By Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, published in Living Now magazine, March 2002
Learning is a noble thing, whatever you learn, and I can tell you I believe this with every fibre of my being. To know is to be aware and to be aware is to take responsibility for living life well. Whatever you do or wherever you are, there is always much to learn.
Many of us have more than one career during our lifetime, we are also nowadays required to follow paths of continuing professional development, maybe even becoming mature students, and some of us actually learn just for the fun of it. The strange thing is though, the majority of people actually believe in their inability to learn. Schools, colleges and universities often operate judgmental learning policies that damage people’s learning abilities which lead them to believe that they are less capable than they really are. They become afraid of failure so they simply do not take chances with their knowledge.
What I am going to tell you now will probably jolt your belief system so you may have to read this paragraph several times to take in the real message. You are at least 10 times more intelligent that you ever consciously thought you were, but of course your unconscious knew that already, didn’t it?
To become a superlearner you must first change your beliefs. Installing new beliefs in your mind that you are able to learn anything you want, need or desire, dissolving and displacing old beliefs about your perceived limited ability to learn. When you do that, you have opened up the doors of possibility and through those doors, knowledge can pass uninhibited.
Your unconscious mind is a vast storehouse that remembers minute details for the whole of your life. Even with senile dementia, at 93, my granny could remember what colour mittens she wore when she was three years old. Of course she did not know who anyone was in the present day, but she remembered everything from nearly 90 years earlier. That just shows you that little of our learning is ever erased but simply stored away in our memories and the secret of learning is being aware of how to store and recall that knowledge at will.
Where: The environment in which you learn has a great effect on your learning efficiency. Calm areas of your home are good places where you can study uninterrupted. Having plants around you increases your oxygen intake, which is very important when thinking. Sound is very important too as you take the brain into the accelerated learning state, which is also called the Alpha brainwave learning state, where your body is asleep and your mind is awake. The use of slow Baroque music in the background can help you produce these Alpha brainwaves and access this state.
Why: Be clear in your mind why you want to learn something and what the benefits of learning the knowledge will be. Develop more than just an interest in your studies – in fact, culture an unadulterated enthusiasm for them. Desire always precedes success. When a person is motivated towards something rather than away from something unpleasant, they enjoy what they are doing much more.
When: Build study time into your life, targeting which days and times of the day are specifically dedicated to the very process of studying. Leave the telephone on answer machine, tell people you are strictly not available, and place a ‘Do not Disturb’ notice on your study room door. Frame that study time in your mind to be a time of great enjoyment and pleasure. Do not give up that study time to any other part of your life for any reason (except of course a life or death emergency situation) – protect and treasure that special study time.
What: Carefully and clearly plan what material it is you want to study. Break each part of the whole study down into smaller units so that you are able to learn piece by piece. What may have seemed a large amount of material actually becomes more manageable when you learn smaller units and then join all your knowledge together to make the big picture. Just take a moment to remember some of the tens of thousands of things you have actually already learnt in your life – that’s right, the truth is you are already smarter than all the computers in the world joined together and switched on at the same time, simply because you have a human brain.
How: The very first thing an exquisite learner needs to be aware of is that your mind lives inside your brain, which in turn lives inside your body. Eating lots of fresh raw vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and drinking plenty of water will give you the right kind of energy to learn well. Working out at least twice a week will help provide nutrition to the brain and clean waste products away so that you can think clearly and be focused.
There are many skills you can use to accelerate the speed and accuracy of your learning and recall ability. They are not the skills you learnt at school but the accumulated techniques acquired by superlearners who naturally developed gifted learning abilities. By copying those skills, you too can become a superlearner.
Using Hypnosis: Experiencing deep hypnotic relaxation when you are learning information and again when you are recalling that information enables you to recall a phenomenal amount of material in a very short space of time. Since memory is state dependent, which means you recall in the same state you learn, then you can access the unconsciously stored knowledge by hypnotic relaxation. This was discovered many years ago in Eastern Europe by Bulgarian psychiatrist Dr Georgi Lozanov, who developed the concept of accelerated learning, but in reality the yogis and keepers of the Tibetan scriptures have been doing this for millennia as they memorised whole books of religious texts to pass onto the next generations.
Associated Learnings: One principle you can be aware of is that all knowledge is joined together by association and you can find information just like reading a street map. You can use what are called learning systems where you pair associative meanings together. For instance, pairing people’s faces with rhymes made out of their names so you know what they are called. Another system is called the Roman Room where you place items into an imaginary room in your mind. This system eliminates all boundaries on your imagination and allows you to remember as many things as you like. When you have filled your room with the things or pieces of information you need to remember, you can take ‘walks’ around it, memorising exactly where things are and in what order. They may sound a little complicated but so was speaking, riding a bike or driving a car when you first started, but after a while you began to do it quite automatically.
Mind Mapping: This is a form of brightly coloured pictorial note-taking that involves using drawing, instead of scrawling reams of linear text and trying to write down every single word a speaker says. It helps you recall the information much better because the processes of drawing your knowledge reaches more parts of your brain and the pictorial representations set off a chain of associations that helps you remember details more clearly and concisely. Mind Maps can be as basic or as detailed as you like – the important thing is the use of colour and your own particular way of representing what you hear – you don’t need to be a great artist to be a Mind Mapper.
Photographic Reading: A photoreader, sometimes known as a quantum reader, can get through a 300-page book in under 15 minutes. The brain has an ability to recognise designs, just as if you are looking at a painting. There may be many items in a painting but you actually look at the whole painting at once and allow your unconscious to work out the detail. It is not necessary to painstakingly read every single word, especially redundant ones such as ‘the’ or ‘a’ and so on, because we know how to read designs of words in the form of recognisable sentences, paragraphs, and even pages.
Photoreading, discovered by the American Paul Scheele, involves placing yourself into the accelerated learning state. The eyes are then defocused so that your peripheral vision is expanded so the whole of a printed page is in view, instead of bits of it. Recall of material is done through a variety of activation techniques. Photoreading literally frees up your life and gives you more time to do other things. Not only are students and academics now learning it but also people in industry to help them deal with getting through the thousands of pieces of information they have to sort through in the workplace every day.
Whatever your education or background you are able to dramatically increase your learning and recall skills far beyond what you may have previously believed. When students and professionals taking exams, or suffering from job fatigue telephone me for help in coping, they are proudly surprised at how much better they can cope with their lives when they apply some of the above systems. These skills can also be learned very quickly…so, all you need to do is decide when you want to become a superlearner.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist. Counsellor, PACFA registered Mental Health Professional and Naturopath In Sydney. You can get help by booking an appointment with her at Australian Health & Education Centre.