How The Brain Makes Creative Solutions

‘The evidence that the brain responds to events that do not appear in consciousness is overwhelming’.  The Wayward Mind – Guy Claxton

I know that when I want to find solutions to puzzles or get into a creative flow, I need to access a different state of mind – make my brain work in a different way that never feels like work – to reach down into my unconscious to get the answers from my hidden seams of inspiration.  This isn’t news to creative people.  I’ve been reading Guy Claxton’s book recently, ‘The Wayward Mind’, and for the first time I came across the explanation of what is going on in the brain when we switch between expansive wondering and reverie to acting on the ideas and insights we retrieve from our unconscious and want to act on them. In other words what the brain does to trigger creative solutions.

Claxton writes that the most basic form of activation in the brain is excitation – when a pattern of connections becomes active and goes on to positively affect other patterns associated with it.  The yin to the excitatory yang is inhibitory, whose function is to suppress the activity in the connections further down the line.  Guy Claxton uses the analogy of the accelerator and brake in a car. Having both pedals gives us much finer control over our speed and consequently steering.  In the same way, the brain, with its ability to excite and inhibit has much finer control over its own stimulation, and instructions and information can be channelled much more precisely.

These are not recent discoveries. Over 150 years ago, the Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov recognised inhibition in the brain of frogs and associated them with the human ability to override our own movements.

Sechenov argued that it was the inhibitory action that allows the brain to unhook thinking from action, allowing our minds to wander, meditate and come up with novel ways of ‘thinking’, keeping it internal without the need to turn into an external ‘thing’.

Through inhibition the brain can capture and constrict its own natural outpourings allowing its internal activity to become deeper and wider.

So, how does this affect creative solutions?  How is it that creative ideas just ‘pop’ into our heads (our conscious awareness) from out of the blue?  And is creativity nurture or nature?

According to what scientists have discovered, creativity has 2 phases: inspiration and elaboration and the thinking behind each process is different.

In order to encourage inspiration, we must let the excitation element in our brains have command over the inhibitory tendencies so that many ideas can flourish at once, overlapping, spreading out and allowing for new, expansive connections in the brain.  This musing means that different ideas can mingle together unconsciously, and when something gels, the concentration becomes increased so that it pops up into our conscious awareness.  

To arrest this phase of creativity, we want our brains to behave differently.  Rather than the wandering, random pattern of unconscious thoughts, we are looking to be more focused, purposeful and selective.  In other words, to inhibit the ideas that are no longer relevant so that we can keep the new thought process on track.

Creative people know intuitively that to lapse into reverie will allow ideas to bubble up.   But, when you let it, this is what the brain will do naturally.  

Creativity is, therefore accessible for everyone.  Recent research by Guy Claxton and Paul Howard-Jones at Bristol University, indicates that for those who seem to have forgotten how to use more of the excitatory aspect of their brains, undoing this rigidity is for many people quite easy.

Relax your brain and you open up to previously untapped inspiration and insights. 

Part 3 – 6 Shortcuts To Insights And Inspiration

What Makes A Boutique Business Retreat?

Packing your vision and leaving the rest behind to spend time alone.  Here are elements 5 and 6 of what makes a boutique business retreat and this blog wraps up the last of the fundamental elements that define Being At The Cottage.

In all, there are 6 fundamental elements that make Graig Ddu – The Cottage In The Forest a unique business retreat. Three are synonymous with many beautiful places to stay, but three elements are game-changers which elevate the experience at the cottage into something unique, and the combination of these elements make up more than the sum of their parts.  You can read Part 2 here:  https://bit.ly/2X9CyTN     

Part 3 – Meeting your unconscious mind through conversation. 

Our unconscious mind is one of the most under-utilised human resources.   It has an infinite capacity and guards all the answers that you presume you don’t know yet.  If your unconscious is doesn’t know you want to develop a relationship with it, it will continue to hold onto the secrets it could be sharing with you.

‘If the unconscious is the turbid bottom of the lake of the mind, you have to be peering down into the lake to notice it.’  Prof Guy Claxton – The Wayward Mind

One of the most powerful ways to help you to peer down into the lake is to have a conversation.

We can all spend time on our own and not always get the answers and outcomes we want.  Having a conversation with someone who’s good at listening and asking the right kind of questions, can unlock a wealth of inspiration and insights.  

The conversations are a pivotal part of the process and spirit of Being At The Cottage. They are a potent and powerful way to gently sift through all the information that gets absorbed into your streams of consciousness which are naturally kindled by spending time alone.

Conversations with an intelligent stranger

Your unconscious doesn’t have free will like your conscious mind does.  It takes instructions from you.  As you understand and deepen your relationship with the unconscious it will begin to dissolve any barriers to progress and it will gratefully offer up information and insights it has been holding onto. 

Your unconscious is your gut feeling and where your intuition lies.  The more you can connect with your unconscious, the more extraordinary results and eureka moments it will give you.

