Basic Post-Einsteinian Discovery Technique for Creative Solution-Finding

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
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Most of this presentation is a single experience, a hands-on encounter with a combination Socratic and Einsteinian procedure known as “Over-the-Wall.” The remainder of this brief is a script of step-by-step instructions for solving problems or finding answers by means of this method. Our hope is that, with the experience you receive here, plus this script of step-by-step instructions, you will be able to carry forward freely to address any and all issues around you with full creative ingenuity by means of this specific method.

For this procedure you need another person as a live listener, or a tape recorder as “potential listener,” which evokes from you a response very different from when you use a purely imaginary listener or “describe to yourself.”

The “Over-the-Wall” procedure has been called other things as well—the “Revealed Surprise” method and the “Sudden Answer Space” Method. Although it is a receptive visualization—meaning that you give your subtler resources the opportunity to surprise you with what they provide you in answer—”Over-the-Wall” is also in part a directed visualization. The directed part is an imaginary, beautiful garden, bounded on one side by a high wall beyond which you are requested not to look for the time being. Beyond the wall let there be an answer space, the scene where your answer is put on display for you.

Please note:  The picture below is not intended to substitute for your own imagery, though it may be helpful to some people in going for a wealth of detail in what they can describe there. For problem-solving purposes one needs to work with one’s own, spontaneous imagery, rather than with the directed imagery which such a picture represents.

Photograph courtesy of Elan Sun Star

The garden provides:

  • A running start for your describing interior experience, and brings on visual experience even in some who did not initially get imagery in efforts at Image-Streaming.
  • An experience of beauty, further involving those beauty-respondent sectors of your brain and mind whose insight we are seeking to discover.
  • A “safe space,” where you can simply relax into the pleasures of relating the experience, without concern over the problem which is already being taken care of at other levels of your mind.

The wall provides:

  • A convenient screen, beyond which the stage can be set by your subtler faculties for displaying whatever the answer is to be, without interference from your conscious mind and expectations.
  • An opportunity for suddenness, a threshold we can cross abruptly to catch by surprise—and be surprised by—our first impression of what that answer is, regardless of our prior expectations.

The Answer Space, screened from our interference by that wall, allows us entire worlds if need be as the stage upon which the (hopefully surprising) answer will be displayed. The only limits upon the process are those we put there ourselves. The Answer Space can also be a space for Image-Streaming (if you go over the wall without an agenda, as distinct from being in pursuit of a specific answer to a specific issue). With slight modifications, the Answer Space can be made to reveal inventions, new scientific discoveries, new arts and art forms, and even—new methods for solving problems!

Choose a Question

The first step at this point is for you, now, to choose some question or issue you would really like to find the answer to, and to apply it to the following procedure. The question can bear on your personal life, your job, your career, your community, national or world problems, even scientific or technical problems—so long as you passionately do want to find its answer. (That is far more arousing to your subtler, more comprehensive faculties than some trivial or trick question would be.)

You will get better results with “Over-the-Wall” on open-field type questions, as distinct from “yes/no.” For example, “What’s the best way to earn a raise from my boss,” instead of “Should I ask my boss for a raise?” This gives your faculties some room to work in to show you what they perceive in the context of your question.

Your question will win better results if its answer can be made into some sort of “win-win” situation, with creation of positive value, instead of resulting in someone else’s loss or harm, as in picking the right purchases in the stock market, or horses in a race, or lottery numbers. See the above example, which has both you and your boss “win” contrasted to “How can I extract a raise from my boss?” That more sensitive part of you, which gives better answers because it takes so many more factors into account than can our word-plodding conscious thinking minds, also takes more interests (and longer-term interests) into account!

Write down your chosen question, problem or issue you have selected for solving with this experience on this occasion.

Have a Listener

You must have another person to work with, or at least a tape recorder to record your ongoing observations during this voyage of discovery. Paper and pen will not suffice— you need to describe your impressions aloud, to a listening, external focus.

