiety-free. To do this we guide it into open mode by changing input and practicing open-mode behaviors. We know this unconsciously, which is why we spend our 'free time' trying to relax by having whatever we think of as a good time. 

There are many ways to shut up and calm down, and this is all you have to do at this stage. Important epigenetic triggers (ETs) for helping to engage open mode are: a calm, relaxed posture; deep, slow, abdominal breathing; a peaceful, natural environment and thoughts inspiring a friendly, playful, childlike state of mind in which consciousness is right here right now, undistracted by thoughts or worries of past or future. 

It doesn't matter what methods you choose to help you achieve these aims; your methods will be individual to you. What matters is that you understand the key techniques themselves and what they can contribute to your mental health and intelligence development. This is not about getting into open mode correctly on your first try. This is about you understanding what you are aiming for - the experience of volitionally controlling your own operational mode.   

Correctly performing the procedures that biologically calm you down is all that matters, because if you put the correct data in, and run the correct procedures, the desired response will be your output, regardless of whether you are working on reducing anxiety or on removing headaches or on improving memory. Open mode is where all beneficial change begins, regardless of the details.

Conversely, whatever issues you use a method to resolve, you must have a clear understanding of what exactly you are trying to achieve biologically. You are using biological signals plus your chosen methods to silence any inner chatter going on in your head and relax your body, in order to send chemical signals to your genome that it's safe for the system to re-engage open mode. 

Doing this right before sleep will help to engage open mode in sleep, where all kinds of repairs and upgrades can go on, so that's a great place to start. Of course, you may not know consciously whether or not you engaged open mode whilst you slept, until you start to notice the effects – you will begin to feel better-rested, for starters. Sleep seems more refreshing, and you don't get so sleepy after lunchtime. You may find minor physical health problems are going away. You may notice that your memory is a little better, or you are not losing things so often, or that you don't freak out so easily if someone is peculiar with you; your self confidence has increased. Initial changes can be subtle, but you will certainly notice them after a time.  

To get there, however, you will have to practice more often that just at bedtime (but not loads more often; known parameters for measurable improvement are given in chapter 1).  

One of the main signs that we are stuck in protection mode is experiencing an apparently uncontrollable inner dialogue of constant chatter, to the extent that it can even prevent sleep because it won't shut up. Like a desperate political candidate it goes on and on about stuff that happened in the past or that might happen in the future, it worries and chides, it criticizes others, it even criticizes itself, and it constantly feeds back on itself and it uses up a lot of energy, such that we wake up feeling like we never slept.  

We get stuck in this (eventually exhausting) mode of thinking because we fail to develop more efficient ways of processing data than verbalization allows, examples of which should be available to us during ongoing development (in those who have already developed them). Thought uses a lot of formats, and words are only one.

 

In maturity, we don't need words to think. During development, the system begins associating words with meaning by verbalizing aloud and acting out thoughts as movements. All children go through this phase of speaking their thoughts out loud. We gradually shift into using the 'inner voice' as development continues, and then at a further phase we (should) become able to think abstractly without using words at all; which is faster and saves a lot of energy not having to translate everything into slow, cumbersome verbal format.  

However, at first many of us only experience the 'voice-free-space' when we are in open mode, which is partly why inducing open mode helps us to relax – after a long time being stuck, development is suddenly proceeding as it is designed to. This brings a great feeling of relief and peace of mind. Be aware that this feeling is not 'caused' by the method; you are not feeling blissful 'because' you meditated, or because you listened to Mozart, or whatever. You are feeling blissful because your system is aware that it is getting what it currently needs to continue developing as intended. These emotions are your 'reward' for developing your mind. 

 

Here & now  

Whilst in open mode, practice paying attention to something you're looking at or listening to, without thinking about it. The ability to direct attention to a particular thing alters our perception by amplifying certain neuronal activity and suppressing the activity of other neurons (brain "noise").[31] When you first begin to practice entering open mode at will and directing attention, you will become aware of just how rarely your attention is actually in the here and now, and how quickly it gets distracted when, for example, you are trying to meditate or do an hypnotic self-suggestion or simply calm down. Noticing how frequent this 'attention-wandering' is can dishearten newbies - but it shouldn't - because noticing that you are losing focus is a great success; that IS increased awareness. Awareness of a situation must come before attention may be directed within that situation.  

Becoming aware of how unaware you were of what your own mind has been getting up to is the first step. From there, with increasing frequency, you'll be able to choose to refocus your attention in the present moment whenever your thoughts drift towards the past or future, and whenever you realize that you are getting distracted, you'll be able to return to relaxation for longer and longer periods of time.  

Before you are firmly established in open mode, which means being fully aware and fully attentive while physically relaxed, whenever you practice you will shift back and forth for a while between awareness and loss of awareness, as you get caught up in distracting anxieties about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future or feelings of all this being too boring and wasting valuable time; and then you'll return to awareness of the now, again and again. This is normal and indicates good progress. Remember, your best attitude is light-hearted; treat practice as a game which you are learning how to play. 

With practice, open mode becomes a familiar state, and it becomes easier and easier to get there. You will start to notice the difference in the way you feel in each of these modes as your awareness ebbs and flows. This is a first step to safely exploring your own mind and starting to learn about yourself and becoming more aware of some of the cool things minds can do. 

