Have you ever marveled at how children learn so much so effortlessly? Think about it. In the first five years of life, they learn to walk, talk, count, recite the alphabet, and so much more with virtually no effort. Why is learning and remembering so easy for children and so hard for adults?
The answer lies in brain states. Research shows that up to age six, children operate almost exclusively in theta, a flow state of super-learning and photographic memory. From ages six to ten, children have a predominant alpha brain wave pattern, which is still an excellent state for creativity, imagination and learning. It’s not until adulthood, when we learn how to be stressed, that we display mainly beta activity. Beta is an alert state of consciousness but also the only brain state in which we experience fear, anxiety, pain, and negative emotions—all blocks to learning and memory.
A child’s natural ability to remain in theta and alpha is why it’s often said that children are like sponges, absorbing everything without judgment. But does this mean that once we reach adulthood, are our learning days are over?
Let’s find out what’s possible from this story by our own Dr. Patrick Porter:
Tanya, my receptionist, handed me a message slip, a puzzled look on her face. I read the note, wondering what all the confusion was about. The caller, “Ricardo,” wanted to know if I could help him learn a language. “It was weird, though,” Tanya said. “When I said we’d helped people learn new languages before, he said he already knew the language. So, good luck with that,” she said, patting the slip in my palm.
I called the number and a man with a pleasant Spanish accent answered, “Hello, may I help you?” I asked for Ricardo and almost immediately an American came on the line. “This is Ricardo,” he said.
Ricardo explained that he was born in Mexico but had grown up in Virginia. He had become a renowned singer in Spanish-speaking countries, but he was no longer able to converse in Spanish, his first language. Ricardo’s predicament intrigued me, so I agreed to meet with him at his home later that week.
Upon arriving at Ricardo’s exquisite stucco mansion in Phoenix, a friendly, bustling housekeeper guided me to his studio. Ricardo’s recording studio was the reason I had asked to meet at his home. It was perfect for creating the experience I had planned.
“My family moved from Mexico City to Phoenix when I was a boy,” Ricardo said. “All the kids made fun of me for speaking Spanish, and some were relentless about it. It usually ended in a fight.”
Listening to Ricardo speak to me in such flawless English, I would never have believed that he could sing so exquisitely in Spanish.
“I thought speaking Spanish made me look stupid,” he said.
I told Ricardo about the alpha and theta brainwaves, and how these create the perfect learning states. “I am going to use a technique often used for stuttering,” I explained. “Seventy-five percent of the time a stutterer will speak perfectly while in this deeply relaxed state.”
Ricardo agreed and what happened next was astounding. During that deep state of relaxation, he recalled in detail the experience that had caused his block.
As a child, Ricardo sang in the church choir. When he sang, people showed him respect and praised his melodious voice. He now remembered walking home from choir practice the day after one particularly rough fight and making a personal vow: He would master English, but only sing, and not speak, Spanish. This, he was certain, would solve all his problems.
As Ricardo grew older, his singing career blossomed. While his American friends had gone separate ways, he was being thrust into the public eye of the Spanish-speaking world. He was now scheduled for a long Mexican tour and had been invited to be a guest on numerous radio stations. His problem had come full circle. He now feared sounding ignorant to his Spanish-speaking peers.
It was no coincidence that Ricardo felt this way. After all, the law of mind is the law of belief! His childhood struggles had convinced him that speaking Spanish meant pain.
I used a combination of brainwave training technology (similar to the BrainTap headset of today) and guided visualization. We recorded the session and played it back at my next visit. For the first time since he was a boy, Ricardo heard himself speaking fluent Spanish.
What Ricardo had been experiencing is no different from a student with a learning block, which is caused by past negative experiences blocking the brain’s natural ability to take in new information.
I had several sessions with Ricardo after his first success. Within a few weeks, he was speaking Spanish at will. I was happy to hear that his tour was a success and his radio interviews were flawless. He later commented that before starting the radio shows he would mentally repeat “Calma y relajado” (Calm and relaxed), and would feel himself enter his now-familiar relaxed state. He was able to speak freely and have fun with the interviewers.
We all have the potential to learn anything—not matter our IQ—from the ABC’s to a foreign language; from two-plus-two to a new computer system. All it takes is learning how to get your brain into the optimum learning states of alpha and theta. Want to try it for yourself for free? Let’s do it!