Take a Time Out

I worry about the kids. The kids I know hardly have any time for themselves. They are always busy with school, homework, tuitions, tennis lessons, tabla lessons, and preparing for this or that exam. There is no unstructured time for them to just do what they feel like doing, or for just doing nothing. I suspect (just a hunch, no proof) that it could be causing these kids to be unimaginative, non-creative and dull. They need to take a time out. But that means they have to reduce the “academic” load on the kids. They are being burdened with too much stuff to learn, and in the end, they end up missing the essential bits. But that is an entire different tirade that I will not go into right now.

I believe that the ancients in India were so successful in being creative was because they meditated. Meditation is the ultimate time out. Of course, they could meditate because the culture allowed that sort of luxury. In general, our culture does not afford that luxury any more. Those who are too poor materially hardly can take a time out; you cannot meditate on an empty stomach. And those who are not materially poor are fairly caught up in a rat race to make more money and acquire more stuff; these have been brainwashed to believe that one’s self-worth is tied up with how much stuff they can get their hands on from the glitzy malls. You cannot meditate if you are too busy shopping.

Even if one does not go all the way to meditation, I think it is good to sit and relax and do nothing for a change. Just stare at the grass growing. It could make you more creative or whatever. But one should not just do stuff for instrumental reasons, I believe. Sometimes one should do things just for the heck of it. Taking time out is a luxury and one should indulge oneself from time to time. It is the reward for having worked and earned.

Right now I would like to ponder this old article from the Guardian UK titled “What’s the big idea?”.

Time out feeds the quietness of mind that is essential to creativity.

Experiments have shown that creative people have different brain patterns when actively creative. Colin Martindale, professor of psychology at the University of Maine, conducted tests on what he calls the ‘inspiration and elaboration phases’ of the creative process. That is the ability to be receptive to ideas and inspiration, and then to be able to focus and work on those ideas. While all participants – both creative and non-creative – were able to apply themselves to the elaboration phase, only the creative people were able to relax their minds enough to dream and let things come to them during the inspiration phase. Part of the trick of creativity is being able to move backwards and forwards between these two states of mind. And while the more creative people couldn’t do this to order during Martindale’s tests, they intuitively knew when it was right to be relaxed and open-minded and when it was time to be focused and concentrated.

It is not impossible to learn how to be more creative. Experiments have shown that just by encouraging people to relax, you can increase the number of ideas that they come up with. Certain forms of meditation are effective as a means of learning how to enter a creative mental state – one that is relaxed and receptive but also awake and alert.

Essentially, creativity is all about learning to listen to the unconscious and being able to cultivate that relaxed and alert time that is typical of meditation and dreaming. Very creative people may be able to do this intuitively, but it is important to realise that we were all born with creative minds.



Categories: Education

5 replies

  1. “Colleges being nothing but grooming schools for the middleclass non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets is each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization”—-JACK KEROUAC, “THE DHARMA BUMS”

    Back to the sixties????

    Here’s some more:”See the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ’em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.”

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  2. And Draupadi in the Mahabharata advised to divide the day up into law, profit, and pleasure… and yet, despite our instinctual reaction towards this division, we’ve still created a society which divides itself up into profit, profit, and profit.

    We never pay attention to good advice, do we.

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  3. Completely agree that we need kids to take time out and have “unstructured time”. As you pointed out, kids today are burdened with so many “structured activities” that they hardly get time to do whatever they feel like. I take care to ensure that my kids are not over burdened and get enough unstructured time. The other day i noticed my 5 year old son sitting quietly on a chair with a far away look on his face. When i asked him what he was doing, he said he was “thinking”. When i asked him about what, he said “about everything”. It is extremely crucial that we let kids be kids else we will end up killing their curiosity and creativity

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  4. I wrote a silly narrative poem about the formation of communities.

    There might be a bunch of memes and tiny stimulating things if you read it really quickly.

    http://brianhayes.com/community.htm

    …the modelling of mind to mechanism

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  5. Could not agree with you more. Being a part of this system I also feel that we really need to have a certain amount of time just for doing whatever we like.

    Most of the students are so bogged down by the academic load that they hardly get the time to be creative. My brother, aged 15 devotes around 12+ hours per day for his academic load.

    Thankfully the situation betters as we move up the ladder. I personally had to study less in UG college than what I did in Std XII.

    But looking at all the competition around us, I am not confident about any alternative solution. Like I just cannot ask my brother to stop devoting so much time on his academic load.

    So what do you think should be done to get around this problem?

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