It will occur to most thinking persons at this stage that many people who get stuck in protection mode long-term may hardly ever experience full awareness, and rarely get a chance at self control. When protection mode has become an habitual state, the inner voice is not so much painful or scary but more like a continuous low background rumble of unease, discontent, discomfort, restlessness, boredom, irritability or worry. This forms a kind of cacophonous background 'noise' that constantly distracts attention, but most people don't notice it because, for them, it's 'normal'.  

Neurohackers call this 'the racket barrier', and it is this barrier which regular practice at getting into open mode will break. When this noisy racket one day suddenly stops due to successfully engaging open mode, even for a few seconds, the most common experience is a feeling of surprise and then inexplicable relief. Different people choose drugs, alcohol, sex, exercise, tech or meditation to help achieve this state of relief, but many forget about the green zone, overdo it and end up with less awareness rather than more. Surprisingly, this is still better than no relief at all, but it is much more productive to mix methods and control amounts of practice in order to reliably achieve a conscious, aware, open, calm state whenever you choose to. 

A popular scenario for many is that the moment you try to relax, the 'inner voice' starts fretting. The result of course is insomnia and inability to shift modes.  

One method that appears to work well for this is to spend five minutes before bedtime writing about what is currently going on and everything that you have to remember to do tomorrow / over the next few days. It is best to do this with a pen on paper when in bed, because you are likely to keep remembering new things to add to the list after the five minutes is up, and if this means keep turning your computer or phone back on, the exercise will not work. Recline in bed and relax to do your list, and by all means add things after the five minutes has elapsed. This method has had good results in overcoming the racket barrier.[32] 

The more you practice a new way of thinking, the more accessible it will become to you. But nobody can tell you exactly what you will feel like when you get into open mode, any more than they can tell you what it feels like when you figure out how to ride a bike or to swim - you have to go there and experience it for yourself.    

There is a lot of emphasis placed on breathing or breath control in various methods. This is because diaphragmatic breathing (also referred to as "slow abdominal breathing") instantly stimulates your vagus nerve and lowers your stress responses. However, ANY form of slow, deep abdominal breathing (during which you fill up the lower part of your lungs just above your belly button like a balloon...and then exhale slowly), is going to stimulate your vagus nerve, activate your parasympathetic nervous system, reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, and decrease your cortisol levels. That's just biology.  

So no special techniques are needed; by practicing controlling your breathing pattern to slow, deep and regular, you can alter the basic activity of your cells' chemistry and directly alter gene expression, shifting the system into open mode.[33] 

 

listen!

  

 We need to practice shutting up and break through the racket barrier in order to practice listening, because listening (as in listening FOR something rather that TO something) is an ET for focusing attention and increasing awareness. When we practice attentive listening, we are also practicing bringing our attention under our own volitional control. We are learning what it really means to 'pay attention', and many of us at first are also learning how incredibly bad we are at doing it.    

We have a defensive habit from schooling that prevents effective listening, even in direct conversation with others: instead of listening, we start composing our own response to what we think others are probably saying, and may even interrupt the speaker to voice it. This 'anticipatory response' stems from a fear of being proved wrong; a habit we have to learn to drop along the way because it prevents listening. 

Open mode means we are not expected to respond; we are simply listening; open to suggestion; receptive to change and to new experience, and can experience things in a relaxed calm way without having to say anything. We are open-minded about new concepts and prepared to consider new ideas. We start to become aware of how our thoughts change our emotions. We are ready for beneficial change. - This is the message we are sending to the unconscious, and appropriate biological responses will follow. 'Just calm down, shut up and listen' seems a curious message if there is nothing to listen to, but we soon discover that listening for something is a great trigger for engaging open mode and controlling attention. 

For example, listening carefully for the most distant sound you can detect, with calm breathing and closed eyes focuses awareness and attention marvelously fast. Imagining that you are trying to detect a faint sound beyond all background noise, or to determine what is the most distant sound you can hear, concentrates your mind equally well. So it is not so much what you are listening for that matters; what matters is that you know how to listen attentively and you practice listening, and you can't do that when you've got an inner voice going on and on, so you have to gently get it used to the new habit of taking a break, so that you can practice another way of thinking. 

How this works: Deep listening triggers our Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR); a spontaneous, calming, positive feeling that occurs in response to certain stimuli including whispering and brushing sounds.[34] 

 

  

practice! - don't forget how biological systems work

 We get into open zone to increase awareness, initiate self-repair programs and install updates.

 

Accomplishing this change and learning how to induce open mode volitionally whenever you choose is the best foundation for reinitiating healthy development anyone can have. For many, this is the first time they have consciously attempted NH, so it's important to remember that you are signaling biology to induce changes and that hacking biology requires regular, repetitive signals. That means practice.  

There is this delay between trigger and response because biology is so energy-conscious. Often, in real life, a change in behavior may be temporary and require no long-term alterations, as it is just a one-off incident. It would be a total waste to build bigger muscles if you're only going to need muscle power occasionally. You don't need them! Only repetitive signals indicate a likely need for change, and signal the genome. Biology can trigger the changes you need only when given sufficient frequency of signals.  

As pointed out in the previous chapter, that does not means 'as much practice as possible'. For example, it's effective to practice for 20 minutes 3 times a week, but it's not effective to practice for three hours just once a week.   

It's another Goldilocks zone issue - biology only 'gets' behavioral signals when they are not so long as to be boring, but regular and repetitive enough to be remembered. If something new goes on for too long, or not frequently enough, biology tends to assume it's a 'one-off' event rather than an ongoing shift requiring changes in gene expression. Boredom is a strong sign that practice of the same thing has gone on for too long in any one session. If you organize shorter sessions more frequently, practice isn't boring.

