I had a "eureka" moment this week. Eureka moments are also sometimes called "aha" moments. That's when things suddenly click for you in your mind, something that you were trying to understand but couldn't quite grasp suddenly becomes clear. These moments come unannounced and seemingly without any preparation. And when they come, you ask yourself, Why didn't I see that before?
There was a research report in last week's Science magazine about where the mind goes when it wanders. The scientists were trying to determine if the "default network" of our brains is activated when we daydream. The default network is that region of the brain that remains active when we are at rest, at least in functional imaging experiments. They concluded that "mind-wandering constitutes a psychological baseline that emerges when the brain is otherwise unoccupied, supported by activity in the default network of cortical regions. Results demonstrated that reductions in processing demands, that is performing practiced versus novel sequences of otherwise identical tasks, were accompanied by increases in both the generation of SIT (stimulus-independent thought) and activity in the default network." (You gotta love these scientists and their acronyms.)
My mind seems to wander a lot these days, especially when I am thinking about what to write about for this blog. This morning I wondered if eureka moments come when our mind is at rest and allowed to wander and that's why they seem to come from nowhere. I wandered as I wondered to my recent attempts to renew my efforts to "cure" my myopia. My "aha" this week was when I finally discovered what Thomas Quackenbush meant in his book, Relearning to See, by "centralization."
Centralization is the opposite of diffusion. It is the knowledge that the human eye can only see one point clearly at any moment. That fact is inherent in its structure. But centralization is not concentration. Centralization happens naturally, for people with normal eyesight, when the eyes and the mind are at rest and it happens with movement. We see best what is in the center of our vision, but we cannot hold onto it. We constantly shift our focus from one point to another. Fixation, concentration, creates blur. People with good vision are constantly moving their eyes from one point to another of the thing they are looking at, staying at one spot for no longer than a few seconds.
Quackenbush goes on to say, "Actually it is the person's interest that shifts from one point to another, the eyes and head simply follow the 'mental movement.'" p. 151
Hmm... sounds a bit like mind wandering to me. We see best when we are relaxed. We think and learn best when we are relaxed. We are at our most creative when we are relaxed.
I have learned to turn on my clearsight, i.e., perfectly clear vision without my glasses, by relaxing my eyes. One method is to simply close them and then very gently open them again allowing them to "see" whatever is there. Usually, I do this outside while looking into the distance. Another method of getting the eye muscles to relax is by "palming." You cup your palms over your eyes, gently, and rest them in the darkness and warmth of your hands. Then you release your hands and open your eyes to see the world in front of you.
Until now, I have not been able to get my clearsight to last more than a few minutes. What I learned this week was that I could turn on this clearsight state by really looking at a small point and telling myself that this is what I could see best. Suddenly it cleared and I could move to the next point and the next and they were all perfectly clear. One point at a time, each the best I could see.
Now I want to apply this principle to my knitting. What do I look at when I am knitting? The needles and my hands are in constant motion. I sometimes diffuse as I knit to try to see everything at once, the yarn, the loops, the needles, my hands. Not good. But what do I centralize on? Do I let my mind wander, or do I count stitches? Do I SIT to knit? I have already learned that I cannot do lace with distractions and that knitting is like meditation. I cannot knit lace on auto-pilot. But do you force yourself to empty your mind of thought when meditating? Obviously, no. What do I centralize on? The mantra yfwd, K2tog, K-one, yfwd, K2tog K-two, etc.? But what do I look at?
Another wandering thought: maybe it's all these people who have been diagnosed with ADHD that are normal, and it is the state of forced concentration that is abnormal.