Please do not proceed further until you have written down the question you are about to seek an answer to, and until you have another person in place to work with you or, at the very least, a tape recorder to instantly record your impressions into. This external focus provides a huge swing factor difference in outcomes. With live listener/co-learner, success in this procedure is highly probable. With tape recorder, success is still probable. Without either, failure would be virtually guaranteed!

(Instead of a live partner reading you these instructions and hearing your responses, you could use two tape recorders, one cuing you with your pre-recorded instructions in playback, the other to receive your described experiences. But really, it’s better by far with a live person working with you!)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here are the step-by-step instructions for the rest of the “Over-the-Wall” procedure… (One additional purpose for your live listener would be to read you these instructions, so you could give all of your attention, especially visual attention, to the experiences being called for…)

  1. With your question established, simply set it aside and don’t give it any more conscious thought for a while. Instead of confronting the question directly, give your more sensitive resources the opportunity to set up a space where the answer to that question will be on display for you. To screen that answer space from interference by what you “know” about the problem in your conscious mind, imagine that this answer space is screened from your view by a great wall.—a wall you can’t “see” past until you are beyond it yourself.
    With your eyes closed to see more freely, imagine that wall to be screening from sight your answer space on its far side while on this side, the nearer side of that wall, you are in a very beautiful garden, a garden extraordinarily lovely but very different from any you’ve ever seen before. Beyond that wall, without further concern or effort from your conscious mind, is now being set for you on display the best answer to that question you decided to address some moments ago. Over here, on this side of that screening wall, be in this exquisitely beautiful garden….
    (There is a very short form of these instructions following this set, to make it easy for you to take yourself through this experience without opening your eyes even with only the one recorder, that being to record your experiences.—But working with a live person is so much better….)
  2. With your eyes kept closed without interruption, imagine being in the midst of this strangely beautiful garden. It might help to pretend that you are a radio reporter, setting background just before an expected event, “painting word pictures” of this garden for your listening radio audience. Starting with what is directly in front of you, there in that garden, and then all around, describe this garden in richly textured detail to your listening audience. Make your listener see and feel and smell and taste and experience the utter reality of your garden, through the rich textures of your description….. (5 to 10 minutes of rapid continuous description)
  3. Now go up to this side of the wall and describe the wall the same way that you’ve been describing the garden. Don’t sneak a peek yet at what is on the other side of that wall. But put your hand on the wall and study the feel of it, lean your face up against it, make the feel and smell of the wall real to your listeners as well as its appearance….
    (In all this description, notice when and if you get visual mental images in your mind’s eye, like in a dream. If you see them, switch to describing them even if they go off into other things than garden and wall and answer space, because they can be a more direct route to what your more sensitive faculties want to show you.)
  4. Don’t sneak a peek yet, at the answer on display on the other side of the wall. Suddenness is the key, here, to catching your answer in view before your conscious “knowledge” about the question can jump in and say, “No, that can’t be it, so the answer has to look like thus and so.” The trick is to experience “jumping over the wall” so suddenly that you catch even yourself by surprise, to catch by surprise what’s there now on the far side of the wall and you are yourself surprised by what you find there.
    Whatever is your very first impression of what’s on the far side of the wall after you’ve jumped, when that time comes describe that. Continue describing as if you were still looking at it, even if it were just a glimpse or a momentary impression, and more of that impression will come. Sooner or later, you will discover enough of it through describing it that you will learn how what is here in this answer space is an effective answer to your problem.
    (That suddenness can be supplied by your live listener—”Jump NOW!”—after you’ve described the garden side of the wall for a while. Or, use anything happening in your auditory environment, perhaps out on the street with a car horn or dog bark, to abruptly jump over the wall even if you weren’t ready to yet, in order to get that needed suddenness.)
    (To the extent that what you find beyond the wall in the answer space surprises you; the degree to which what you find over there is different from what you expected; is an indicator of your getting fresh input from your more sensitive faculties instead of simply recycling what you already “know” in your louder, conscious mind. Describe that very first impression even if it seems unrelated or trivial at first—describe this first impression regardless of what it is and whether it’s a picture or just some sort of conceptual impression. The act of describing this first impression opens up on your ingenious and unexpected good answer.)