'Little and often' is a fairly accurate rule for beginners. As you go along and get to know your own personal system during practice, you will find the 'just right' amount to do. Remember this will change as you progress.

 

Green zone for practice 

 

not enough

just right

too much

Bitty, sparse practice (regular but not long enough, or irregular): Signal peters out and is forgotten. No motivation.

Result: no change.

Consistent, short but regular practice that stops at the first sign of boredom or discomfort.

Result: measurable, permanent beneficial change

no boredom

consistent motivation

Binge practicing (too long and/or too often) leads to boredom.

Result: no change, or short-term temporary change.

 

attention! captain on deck 

   Everything in your life depends on what you pay attention to.  

Control of your own awareness and attention should be early skills in any NH 'toolbox' because if you don't have those you can't change anything. Entering open mode achieves a lot of this by triggering changes in your neurochemistry, hormone release, physiology and psychology, perhaps most notably in your awareness.  

A lot of what we think of as problems in NH practice are not the core problems. Loss of awareness and attention is often the core problem making all these other issues seem like problems.    

Awareness means anxiety-free awareness of the here and now. Anxiety wrecks our ability to maintain good awareness in various ways; it's hard to focus on what's going on now if you're worried about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. It's very hard to think straight when you're anxious due to unconscious physiological changes, and worrying interferes with sleep too, so that fatigue adds to the difficulty of maintaining awareness.  

Loss of attention is loss of awareness, which is basically loss of mental ability, and in a kinda creepy way, a loss of being. After all, if you are not fully aware that you are here, if you are not aware of what is really going on around you right now, are you really 'here'? Or are you in the VR of your imagination?  

The ability to pay attention applies primarily to here and now. This is something a great many adults have difficulty with for various reasons including anxiety, distraction, lack of interest (apathy), boredom, lack of motivation and fatigue. But often, we don't control our own attention very well simply because we haven't ever practiced doing so! Nobody told us we were supposed to, or showed us how, or gave us the sort of input we are designed to pay attention TO. We have grown up believing that we need to be instructed what to pay attention to by those who know better; not to choose for ourselves. Otherwise, everybody in school would be looking out of the window at something more interesting – real life.  

Attention upgrades sensory awareness, because it allows individual neurons to fire more independently and enrich sensory stimulus representation.[35] That means your senses will improve.  

Lack of attention causes us not only to miss a lot of what goes on, but also results in poor memory and poor communication with a lot of misunderstanding, much of which we remain unaware of. Memory often gets blamed (especially with increasing age) for a problem that in fact lies 'upstream' of memory formation – the lack of ability to pay attention. Logically, how can you expect to remember anything well if you don't really pay attention to it in the first place? Retraining or sharpening attention is perfectly possible – but there's a dilemma – you can only do it after you are already paying enough attention to notice that there is an attention problem in the first place.  

Attention does not mean staring blankly at something; it means full awareness of what you are experiencing, looking at or listening to in the here and now, including how you feel about it. We do not simply choose to pay attention to what we look at the most. Instead, our gaze amplifies our attention for choices we are already interested in or like the look of. If we look at something we feel neutral about, staring will have little effect.[36]  

Attention control is a vital ability for intelligence development, because it makes the all-important difference between the brain receiving signals or the brain not receiving signals. If someone (of any age) has a notably short attention span, chances are they are not receiving enough input worth paying attention TO, so often a change of activities and implementation of input control is indicated (see future chapters).  

'Focused' attention doesn't mean just looking in the correct direction or staring blankly at the correct thing or thinking hard in words about the thing or making the correct movements either. The mind should be engaged as well as the body. Input feeds senses. You should be consciously aware about what you are doing at the same time as doing it. Concentration is the key, which requires full awareness of what you are doing in the here and now, attending to input without thinking about it, and that's exactly what switching operational modes can help you with.  

To be clear, here, getting good input is about doing things and exposing your senses to things, but for this input to work, we need to interact attentively with whatever we are seeing and doing, because this tells our unconscious mind that we are looking at/doing something important, fun, interesting or worthwhile, which sends the vital signals. Once we can regularly get into open mode, that means we need to practice the ability to engage and control our own attention. Playing with a kitten and a piece of string can get you into open mode faster than meditation can.  

As discussed previously, most of us are living in an environment of constant distraction; hassled by notifications, alerts, texts, news, junk food, opinions, adverts, messages, drugs, comments, requests, pollution, relatives, nutters, videos, TV, sales calls and more. It’s not surprising our inner voice won't shut up, and our attention flits about here and there, as our minds often feel like a confused and jumbled mess.  

Although no method will work for everyone, there are some common factors emerging in research which reveal some methods that appear to work for 'most people'. If you're having trouble accessing open mode, or are surprised at how wayward your conscious attention is, it's worth giving these a try:

 

Attention training 

Attention can be trained with regular practice and is of vital importance to successful input control. It is of no use to surround yourself with good input if you never notice it, look at it or listen to it. It's of no use getting healthy food if you don't eat it. And it's of no use reading about neurohacking if you don't do it.  

This seems obvious, but many people seem convinced that owning a shelf full of books that you have never read somehow makes you smarter, or that owning a more expensive vehicle makes you a better driver. This odd, blatantly false association is equally prevalent in neurohacking; where it comes out as a belief that 'getting good input' means learning more brain anatomy or neurochemistry and buying more stuff. 'Stuff' may be vitamin supplements, unusual exercise programs, weird diets, 'spiritual paths' or various forms of woo-woo, quantum cosmic BS courses, expensive therapies and tech, or magic substances from online shamans.  

