In right brain education, it is called “imaging”. However, having read examples of how images have helped nurture musical talent and improve grades, I think many of us would probably be familiar with it by different terms. For example, to me, it has always been what I refer to as visualising. I used to practice it when I was rock climbing. Not surprisingly, I got pretty good at rock climbing, too, and this is coming from a person who dreaded physical education in school because I was so bad at it.
I recall an occasion when I was projecting one particularly challenging route, I was working on it so hard that I injured my fingers. Since I had to go easy, I would visualise myself climbing the route in my mind whenever I wasn’t doing anything else. I red-pointed that route the following weekend when I went out to the crag.
I had read about this technique in a book called “Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence“. The book described a golfer who had been imprisoned in a POW camp for years. To get through his imprisonment, he would visualise himself playing golf at a golf course everyday. The vision was so clear, he could feel the breeze against his cheek and the golf club in his hands. When he was eventually freed, his golf handicap had improved and he played even better than he did before he was imprisoned!
In his book “Children can Change Through Right Brain Education“, Shichida cited the example of a boy in 6th grade who had been practicing the electric piano for 6 years. Because he wasn’t good at it, his parents were always telling him to quit. He refused because he liked his teacher. His teacher asked him to enter a music contest and he agreed but after practicing for a month, it looked like it was going to end in disaster because he had practiced until his wrists and fingers were swollen and still he could not memorise the piece.
6 days before the contest date, he practiced the piano for fifteen minutes and spent the rest of the time image training. On the day itself, he panicked when he heard the other children playing so well. His mother encouraged him to continue his image training until it was his turn. When he went on, he played twice as well as his original capability and did not make a single mistake even though he had been making so many mistakes during practice. He was selected as one of the top five to represent the Saitama prefecture.
Shichida also cites examples of improvements in arts, sports and academics through image training. If you look at the music example, it is similar to the concept of visualisation. The explanation for it in Mind Gym is that memories and fantasies are made of the same stuff. Create a strong enough fantasy and it behaves like a memory. So in the case of the golfer, his most recent golf game was the one he played in his mind, not the physical one that took place years ago before he was imprisoned.
My only question now is how exactly do you practice image training for other subjects. Sports and playing an instrument are fairly straight forward. You just have to see yourself doing the activity, but how do you do image training for Math or Chemistry? If you have the answers, feel free to share your thoughts below. In the meantime, I’ll hit the books again to see what else I can find out…