Putting a conundrum into words by taking it outside your internal mind chatter, releases new insights and perspectives from your unconscious, creating expansion and possibility.   A good conversation sculpts the fragments of insights gleaned into more than the sum of their parts.

Part 2 – 6 Shortcuts To Insights And Inspiration

What Makes A Unique Business Retreat?  Packing your vision, leaving the rest behind and spending time alone.  These are elements 3 and 4 of what makes a unique business retreat.

In all, there are 6 fundamental elements that make Graig Ddu – The Cottage In The Forest a unique business retreat. Three are synonymous with many beautiful places to stay, but three elements are game-changers which elevate the experience at the cottage into something unique, and the combination of these elements make up more than the sum of their parts.  You can read Part 1 here: https://tinyurl.com/yy3rbymx

What may be one person’s nemesis is someone else’s bliss.

Spending time alone is an overlooked and under-rated element on the road to succeeding. Having only your vision to mull over is a luxury, while spending time alone is an inspiring leveller.

Being At The Cottage - Notice The Small Stuff

Notice The Small Stuff 

When you leave behind the thrum of city life and all the stuff that’s competing for your attention, you have time to stand and stare.   Time to notice the small stuff.  Being able to choose the rhythm of your day will help you condense and distil your thoughts.  You can empty your head, stop the mind chatter, and then wait and see what fills the space.

Packing your vision and leaving the rest behind means going offline, unplugging, disconnecting from habitual distractions and reconnecting with yourself.   There is richness in being rooted in the present moment, and you’ll find that you’re able to evoke your most inspired ideas when you settle in to being by yourself for an extended period of time.

Muse

Spending Time Alone

The extended period of time matters.   David Strayer, cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah who specializes in attention and is researching the psychological benefits of being in nature, says there is a 3 day effect.  â€œIf you can have the experience of being in the moment for two or three days, we don’t only feel restored, it seems to produce a difference in qualitative thinking and mental performance.”  Through EEG scans of his students while out backpacking in the wilderness, he has now been able to show this.

When you give your brain the chance to adjust into relaxation, then you begin to connect to your hidden seams of inspiration.

When you’re immersed in your vision, there’s a sense of anticipation and completeness. A blending of you with it and it with you.  Spending time alone with your vision allows you to re-calibrate, re-evaluate and re-group.

Earl Nightingale said that success is the realisation of a worthy ideal.   Sometimes to have success you need to get away for a while.

6 Shortcuts To Insights And Inspiration – Part 1

What Makes A Boutique Business Retreat?

I believe that houses choose their owners. In 1991 Graig Ddu chose me.  You can find that story here:   https://tinyurl.com/ydyz5wp3 But back to the present.

After leaving an out of character foray into the corporate world as a property manager in 2018 where I had over 100 holiday cottages to oversee and their owners to manage, I knew that it was time to withdraw Graig Ddu from its role in that bricks and mortar rat race and make the transition from holiday cottage to a boutique business retreat.

As I was gushing about my idea to a friend one day, she bluntly said to me that she didn’t get how it would be any different from going away on your own to any other cottage.  What?

How odd, I thought, as I reflected on what was so clear and beautiful to me somehow hadn’t hit home to her!  I’d obviously made the mistake of leaving  a large amount of information in my head.  I retreated and thought more deeply about the nuances of the idea.

Over the following months I identified the 6 fundamental elements that capture the spirit of the boutique business retreat and why they are so important to connecting with intuition and capturing elusive insights.  Three are fairly common to many beautiful holiday cottages, but three elements are game-changers and elevate the experience at Graig Ddu into something unique.

Being At The Cottage - Graig Ddu - The Cottage in the Forest

Let’s start with the leading actor – Graig Ddu – also known as The Cottage In The Forest.  On the face of it, it’s a simple two up two down cottage ….. but yet, not at all.

It’s sheltered below the great domed moorland of the majestic Black Mountains in the Llanthony Valley, surrounded by forest.  With no WiFi or TV it’s immersed in timeless tranquillity and really is on the fringe of 21st Century life.

I’ve struggled to find the right words to describe just what it’s like to be there.  So, I’ve chickened out and left it to others who are far more eloquent than I.

There are many who are completely spell-bound by their experience of staying at the cottage and, after nearly 30 years, I still am.

I remember turning up the forest track to the cottage in October 1991 to meet my future landlady.  The crunching of the stones, the steady pull up the hill, driving deeper in amongst the trees.  Keep right at the fork, carry on climbing, go around the hairpin and then, the clearing amongst the trees with Graig Ddu standing there.  Every bit the cottage in the forest.  I knew, at that time, it didn’t have electricity, and I thought about what it would be like living without it for the shortest time.  After all, it was only going to be for 6 months.

Being At The Cottage - Small band of Welsh Mountain ponies above the Grwyne Fawr reservoir

But the thing is, you could pick up Graig Ddu and plonk it down in another rural area, and the magic would have vanished.  The Black Mountains, and the Llanthony Valley in particular, have a very special aura.  They are steeped in history and ooze ancientness.  Walking across what the farmers call ‘the flats’ you will always be walking in another’s footsteps, who knows whose inspiration and insights you may pick up on.

