…by Anura Guruge
If you think about it any and all New Year’s resolutions require cooperation from your brain. You may refer to it as ‘will power‘, ‘commitment‘, ‘strength‘ or whatever, but in the end, as with each and everything we do, it is our brain that is in control. Though we don’t think about it in those terms, we are but our brain. Our body, including our heart, are parts of an intricate machine totally and utterly controlled by our brain.
If you think about it, our brain is remarkably undemanding, unobtrusive and self-effacing. And that is a problem. Many of us are more aware of our bladder than our brain.
If you already talk to your brain on a daily basis (and talking to your brain is very different than talking to yourself), at least three to four times a day, you can ignore this post and this New Year’s resolution. You have befriended your brain. Congratulations. Enjoy.
If you, everyday of the year, without exception, tell yourself, quite forcefully, ‘THINK‘, at least five times a day, you definitely are on the right track. Rather than ordering your brain to think, curry favor with it by making it your friend, and doing the thinking together.
Yes, though I know that it definitely is not the case, and that I am my brain, I treat my brain, or a visualization of it, as a separate entity. No I don’t have a name for it. It is just my brain. It knows who it is when I talk to it.
I started talking to my brain 41 years ago, when I was around 18 (and was at University studying computer technology). I have to tell you that the brain is not easy to befriend. It can be aloof, but you can’t blame it given that you have ignored it, taken it for granted, for so long. But, once you start talking to your brain, on a daily basis, without fail, at least four, five times a day, it will start warming up to you. It might take a year or more. But, don’t despair. You have nothing to lose and so, so much to gain. The other thing is that it isn’t like meditation, yoga or running up a hill. You can easily talk to your brain while doing something else. Start by doing so while your brushing your teeth. If you are looking in a mirror, it might even make it easier. Look at yourself but try to get in touch with your brain. You can talk to your brain while walking, exercising, driving or just before falling asleep.
Aahhh! One of the rewards of befriending your brain is that it will allow you to think, actually solve defined problems, while you sleep. Here is a real example — read the 3rd paragraph. I have been able to think in my sleep for 40 years. At first, as a computer programmer, I would use this ability to solve and refine programming issues. As I was falling asleep I would describe to my friend, my brain, what I was trying to solve. I would then drift off to sleep. When I wake up I would, in my brain, have the equivalent of sticky notes. A series of solutions. I could peel them off my brain and evaluate each one in turn during the day. You have all heard the expressions ‘let me sleep on it‘ or ‘it came to be in my sleep‘. So we all know that we can think in our sleep. All I did was formalize it.
There is an added bonus for being able to think in your sleep. It is not something you need to do each and every night. These days I rarely ask my friend to do any thinking while I sleep. So what happens on those nights when my friend is free to indulge in his own stuff. ‘He’ essentially crafts intricate movies for my entertainment! I can’t remember the last time I have had a nightmare, a bad dream or a scare in my dreams. Remember dreams are all the creation of your brain. Period. Dreams are your brains interacting with you. Once you have befriended your brain, just like any good friend, ‘he’ tries to entertain you. These nights as I fall asleep I look forward to the movie that I will get treated to.
There are two other tangible benefits of befriending your brain, though I will tell you up front, that the efficacy of the first wanes with age, as the brain, alas, does get less efficient. But, the first one, and this is awesome when you are in your 20s, 30s and early 40s, is that you can ask your brain to THINK FASTER — and just like putting your foot down on a decent sports car, you will actually FEEL your brain functioning faster. I kid you not. OK, maybe it runs in the family, and I will talk about that in subsequent posts. I am doing this post at the behest of my 20 year old son, Matthew Gordon, a Junior at Wheaton (MA) studying English and hoping to be a lawyer. Matthew and my eldest daughter, Danielle (23), take after their paternal grandfather, my father. They are both intellectuals, much smarter than me. I started talking about this topic last weekend, while they were here for an early Christmas. Matthew immediately understood what I was talking about. He too could relate to being able to tell his brain to ‘think faster’ and have it respond. He plays chess at a very high level, and uses this capability when playing. I used to use it at meetings — and in my life, I had to attend a lot of high power meetings where you really had to think on your feet.
The second thing you can do is to ask your friend, your brain, to do thinking in the background. Yes, it is akin to thinking in your sleep, but this is doing it while you are awake and relying on your brain to do other thinking. So, basically, once you have befriended it, you can use your brain like what it really is — a super computer. It will do foreground and background processing, while in addition taking care of all of the other functions you rely on it for, like breathing, seeing, hearing, smelling, walking etc.
So, here is what you have to do in terms of this
New Year’s Resolution.
Starting January 1, 2013, you need to talk to your brain, pleasantly and with conviction, at least 5 times a day. Just saying ‘Hi, brain, how are you doing?‘ is fine, to begin with. You just need to acknowledge your brain and be very aware of it. Your brain will appreciate it. It will warm up to you. So for the next few weeks, while brushing your teeth, or even urinating, have a short, but meaningful, interaction with your brain. Tell it ‘good night‘ when you are going to sleep. Trust me, you will reap dividends, manifold.