  5. Continuing to explore and describe what you’ve found here in the answer space — is there some feature which especially attracts your attention? Is there some oddity which doesn’t fit with the rest of the scene (often the subtler faculties’ way of underscoring the key to the message)? Detail that further; or select some particular feature here, such as a bush, tree, or side of a house, and ask it mentally, “Why are you here, in this context? How do you relate to this answer?” In what ways does your picture or impression change, in response to your question? Detail these.
    (If by now you already fully understand the answer that has been shown you, skip on to Step # 7 below. If you do not yet understand that answer or understand it fully, go instead to Step # 6, next.)
  6. Mentally thank your subtler faculties for showing you the answer to your question—but ask their help in understanding it. Find some object in your answer space which can serve as a screen, just as your garden wall did earlier. This can be the wall of a house, a thicket, an as-yet closed door, a curtain, a bend in a hallway, a cover to a photo album, a hillside, anything which fits the purpose of being a screen, behind which you “can’t” see, until you suddenly go across into the space beyond it.
    Without sneaking a peek yet at what’s beyond, go up to and lay your hand on whatever that screening object is, and ask your subtler faculties to show you, on its far side, exactly the same answer to the same question as before, but this time in an entirely different scene.
    (In effect you are creating a second answer space, with an entirely different scene in it. What is the same between old and new pictures, when everything else is different, by inductive inference gives you the key to the “message” or answer! )
    So: first detail out the new scene after going into it, then search for what’s the same between the old and new pictures—perhaps it is grass, perhaps the color blue, perhaps water, perhaps people running or perhaps no one there, or triangular-shaped objects, perhaps a certain feeling to both pictures…..
  7. Return to here-and-now fully refreshed. If you’ve been working with a live listener, now grab up your tape recorder, or a notepad and pen. If you’ve been working with a tape recorder, now is the time for your notepad and pen…. some different medium from what you were using for the original experience….
  8. Like an astronaut returning from a mission to some far world, debrief. Describe in detail, to that different medium from the one you’ve just been using, a little of your garden experience, but every detail you can from when you jumped over the wall. This further retrospective, describing is often the stage at which understandings and meanings click into place.

Also, if you did the original experience with eyes closed, debrief with them open; if for some reason you did the original experience with eyes open, debrief with them closed. To make relation-building effects within your brain a little more immediate, try to use the present tense grammatically while describing and stay in that present tense mode, even though the experience is already in your recent past— e.g., “I am looking at all this ripe wheat bending in the wind,” not, “I was looking….”

Short Form for “Over-the-Wall”

In order that you don’t have to keep looking over at the instructions to see what comes next, and in order to let your eyes stay uninterruptedly closed during the experience and free to deal fully with the subtler reaches of that experience…here is the short form, with a memory device to help you remember each step and the step which comes next.

Describe, describe, describe in richly textured detail—

  1. The Garden;
  2. The Wall; and after your sudden jump over it,
  3. The Answer Space beyond that wall.
    GWAS (“gaWAS”)—easily remembered word of initials to help you remember Garden, Wall, and the Answer Space beyond it. Continuing from “gaWAS”—
  4. Question some particular aspect or feature in your Answer Space.
  5. New Scene—same answer to same question, but shown differently.

This part of the mnemonic is QANS; your total mnemonic is “gaWAS-qans,” easy to hold in the back of your mind so each part of it in turn will remind you of the next step in the procedure, until the procedure becomes familiar enough to you that you no longer need any special devices to find your way with.

Please forgive our offer of a memory device, but this kind of experience is very new to many people, and we desire that a very wide range of people be able to handle it successfully to surmount the problems around them. If you don’t need the memory aid, you don’t need to use it. Meanwhile, there it is if you do need it.

