The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Free to think

Where do ideas come from? How do we learn?

There are numerous concepts around explaining how this happens. But how does it really work?

A concept that has always made sense to me is the Feynman Technique, and yet it is a technique, not actually how it works.

When people share their stories, they’ll often describe the Eureka moment, the one under the shower, the one doing sports, or whatever occasion it was in which the idea released itself.

As Dan Rockmore describes it, these Eureka moments never happen without hard work and the frustrations of failed tries and feeling stuck. As he writes, there always is a period of “worrying.” It is one in which a lot of work is needed until a glimpse of understanding can appear.

And when an idea appears that feels like a Eureka moment, it still needs to be validated and reviewed. They only are a Eureka moment if they lead to a usable idea, the rest contribute to the worrying part of the work.

The only pattern that seems to be visible is this: a sequence of hard and copious work on the material is being followed by a period of “evasion.” It is stepping away from the work, sometimes because of a sense of feeling stuck or otherwise unable to continue. And it is stepping into a space that allows one to let go of the “worrying.” It is as if the worrying compresses the brain, and as if stepping out of the worrying loosens or decompresses the brain.

Sometimes it brings a Eureka.

This still doesn’t describe it. But maybe it is an invitation to appreciate moments of stepping out of the “normal habitat” without expecting that they do more than allow a break from the worrying.

What I’ve learned in this process is, that I’ve got to consciously step out of the worrying, do something that distracts me from the worrying, and then maybe even simultaneously step into an activity that creates enough space for my mind to feel free.

Scrolling through social media doesn’t do the job. It gives my mind another way to worry and be busy. It doesn’t release the grip on my thinking.

Meditation helps as I find that it softens the grip.

Doing a physical activity I enjoy often does the job.

However, my solution may only work for me. And it may not work forever. The key seems to be to discover what it is that works for oneself.

That is true for how to “worry,” that is do the work and immerse oneself into it until it’s almost too much. And that is true for how to “release” the mind from thinking.

There is only one way that works, it’s your way.





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