In these exquisitely peaceful surroundings, which are becoming increasingly rare and difficult to find, is another of the 6 elements which are a pre-requisite for capturing the spirit of small, but perfectly formed, business retreat.

Stay – Choose From 3 Exceptional Experiences

Get In Touch Now To Find Out More

[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Comment” type=”textarea” required=”1″ /][/contact-form]

The Only Constant Thing In Life Is Change

When we observe and preserve an alert watchfulness over life, we can see the unfolding and enfolding evolution of everything – constant change.  It may seem banal, but this also includes holiday cottages.

I moved to Graig Ddu in 1991 – you can read the story here:  https://www.beingatthecottage.com/2019/01/14/synchronicity-at-its-magical-best/

For 9 years I lived and worked at the cottage as a ceramic artist. In 2005 I made some improvements and it became a holiday cottage.  Since then, this industry has completely transformed.

being at the cottage - graig ddu the cottage in the forest

For the next stage in Graig Ddu’s evolution, and mine, I was drawn into following an unusual direction.  One in which afterwards, I felt that I’d been transported into a parallel universe wearing a straight-jacket liberally lined with grit.  I developed an empathy for Rudyard Kipling’s story of How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin – (it was filled with stale cake crumbs by the Parsee when the rhino took off his skin to go for a swim).

The small but very successful agency that the cottage had been marketed by was bought out. Over lunch in September 2016, my friend, who’d sold this company, said there was a vacancy. Was I interested?  Weirdly out of character, applying for the job felt like the right thing to do.  A week later I was employed as the property manager for the Black Mountains area.

Marie had gently hinted that the company was ‘quite corporate’, and would I be ok with that?  As I hadn’t worked in a corporate environment in over 30 years, the answer was – Who knew? Time would tell.

I lasted 15 months.  During that time, I did my job, all the while craving creativity, initiative, inspiration and freedom.  However, throughout that time, as I went from property to property and visited the office in Devon, (in an evolutionary sense preserved in aspic, suspended in a 1970’s time warp), I got invaluable understanding and insights into the holiday cottage market.

Every cloud has its role in synchronicity.  I couldn’t have got these insights in any other way. They were the catalyst and the catapult for the evolution of Graig Ddu into its next role.  Being At The Cottage was born and so began the transformation from holiday cottage to boutique business retreat.

being at the cottage - every cloud plays its role in synchronicity

Over the months, as I have developed the details of the experience, I get the strongest impression that Graig Ddu has been waiting patiently for years for me to catch up in my own evolution so that together, we can fulfil a higher purpose, while at the same time, offering the opportunity and space for others to fulfil theirs.

The only constant thing in life is change.

Get In Touch Now To Find Out More

[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Comment” type=”textarea” required=”1″ /][/contact-form]

A Holographic Garden

It’ll be three years ago this summer that I began restructuring the garden at Graig Ddu.  Many of the small shrubs were over 30 years old and reaching the end of their lives, and some were diseased. It was in the ensuing chain-sawing, uprooting and burning that the holographic nature of the garden wove its way into my awareness.

Continue reading A Holographic Garden

Hop Into The Bath And Unleash Creative Solutions

Create: ‘Bring something into existence’ – Oxford English Dictionary
‘To evolve from one’s own thought or imagination’

Creativity thrives in an expansively quiet mind.  It doesn’t happen while we are staring at a tablet or dealing with the daily grind of mundane problems in the office.  That’s why 72% of people get great ideas and insights in the bath or shower.   Being in water induces a meditative state and engages the brain’s default mode network.  Soaking in a steaming bath or being washed by a waterfall of water under the shower causes us to daydream in a way we wouldn’t when we remain focused on a particular task.

Activating the brain’s default mode network is extremely important for creativity.  The mind begins to relax and wander.  Free of stimulation, we are in the best position to produce some of the finest problem-solving and creative solutions that the mind can generate.

Being At The Cottge - 72% of people get creative solutions when they hop into a bath

Being creative doesn’t mean we need to be an artist, architect or sculptor.  Being creative is about bringing anything new into existence that wasn’t previously there – something that is demanding your attention.

Creativity is inherent in all of us and lying in a steaming bath can accelerate the potential for the creation of something extraordinary.

Sometimes group discussions, brainstorming and many heads are better than one.  At other times, the need for the solution we’re seeking drives us to take a break from the daily grind.  At those times, the sweetest answers often come while spending time alone in the bath or under the shower.

Taking time out to relax your brain, re-group your thoughts and recharge your batteries reassures the subconscious. As soon as the mind chatter and habitual distractions are put to one side then we can tap into the hidden seams of inspiration held by the subconscious.

Being At The Cottage - Bathe - soft towels and toiletries

Get in touch now to find out more   

[contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Comment” type=”textarea” required=”1″ /][/contact-form]