Dream on. You are better off with LESS stuff. Attention is about being able to stay calm enough and undistracted enough to process current good input with due consideration; and being interested enough in what we are doing to maintain directed focus. Keeping things simple makes it much easier for us to do this. Simple behavioral habits are much easier to install than complicated ones requiring tech, teachers or drug use.  

In summary, it is pointless proceeding with mental augmentation until you can switch processing modes and control your attention. You need these basics under your belt.  

Research indicates that there are two approaches to improving attention, through attention training (AT), and attention state training (AST). AT is based on practising a specific skill and getting better at that skill, but not others – using a brain training video game, for example. AST on the other hand is about getting into a specific state of mind that allows a stronger focus for any skill. This can be done by using exercise, meditation, or yoga, among other things. 

 

There is also a link between martial arts practice and improved attention generally.  

Martial arts practice – specifically karate – is linked with better performance on a divided attention task (an assignment in which the person has to keep two rules in mind and respond differently to signals based on whether they are auditory or visual).[37] 

Both mindfulness and exercise are known to have beneficial effects on the brain, and martial arts incorporate both. Some forms of martial arts, such as tai chi, place great emphasis on controlled breathing and meditation. These are strongly linked with reduced feelings of anxiety as well as the ability to manage stressors when they are present. It is also an ideal, low-impact exercise for beginners or those recovering from injury. Practitioners show a greater level of self-esteem and better working memory after practicing, too.[38]  

A bonus: improving attention always improves control. Researchers have found that karate experts' stronger punching force may be down to better control of muscle signaling in the brain rather than increased muscular strength.[39]

 

Attention self assessment  

This next is a behavioral method of twelve items which teaches several attention skills including switching focus, and improves memory. If you use an assistant to read it out, or text to speech, you can work through the whole thing in one go. Otherwise, you can exercise your memory by working though the method in two halves (once you are proficient at remembering the order of the first six steps without having to consult the screen or notes, and can do them without getting distracted, then you're ready to move on to the next six steps.) Do all parts in a relaxed, playful, unhurried way. If your attention drifts, come back to the current item.  

Time saver: if you believe that your attention skills and memory are already great, just do item number 12. That will give you immediate hard evidence to confirm or disprove your belief.

 

1 Close your eyes and access open mode. Spend a few moments drifting comfortably in there.  

2 Focus your attention on your body. Are all areas comfortable? Stretch, wriggle or move about until you get comfy.

3 Keeping your eyes closed, reach out and gently touch things within reach around you. How many different textures can you recognize with your eyes closed? What textures feel similar to others? What are the differences?  

4 Sit still and think about your favorite foods. Are they all in a similar taste-range or all different? How long is it since you tried a new food? Don't get caught up in wondering what you might try – move on to the next part.

5 Focus your attention on how you have been behaving lately. Are you happy with the way you are progressing or would you like to change some things? Don't get caught up in planning what to do – move on to the next part.

6 Practice listening with attention to how many sounds you can hear and identify. Can you hear your own breathing or heartbeat?

 

INTERLUDE How did you do? How often, and for how long, did your attention drift? Was it difficult to keep changing what your attention was focusing on? Did your inner voice keep interrupting with questions and thoughts about the previous items? Try to learn from your experience of how your mind coped with the first six exercises, whilst doing the second:

 

7 Access (or maintain) open mode.

8 with your eyes open, look around at your surroundings. Your unconscious mind is looking for evidence of a healthy natural environment, so that it knows everything is fine. How many things are in view that can be used to send beneficial environmental unconscious signals? What natural items can you see that will tell the unconscious everything is fine?

9 recruit a friend to read fiction to you, or find an audiobook you haven't heard before. Close you eyes and listen to a short excerpt (five minutes will do) and follow the story, such that you could answer questions about it afterwards without making notes. Could you guess, from that five minutes, what kind of story it was likely to be?

10 close your eyes. How many different things can you smell and identify right now?

11 With eyes open, choose an object within reach and examine it closely, as though you are 'looking for clues'. Imagine you will be asked to describe it later. Notice any detail that might make it recognizable as unique.  

12 Ask a friend (or a computer) to come up with a list of 15 unrelated words. Don't look at the list; get your friend (or text to speech program) to read them out just once, and concentrate on trying to remember what you hear. Set an alarm for thirty minutes, or note the time. After half an hour, see how many of the words you can write down. 

 

The last item in this exercise is improved with practice and, like reflex time, is used as a clinical test for attention, memory and cognitive decline. Regardless of age, if you can only remember less than five of the words, your memory is in trouble and urgently needs practice to prevent decline. Experiment by having the words read in a comedic voice. Does it improve your recall?  

A score of 5 to 8 means your declarative memory could be significantly improved. If you can remember nine or more, your attention skills and memory are indeed currently good and you have no need to practice this exercise. You may wish to try alternatives (such as, recognition of pictures, procedures, travel routes, songs or numbers) to see if your memory skills are equally good with different formats.[40]

 

mindfulness 

As I write this bit (2021) there's a popular type of meditation in the news called Mindfulness. Ignore any cosmic woo-woo; mindfulness is basically about paying attention to the present moment with awareness and without any particular emotional response. 

