Whole-Minded Learning: Creating Networks of Neural Paths That Take Us Exactly Where We Mentally Want To Go!

by Heron Saline, CHT CMT ©2007

Thinking is a strange thing: we do it every single day of our lives, but many of us don’t know very much about how we think, or even necessarily how to think well! What do you think that even might mean, to “think well”? The good news is that there is currently an amazing amount of solid work available — information to help you understand both how people think in general and your own thinking in particular, and techniques to learn new ways that are natural to your own mind for maximizing effective thinking. Which of course begs at least one question: what would you like to use your mind for that you currently can’t???

In the 7 years I’ve been working as a Certified Learning Strategist I’ve found that most people’s desires to improve the use of their minds boil down to these common themes: organizational skills, clarity in understanding, decision-making, enhancement of creativity, quieting the mind when it is racing, clearing “stuck” thoughts, and issues of memory storage and recall. These are all “map-able” processes these days, and usually easy to learn, adapt to your personal needs, and use effectively!


I say that these mental processes can be “mapped” because the analogy for what literally happens when we think is akin to a pathway. The “travel” is by an electrical impulse, which is the communication currency unit of our nervous systems. What we experience as having a thought — for instance, “I think I’ll go to a movie tonight” — internally takes the form of an electrical impulse traveling through the brain and body tissue. Each distinct thought travels its own unique path through the geography of our brain. Certain patterned, habitual, or common thoughts cut paths that are figuratively “deeper”, just like a well-traveled path through a field which gets worn down. In fact, it can even become a mental “rut”!

The electrical impulses are conducted by nerve cells called “neurons” which communicate one to the next to the next — millions of them — by emitting chemicals that bridge the cells. Fascinating recent research shows that “neural nets” (webs of communicating neurons that transmit thought) exist not only in the brain, but also around the heart and the intestines! So we literally, not just figuratively, think with our hearts and our guts as well as with our heads!

Different speeds and paths of these electrical impulses result in different kinds of consciousness and function. Here are some of the basic kinds of thought:

Three functions of thought are mental clarity (the conscious or linear/rational mind), processing/figuring (the subconscious mind), and creativity/memory storage (the unconscious mind). The three forms that information comes in — sound, pictures, and feeling images — correlate with these consciousnesses in several predictable ways that make them accessible at will, once you know how they relate to each other. Once you learn the basics of thought and your own mind's particular patterns, it’s easy to use your whole mind and largely choose the kinds of thought that are useful to you at the times you want them!

Receptive and expressive thought — think of these as “information coming in” and “information going out”. Together they’re just like inhaling and exhaling, and when you do both fully you solidify your connection to ideas that you are working with! People tend to do this naturally to some extent, like breathing. For instance after they read a book or hear a presentation or try a new activity, they tell someone or write about it or experiment with it on their own. But sometimes people get “stuck” in an overload of either expression without receptivity, or receiving information without responding to it expressively, creating an imbalance.

Inner and outer thought — this interesting and important variation on thought is one that surprises many people. “Inner thought” is what we generally think of as imagination, or our personal, “inner world”. These thoughts are made up of the content of our “mind’s eye”, our “inner soundtrack”, or our “feeling sense”. Inner thoughts run in our minds like a cable channel that is broadcasting thoughts about everything in our lives 24/7. This is a realm where Hypnotherapists like myself help people pattern constructive thoughts that support them living the life they want. It is the realm of creativity from which we all design our lives.

Outer thought, on the other hand, is perceived and expressed outside our bodies — sounds, sights, textures and movement in the room or place where we are. Many of us move back and forth between inner and outer thoughts unconsciously. When we can do it deliberately, that’s when we gain power to use our thoughts with maximum effectiveness! And again, when we get stuck in either one exclusively, like when a song is stuck in our heads, or when we are overwhelmed by outer stimulation, we can become uncomfortable and get into problems.

One way to work deliberately with different consciousnesses is through asking different kinds of questions. The deep unconscious mind likes “open” questions, i.e. questions that ask who, what, when, where, why, and how about something and "something"'s relationship to the rest of the world! These big questions direct us to the “big picture”. They aren’t necessarily questions that can ever be answered, either! But they open the mind to possibility and creative connections within the whole of life — wide understandings — and are especially appropriate early in thinking something through or learning it!

The linear/rational mind, on the other hand, prefers yes/no questions that specify and hone in on details of information! These are really useful later in the game of getting “clear” on something! So while the deep, wide mind might ask “What kinds of relationships do I find satisfying and enriching?" the linear/rational mind might follow up by zooming in with a question like “Do I want to keep getting to know this person I’ve been dating?” Both kinds of questions have their use and place in thinking things through!

A special form of thought that is a favorite of the consciousness for processing things — the subconscious mind, like when you’re trying to figure out what you want or what something means to you — is metaphor. Metaphors are ways to relate something new to things with which we are already familiar. In the above example, you might observe that the kinds of relationships that you find fulfilling are “like a hike in nature” because that reminds you of the invigoration and adventure and beauty of getting to know another person. Or that dating so and so is “like a trip to the shopping mall” because you find your interactions with them overstimulating and shallow, etc. Asking your mind “what something is like” reaches deep into your intuitive understanding and gives rich insights!

Whole-minded thinking and learning is when a person uses all of these thought forms together — clarity, processing, creativity, inner, outer, expressive, and receptive thoughts, questions and metaphors — in their own natural and productive way to learn about or work with a given idea. That’s when we form a thorough and complete network of neural connections that allows effective, clear understanding, memory storage and recall, processing that acknowledges your own unique relationship with the material, and the ability to create in both inner and outer forms with the new material which you have now made your own! Why settle for single, isolated, dangling threads of understanding in your thoughts, when you can enjoy the rich and textured, whole fabric of integrated thought that comprise whole-minded thinking and learning!?!

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To learn more about using your whole mind in ways that allow you to benefit from all of your amazing and innate capacities, email me or call me at 415-706-9740 in regard to Personal Thinking Patterns™ classes and personal consultations, or check out these other fine resources:

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