There is an interesting article titled: “Modern Myths of Learning: the Creative Right Brain“. If you read it, you may have questions about Shichida’s work and the Right Brain Education movement. I’m not sure that there is any current material on “right brain education” (which is what we will continue to call it since that is its original name) that can bridge the gap in understanding from when Shichida first penned his ideas about this amazing potential but I do know that the ability exists and it is mind blowing. In my attempts to reproduce these results, I have been studying further on how to support my children’s development at home. This article will be the first of others that highlight the content of what I have examined.
…brain scan technology has revealed that the hemispheres’ roles are not quite so cut-and-dried as once thought. The two hemispheres are in fact highly complementary. For example, language processing, once believed to be left- hemisphere-only, is now understood to take place in both hemispheres: the left side processes grammar and pronunciation while the right processes intonation. Similarly, experiments have shown that the right hemisphere does not work in isolation with regard to spatial ability: the right hemisphere seems to deal with a general sense of space, while the left hemisphere deals with objects in specific locations. – Brain Mythology, Posit Science.
So what does it mean when they refer to “right brain education”? In a manuscript by Celeste Miller on Shichida’s work, it stated that Shichida chose the term ‘right brain education’ to describe his curriculum methods so that he could distinguish it from other traditional curricula in Japan. Shichida knew “that the right and left brain are not so easily compartmentalised and that they work together in many ways which he called ‘hemisphere synchronisation’.”
Before you begin right brain training with your child, you must first focus on the heart. Shichida believed that love between parent (or teacher) and child must be present before any right brain training can be effective because that is how the right brain functions are activated. This is why it is important to commence your home practice with preparation activities first.
Right Brain Education – Developing the Whole Child
It is rather unfortunate that right brain education is so strongly linked to enhanced academic performance in schools because it creates a misperception of the true purpose of right brain education. While enhanced academic performance in school is one of the benefits of right brain education, it is not the goal of right brain education per se. Shichida always emphasised that parents should adopt a parenting style that understands their children’s minds and develop the capabilities of the right brain and to avoid a parenting style that is concerned with scholastic scores.
The Significance of the Alpha State
The brain operates in a number of states, shifting between states throughout the day. The Beta state is the common state of wakefulness and is the state in which we function most of the time during our conscious hours. The Delta state is the state we are in when we sleep. Alpha and Theta are passed through on the way between Beta and Delta and the alpha state is commonly associated with enhanced ability (in some sources, it is the theta state that is believed to achieve this). Regardless of whether it is the alpha or theta state that this enhanced ability exists, the message is that we are at our most creative during this state.
How do we get to this state? You might be familiar with that moment just before falling asleep when you get a really great idea that you think you’ll implement when you wake up in the morning except that come the morning all you can remember was having a really great idea – that was the alpha state. According to Shichida, you are also in alpha in the morning as you’re getting out of bed and when you’re listening to music. Shichida also wrote about the Chinese Qi Gong masters who have been known to work with the alpha state so perhaps practicing Qi Gong might be another way to help you get there. Jose Silva, whose work has been referenced by Shichida, used meditation to help his students find their alpha states while fully conscious.
I found this part particularly interesting because we so often get caught up in the other right brain activities, such as linking memory, mandala practice, etc. that we forget to pay attention to the exercises that help us access the alpha state to begin with – meditation and breathing. I know I never bothered practicing meditation and breathing with the boys during home practice for the longest time. It was always considered a “nice to do” but not essential. I didn’t realise how wrong I was.
And that’s all we have today. More soon…