Mindfulness is the state of mind in which we all find ourselves from time to time, often as kids, as adults usually when we are relaxing in the bath or lying on a beach, just observing what we are aware of without response; for example on the beach we close our eyes and become aware of the feeling of warm sand against our bodies, or cool drops of ocean spray. We become aware of the smells of the seashore and the sounds of seabirds, and feel the warmth of the sun overhead. For a moment we are just here and now; simply enjoying the pure experience, and then the stream of conscious verbal thought intrudes and 'breaks the spell'. That experience was mindfulness; with practice we can control it and use it for improving our mental performance. One of the things we can do with it is direct our attention and avoid distraction. It feels like a 'noise cancellation' system for the mind and it can help some people to focus attention on what they are doing, here and now.  

Mindfulness training can be broken down into two major categories: focused attention and open monitoring. They’re very different, yet complementary, practices.

 

Focused attention 

Focused attention exercises cultivate your brain’s ability to focus on one single object, like one’s breath or a candle. To do mindful breathing, sit in a comfortable, upright position and focus all your attention on the sensation of breathing. Focus on something that is tied to your sensory experience of breathing; smell, sound, physical motion. When your mind wanders away from that sensation to internal mental content or an external distraction, gently return it to the object of focus.  

For complete newbies, when you're first beginning practice, directing the mind can seem like trying to communicate with a lovable but over-distracted puppy. Kind, gentle, caring, patient guidance is the only method which works. Don’t get anxious or disappointed if you find yourself retrieving your thoughts and refocusing your attention hundreds of times during a 15-minute session. In a light-hearted way, gently redirect it every time it darts away. Patience will soon be rewarded! In a very short time, you are going to become the best of friends with yourself.  

If you find it difficult at first to sit still for any length of time, you can practice a method known as mindful walking. Doing this outdoors in a natural environment is likely to work best. Direct your attention to focus on the sensations of walking — how the ground feels beneath your feet, how the air or the wind feels on your skin, what you can see and hear, what you can touch or smell. You can practice this anytime you need to walk anywhere.  

Anytime you are lying down or relaxing comfortably, you can practice the 'body scan' method of directed attention. To do a body scan, you focus your attention on your toes, and inspect every part of your body in order, noticing how each bit feels, feeling whatever sensations are there. Once you have gotten used to this, move into 'focused relaxation'; use focused attention to relax each part of the body as you focus on it.  

After you have a good grounding in focused attention/relaxation practice and can keep your attention on a particular object or set of sensations for a period of time, you can move on to open monitoring.

 

open monitoring  

Open monitoring means self-monitoring, which helps you learn to pay attention to what’s happening inside your mind without becoming distracted by it or emotionally attached to it. This practice is not about paying attention to a particular object or objects. Instead, it’s about remaining open to any experience; internal or external; that arises, and simply noticing the experience; like you were watching a video. You don’t think about it, you just notice its occurrence and allow it to pass. To do this, you sit or lie in a comfortable position and just try to be aware of the sensations, thoughts or emotions that emerge by themselves, without holding on to them. The goal is to stay focused in the present moment and notice any thoughts or emotions that you might experience in that specific moment, without holding onto them. This will move you more easily towards open mode.  

In this practice, you’re watching thoughts arise from unconscious into conscious awareness, which, when you think about it, is a pretty awesome thing to be able to do. There will be times when you feel like you keep getting distracted by a particular thought or sensation and can’t seem to drop it or let it pass. If this happens, go back to doing a focused attention exercise to slow things down a bit.  

For accessing open mode and improving attention and awareness, both these techniques have good results. Practice results in observed measurable changes in the cortex in areas related to attention and executive functioning, plus a measurable increase in executive aspects of attention.[41] 

Focused attention, most especially the body scan exercise, strengthens connections between brain networks associated with sensory awareness and perception. Focused relaxation strengthens brain connections between networks commonly associated with deliberate control.[42]  

Mindfulness is 'awareness of what we are aware of', or, 'full awareness of our input (what we are sensing, thinking and feeling) in the here and now'. Open monitoring is the art of being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment—without interpretation or judgment.  

Everything you learn in NH relies on awareness, attention and control; your ability to monitor and regulate your behavior, emotions and thoughts. If you commit to training your attention and exerting control of your own mind, you're going to be practicing mindfulness by default. In addition to improving your focus, the practice can bring stress and insomnia relief, anxiety-reduction, lowered blood pressure, pain-reduction, and is a preventive for depression.[43]  

Mindfulness is an epigenetic technique because its effectiveness relies on initiating a relaxation response; which alters the expression of a set of genes across domains of immune regulatory pathways, metabolism and glucose metabolism, cardiovascular system development and circadian rhythms.[44] 

 

For accessing open mode and improving empathy and communication skills, two other useful methods have emerged. First, classical meditation exercises plus a variant of co-counseling (or 'core counseling') - a technique requiring 10 minutes per session, done in pairs. These counseling exercises consist of a focused exchange of every-day life affective experiences aiming to train gratitude, dealing with difficult emotions, and empathic listening.[45]  

Second, classical meditation exercises plus self assessment. In pairs, participants learnt to mentally take the perspective of ''I'm ok, you're ok''.[46] By reflecting on a recent experience they had and how it would be viewed from a healthy or unhealthy perspective, the speaker in each exercise practices perspective-taking on themself, thus gaining a more comprehensive understanding of his or her inner mental states. The listener practices understanding the perspective of the speaker.  

