A most curious phenomenon

June 8, 2010

So, with all the end-of-the-year projects coming into a close, and the pressure cooker shooting up in psi faster than the Flash traverses the world, I’ve come into a strange, strange sense of calm. The weird thing is that I haven’t even experienced any particularly strong panic spikes (at least not any memorable ones), which throws the immunization to panic idea out the window. Maybe it’s that flow that comes with a new experience – in this case, stress tolerance increase. But of course, the problem here is that, if some fellow whose name escapes me now is to be believed, stress increases to meet stress tolerance.

Even as I scramble to finish my WISE journal, do my physics write-up, conclude my stats project, and most importantly find interesting summer work (ahh!!!), everything doesn’t seem that pressuring. I’d like to think that its those personal growth lessons finally kicking in, and my knowledge of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence has trained me to mastery of pressure (stay in the present, avoid judgment because they had very different systems, keep your voice low and your breathing calm, etc).

but the strange result is (now I’m returning to the title and reason I wrote this) that I am cranking out unbelievable amounts of work. Work that actually feels pretty good too. I mean, what? I thought work quality went down the swirling toilet when overload happens, but dude, I’m lining up summer stuff, juggling my stats group work, and building my bottle rocket all at once and I’m doing them all in less time and better quality than I would have otherwise.

It’s really times like these when I wish perhaps I should’ve made my WISE project a guide to exploring the more social and personal sides of life instead of doing that polysleep first. But life will go on.

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Musings on the comfort zone

June 8, 2010

As I read other people’s projects, and hear about other people’s experiences, I’ve come to seriously wonder about the comfort zone.

The earliest related experience was my reading of a certain Alice MacDonald’s WISE project. She did dancing as one, and I was confused at first, because Ms. Gergely brightly said when she handed it to me, “She really got out of her comfort zone” (or something along those lines). Despite my remaining in a standing position the entire time, I sat, stunned, because I mean, what? HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE IN DANCE? THAT’S NOT. That’s not. … … That’s not. Hm.

All this went through my mind, but what made it to the physical plane of existence was actually something more along the lines of: “(Questioning, skeptical look on my face) What do you mean? (pause) I thought getting out of my comfort zone meant cold-calling, or boldly setting forth on a 6 month-long vagabonding trip across Europe, or something.”

But anyways, life went on, and when I sat down to read Ms. MacDonald’s story that night, I began to realize there was more than one comfort zone. Or, actually, there wasn’t.

Sigh. It’s hard to explain.

Because I think I’ve come to the conclusion that getting out of my comfort zone means ignoring all social pressure in the pursuit of doing what feels intrinsically right to me. What is intrinsically right is another good question, but let’s leave that alone for now. You see, most of my readily memorable  “comfort zone” encounters have come from Mr. Tim Ferriss’s FOUR HOUR WORKWEEK. Oh yes. That book is so. good. But you see, in it, “comfort zone exercises” range from the crazy normal, like budgeting 700 for a week of outsourcing mundane work, to crazy crazy, like…asking 3 attractive members of the opposite sex for their phone numbers.

So I’ve come, just now or sometime recently, that maybe the latter example of “comfort zone stretching” is why I reacted to the dancing example.

And to bring it all full circle: After reading MacDonald’s dance story, I realized that she was fighting against social pressure in creating a new dance routine outside traditional dance. It was fighting against social pressure in the first place, but I simply didn’t realize it.

The question now though is “Is the comfort zone really only just the level of action we are comfortable taking against the social norm?”

Something to ponder.

Crazy virtual reality thing

May 24, 2010

So I really don’t know if this is successful hypnosis or not…but it was so crazy and it kind of relates to the “virtual reality” thing in the memory course sort of. Let me tell you.

The scene: During free time, I realize my back really hurts. I look across the room and notice a friendly joke-type massage thing that people do spontaneously. As more background, let me tell you that I have only have had one thorough back loosening in my life, and that was after nearly a year of heavy back bag toting, so my back was understandably unbelievably pleased at that time.

