Linking to a weekend article on introspection, Farnam Street suggests we can learn something from Sherlock Holmes: discovery often depends on an ability to be figuratively still.
From the article in question, Maria Konnikova's "The Power of Concentration:"
In 2011, researchers from the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that daily meditation-like thought could shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that is associated with what cognitive scientists call positive, approach-oriented emotional states — states that make us more likely to engage the world rather than to withdraw from it.... (emphasis supplied)
Mindfulness training has even been shown to affect the brain’s default network — the network of connections that remains active when we are in a so-called resting state — with regular meditators exhibiting increased resting-state functional connectivity and increased connectivity generally. After a dose of mindfulness, the default network has greater consistent access to information about our internal states and an enhanced ability to monitor the surrounding environment.
These effects make sense: the core of mindfulness is the ability to pay attention. That’s exactly what Holmes does when he taps together the tips of his fingers, or exhales a fine cloud of smoke. He is centering his attention on a single element. And somehow, despite the seeming pause in activity, he emerges, time and time again, far ahead of his energetic colleagues.
After time with my wife and children during this Christmas season (my tradition), I need (thanks to my introverted nature) ample time to be still without the interruption of voice mail, social media, deadlines, Twitter time lines, email tides and any other chronology that doesn't involve the rising and setting of the sun.
I need that kind of time not because creativity can't happen with a group of people - it clearly can - but because without substantial distraction-free time it's next to impossible know what it is I truly think, to give what is uniquely mine to give. As Konnikova points out, the happy outcome of this meditative state is more connectedness to the interior and exterior worlds.
Next month, I'll be leading a class in Lexington on the subject of being still, "Whatever Happened to Downtime?" The notion behind IdeaFestival University is a simple one: no one know everything, but everyone knows something. Thanks to people like Sophia Dembling and Susan Cain, I've come to understand that introversion and its way of engaging the world has something to say about the pell-mell nature of contemporary living.
I'd love to see you in class.