In all these techniques, some changes can occur in a relatively short time while other changes require much more practice. For example, alterations occur in key brain circuits associated with emotion regulation right from the start, but while reductions in stress reactivity to positive images are seen during early levels, modulating reactivity to negative emotional challenges requires more practice.  

Meditation generally is one of those techniques which requires a critical mass of practice to initiate multiple epigenetic changes. Because of this, long-term practitioners will get different results than beginners. Measurable differences in the function and structure of the brain have been found in long-term meditation practitioners, such as changes in brain activity within areas associated with friendship and emotional behavior, and increased density of connections in regions involved in memory, emotion control, and executive functions.[47]  

However, you don't have to practice for years to see any changes at all; even a short-term (10 minutes) regular mindfulness/ meditation practice can lead to some fast, noticeable differences such as lowered social anxiety, less fear/aggression, and lower cortisol levels (related to lower anxiety levels). With just eight weeks of training, absolute newbies at meditation show an increase in connectivity between networks processing emotion and networks that support executive function (which includes self-regulation and goal tracking). With approximately three months of practice, four to six days a week, with practice sessions no more than 30 minutes, excess cortisol levels are reduced by up to 51%, plus we see measurable selective behavioral improvements with regard to empathy and perspective-taking. The changes in behavior correspond with the degree of structural brain plasticity in specific brain regions which support these capacities.[48]  

Summarizing the effects of mindfulness training across many studies in adults, we see an overall decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress in both healthy and clinical groups. For those in therapy these effects are, importantly, similar to those seen following other forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or pharmacological treatments. All methods reduced the subjective experience of anxiety.[49] These effects could all be explained by mindfulness improving cognitive control, a broad term referring to higher-order executive skills, such as attention shifting, cognitive flexibility, and planning.

 

If you get stuck in open mode 

First, wake up. Move. Do some brief exercises or take a short walk. Listen to some cheerful, energetic music. If you use stimulants like tea or coffee, have some, but don't eat much. Now, choose something that you like to do; any task will work. Decide that for the next half hour you will do this task and concentrate on it alone. Carry out your decision. Next, plan a small creative task; preferably something simple that you have never done before (such as, get some flowers and arrange them in a vase, or cooking a recipe you have never tried before). Carry out each step of the task without getting distracted. Now start applying the same methods when considering what you would like to do next. Use techniques for focused attention.
 

If you get stuck in closed mode 

First, chill out. STFU, CTFD (see above). Make sure you get enough sleep. Relax in a comfortable place and do whatever you know will calm you down (you should know this by now). Relaxing music, low lighting, a full stomach and gentle scents can help. Now, play 'how many': How many different sorts of music do you like? Don't start to pick your favorites; just count how many different genres are in your overall collection. Do the same with movies, books or games. All you want is the numbers of different things; forget about the details. You can use your imagination to think of other topics to do this with; how many human names can you think of that begin with A? How many different trees do you actually know the names of? How many different animals have you seen this week? Any topic will do; what you are doing is focusing on the general rather than the specific. If your mind wanders that's great – you have slipped into open mode.

 

If you get stuck in salience mode   

You'll know right away because it will be extremely difficult to make decisions, often about even small matters. If you catch yourself asking others to make decisions for you, spend some time in open mode to break out of the habit.

 

Fitting in new habits 

Establishing new habits always seems like a bit of a hassle because once we have our daily lives organized, a lot of behavior get shunted to automatic responses, saving energy. The best way to incorporate new habits is to choose methods that fit in as closely as possible with stuff that we are already doing.  

For example, if your current routine demands a lot of sitting, it's easier to incorporate focused attention exercises into that routine. If you already need to walk somewhere each day, there's your chance to practice mindful walking. Many exercises can be done in bed, in a chair, in the bath or shower, or on the floor.  

Adding extras on to a string of familiar habits works well too. For example if you have an accustomed routine of little tasks in the morning or evening, add in a session of mindfulness. No large chunks of time are required; little and often is the key to success.  

Keeping a record of noticed or measured changes helps motivation to practice.

 

Two useful quick checks for your overall brain health:  

response time   

sit in a chair with good upright posture and eyes looking across the room. 

place your forearm so it extends over the edge of a table, holding your hand sideways with thumb and fingers in a position appropriate to catch the ruler when it falls.  

Ask a friend to hold a 30cm ruler vertically 2cm above your hand. The number “1” should be on the bottom, the “30” near the top.  

Tell your volunteer to release the ruler suddenly without warning you. Your task is to catch it with your thumb and forefinger as soon as you notice it dropping.  

When you catch it, hold tight and record the number on the ruler displayed just over your thumb. The lower the number, the faster your reaction time. 


 

Conduct three trials with the same volunteer, dropping the ruler from 2cm above your fingers each time. Calculate the average for your score.  

Slowing of response time (and incidentally, of walking speed) are often the first indicators of possible neural problems.

 

Improving attention and memory  

A variation on the exercise further above; the first part is the same: ask a friend or a computer to make a list of fifteen random words and read them aloud just once. You should treat this as a game and listen with the intent to try to remember as many as possible.  

After hearing them, get on with whatever you are doing, and set a reminder or alarm for thirty minutes. When the thirty minutes is up, write down however many of the words you recall.  

Note how many you score, but DON'T stop here. Do the exercise repeatedly (at least once a day) Use a different set of words and note your score each time. Note how some days and some times you have better recall than others. Start to watch your score improve due to this practice.  

With both these tests, when a clear improvement occurs, you will notice it right away in your scores. Now the game is: how much better can you get?