The event: So, I realized my back was kind of sore, just in general, and I slipped into a sort of trance I guess, and I actually felt my back reliving the sensation. It was so weird. It shocked me so hard and I was just like. Whoa. Holy moly. What just happened.

It was so cool.

The Lost Art

May 23, 2010

Background summary: Albom’s article is about an African fellow who built a windmill out of junk parts. The interest capturing part of the article is how no one thought he could do it, but the main point of it was to inspire the reader to do the similar – get up and start acting.

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The Lost Art of Building With Your Hands

Albom’s message of leaving the electronic and returning to the hands-on is one that I can wholy agree with. Although I’m the very first one to react against the notion that self sacrifice (hours put into shaking canisters for film) equates to self-productivity (end photo), I can understand the magic of imagination as a fellow who still sits down to building blocks and toy figures every once in a rare while. Constructing a tangible end result is highly rewarding, especially because other people can admire it.

Knowing this, I should have taken polysleep measurements more seriously. Having a solid reading of polysleep’s end effects would have been not only comforting to me, but also something I could point to at the end of the day (if there was one, hurr!). The few tests I conducted (typing, reaction time). If anything, my words per minute (wpm) went up over time, instead of down, but on any given day, it would fluctuate fairly severely in accuracy. It was kind of like the stock market—it seemed to be going up over the long run, but who knew what was going on in the short term?

My imagination has certainly surprised me though, but not in the expected ways. I initially believed the bursts of inspiration came before the experiment, not during the work itself. For example, instead of planning out the business I could do with a successful memory improvement run, I found myself exciting neurons far more often during the actual reading and experimenting. This may be because I often found scheduling solid work much easier to do than scheduling vague “think-time”, but either way, Abolm’s message is something I’ll definitely keep in mind for the last few weeks.

Experiment on memory threads

May 23, 2010

From the Scheele book:

First 30 names that come to my mind:

  1. Ms. Gergely
  2. Ms. Lord
  3. Ms. Kennedy
  4. Ms. Lang
  5. Ms. Lynn
  6. Mr. thompson
  7. Mr. Jordan
  8. Mr.anderson
  9. neo
  10. morpheus
  11. trinity
  12. hans kabelt
  13. johnny depp
  14. jack sparrow
  15. johnny cash
  16. byronichero
  17. pendragon
  18. uther pendragon
  19. arthur
  20. lancelot
  21. guinuievere
  22. Anais
  23. Sam
  24. gabe
  25. jake
  26. tyler
  27. daniel
  28. beal
  29. amy
  30. saia

Category analysis:
Mostly personal names, with some names from music and legends.
This means I am better associating names to personal people I already know.

Spilling the beans – a freenoting exercise

May 22, 2010

The challenge: Write everything I’ve learned in the Birkenbiehl course so far.

I have four pages of this nonsense. Just look at it. 4. pages.

Memory Stuff – General Ideas to practice

May 21, 2010

Names
1. Actually understand the name – pronunciation, etc.
2. Associate it with existing ideas – ie baker to baker, shachter to shhh + actor (actor putting giant finger to lips)
3. Use the name often (hurr)…etc.

Not Losing Things
Losing things is caused by the mind not paying attention to where the item was put in the first place (ie getting distracted while placing away an item)
1. Place everything in the same place.
2. Consciously put items in place (wow that’s a pain)
3. To transition into putting stuff in the same place, use a motion-detector to warn you each time you pass that area. Theoretically you should be fine after a few days.

Expanding general knowledge
1. Calling out the wrong name. Ie pointing at an orange and saying apple. The idea is that your first reaction is to conjure up the correct name, before intentionally replacing it. According to Birkenbiehl, it works by:

Why does it work? When you look at a water galss, you do not see a water glass. Instead you see something labeled “water glass” which contains all the experiences you ever had with water glasses. You are looking at your own generic memory regarding all water glasses you have ever used or seen…the simple act of looking at a glass and labeling it paperweight creates a bissocation between the label used and the item it does not fit….bissociations make us sit up and take notice.