Getting the Meaning from Your Displayed Answers

For inventions, technical or mechanical problems and art, these “over-the-wall” answers are usually quite literal. For most other issues, perhaps because of the sensory language in which the more sensitive regions of your brain work, the answer may be shown in some sort of metaphor—a cartoon, a parable, a pun or simile—in which case this sometimes takes effort to figure out consciously.

The most important thing in figuring out your answer is to not try to figure it out until after you’ve let the whole experience unfold, and you’ve described it out in detail. If your aha! insight hits you in mid-stream, well and good—and that will happen more and more frequently as this process and set of skills become familiar to you. But going for meanings before you’ve fully detailed your experience invites your conscious knowledge about the problem situation to come back in, interfering with your more sensitive internal data because it “knows” what the answer ought to be, stopping you short of seeing what the answer is.

Once your experience is fully described and recorded, though, your “data out there on the table,” so to speak, the conscious search for meaning can no longer hide or distort it. Here are several ways to improve your chances of finding the meaning of what you found over the wall (or the meaning of your dreams, for that matter).

  • The more richly textured the detail in which you describe, the better your chances of discovering the meaning.
  • The more rapidly you describe, the better the chances of outrunning your internal editor and getting to the most meaningful part of the experience.
  • The more different senses you engage in the experience by noticing and describing—sight, touch, smell, movement, space and pressure, mass, temperature, texture, taste, atmospheric feel, etc.—the better your contact with your more sensitive faculties and the better your chances to discover the meaning.
  • After initially orienting to the scene:  the more you experience moving around in or doing various things to what you find in the Answer Space, and observe and describe the results, the better your chances of discovering the meaning.
  • Question other objects or features in the experience, asking, “Why are you here in this experience, what role do you play in this answer?” Then observe and describe how the scene changes or what else happens in response. (We call that step “Feature-Questioning.”)

Likewise, pursue what we call the “Clarification Question,” asking your subtler faculties to help you in understanding their answer by showing you that same answer to that same question again, but through an entirely different scene. Usually, three different scenes displaying the same answer are enough to let you infer the meaning from their common elements.

Follow-up Questions

See also, and describe, what changes occur in your scene or impressions when you ask such questions as—

  • “How can I make sure that I’m understanding the correct answer here?” (How can I verify this answer?)
  • “What else should I know about this situation?”
  • “How best can I turn this answer into useful action?”
  • “What’s ‘Step One’ in acting on this answer?” (If there is something else you have to do first, that is not ‘Step One,’ so what is ‘Step One’?)

Whenever in doubt about what to ask, ask:

  • “What is the best thing for me to ask in this context—and the best answer to it?”

Most approaches to creative problem-solving teach that one has to invest 90% or more of one’s total effort to finding the right question to ask about a situation. Yet your subtler faculties already know what is the most cogent question to ask about a given situation, so asking this directly lets you take advantage of that and saves you considerable time and effort.

Special Notes Regarding Verification

Even when some answers come through with the seeming certainty of the “Word of God,” it’s a human instrument receiving them, just as subject as any other information instrument, process or content to the Laws of Entropy. Thus, to the extent that there are significant stakes at issue in the answers you get, even if these interior processes do tend to be more accurate than other information processes, it behooves you to check their validity against other indicators, just as you would for information from any other source.

Perhaps this deserves even further comment. Politicians speak in certainties even when they have only the vaguest clue, in order to get other people to follow their lead. Most organized religions exhort their followers to absolute belief—but it’s interesting to note that the two greatest doubters in the tradition of the Bible, Gideon and Thomas, were rewarded, not punished, for having doubted.

You may remember the story of “Gideon and his brave three hundred.” One day Gideon got the word from God, we are told, to rise up and overthrow the Mideonites who had established sway over Israel for generations. “How can I tell,” asked Gideon, “that it’s your word, Lord, that I’m hearing and not my own imagination?”

The answer came back, to set out a sheep fleece that night and check it in the morning. So Gideon did. In the morning, the fleece was dry, while the grass was soaked with dew. “Well, Lord, that’s very interesting, but….”