The aim of using techniques like mindfulness, etc., is to assist you in getting into open mode, and if you do them correctly and regularly, you will automatically shift into open mode whenever you relax. There are no special talents required to look at life in an interested, curious, thoughtful, imaginative, playful way. It is in fact the scientific approach required to explore reality. A playful, inquisitive attitude allied to a rational process which can reveal truths about reality, can and should be extended TO reality; open mode access is vital for health in everyday life, personal relationships and artistic endeavors just as much as for intellectual pursuits.

 

Things to expect 

Once you know how to get into open mode it will be much easier to deal with anxiety whenever you feel its hassle. Increased awareness will bring greater self-observation; you will start to notice which bits of your body become tense when anxiety rises, and you will know how to reduce it right away.  

Learning to shift operational mode is all part of learning self control. Self-control is always about controlling biological systems. It is never about repression; you do not have to repress emotions, for example, to gain emotional control; you just have to know how to trigger antidotes to harmful reactions, to avoid having them in the first place.  

As you go on, you learn how to increase or decrease specific hormone or neurotransmitter production. All these systems are responsive to simple biological signals that you can reproduce through the practice of these key techniques. Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state with self-observation. If you learn how to control the inner environment and events, you are no longer randomly controlled by the outside environment and events. The more aware of the system you become, the more you can focus attention, the more control is possible.  

Staying in open mode is not the aim, btw. You should not expect to stay in any mode; the nature of mind is dynamic and it follows procedural programs. That means anyone in open mode is going to experience salience mode and then closed mode sometime after open mode; it depends what the mind needs. I'll talk more about procedural programs later; for now the task is just to learn how to get into open mode on purpose on a regular, repetitive basis.  

Once you achieve the 'light-hearted peace' of open mode with no thoughts in words, you may feel as though you 'recognize' the state, even if you have not deliberately accessed it before. This is normal. Slipping out of the open state as fears or worries come crowding back in and inner verbalization begins again is also normal, and a sign of increasing awareness. The important thing is to keep practicing because change can only occur after a critical mass of signaling.  

You are already familiar with the natural learning process. You know how it feels. You get up on your feet and do a critical mass of practice at falling over and regaining balance and suddenly you are walking. You get into the water and do a critical mass of practice at sploshing about with support and suddenly you are swimming. You get into NH and do a critical mass of practice at behaviors that help engage open mode and suddenly you are in open mode.  

When you first begin to access open mode on purpose, you may fall asleep. This is normal, and is indicative of repair programs kicking in and memory upgrading. The more time we spend in open mode, the less sleep we require, up to a point.  

You may not notice changes in mental ability right away in just the same way you didn't notice changes in physically growing as a child. It's as though 'suddenly' you can reach a shelf you could not reach before. Mental development is very similar.  

You don't have to keep practicing any of this stuff forever! It's like learning to ride a bike -when improvements occur, your new abilities will remain for as long as you use them and after initial training they will become 'habitual'; that is, you will be able to change operational mode automatically whenever you want to, without practicing any more, because you have learned how to do it. 

Anyone who's been regularly practicing for over a month with no measurable or noticeable changes with these techniques should seek alternative methods. I have chosen them because they work for most people, but there is no 'one-size-fits-all' method in NH.

 

Onward... 

Now, the future of the relationship between you and this book has come to a decision point: You can either practice the techniques and learn how to shift operational modes and go on to the next chapter, or don't bother reading any more because it won't help you and would be a waste of time.  

All ashore who're going ashore went ashore; but if you've changed your mind about doing NH this is a second chance to disembark. Otherwise... 

 

'You have the opportunity right here and now

to choose to become something greater and nobler

and more difficult than you have been before'

[50]

 

 

Refs chapter 2 

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3 Nagaraj R. Mahajan, Shreesh P. Mysore. Combinatorial Neural Inhibition for Stimulus Selection across Space. Cell Reports, 2018; 25 (5): 1158 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.10.022

4 “Meaning-based guidance of attention in scenes as revealed by meaning maps” by John M. Henderson & Taylor R. Hayes in Nature Human Nature. Published online September 25 2017 doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0208-0 http://neurosciencenews.com/meaning-visual-brain-7580/

5 'Human brain networks function in connectome-specific harmonic waves'; Selen Atasoy, Isaac Donnelly & Joel Pearson; Nature Communications 7, Article number: 10340:10.1038/ ncomms10340 (21 January 2016) https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms10340

6 http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials

7 "New neurocognitive theory of dreaming links dreams to mind-wandering" October 11, 2017 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-neurocognitive-theory-links-mind-wandering.html

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12 A 'nervous system' for ant colonies? Colony responds to predation simulation as a 'superorganism'

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14 A. M. Turing; The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 237, No. 641. (Aug. 14, 1952), pp. 37-72. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0080-4622%2819520814%29237%3A641%3C37%3ATCBOM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-I 

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15 https://elifesciences.org/articles/38550#abstract

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17 Luisa Krauss et al, Impact of contextualizing information on aesthetic experience and psychophysiological responses to art in a museum: A naturalistic randomized controlled trial., Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (2019). DOI: 10.1037/aca0000280

18 https://phys.org/news/2019-08-modern-hunter-gatherer-children-human-culture.html

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20 http://www.publishing.monash.edu/books/cc-9781925523270.html

21 Ana P. Crestani et al, Metaplasticity contributes to memory formation in the hippocampus, Neuropsychopharmacology (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41386-018-0096-7