Learning
1. This is mostly NLP – wear the same clothes, work in the same position, etc. in practice as you would in the real test.

Also, try “freenoting”, where you just pretty much spill everything you remotely think on the subject onto paper.See my forthcoming post on this experiment.

2. Devise questions about the study material. I think the theory is that your mind automatically tries to answer.

3. Go into virtual reality. This seems like visualization to me. Check out my forthcoming post on this too.

THE LEARNING CURVE: According to Birkenbiehl, it sort of looks like this:
Going up, peaking, dropping a little, settling into a plateau, and then going up again.

Memory stuff – Background & General Theory

May 20, 2010

Citation: Birkenbihl, Vera F., and Paul R. Scheele. Memory Optimizer Personal Learning Course. 1st ed. 2001. Print.

Basic background: This was recommended to me on Steve Pavlina’s site in his college student advice tips thing, which I just had to look at despite being currently a senior. It comes in both audio and print format, but I’ve only gone through much of the print at this point in time, with some from the audio.

========Start of research==========

“Wanting to [do work] but no doing anything today? ” Promise yourself to do only a little today (this sounds very similar to a lot of stuff I’ve been reading lately. The “just this once” effect, so good).

Trick:
Training
Repertoire
Improve your
Competence&
Knowhow

Memory:
Memory meant to be autobiographical, and learned in connections to others (why you can’t remember that Civil War battle date in AP USH)

Traditional memory systems: based off making dull info “colorful” and thus “biographical”

Memory web: Everything we know is a thread in a gigantic 3-D web, which are connected to others.
The more information is used, more firmly attached to other threads of web, thus easier to recall.

Auxiliary threads: Helper threads to pull in necessary information.

Understanding: Being able to relate something in your web to the knowledge.
Reconstructing memory – remembering a memory recalls threads that are attached to it as well, thus reinforcing the entire system.

THE MEMORY PYRAMID:

Pyramid ground – billions of individual events (details?)
Memories that make up pyramid = compilations of these details

Memory pyramid is gigantic – 11 miles of territory that we can explore (recall using power of thought) through a 15 inch flashlight beam (trying to remember something).

Three parts to pyramid:
Foundation: The 15 inches of consciously registered info.
Middle of Pyramid: Divided into 3:
1. Individual autobiographic memories (ie what you experience at a party)
2. General memories (general assumptions and expectations from certain events and actions, ie parties are loud)
Top of Pyramid (3rd part): Abstract ideas/Plato ideas/Schacter global memories/Kotre’s thematic memories – The big picture

Takes longer time to build up higher parts of pyramid (they’re condensed after all), but no particular level of the pyramid is more important than the others. Also, higher = clearer – they are more ideal, abstract (ie a perfect circle can be imagined, but drawing one is much harder; you don’t imagine a roughly drawn circle while drawing to draw a perfect circle).

Interesting note on individual memories: They prevent Alzheimer’s, b/c Alz disease kills sense of self via destroying individual memories. Since Alz detoriates personal memories, many victims still know how to operate stuff, they simply lose sense of self. By strengthening autobiographical memory fibers, Alz effect can be slowed.

From theory to reality: Since gain more abstract ideas when aging, but these are not lost unlike autobiographical memories, most old people are the poets, sages, etc.

Narrative pre-write

May 17, 2010

Journal Pre-write
1. Decision to join the program: Absolutely no regrets still, I believe that simply through participation in the project and formal commitment to leaving the comfort zone, I’ve made many progressive decisions I would have dismissed otherwise.
Selection of a field of interest: I still think that polysleep was an excellent idea. Follow-up results were not so excellent, but would not have known if I had not tried. Hypnosis is more of a sketchy field, not only because I didn’t have such good results finding clinically guided work, but also because for self-hypnosis, measurable goals are rare.

