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Monday, July 21, 2014


Rain Man, the movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, brought to popular attention the existence of savant syndrome, in which people with autism display exceptional intellectual or artistic gifts from birth.
Acquired savantism is an alternative form of the condition in which a person spontaneously develops nearly-genius levels of artistic or intellectual skills - such as ability to paint, play music or do complex mental calculations - after experiencing some form of brain injury. For example, Jason Padgett was mugged and sustained a severe concussion. A college dropout who before the injury described himself as "math-averse," he later developed astounding abilities in math and physics and now draws fractals and takes upper level science courses just for fun. Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon, was struck by lightning in 1994, after which he became obsessed with a desire to play classical music, hearing symphonic strains in dreams. With no formal training, he went on to write a 26-page concert piano piece as effortlessly as if he were taking dictation. Similar stories have occurred to people after getting hit by baseballs and suffering hemorrhages, which until recently had defied scientific explanation.

We now know that accidental genius, as it is called, results from diminished activity in some brain areas (those damaged in a fall or blow) that is combined with a counterbalancing intensification in others, especially the right brain, which processes spatial information. Scientists can now duplicate the phenomenon by applying transcranial magnetic stimulation, which temporarily unleashes savantlike abilities, allowing subjects to solve puzzles and perform better in various tests.

The question arises whether a technological suution is an absolute prerequiste to becoming an overnight genius. It is well-known that assiduous practice of an artistic skill suffices to allow us to switch on the more creative right side of the brain and thus explore undiscovered artistic capabilities, but this takes a huge amount of time, as in 10,000 hours, if you believe Dr. Anders Ericsson. But researchers are now suggesting another means of turning on your inner brilliance, and it's a lot easier on your stopwatch.

In a word: meditation.

Meditation allows one to better focus on a task at hand, removing background noise, as it were, an increasing problem in this technologically-driven age. And meditation can raise intelligence levels and skills at tasks in a fraction at the time required by practice alone. This is particularly relevant in the current age, one in which has witnessed what author Michael Harris in his new book calls the "end of absence." While the daily barrage of texts, tweets and e-mails brings us information, connection and entertainment, it also takes something away. The average kid spends 8 hours a day on devices. The average friend texts their near and dear 50 times a day. And since we're talking about averages: on average, 48% of Americans don’t think that technology has made their lives any easier or more simple! What were are left with in a computer-driven world are just more distractions. Distractions bring a deficit of silence and solitude, a heavy price for our plugged-in lives. Why be average.

To combat the relentless onslaught of (largely useless) information besieging us on all sides, the author advises readers to hold on to downtime, daydreams and stillness, and what better way than meditation? Why does meditation work? Think of computers. We all know what happens when your laptop runs too many programs or its hard drive gets filled. It slows down or even crashes.

So how to clear your inner ard drive, close some programs and "defragment" your mind, as it were? Easy as 1 2 3.

1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, eyes closed.

2. Clear your mind of all thought by first watching your thoughts as they arise,. Don't judge them, just watch. Separate your true self from the thinking mind. Remember this analogy. Clouds form and dissipate in the sky, seeming to arise from nothing and to return to nothing. Be the sky. In other words, be the ever-widening space in between thoughts, and get comfortable simply being. Some advocate deep breathing or recitation of a mantra to help quiet the mind, and you may or may not find this useful.

3. Stay in that state until you feel a sense of calm wash over you. You should feel weightless, as if you are floating. Formless, and totally free. Then remain there for as long as you wish - minutes, hours, the adepts do it for whole days (something to work towards).

Take the calm you achieve through meditation with you throughout your day. It can be used to enhance performance in daily activities and provides stress reduction benefits as well. Remember, bliss is your natural state. Just think of how happy babies are.

Let that be you.

And if you can, ditch that device!

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