22 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10648-018-9434-x

23 Steven Ross Pomeroy

on November 13, 2012

24 The Eighty Five Percent Rule for optimal learning, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-12552-4 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12552-4

25 David J. Herzfeld et al. Encoding of error and learning to correct that error by the Purkinje cells of the cerebellum, Nature Neuroscience (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-018-0136-y

26 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S107158191830171X?via%3Dihub

27 https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/screen-time-nih-study-60-minutes

28 Emotionally unstable people more likely to be smartphone addicts, says new study

29 https://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1232

30 Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences April 2, 2012 AND Science Daily April 2, 2012 AND Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(4):384-390. AND Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Is Reduced in Physically Fit and Active Adults, British Journal of Sports Medicine, September 2011: 45(12); 987-92, D. C. Neiman, et al. AND The Cortisol Response to Anticipated Intergroup Interactions Predicts Self-Reported Prejudice
Erik Bijleveld, Daan Scheepers, Naomi Ellemers 

31 Anirvan Nandy et al, Optogenetically induced low-frequency correlations impair perception, eLife (2019). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.35123

32 http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-47677-001 The Effects of Bedtime Writing on Difficulty Falling Asleep:A Polysomnographic Study Comparing To-Do Lists and Completed Activity Lists

33 Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=18282566

34 Brain tingles—first study of its kind reveals physiological benefits of ASMR

AND Diana Bogueva et al. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response for Responding to Climate Change, Sustainability (2020). DOI: 10.3390/su12176947

35 Moein Esghaei et al. Attention decouples action potentials from the phase of local field potentials in macaque visual cortical area MT, BMC Biology (2018). DOI: 10.1186/s12915-018-0551-2

36 Stephanie M. Smith et al, Gaze Amplifies Value in Decision Making, Psychological Science (2018). DOI: 10.1177/0956797618810521

37 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00080/full AND https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254615000939

38 http://www.eurjhm.com/index.php/eurjhm/article/view/355 AND https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197457210002144?_rdoc=1 AND https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4187589/

39 https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2012/aug/black-belts-white-matter-shows-how-powerful-punch-comes-brain

40 Elderly SuperAgers have brains that look and act decades younger than their age

41 "Mental training changes brain structure and reduces social stress" October 4, 2017 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-mental-brain-social-stress.html

42 Gunes Sevinc et al, Common and Dissociable Neural Activity After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Relaxation Response Programs, Psychosomatic Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000590

43 "The benefits of 'being in the present'" October 6, 2017 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-benefits.html

44 https://www.bidmc.org/about-bidmc/news/relaxation-response-may-reduce-blood-pressure-by-altering-expression-of-a-set-of-genes-1

45 Neurohacking Tutorial 10 -Emotion, relationships & interaction

46 http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials/325-neurohacking-tutorial-13

47 Giulia Avvenuti et al, Reductions in perceived stress following Transcendental Meditation practice are associated with increased brain regional connectivity at rest, Brain and Cognition (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2020.105517 AND "Mindfulness meditation: 10 minutes a day improves cognitive function" September 19, 2018 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-mindfulness-meditation-minutes-day-cognitive.html AND Nicholas T. Van Dam et al. Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation, Perspectives on Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/1745691617709589 AND Benjamin Schöne et al. Mindful breath awareness meditation facilitates efficiency gains in brain networks: A steady-state visually evoked potentials study, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-32046-5

48 S.L. Valk el al., "Structural plasticity of the social brain: Differential change after socio-affective and cognitive mental training," Science Advances (2017). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700489, http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/10/e1700489 AND Meditation can soothe the anxious soul in just one session

49 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-03-mindfulness-meditation-incidence-major-depression.html AND Ruth A. Baer. Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review, Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice (2010). DOI: 10.1093/clipsy.bpg015 AND Haakon G. Engen et al. Structural changes in socio-affective networks: Multi-modal MRI findings in long-term meditation practitioners, Neuropsychologia (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.08.024 AND Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future, Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice (2010). DOI: 10.1093/clipsy.bpg016 AND Bassam Khoury et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis, Clinical Psychology Review (2013). DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005 AND J. Lorenz et al. Keeping pain out of mind: the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in pain modulation, Brain (2003). DOI: 10.1093/brain/awg102

Eileen Luders et al. The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter, NeuroImage (2009). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.12.061 AND Catherine Mak et al. Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Attention and Executive Function in Children and Adolescents—a Systematic Review, Mindfulness (2017). DOI: 10.1007/s12671-017-0770-6 AND Yang-Gyeong Yoo et al. The Effects of Mind Subtraction Meditation on Depression, Social Anxiety, Aggression, and Salivary Cortisol Levels of Elementary School Children in South Korea, Journal of Pediatric Nursing (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.pedn.2015.12.001 AND Sarah Zoogman et al. Mindfulness Interventions with Youth: A Meta-Analysis, Mindfulness (2014). DOI: 10.1007/s12671-013-0260-4

50 The message of G'Kar's spiritual experience, Babylon 5, Series 3 episode 6]

51 The item is a 'Straw Hat Radio', invented in 1931. Unsurprisingly, it never caught on. 

52 Ingrid Vilà‐Giménez et al, The Predictive Value of Non‐Referential Beat Gestures: Early Use in Parent–Child Interactions Predicts Narrative Abilities at 5 Years of Age, Child Development (2021). DOI: 10.1111/cdev.13583 Journal information: Child Development

53 Llanes-Coromina et al., 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 September 2021 13:21