OBSESSIONS / Mind that child: Brain training's all in the mind. Dolly Dhingra sorts her creative child from her critical parent on the road to discovery

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The Independent Culture
If there's one thing I knew about my creative self it was that it eludes me before noon on a good day and is virtually non-existent on Sunday mornings. David Ringsell, 'group facilitator', had his work cut out when I managed to drag myself off for some creativity training at 10am on a day which the mind understood to be a day of rest.

A colourful group of people had made their way to Jackson's Lane Arts Centre to discover the 'child within' and, hopefully, see if they could get their creative juices on tap. The session took place in the 'purple room' - the colour proved to be distracting for some of the more sensitive artists, who would have preferred lilac to the Princely purple that adorned the walls. Everyone introduced themselves and 'shared' a few thoughts. Writers, gardeners, housewives, architects, all complained that they had blocks and insecurities that they wanted to overcome. One visual artist had the opposite grievance and confessed that her head was full of pictures, which screamed out at her at the most unlikely of times - she wanted to learn to control them.

In order to become comfortable with one another, the group was instructed to walk around the room and perhaps do something unconventional. People shuffled around, shook hands, patted each other on the head or just smiled nervously. After which some meditation and breathing exercises were in store.

I gladly attempted to clear my mind's eye and imagine all the things that David would have us think: 'Picture yourself flying out of this room, through the hall and out of the door. What is the weather like? What do you see of London? Where are you flying to? Observe the colours, the smells. Stay at your final destination for a while.'

When, eventually, everyone's thoughts returned, I was both alarmed and intrigued at the destinations people had visited. Some had flown to the sun and back, others to homes of ancestors and for walks in Sherwood Forest. It became apparent that whereas I merely imagined things, some people actually saw pictures - they had their own TV set in their head and access to a library of videos of whatever situation they wished. Had they taken something illegal for breakfast or were they, perhaps, relatives of Walter Mitty?

In the afternoon, David gave a lengthy talk which involved some basic neurology - he explained that the brain is divided into two parts, each relating to different aspects of the self. The right side is the 'creative child' and is responsible for the imagination, intuition, music, and all things broadly artistic. The left side is the part we use most often - the faculties for language, logic analysis and rationality, referred to as the 'critical parent'. Each part, however, controls the opposite side of the body.

Supplied with large pieces of blank paper, pens, pencils and kindergarten crayons, we were asked to draw, with the weakest hand (to activate the opposite part of the brain), pictures of suggested words. It was hard to produce a Rembrandt when one could hardly hold the pen. These scrawls were then exchanged with partners who had to express four adjectives that immediately came to mind. What do you say when handed a picture of sharp black zig-zagged lines to denote 'hope', or a blank red square for 'creativity' - could this suggest writer's block?

For seven hours, the group had allowed strangers to wander in the gallery of their minds. I left feeling that, if I couldn't achieve what I wanted, I could at least imagine that I could.

Next meeting May 29, Jacksons Lane Arts Centre, pounds 35 / pounds 25 concs, individuals and company groups catered for. Contact David Ringsell on 081-444 3412

(Photograph omitted)

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