The answer came back, to set that fleece out again and to check the results in the morning. So he did. In the morning, the fleece was soaking wet with dew while the grass all around was bone dry. So he acted on the rest of his message and was rewarded with a most extraordinary victory….

Likewise, by the other story, if “Doubting Thomas” hadn’t put his hands in Jesus’s wounds, Christianity could not have spread nearly so rapidly nor so far. For his doubts, Thomas was rewarded with sainthood, not punished.

Thus even in Biblical tradition, the basis of most of the established religions which exhort unswerving belief, the most outstanding instances of doubt are rewarded, not punished. All our human-instrumented information needs to be verified, whatever its apparent source. By now, with the bloodstained pages of history lying all about, we don’t need to continue imposing our unverified certainties on each other. Check things out as you go.

Compare the fields of human endeavor which have advanced in the last thousand years—notably empirical science and technology—with those which have not, notably politics and religion. To progress, we have to be willing to risk our beliefs and put matters to test.

So please don’t hesitate to ask your inner processes, “How can I tell if I’m understanding the right answer here?” or “How best can I test this to make sure it is so?” And be alert to opportunities to check out your answers by other means as well, including conventionally gathered empirical and scientific data.

Over the years, easily 90% or more of everything I’ve been taught has been contradicted by direct observation. I suspect that at least a majority of what you or anyone has been taught is likewise contrary to what direct observation will show. Frankly, I trust what I can see for myself far better than I trust what I’ve been taught or “what everyone knows.” How certain are you about all that you’ve been taught?

Once verified, though, please note:  An answer is not a solution until it is acted upon, and put into effect!

The easiest thing for many in the creativity field to do is settle for some easy generality as answer, and leave matters there. Your challenge is to move beyond such easy generality to action plans and action specifics and an immediate Step One from among those specifics and beyond.

Other “Triggers” Besides the Garden

There are many ways to get a “running start” in describing the kinds of scenery which help to bring on the experience of visual and other sensory mental images. Likewise, each of these can serve as “neutral” or safe ground so that you don’t have to start right on top of your problem, but some distance away from it. Instead of a wall, door or other screening device, however, you need to use the sheer rush and speed of your description to sweep you on in to where the answer is on display, before your internal editor has a chance to catch on that he’s been bypassed once again.

So, with any of these, you would pose some issue or question you would truly, even passionately, desire to get the answer to, write it down as with the garden/wall experience, then set the whole issue aside and go into any pleasant non-confronting place like garden, wilderness, park, whatever, with some further space screened from view that can serve as an answer space.

Or use any device that can serve in imagination to get you from here to “there,” where the answer is on display for you. That can be a car, a plane, an elevator (which has the advantage of both the physical sense of movement and of being partly automated so you don’t “have to pay attention to driving.”)

Or you can imagine becoming a dry leaf or dandelion fluff swept up by the wind, around corners of buildings and racing you along enormous landscapes to….wherever. In any case, use whatever space or device to “get up a running-start” in rapidly describing faster than your editor can keep up with, so your inner vision can carry you into some surprising perceptions beyond the pale of your editor’s initial acceptance.

You can easily think of hundreds of other such devices for “triggering” a flow of images and experiences, and for shaping or partially shaping contexts without directing the images themselves. These are often especially attractive experiences, and it would be easy to just run these without actually solving issues and problems. However, with each of these triggers, do keep in mind to:

  • Pose and write down a significant question or problem or issue beforehand, so that the experience can show you its solution;
  • Remember during the experience to orient on some one particular feature, ask it why it’s there in that context, and watch and describe what changes occur in the scene in answer to that;
  • Ask to be shown another scene which shows you exactly the same answer to the same question, but in an entirely different way;
  • Use your follow-up questions to verify your answer, and to develop specific actions. When you don’t know what you should be asking, ask what it is you should be asking, and its best answer. Ask what more you need to know about that context…..

This isn’t just exercise and skills-building. This is your outstanding opportunity to take up real issues and problems and solve them, as many as you care to. And if in doubt as to what problem to set out to solve, ask your visual thinking faculties what problem you should solve now!

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