Follow The Bouncing Ball
Once I had this friend who had this really overactive imagination. I guess overactive isn’t quite the right term, as I don’t suppose his biochemical neuro activity was any more or less than the next guy. But he had two things that stood out when it came to his imagination. He was very good at verbalizing his thoughts, as they came up, as well as getting on a track, and just keep on going.
I’ve met some people that were absolutely scatterbrained, they’d be talking about the benefits of exercise, and all of a sudden start talking about something that happened to them last weekend, and then remark about how the grocery was having a sale on bananas. All without any logical switch between the two. Of course, in their mind, there is always a logical switch, or at least a neurological connection somehow. You fire up one neuron, and the other neurons that are connected to it get fired up, and then the surrounding ones in turn get fired up, until you have a large enough cluster centered around what your brain thinks is an important idea, or a pertinent memory, and that kicks the verbalizing department into action, and pretty soon your listeners are wondering what planet you’re from.
Most people, when you listen to them, you can sort of see the connection in their ramblings. They’ll be talking about oranges, and then mention their grandfather was an orange farmer, and then tell some story about how they went fishing once one summer with their grandfather, and pretty soon, the story is all over the place, but it’s left a trail of bread crumbs back to the original story or idea.
I remember when I was in college, when we used to sit around in our dorm rooms in an altered state (due to excessive studying, of course), we’d sometimes try and follow our conversation backwards and see how many ideas we could link. “You were talking about this, and that was because he was talking about that, because you said, the other thing, which reminded of his pet when he was a kidâ€¦”
It usually didn’t work out so well, as you’d probably already guessed.
But this guy would not only clearly ramble on about his imaginations, but he would do so in such a linear and easy to follow fashion, that it was a kick just to sit back and let watch him go. It got to the point that when he started talking, we’d all kind inwardly smile, and know when to just shut up and enjoy his imagination.
The funny thing was that sometimes he would go off in a positive direction, and other times he would go off in a negative direction. Positive meaning he would start thinking in “best case scenario” terms and the end result would be everybody getting laid like rock stars and getting paid millions of dollars for barely passing a geometry test.
When he would go off on a negative bent, we’d all end up serving a life term on death row in a Mexican prison, figuratively. The funny thing was that he knew full well that we enjoyed listening to him go off on his tangents, and it became kind of like an impromptu performance art. Once he started, he would see how far he would go.
But the interesting thing was that whichever direction he started off in, he would always stay in that direction, either positive or negative. I asked him about it once, and he said that the brain was just like a muscle. Just like you can train your muscles to do certain things, you can train you brain to do certain things.
If you train your muscle to do certain repetitive actions, it becomes unconscious and automatic. If you know how to dribble a basketball, there was a time when you didn’t, and you had to go through the process of learning. Maybe you learned quickly, maybe it took a while. Maybe you had to start by watching the ball, and watching your hand, and you had to be all by yourself, otherwise you’d lose control of the ball, and you’d have to chase it down the street or something.
But after you learned how to dribble without looking at the ball and your hand, you then maybe learned how to walk and dribble at the same time. You could direct where the bouncing ball when without even looking at it. If you kept at it, then you may have been able to move sideways, backwards, even a slow job while keeping the ball under control.
I remember once when I was a kid I spent a couple hours one day learning how to dribble between my legs. I saw somebody on TV do it, and I thought was pretty cool, and I wanted to learn how. After a while, I could dribble back and forth between hands, between my legs, while I was walking, without even looking.
This guy with the amazing skills of imagination said the same is true of your thoughts. If you just let them go wherever they go, they’ll usually end up in a bad place of fear or anxiety, as that’s the way the brain is hard wired from evolution. To always be on the lookout for danger. But if you train your thoughts like you train your self to dribble a basketball, pretty soon, you can direct your thoughts in any direction, and they’ll start going there automatically.
He said that once he learned how to do this, he had great fun just setting a basic intention, and a theme, and then letting his mind do the rest. It would pretty much go in the direction he sent it without having to keep conscious focus on it, like when you are beginning to dribble a basketball.
And if you can learn to direct your thoughts as well as some people can dribble a basketball, there’s no limit to what you can creatively come up with.
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