Right Brain Education: The Power of Imaging

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…

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

7 thoughts on “Right Brain Education: The Power of Imaging

  1. I have also been trying to visualise myself in the beach to relax myself…however it is not working either! Haha. Where is the sound of the waves, etc?

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  2. For exams, there were voluminous amounts of information to remember. Usually, I’d study and practice until 2 days before the subject’s exam. On the day before, I’d only go through the summaries, close my eyes and “read” all the information through my mind, and practise the Math / Science problems / experiments in my mind, which is much faster than writing. I suppose this was my way of imaging before knowing about right brain education.

    When I sleep the night before the exam, my mind would be super-active “going through” the tonnes of information. Sometimes, I also “predict” questions correctly and practise them in my sleep.

    I’ve even predicted my sister’s essay questions before. It’s bizarre but somehow happened.

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  3. Irene – maybe play some wave sounds in the background first to help you get there in your mind 😉

    MieVee – that’s fascinating. I’m really curious to know – did your parents ever do anything with you as a child that you feel is similar to the right brain activities Vee is doing in Shichida?

    It’s clear that a child doesn’t necessarily have to attend formal right brain education in order to develop the right brain since there are children who do develop their right brains through activities that their parents did with them. It’s just interesting to find out what those activities might have been and to extrapolate how they could have contributed to right brain development.

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  4. Your question made me think about what I did as a child. I’m quite left-brain dominant, the only right-brain skill that I have seems to be imaging.

    My parents were very relaxed about academics: I started learning English only during Kindergarten.

    My mum read Chinese books to me regularly, similar to what Shichida says about reading 3-5 books daily. She’s an SAHM and gave us lots of attention, similar to the idea of feeling love strongly. My parents trusted me to perform according to my interests and abilities, which is also emphasized in right brain schools — no stress and expectation-setting on the child.

    My Dad introduced me to games such as Ludo and Mastermind. I enjoyed playing with Lego, jigsaw puzzles, memory games (finding pairs of cards, words linking memory, etc), spot-the-difference games, board games, Mahjong, and computer games (non-violent ones such as Tetris). Interestingly, Shichida Kindergarten in Singapore has computer games as part of their curriculum. Through my childhood and teenagehood, my family played games regularly. This is something quite rare among peers. The only enrichment activities I’d were school ECAs. Guess family playing time is important for bonding and learning.

    My pre-college touch rugby coach taught our team imaging, during practices and before competitions. After that, I probably learnt to apply imaging to remembering large amounts of study materials.

    By nature, I’m ambidextrous — write with right hand (my ambidextrous mum made me use my right), play sports with left hand. Probably the continued usage of my left hand ensured part of my right brain keeps working. Similarly, I encourage Vee to use both his hands when practising fine motor skills.

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  5. Thanks for sharing, MieVee. This is very insightful! It is interesting that you played Lego and jigsaw puzzles, too, because hubby was also a huge fan of those toys when he was little and he has a photographic memory. He also has auditory memory – he can recite verbatim what I say to him in an argument! I complained once that he wasn’t listening to me at all and he replied, “Yes, I did. You said, ‘….'”

    He was also very good at sports at school (although everyone makes jokes about this now because of his size).

    It is great to be able to contrast your upbringing and my hubby’s upbringing with mine. Both my parents worked and although we had lots of books and toys like Lego and jigsaw puzzles, I cannot recall any memories of playing these games with them.

    I was considered a bright student in school, I was never brilliant. I am a slow reader and I’m dreadful at mental maths (I have to write it out on paper). But then, I think I was more left brain smart rather than whole brain smart.

    I cannot recall where I read this – perhaps in one of Shichida’s books? – there was an example written about two brothers who were in the profession of music. They could both compose wonderful music pieces, except one brother used his right brain for composition and the other used his left brain. Although the brother who used his left brain wrote lovely pieces, too, it was never quite as moving as the brother who used his right brain. It was a difference between what was good and what was great.

    I think that’s a pretty good example of what we can achieve with just our left brain and how much more we can achieve with the right brain’s contribution.

    For Gavin’s first two and a half years, I didn’t know anything about right brain education. These days, I can see that he is quite left brained. In Heguru class, whenever they are required to use their “extra” senses, he asks, “How can I tell which one it is when I can’t see it?”

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  6. Being gifted with both photographic memory and perfect audio memory is such a rarity!

    I was never tested as gifted in Singapore’s streaming assessments in Primary and Secondary education; but managed to stay among the top of mainstream’s education. The real breakthrough was in University when I scored many book prizes and gold medals and became Valedictorian. I never felt smarter than so many smart peers, and still wonder at times how it happened. Either I was a good fit in the course or I managed to utilise my whole brain better then.

    Because I was never “tested” as gifted and my parents hardly praised me as clever, the negative power of praise probably didn’t impact me. I simply picked subjects and activities that I’m interested in, and tried to enjoy schooling life as much as possible.

    Oh, and I enjoy dancing, singing, drama, which are also activities that help one get in touch with emotions, expressions and inner senses. Perhaps these activities could help Gavin tune in to the right brain mode. They can be done at home too, if you can lead him. 🙂

    Because of your topic, I also “interviewed” hubby on his learning and memory style. Apparently, we’re very different. He’s the hands-on type who practice skills until he’s subconsciously competent. This way, he doesn’t have to remember many things.

    Anyway, because of our various strengths, weaknesses and experiences, we all came to be amazed by the wonder of right brain education. It simply makes so much sense to start while young.

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  7. Hubby was invited to join Mensa. It really surprised his teacher because she didn’t think very highly of him. It was probably because he was so naughty so she lumped him into the category of students who wouldn’t go far in life.

    I was never tested either, but everyone always told me I was smart. I felt the effects of negative praise and could really understand why I’ve always felt so insecure about my “intelligence” after reading Nurture Shock. I’ve always felt like such a fraud at school.

    Yes, I’ve been trying to encourage Gavin’s interest in art and music to help him get back in touch with his right brain. He’ll be off school for six weeks, so we’ll have plenty of time to work on that. I’m really glad I found out about right brain education now so I can do something about it. I agree – starting them young is so much better.

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