Try This Now! Invaluable Life-Changing Lessons of Nonverbal Learning

Learning a new skill from an expert is almost always a great privilege. 

Learning from an expert without having language as the prime communication method adds many impactful layers to the experience. Beginning Andean knitting in Peru was one of the greatest transformative experiences of my life. Andean lady KnittingMy teacher was a lovely Quechuan woman from the remote highlands. Her native local tongue was clearly not one that could deliver hints of meaning, as experienced with knowledge of the romance languages. Our communication was exclusively nonverbal.

Learning apart from the spoken word brings so many dimensions to taking on a new skill. Though I anticipated this before beginning this trip, nothing ever prepared me for this primal shift. I never expected the ways in which this special time affected me. Sitting with my newfound friend and watching her slowly demonstrate the steps then pausing and waiting for me to try to mimic her movements was immensely maternal. My subconscious memory must have traveled back to when I learned as an infant. Perhaps infancy is the only time when most have experienced nonverbal learning! I felt incredibly peaceful and not the slightest bit frustrated as I do sometimes when trying new things. I acquired an immediate and deep connection with this Quechuan woman. The atmosphere was thick with the sense of being in the midst of a life-changing event. I will never forget it and I can close my eyes and be back in the moment immediately!

 

Andean Teacher KnittingAndean bag in progress

Thinking about it, when was the last time you learned without language?

Apart from learning a second language by immersion, most of us would likely reply that it was back before our most cognitive recollections. Imagine the implications of returning to learning a new skill without the luxury of spoken communication at this very moment in your life! Could your knowledge be absorbed in unexpected new ways by nonverbal learning means?

When you learn a new skill in a nonverbal way, perhaps it elicits a different perspective derived from other cognitive processes. As Cornell University explains, skill mastery is associated with increased activity in areas of the brain not engaged in skill performance, and this shift can be detected in large-scale networks of the brain. During Studies there, increased brain activity was found after training, in the default network that is involved in self-reflective activities, including future planning and even daydreaming.

Putting it All Together

To summarize, I’ve verbalized as effectively as possible my recent experiences in nonverbal learning. Quite appropriately, words merely deliver a fraction of all I gained from learning without the use of words. As a result, I challenge each of us to find opportunities for absolute nonverbal communications. Whether you seek an opportunity to learn a new skill, enhance a relationship or simply experiment with a friend over coffee, it will truly promote a unique experience. Perhaps it will even be a life-changing event as it was for me!

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The Top 5 Reasons You Must Start Knitting NOW!

Knitting, Your New Companion

Having begun knitting eleven years ago, especially in the past five years, I can attest how fulfilling and rewarding it is. Knitting has become my best inanimate companion. It has been my aid in passing appointment waiting times, my comfort in times of unexpected hardship or emergency, my focus enhancer in lectures. It even helped me realize that I CAN meditate. If you’ve knit in the past but the needles have been set aside, I challenge you to pick them up! If knitting is new to you, grab your friend who knits (I KNOW you have at least one), some needles and yarn and enjoy the journey now! Here’s why:

Lotus flower with sunrise1. It’s the new Meditation, without all the struggles!

Many of us believe that we simply are no good at meditating. In our hyper-paced, information-saturated world, we can’t seem to still the mind long enough for quiet focus. I remember the day I unexpectedly concluded that knitting WAS my meditation. Sitting down, I focused on the project at hand, and cleared my mind of noise, simply due to the need to pay attention to the project on my lap. Recalling all the past feeble and frustrating attempts at “clearing my mind”, I realized it was happening without my trying so hard. (Hello?! I’m a woman! I’m not sure if my mind will be clear after I die!) Knitting and other creative work like it grants the creator the space to narrow the focus and thus quiet the mind! Dr. Herbert Benson, a mind/body medicine expert and author of “The Relaxation Response,” says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. I can personally attest to this!! And you produce something beautiful and useful as a result!

Knitting makes me happy2. Knitting is quite possibly the most natural anti-depressant from which one can benefit.

Carrie Barron, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and co-author of the book, “The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness with Your Own Two Hands,” states that, “When we have a life-affirming project going on that grabs the self and gets it to work in a positive way, that is an anti-depressant.” I believe our intuitive nature as humans realizes this, albeit subconsciously. The next time you are at lunch downtown, on the subway or ferry during commute time or in a park, take a look around you. Now that you will be focusing on it my bet is that you will notice more people than ever before, knitting or perhaps crocheting. Once my husband spent time around me as my knitting habit developed, he began noticing men and women knitting everywhere!

3. Keep your brain in the game!

In a 2007 review, Sharon Gutman and Victoria Schindler surveyed scientific literature that analyzes the neurological basis for how hobbies relate to health and well-being. They found that engaging in such activities reduce the effects of stress-related diseases and slows cognitive decline. Studies have shown activities like knitting and quilting, card-playing and book reading among those advanced in years granted 30-50% reduction in the likelihood of mild cognitive impairment as compared to those who did not participate in similar activities (Geda et al, Mayo Clinic).

Knitting on a bus4. It generates community with others.

Over the years, I have debated whether I am actually an introvert or extrovert. Perhaps I have shifted back and forth over time. I have leaned  introvert lately, which has made it clearly evident that knitting (and spinning which I’m occasionally spotted doing in public) generates chat that may otherwise never occur. I’m grateful for this! It refreshes me when someone asks what I am making or relates of theirs or a loved ones needlework. In my humble opinion, we need all the positive community surrounding us possible! Whether it’s knitting or another activity, how can you generate light and pleasant connections around you?

5. Creating empowers us! Empowerment zone sign

In simplest terms, I take “balls of string” and shape them into scarves, sweaters, shawls, hats, baskets, blankets, gloves, you name it! Sometimes I even create the “balls of string” from fur! Think of your “super powers”! What do you do that fulfills you, creates, enlivens, quiets your mind and lifts your spirits? If these characteristics sound appealing to you and you need a creative outlet, pick up those needles!

Are you a knitter who has set aside the hobby and need a refresher? Comment below, check out Youtube, and START! Before you know it, you will always have a project (or three, like me) in progress! Are you an avid creator, be it with fiber, wood, clay, etc? Show off what you do by commenting and sharing!

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