Choice of mentor: I think I overestimated “acceleration ability” when choosing a mentor—when things started to slow down, I couldn’t rely on someone else really busy to push me forward.

2.
Biggest challenges: Coping with failure—writing about it, feeling it especially. Chronicling adventures, knowledge, and insights also bothersome.
Biggest successes/highest moments: Finding the project, taking the day 17 walk (calming stressed turbulence), finding resources

Biggest setbacks: Nearly every single zombie day past week 2, lack of ability to read, inertial resistance to starting hypnosis.

Problems encountered/solved: Journal writing – scanning/scheduling journaling time. Getting to it—lots of self-talk and in the end, knowledge that I’d have a lot of trouble on my hands in a couple of hours if I didn’t just go for it.

Most surprising: Didn’t really enjoy reading as much as I thought I would. After going through the first few pages of most volumes, it became far too painful to slog through any more.

3.
Good story moments:
Day 17 breakdown
Reconciling self with decision to leave polysleep.
Reading other logs—Head Full of Lightning is so good. “I mean, Pavlina made it look so damn easy.” Hahahaha.
Maybe library resource gathering day?
4.
Journal: Activity might actually be less of an indicator than inactivity in this case. Definitely have realized I should be picking up the journal more often for short entries, and that although it’s all good and fine to set up a halfway decent “kick-my-butt” system, really setting up a sustainable, full fledged “do this by now or face failure” system is really the only effective way to keep activity rolling.

Research Commentary:

Sources: 8+ (Carey, Salmaan, Patterns, Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnosis, Head Full of Lightning & other blogs, Scheele, Schissel(?), hopefully Maas)
How have I used the research:
Carey & Salmaan – General gauge as prepoly
Head Full of Lightning & Other Blogs – General gauge as prepoly and later, as comparison to current experiment, and post-mortem as evaluation of similar experiments/re-research for polysleep round 2.

Scheele – Memory improvement
Schissel – Attempted to get hands-on work, rebuffed, but did get answer to how to evaluate trance (depth of sleep)
Maas – If I can get an appointment, I’d like to evaluate my polysleep, and maybe get general improvement tips. Need to hammer out lo que realmente quiero from him.

Practicing

May 15, 2010

Background summary of article: The article states that truly effective results can only be obtained through practice and not through sheer theory. A guitarist who does not focus on his rough spots will still have more or less the same quality tune. Anyways, I liked it, as you may be able to tell below. 🙂

=======

Practicing

As a pianist, I found this article especially meaningful. Many of my practice days were in reality playing days, where I would run through a piece and simply enjoy it as it was. However, these were not especially productive, because although I ran over the rough spots a few times in my play-through, I never gave them the concentrated steam rolling of “spot practice” needed to truly smoothen them out.

I found the “measurable improvements” part a bit vague though, because it seems many times after a practice week, although I feel more solid, the piece sounds very much the same. Undoubtedly it would be better if I simply recorded the piece at the end of every lesson, and made a chronological sequence of the music over weeks of practice, analogous to excel spreadsheet of sorts—perhaps I should do this.

In the meantime though, satisfying myself with “persevere and success will come” is a tall order to me. That was supposed to happen on polysleep, and certainly I took it to heart, but by week 4 (albeit with missteps that probably had disproportionate impacts), I was growing frustrated with sheer perseverance. I was sleepy and waking up from 20 minute naps was not amenable, but compared to my normal sleep results, how different was it really?

But now a thought occurs to me (or rather a lurking thought has stepped forth boldly) and thinking back on it now, I am critiquing perseverance on faulty grounds. It was the design of the experiment should have been better—a class at 6, a more solid way to record progress. But if I were to transport myself back in time, I have little doubt my past self would stick to the original plan. Perhaps this is the journey—understanding my limits and taking failure in stride for conversion into wisdom.