I can remember it as if it were yesterday; puberty and that feeling of longing. I had to get a girlfriend. It completely occupied my daytime and nighttime thinking. There was something about this extraordinary, hormone-induced longing which sent out clear signals as well. Potential girlfriends ran in the other direction as if I hadn’t showered in 2 or 3 weeks. I’m rather sure we’ve all, in one area of life or another, felt a similar frustration. At some point, whether from frustration, or survival, I basically just gave up: “OK, there’s a secret here somewhere, and I just don’t get it!” Low and behold, there I am, with a girlfriend. And to my further astonishment, others are not running away any more. My shower frequency had not changed, but suddenly I’m getting attentions, where before there was just scorn.
Took me years to even approach an answer to the question; ‘what’s going on here?’
Later on, as a young, professional singer in New York, there was a role I was dying to sing. I learned it in Italian. I learned it in English. I went to as many performances as possible. I bought one recording after another (before YouTube, remember?). I called my agent (repeatedly). I called coaches, directors, conductors. I auditioned the arias again and again and again. No go! Months went by before it occurred to me that perhaps I just wasn’t ready to sing that role. Just like in puberty, I gave up and let it go. Low and behold, within a week, not only do I get a production, but 2 more offers come in for future engagements.
OK, so there I am, I’m a little older and a bit more self-reflective. The answer is starting to formulate. There is something about ‘holding on’ and then ‘letting go’ which is dynamic in the achievement of goals. Letting go isn’t enough and holding on certainly isn’t either. But some magical combination of preparedness and distance, of intense focus and loving release sends powerful vibrations within and without, which seem to increase the chances of success.
The most fascinating thing is that now neuro-researchers are getting some insights into this process. Of course, they don’t take it quite as far as I might, with my tendency towards archetypal, esoteric or magical thinking! Still…the combination of this research and my love of non-material energies has given me more to think about in this regard. These researchers speak of a dichotomy of organization within the brain that they’re calling “Task Positive” and “Task Negative”. They refer to it as a dichotomy because research has shown that these ways of organizing activity and consciousness are mutually exclusive. In other words, just one can function fully at a time. And of course, each has its advantages. Task Positive; clear conscious focus, holding on, grasping, pit-bull-like biting down (for me, at least), has an enormous motivational and learning advantage. Task Negative; dispersed multi-focus, letting go, releasing, zen-like non-attachment, has an enormous advantage in health and well-being, in work-play-life balance and extraordinarily, in the manifestation of goals.
Culturally speaking, at least in my corner of the jungle, “Task Positive” has a good reputation, while “Task Negative” is often scorned as a lack of focus, or competence or seriousness. The truth is, at least as I experience it, it’s the balance between the two that counts! I’m sure no one out there is a stranger to the fact that often the best, creative ideas occur in the shower, or while aimlessly walking, or just sitting and daydreaming. I get some of my best, new ideas early in the morning while half asleep, or playing my favorite computer games, or just closing my eyes and following my body’s natural breathing.
This has profound effects in any teaching or training. The optimization of a student’s neural network involves powerful introspection and self-knowledge. How many of us have heard, or said; “you think too much!” This is what is meant. Our ability to let our bodies, brains and resources do what they do optimally is an exact function of our own unique back-and-forth between “Task Positive” and “Task Negative”!
So if you do find yourself ‘thinking too much’ or pit-bull-like grasping onto a certain goal, the next question is; how exactly do you not think about thinking too much? How exactly do YOU grasp letting go? And there’s the rub. The techniques you develop for creatively, playfully and skillfully going from task-positive to task-negative and back again, are crucial for understanding both creativity and goal-setting!
Evan Bortnick Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden http://www.musa-vocalis.de