“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage.”
— Immanuel Kant, German idealist philosopher
Have you had an epiphany so shocking you actually said out loud, “Aha!”? Recently, I had an “Aha!” moment about “Aha!” moments. “Aha!” moments are flashes of insight or enlightenment when a deeper understanding or solution to a vexing problem seems to falls into place through sudden insight. This particular moment came to me following a conversation with my mother about gardening. She’d called to say she had just planted her 60th garden.
I recalled the care Mom devoted to every aspect of her gardening endeavour: from preparing the soil, selecting the seeds and planting, to daily watering, tending and even covering delicate seedlings with blankets when the temperature dropped and frost threatened.
Neighbours would invariably comment on the size, quality and quantity of Mom’s yearly vegetable crop, saying she must have been born with a green thumb. Mom would just smile, knowing the results only happened because of a huge investment of time and energy.
It occurred to me that ”Aha!” moments were not necessarily the result of insights drawn from the ether, but rather the result of carefully preparing the soil of our minds for growth.
Research now suggests that “Aha!” moments are often preceded by brain patterns that be-gin long before the act of receiving the insight – sometimes even before a problem is presented. This suggests that how a person is thinking before problem-solving begins may be just as important as the kind of thinking involved in reaching the solution. Putting your mind into a positive and receptive state appears to prime the pump for insights and integrations.
Here’s what scientists have discovered: as we approach an “Aha!” moment, our attention tends to be focused inwardly. In order to switch to a new train of thought, extraneous thoughts must first be silenced. To facilitate this, the brain momentarily reduces visual input. This produces an effect similar to closing your eyes or looking away – physical tricks we often unconsciously employ to help ideas or solutions emerge into conscious awareness.
Just as soil can be prepared in anticipation for a bountiful harvest, heightened awareness can be nurtured and cultivated by fostering curiosity, creativity and introspection in your life. By actively seeking to enhance the level of your self-esteem and self-awareness, you’re planting healthy and hardy ideas that can someday grow into enlightened thoughts.
Once you’ve prepared the soil and the seeds of self-esteem have been planted, you begin the growth cycle. However, before a bumper crop can be harvested, countless hours of hard work must precede it. As with the garden, your mind requires the right conditions to produce results. You can help create those conditions by reading, watching and listening to material that supports your growth, challenging perceived limitations and old ways of thinking, and cultivating friendships with people who are on a similar life path. What sustains you on this transformative path? What keeps you moving forward when the ground seems barren or when you’re tempted to settle for a familiar and comfortable stopping point?
More than anything, perseverance and a strong and abiding belief in yourself will keep you on purpose and moving forward.
Keep in mind, each moment of enlightenment is purely subjective. What prompts you to burst into bloom may have little or no relevance to someone else. For you, it could be some-thing as simple as seeing a baby take its first steps. For me, watching the sunrise on a new and glorious day. For another, a hug or word of encouragement when it is most needed. The important thing is to recognize these little moments of magic when they arrive for you. Acknowledge them, seize them and take them to heart. Each is a blessing. The fruits of your labour – gift of the harvest.
I have been journaling for years and recommend to everyone that they write down their “Aha!” moments. I have committed many such moments to paper over the years. When I look back over the captured moments, I often see a positive change in the direction of my life.
My mother used to tell me that the harder you work, the more bountiful the harvest. Even in years when growing conditions were less than favorable, mother’s haul to the vegetable room was always impressive. How hard are you willing to work for an insightful life?
“I call it an Aha! Moment,” writes American author and entrepreneur Sharon E. Rainey. “It is the moment when I can hear, when I know, that an answer is being offered to me. All other sounds measurably fade including the banter in my brain. It is when the answer travels from my heart to my head and says, ‘This is so.’” No questions follow, no objections interrupt. Just the recognition that I must listen and follow.”
Growth and transformation happen all the time — they’re aspects of both nature and human nature. Good seeds (as in good thoughts) and a rich and fertile mind are the ideal medium for “Aha!” moments. By accepting responsibility for your personal growth, you increase the potential for insightful experiences and deeper understanding in your life.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His recent book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.