Friday, July 8, 2016
A June 19, 2016 article in the New York Times had to do with how to experience life to the fullest. This neuroscientist postulated that we all fail to experience life more fully, because our minds are generally too occupied and filled with various thoughts. More than likely our random and obsessional thoughts tend to interfere so at times we really don’t hear while even when listening or interacting with another. He tested his hunch with two research studies. One study, for example, measured saying or giving free associations under two test conditions to determine if taxing one’s mental capacity resulted in significant differences. One group of subjects had to keep in mind a string of seven digits while the other participants had to remember just two digits while giving their free associations. He found that under the high mental load condition’s [7 digits], these subjects gave less original and creative responses. However, under the 2 digit condition, these participants gave more varied and less typical responses. In the second experiment, the researchers found that longer response times with a high mental load were correlated with less diverse responses. He concluded that a cluttered mind required more time to generate even conventional thought. This researcher added that he believed the mind’s natural tendency is to explore and favor novelty. He called this” exploration”- when we are curious to learn. And other times, he stated we use” exploitation”- when we rely on things we already know and basically lean on our expectations in predicting. That neuroscientist cleared his mind by spending a week in silence at a Vipassana meditation retreat. He stated that he was able to really taste a tomato; didn’t mind physical discomforts as much; and gazed on a single flower for 45 minutes. My technique for mind clearing is vastly different. I go for a trail run to think better. With a shorter trail run, about 10 miles or so, I am able to think more clearly while being surrounded by nature without man-made distractions or voices. I often can come up with ways to figure out a problem area; or even begin outlining what I am going to post. It seems, that I am primarily focusing on the trail, as opposed to having random thoughts. As result, my thinking and thoughts are more organized. However, on longer trail runs, my focus turns to the here and now. Often, I experience either- tiredness, heavy breathing or some other physical discomfort. I then continue to focus in the here and now and that seems to assist me during those runs. Of course, I may think about how many miles I have completed, how many miles to go or even about some reward at the end of my trail run experience. I believe that clearing my mind is part of the story of being able to live life more fully. The other part seems to relate to enjoying being out in nature, pushing myself while working up a sweat. It’s true that I’m not running faster and it is also true that I’m not training to become faster. But what I am doing is running a personal best each day.