By: Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad
The ummah’s greatest achievement over the past millennium has undoubtedly been its internal intellectual cohesion. From the fifth century of the Hijra almost to the present day, and despite the outward drama of the clash of dynasties, the Sunni Muslims have maintained an almost unfailing attitude of religious respect and brotherhood among themselves. It is a striking fact that virtually no religious wars, riots or persecutions divided them during this extended period, so difficult in other ways.
- Lack of blood flow is a common reason for lack of concentration. If you’ve been sitting in one place for awhile, bounce one of your legs for a minute or two. It gets your blood flowing and sharpens both concentration and recall.
- Think positive. There’s no point in setting learning goals for yourself if you don’t have any faith in your ability to learn.
- Food for thought: Eat breakfast. A lot of people skip breakfast, but creativity is often optimal in the early morning and it helps to have some protein in you to feed your brain. A lack of protein can actually cause headaches.
- Take a hike. Changing your perspective often relieves tension, thus freeing your creative mind. Taking a short walk around the neighborhood may help.
- There are three primary ways to learn: visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. If one isn’t working for you, try another.
- Focus on whatever you’re studying. Don’t try to watch TV at the same time or worry yourself about other things. Anxiety does not make for absorption of information and ideas.
- Take a bath or shower. Both activities loosen you up, making your mind more receptive to recognizing brilliant ideas.
- Turn out the lights. This is a way to focus, if you are not into meditating. Sit in the dark, block out extraneous influences.
- Speedread. Some people believe that speedreading causes you to miss vital information. The fact remains that efficient speedreading results in filtering out irrelevant information. If necessary, you can always read and re-read at slower speeds. Slow reading actually hinders the ability to absorb general ideas. (Although technical subjects often requirer slower reading.) If you’re reading online, you can try the free Spreeder Web-based application.
- Every picture tells a story. Draw or sketch whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Having a concrete goal in mind helps you progress towards that goal.
- Brainmap it. Need to plan something? Brain maps, or mind maps, offer a compact way to get both an overview of a project as well as easily add details. With mind maps, you can see the relationships between disparate ideas and they can also act as a receptacle for a brainstorming session.
- Brainstorm. This is a time-honored technique that combines verbal activity, writing, and collaboration. (One person can brainstorm, but it’s more effective in a group.) It’s fruitful if you remember some simple rules: Firstly, don’t shut anyone’s idea out. Secondly, don’t “edit” in progress; just record all ideas first, then dissect them later. Participating in brainstorming helps assess what you already know about something, and what you didn’t know.
- Laugh (not to much). Laughing relaxes the body. A relaxed body is more receptive to new ideas.
- Write, don’t type. While typing your notes into the computer is great for posterity, writing by hand stimulates ideas. The simple act of holding and using a pen or pencil massages acupuncture points in the hand, which in turn stimulates ideas.
- Give yourself credit. Ideas are actually a dime a dozen. If you learn to focus your mind on what results you want to achieve, you’ll recognize the good ideas. Your mind will become a filter for them, which will motivate you to learn more.
- Motivate yourself. Why do you want to learn something? What do want to achieve through learning? If you don’t know why you want to learn, then distractions will be far more enticing.
- Learn what you know and what you don’t. Many people might say, “I’m dumb,” or “I don’t know anything about that.” The fact is, many people are wholly unaware of what they already know about a topic. If you want to learn about a topic, you need to determine what you already know, figure out what you don’t know, and then learn the latter.
- Persist. Don’t give up learning in the face of intimdating tasks. Anything one human being can learn, most others can as well. Wasn’t it Einstein that said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”?
- Challenge yourself. People are often more intelligent than they realize.