WEEK 13: Cultivate a High-Performance Mind

~ “The greatest discovery you’ll ever make is the potential of your own mind.”  ~  Jose Silva

I am a little behind with this week’s post for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I was away for a few days and internet access was limited. Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, that’s only partially true…the real reason is that I was a little bit intimidated by this week’s topic, at least at first. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how in the world I was going to ‘cultivate a high-performance mind’ when names like Stephen Hawking and the Dalai Lama kept popping into my head. So I procrastinated. And then I procrastinated some more.

I finally made myself read the book that the author of my Official List had suggested on his website, called “The High-Performance Mind; Mastering Brainwaves for Insight, Healing and Creativity,” by Anna Wise. I picked it up pretty reluctantly – somehow learning about brainwaves all week was not exactly my idea of fun. But I have to admit, by the time I had finished the first chapter, I was intrigued. Her ideas made a lot of sense to me…and were definitely not just for the brainiacs of the world.

According to Wise, a high-performance mind is “one that can enter at will the state of consciousness that is most beneficial and most desirable for any given circumstance.” And, as it turns out, it is something that we are all capable of experiencing, no matter what our IQ might be. As far as I understand it (and I think I have this right), if we can just learn to recognize what our different patterns of brainwaves feel like, then we can consciously shift our mind into the pattern that will be the best one in any particular situation.

The easiest way for most people to learn about their different brainwave patterns, as well as how to tap into them, is through meditation. The book offers step-by-step instructions as to how to master the four levels (beta, alpha, theta and delta) through a series of guided meditations. It’s a fairly involved process, which I totally recommend to anyone interested, but a week was not really enough time to do it any justice. So I can say for sure that I have not yet quite mastered it. I will say, however, that the experience definitely got me thinking about how incredible it is that we all have this untapped power pretty much at our fingertips…we just need to learn how to use it.

One way to learn, besides meditation, is through neurofeedback, a kind of biofeedback for the brain. By measuring an individual’s brainwaves, it’s possible to teach them how to alter their mental state, helping them to overcome all sorts of issues like depression and ADD. Neurofeedback can also help someone take their performance to the next level, whether they’re an athlete looking to improve their game, or a singer getting ready for a big gig. I was pretty curious about the process, since it was mentioned quite a bit in the book, so I decided to give it a try.

And I have to say I’m really glad that I did. Unlike the picture I had in my mind of being strapped to a chair with wires hooked up to my head, it was actually a very gentle and relaxing experience. I sat in a recliner with a few small electrodes on my head and ears, and pretty much just listened to music through some earphones for half an hour. Granted the music skipped a lot, which for me was kind of irritating, but I guess I have a very sensitive auditory system (according to the practitioner), so this is not always the case for other people. The results, however, were a little disappointing to me. Not that they weren’t interesting, but I guess I was just hoping for some great insight into what makes me tick. Or maybe even how to tick better.

Anyway, it seems to me that the most important thing in cultivating a high-performance mind is learning how to recognize it within ourselves. And I think that most of us, whether we’re aware of it or not, have experienced this higher state of consciousness at some point in our lives. A musician may feel it when he’s in the middle of an awesome riff, and an athlete when he’s skiing down the mountain, or running in the park after work. A mother might feel it when she’s rocking her baby to sleep in the middle of the  night, and a writer when he’s lost in the story he’s telling. It’s that feeling that there’s something bigger than ourselves at work, and we’re able to just give in to it, and let go.

I recently heard about a book called “Explorers of the Infinite”, by Maria Coffey, which tells the stories of some ‘extreme’ athletes and what makes them do the crazy things they do. One woman, a mountain climber, describes the feeling she experiences when she’s out there, and I believe it’s a good example of a ‘high-performance mind’ at work:

“…when you leave to go to the mountains, at first all you’re concerned about are your daily routines back home. Your head is full of chatter. Within hours, you’re in this rhythm where you’re thinking only about food, and fuel, and camps. Then, when the climb gets technical, and especially when there’s a level of danger, you become utterly present. There’s no stress, sometimes even no fear. You literally become simple consciousness. Something larger than you takes over. It’s mysterious and inexplicable. You need to go out there again and again to find it.”

Albert Einstein, who acknowledged experiencing similar moments of awareness (though probably in a less extreme way!), described them as feeling “free from one’s own identification with human limitation.” To me, this is the perfect description, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far with this project, it’s that if we can free ourselves from our own limiting beliefs, we are way more likely to reach our real potential.

So, maybe, if we can experience this feeling of ‘limitlessness’ more often, whether by hanging off the side of a cliff, or sitting comfortably in the bedroom meditating, we will learn to tap into our high-performance minds more easily.

And then, maybe, we’ll not only unleash our own potential, but the potential for the whole world, as well.

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