When you think of ‘genius’, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a theoretical physicist, furiously scribbling equations, or a piano virtuoso composing a masterpiece? Perhaps it’s a master of the pen, crafting exquisite prose, or an inventor in a lab, arriving upon a ground-breaking solution.
Chances are, you didn’t think of YOU. But what if genius isn’t limited to select individuals – what if we all have the capacity to experience it, to become it ourselves?
Many are familiar with savants, such as Kim Peek, the inspiration for the film Rain Man, who could recall 7600 books and identify most classical music compositions, or artist Stephen Wiltshire, who only has to see a landscape once in order to draw it from memory in minute detail. In these cases, the ability was present from birth, but acquired savants, those whose abilities arose later in life, and quite suddenly, provoke us to open our minds to our own potentials. A fantastic example is Jason Padgett, who, following a mugging in 2002 that caused a serious head injury, developed extraordinary mathematical ability. Despite having had no previous aptitude or enthusiasm for the subject – he considered it ‘stupid’ and thought it had no application to the real world – he began drawing complex fractal diagrams, depictions of mathematical concepts in nature, with astonishing accuracy. As he describes it, ‘I feel like I swallowed a star!’
So what does an example such as Jason indicate about our own capacity for genius? Was the information and ability already stored within his brain, and he opened up a neural pathway directly to it? Or did it ‘flip a switch’ that enabled him to tune into something outside of himself?
Whatever you think the answer might be, the good news is you don’t need a chance event to bring it about – there are ways in which we can cultivate ourselves to experience greater mind.
Rewire your brain
This is something we do all the time, albeit mostly unconsciously. Our brains are plastic, shaped by every thought we have and every activity we engage in. Whenever we learn a new skill, or develop a new habit, we are doing this rewiring more consciously – hence the well-known 21-day rule for making these changes stick. ‘If you practise and develop expertise,’ says neuroscientist Poppy Crum, ‘whether it’s an athlete or a toddler learning to brush their teeth, or a musician – you are shaping your brain through those many hours of motor skills, sensory skills, etc. Every bit of that amalgamated, very rich sensory experience and capacity is modifying your brain in a unique way. It means you hear differently, you see differently, than someone else.’
With our ever-increasing engagement with technology, and the clear ways in which it shapes our behaviour, never has it been more important to consciously take charge of our thoughts and observe what it is we’re paying attention to. Leading expert in neuroplasticity Norman Doidge warns, ‘The big Internet companies are hiring neuroscientists to hijack your brain so that when you look at the screen you’re distracted by some new thing and you’re drawn to it, and then you’re given a brief reward for it. And so they’re constantly appropriating or stealing your attention, because they usually want to sell things, or people with political movements want to get your attention to their arguments.’
That our attention spans are decreasing as a result of this is observable now in many facets of our daily lives, and will continue to significantly shape the way future generations think. It’s therefore crucial that we become conscious engineers of our own neural architecture. This not only applies to acquiring skills or nurturing habits, but the attitudes we hold; the thought loops that make up our picture of reality.
Focus is critical in unleashing the genius within us, and illustrates why it’s so important to protect our attention spans from diminishing.
‘Some of us, we spend ten minutes on a problem, we get frustrated and we give up,’ says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. ‘Ten minutes – too much. Einstein could spend ten years on a problem.’ At the age of sixteen Einstein vowed to find out if it is possible to outrace a light beam. Ten years later, he reached his conclusion, which resulted in his famous equation E=mc2. But as is often the way with geniuses, he wasn’t content to consider his work done, and so he set himself another task: to understand gravity. This endeavour took him another ten years, and led to what Professor Kaku describes as Einstein’s greatest insight: that gravity does not pull – space pushes.
Now this isn’t to say that we need to lock ourselves away, failing to eat or bathe for weeks at a time (as Isaac Newton was known to do) in order to work on a project, but say you had to choose something today that you would work on for the next ten years – what would it be? What are you passionate about?
Focus is also fundamental to genius in another way, one that isn’t simply about dedication to a pursuit. Putting our mind on something and being completely present with it, in a state of pure focus, enables us to merge with that idea, and produce or arrive at something unexpected, something we wouldn’t have accomplished by relying on our analytical mind. This could be a solution, an insight, or a beautiful expression of some kind. Artist Paris Reid describes her experience as a painter, melding her mind with her subject by being completely present and ‘married to that idea’, particularly when it comes to portraits. ‘Whatever we focus on expands, and their reality becomes part of my reality, and that fusion between people starts to happen and I end up experiencing life through them in a big way. Focusing many, many hours on anything in particular is going to alter your state.’
This is another crucial ingredient in the recipe for genius. Without it, where would our desire to focus and apply our mind arise from? What would fire the engines of change?
Inventor and spiritual channel JZ Knight indicates that the fundamentals of genius are a passion for the future and ambition for understanding. ‘Ambition. It’s a greedy word, you know. “She’s ambitious…” Yes, of course I am. It’s like it’s some bad thing. But if that is the modus operandi, the gear shift of your engine, and you’re going through those gears of ambition, where are you going? I’m going to the future. That’s where my ambition is.’
Such ambition led to JZ Knight developing the patented technology for the Blu Room, which facilitates health and vitality by supporting the body’s cellular healing process.
‘I think that ambition is the real raucousness of free will,’ she says. ‘It’s what tells us we’re alive.’
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These means to cultivate genius – conscious thought, focus and passion – may seem obvious. We see their presence in the work of the greatest minds throughout history. But how many of us consider it within our reach? Our brains have the power – we just have to make the choice. And keep making that choice. This is how we rewire for genius.
As spiritual teacher Ramtha says, ‘The inevitable pursuit of a passion such as genius and its arrival in and of itself is genius. Because who could absolutely have their own mind this day and age and say that it is all theirs? Very few.’
What do you think? Are you ready for an adventure?
To explore the subject of genius in its myriad forms and to hear more from the experts quoted in this article, check out EVOLUTION: The Genius Equation, a documentary by Paulina Amador which draws upon spirituality and the cutting-edge science of our present day to explore the untapped resources of the mind. Available on Amazon as well as iTunes.