– Just Wander

Look after your mind

Look After Your Mind

All of us surely face problems that vex us from time to time. The standard advice for trying to solve a problem is –

Solve a problem

Define the problem. Differentiate fact from opinion.

Generate alternative solutions. Postpone evaluating alternatives initially.

Evaluate and select an alternative. Evaluate alternatives relative to a target standard.

Implement and follow up on the solution.

Coming to a solution

This method depends on rational conscious thinking and it can prove a very effective way of coming to a solution. But it’s not the only way.

In his book ‘The Intuitive Edge’ author Philip Goldberg suggests what he calls ‘absorption sessions’. These involve having the clear intention to solve a problem but then mentally walking away from it, both metaphorically and literally.

Absorb everything

Goldberg’s advice is ‘just wander’; take a stroll with your mind in a state of relaxed alertness, absorbing everything you see, hear, touch, smell and taste without deliberately trying to relate it to the problem. The aim is to ‘discover or accomplish nothing in particular but simply act like a sponge’.

He also suggests choosing an unfamiliar but interesting locale so that old associations and memories don’t arise to clutter the clearness of your mind.

Evaluating what’s around

By acting like a sponge, noticing and appreciating but not evaluating what’s around you. You are working on the problem at a subconscious level and may well be rewarded with a sudden insight, an Aha! moment, that sets you on the path to a solution.

Such moments of inspiration have led to many great advances in science and technology. In 1941 Swiss Electrical engineer George de Mestral was walking in the Alps when he happened to wonder, quite casually one presumes, why burdock seeds kept sticking to his woollen socks and coat.

On closer inspection he noticed that the seeds were covered with tiny hooks to catch in the fur of passing animals. The hooks were hooking themselves into the knitted loops of his clothing. His Aha! moment led to the subsequent patenting of Velcro.

In a similar vein, technologists from America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, were struggling to find ways of designing robust robot craft that could withstand the harsh environment found on Mars.

Someone had the inspired idea of getting away from the drawing board and going to the zoo. There the technologists talked to the keepers of the insect house, since insects are tough and resilient and can exist in extreme environments. This led to the design of the various US rovers that we find on the Red Planet today.

Steve Bowkett.