2 minute read

It happened again.

At 5:00am this morning I woke myself up….talking through a solution to a coding problem I had at the end of the day yesterday.

I was literally coding in my sleep.

Remember the Tetris Effect? It’s in full effect.

But I’ve seen this before and once I got over the shock of writing code in my sleep, I got pretty excited. It means some serious learning is going on.

Intensive Learning and Brain Cycles

In 2004, I attended my first qigong (pronounce “chee-gung,” it’s the Chinese practice of developing your natural internal energy. You can read more about my background in this practice here) instructor training.

We trained 8-10 hours a day and we were about 10 days in before we got a day off.

It was July in Northern California and we decided to escape the heat by going to see a movie.

I rememember sitting in the theatre and looking down at my hands. They were pulsing in and out, getting bigger and smaller….and I wasn’t doing anything.

I should tell you that the main practice we were working on, called “Opening and Closing” involves manipulating the synovial fluids of the joints and the ligaments so that the joint spaces shrink and expand in a rhythm…but we do it under direct, conscious control.

Sitting in the theatre, I was zoning out to Spider Man or some other summer blockbuster. In my tuned-out state, my body was going all by itself.

Strange. Alien. And, as I later learned, a totally natural way to process new input, whether it’s physical or mental.

Our nervous systems need time to process new information and integrate it. It turns out that this kind of integration is best done unconscously.

In fact, I’ve been experiencing less extreme examples too. Every time you get up, step away from the computer, and do a different activity, you give your unconscious mind a chance to catch up and process.

So, bathroom trips, conversations in the kitchen, a run down the stairs and out onto the street – all these activities, or un-activities create an opportunity for passive processing.

My goal is to keep up, as strange as it sounds, deliberate un-deliberate times to maximize learning and work, because the truth is, these things are circular – rest completes work – not linear.

I’ve written about how this works from a Tai Chi perspective too, if you’re curious to read more.