As a life long learner and someone who is interested in alternative therapies rather than the medical model to enhance ones own self growth I found myself in a rather interesting path to where I am now. I really wanted to learn another language because I was keen to play about with a level of neuroscience that I was interested in and considered that multilingual thinking might just be the way to go about this.
A few years from my desire to learn German and I found myself looking at apps, books and even paying a tutor, however ,I never followed this up as I found myself engaged in another project for my current academic career. So long to levelling up on my skillset. Ah, the llifelong potentiality fizzles out once more.
As I sat listening to podcasts, doing some online training and reading books I was repeatedly introduced to two people who rather turned my world upside down. These two men, Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal who are the founders of the Flow Genome Project were Meta and intelligent in a way that literally gave me fizzbuzz sparks in my mind each time I heard them speak. I already had my elite few who I followed and these two made the top ten. They spoke with such academic eloquence, not academic arsery that I was hooked on what they had to say. They talked about their new upcoming book regarding altered states of consciousness and this was no laughing matter; after I had managed to get Josh Winx out of my head (old rave joke there) I rushed out to buy the book (well technically as Amazon is a modern shop no?), which pleased me very much as it was hardback and I do prefer that format for some reason.
Welcome to Stealing Fire, the book that cemented for me an innate desire to understand myself at another level, compounded with a deeper understanding of the many ways I had attempted to move between states during my childhood and adolescence. Not only did this book talk about the states of consciousness I now understood a previous book I had read on such a new level. That book was written by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi and referred to flow.
I was intrigued about the chapter that focused on the Marines and as an ex squaddie (Army veteran) and Martial Artist, Footballer and Hockey player I was enthralled by the chapters about group flow. Then came the chapter about drugs and EDM (electronic dance music) and having had a past with this, alongside DJ’ing, yes I have many talents hence the Josh Winx reference earlier. I was literally clapping as the ways in which I found my flow and focus throughout life and what drives me were detailed in much of the books contents. However, I kept thinking back to a chapter on the Marines which included a section on how they learned a language in 6 weeks. Like for real? Is that possible?
Fast forward to recent events; after completing the Flow Fundamentals and being a regular Sensory deprivation float tank enthusiast, it was proposed in the Flow Genome group that a few of us try to replicate this:
“Oh yes; I have the summer off before heading back into academia and my PhD so why not!” So that’s what we did. One of the Members, Dan went and spoke directly to Rich Diviney (mentioned in the book) and we were given our protocols. I booked my six weeks of sessions at the Floatation Centre and got ready. German, in six weeks. Shit this is exciting!
Week one began with the downloading of the software onto my shiny new waterproof MP3 player and I was ready. In I went, centred and hoped this was going to be easy, interesting and would literally blow my mind. The tape played and I listened in suspended suspense…. “Cool, that was a bit fast for me and I’m not sure I heard all of the words but this is what it is all about”. My ears hurt from the earphones and I made a note to not shove them so far in my ear canal next time. So far so good. At session three in week one I was about a third of the way through the tape when I almost hit the top of the tank in a moment of terror then hysterics. It turns out the way the MP3 player lets me know its on low battery is to send an audible beep of three consecutive tones. However, in this environment, they sounded like air raid sirens and caused my body to jerk in a fight/flight response. This made me laugh as I am trauma therapist and understood exactly what had occurred. Damn that polyvagal attunement and the speed of my inner workings… Huge LOL. So off went the MP3 player and I returned to silence. “Nevermind I can book another sessions and sort out my deficit session”.
Week 2 was not much better in terms of technology and wasted sessions. The MP3 player turned out to only hold its charge for approximately 1.5 sessions and this meant I was shook up again on week two, knew what it was, got slightly frustrated with it and thought I would never learn at this rate, however the benefits of floating as often as I was doing have given me a new lease of life, my skin is fantastic (but that might just be the biohacking and nutrigenomics too).
Week 3 and I’m getting bored of buying new kit, anticipating being scared shitless when I’m concentrating and to top it off I’m predicting the lines that are coming next in the tape and my mind was wandering. “So much for staying in Flow Cath..? What happened to being mindful, listening and learning. Is this actually going in? What would my pronunciation be like and how the fricking hell do you sepll that word?” You see its amazing how I know my learning style and rote aint it. I was bored by this point. I actually chose on the midweek point to just float. No German, no noise. Retract. Slow down and try to work out what’s happening for me and also let the struggle of flow take its course. “I know this is the dip bit so stop fighting it, or, Maybe you overstretched Cath? Maybe you would have been better with another language? Shit man this DMN (Mohawk of me that’s an utter bitch) is the voice you heard in school. Maybe you should just give up now. Its not like you’re going to Germany this year anyway”…. And so on and so on.
I took a break and at the weekend, I bought an iPhone waterproof case with earphones, tested it out, cool it worked. Would this hold up in the tank? Who knows but if it doesn’t destiny is talking loud and clear. And this is where things changed for me; Week 4… I broke protocol and went back to the learn German audiobook I had purchased many moons ago. I pressed play and waited. The introduction was good and I felt that this may be a way I can listen and thought “fuck it, If I don’t learn here I’ll get a tutor, what have I got to loose?”
JFC and FML, this was how I needed to learn, I actually sighed that Awww sound when the light in the tank came on. “Do I have to finish? I’m just getting started”, and then “Should I carry on when I get out? Would that help or hinder? WOW, Cath you are wanting to learn this so just hold off till the next session… this is GREAT!”
Weeks 4, 5 and 6 are the best experience I have had with a language in my life; ever. I listened intensely, practiced in the tank, got excited when I knew I had worked out the answer, in the correct order and was happy to make mistakes. This is such a good experience. Would I have learned out of the tank like this? Probably not, I would have been conscious of my surroundings and people. I wanted the book to be twice as long as I actually finished it midway on week 6. I needed and still need more and will be getting the next book (however it’s not out yet)
Am I fluent? No, this was in total approximately 20 hours of tank time, one failed audio/MP3 player and one immense book and I have only had a small practice with a German speaking friend. Did I hit my 4% spot? Most likely with this method and the book, which I think it matched my learning style and bingo!
So what now… Now I play about with apps such as Duolingo, carry on listening to Rammstein (Yep not just crazy EDM) and potter about adding onto my current level until the next book is out at the end of the year. 2019…might just bring another language to the tank too.
Would I recommend this? Absolutely, however, I know I broke protocol in terms of the recommended language provider, but hey I know when I’m bored and frustrated. I sought out my particular learning style and this is what I would recommend in order to learn faster and in flow. Secondly, pay attention to your audio device as I only recognised that I had learned at 1.5 speed after the fact. This realisation hit me as I put my next book on and went to speed it up as I tend to listen to audiobooks at a faster speed to pay attention and still I managed the basics of German. Go me and thank you Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal for your research and presence in this Flow project.
Thank you to Darren Callender and the York Floatation Centre at Redmayne Lodge for a fabulous experience and welcome each and every week. Your help and happy greetings each time made this a top experience and one I will never forget.
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