According to the online medical dictionary, the brain's alpha state is the state of relaxation and peaceful awakefulness associated with prominent alpha brain wave activity. It is what our brains do when we are meditating, making art, dancing, playing music - we all have our own ways of getting there to that zone. It is when you are still a part of this world, senses engaged, but you are daydreaming and getting out of your head.
Alpha is the stepping stone between the beta state - where we are living in ordinary consciousness, thinking our thoughts, communicating, planning - and theta, or the subconscious, where healing happens, where your insight and intuition live. Your gut feelings. This is an important place for us humans to be in touch with. It is where our knowing comes from.
This is the tiniest glimpse of a talk I heard at the herbal conference this year, and as I sat there listening, I couldn't help but think of the people I live with who daily court the alpha state. Mind you, they don't know they are after the alpha state in particular; they haven't read the article in Psychology Today that says that increased alpha waves are good for creativity and fighting depression. It's just where they dwell: Dan teaches movement as a part of his work, and in particular Suzuki training, which is repetitive and rigorous and demands being in the body, not the head. Eliza will draw for hours and is starting to really sink into her dancing, both alpha-inducing activities, but what I'm thinking about today is the way Ani can spend hours and hours of her day daydreaming, building worlds and telling stories.
As an aside, Ani underwent some testing last summer to get to the bottom of some fainting, and one of the questions the neurologist asked us is if we ever see her daydream. Um...yeah! It was on her official diagnosis for that office visit: fainting spells, occasional headaches, daydreams.
Ani is dead serious when I ask her what she needs to schedule into her day, and she says, "well, I have a story I'm not done telling yet and I have to get back to that". Being interrupted to do something more "productive" or "academically-focused" is the bane of her existence. Her focus, stamina and vocabulary would astound and impress anyone if the words she is speaking were being written down. Her sister, for instance, routinely writes around 1,000 words a day when she is in the zone, and it is easy for anyone to recognize that accomplishment and give it value.
So it is one of my challenges to recognize and value the hours - really, hours - of storytelling, building, and crafting a world that happens when Ani is in the zone. She is unaware for the most part of the world around her, heavily suspended in another state while the story is spun. Fostering creativity and fighting depression. That is one smart kid.