Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Muse Comes Quietly

Our "eureka!" moments are a literal burst of mental energy emerging from calm. Recent research shows that the two main steps in the problem solving process, analysis and insight, use completely different parts of the brain and rhythms of thought. Brain monitors show that epiphanies arise from relative quiet in the brain, followed by a flash of activity.

I sometimes close my eyes for a brief moment when I need to think really hard. Why?

Since about 90% of the brain's input is visual information, I sometimes need to turn off the giant firehose of noise to clear my thoughts and invite the muse.

Reading the research helped me assess my own quirky methods, which people have politely asked about over the years. I try to be very conscious of the shift from analysis to insight. First, I evaluate and synhthesize information, then I try to figure out what to do with it. I find analysis and insight to be related like a house and its foundation, useless without each other and made of really different stuff. I try hard to tune into the shift between the two modes-- they even feel different. Analysis feels like seeking, a hot pursuit of knowledge, a process of elimination and inclusion, of making contextual choices on a path. Insight feels just the opposite, like receiving, a cool process where ideas arrive.

When I make the shift from analysis to insight, I deliberately quiet my mind, step back from the facts, and set my intent to create. I invite new thoughts and try to wait for them. This isn't always easy, as I'm not especially patient.

"Eureka" strikes, or it doesn't. If I'm alone and tackling more complex issues, I am more patient. Often drawing maps of the concepts helps.

Sometimes I want to shout, "Hurry up, damn muse!". But, shockingly, that doesn't really seem to help. And when insight does arrive I fight my next lovely impulses. Like, "Why didn't I think of that before?!". Followed by the inevitable, "Now I have to make up for lost time, stupid".

I think I need to treat myself better-- and certainly the muses. Good ideas like to be invited, not chased.


  1. "Eureka" moments happen every day..! It's whether we choose to capitalize on or take take advantage of these moments that turn regular days into great and successful ones..!


  2. The mind is a Eureka moment!

    James Fuentes

  3. have you ever tried meditation? i wonder if the muses tend to stay longer when the entire body is focused on quiet.

  4. Imagination is the ante for “eureka” moment.

    Kelly Hamzeh

  5. Imagination is the ante for “eureka” moment.

    Kelly Hamzeh

  6. i find that those moments only come when i am not thinking or have emptied out my thoughts... yoga, meditation, driving long distantce (sometimes just a drive up the canyon). it drives my writing partner crazy that i don't sit and focus on the "woblem" - ;) - but he's always amazed that by distracting myself, or "being," etc. gets me to the solution like lightning.

  7. Silence speaks loudly. Often what we hear in silence brings discomfort - leaves us tempted to berry ourselves in social busy and more noise. Facing truth and insight isn't always pleasant, unless chanelled without judgement and for the right purposes. But isn't it all relative and subjective and never fully true? There steps in silence again, the door to space and the key to perspective. If we only could surrender more often to the knowledge of calm stillness and be!