Most Mind Maps are Brain Maps

When I was introduced to Mind Mapping about ten years ago, I discovered a tool that increased my creativity and productivity by leaps and bounds.

Like many people, I just started using what I thought was mind mapping software without even looking at the manual. A course I attended with Andrew Wilcox on Mind Jet’s Mind Manager opened my eyes incredibly.

Mind Mapping had so many applications. Not only could it be used to sort your To Do lists but there are a plethora of business applications like taking meeting minutes, project planning, Six Sigma and even writing a whole book or building a web site.

While this course opened my eyes it was only when I trained with Tony Buzan and became an iMindmap Licensed Instructor that my mind was opened. I learned about the power of freely associative Mind Mapping and how to really use them in the creative process. I discovered how they get the left and right brain working on the same task in harmony – I learned the power of Whole Brain Thinking.

I also learned the power of a good map using just pencil and paper and how to use them to great effect in my creative writing courses and one to one mentoring with authors.

I started then to research the psychology of Mind Mapping and how they trigger our neurology and get stored in it. Along the way though working with my clients removing creative blocks, I discovered something remarkable.

As amazing as Mind Maps are, nearly all the software tools and training programmes out there seem to promote the mapping of the brain only. That is, they help map the conscious mind processes in the outer cortex of our two brain hemispheres.

They take no account of the other active mind centres in our body like the gut and heart minds, now recognised by some more open minded neuroscientists as active centres of consciousness. No account either was made for the collective mind ’outside’ our bodies.

“Most so-called Mind Maps are merely ‘Brain Maps’!! They miss huge amounts of data from the whole gamut of our sensory inputs.”

Living Timefully

Start Living Timefully to find more resources and templates for Whole Mind Mapping and loads of other mind transforming tools

Maps in the Mind

When I trained as an iMindmap Instructor a few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of limiting each branch of the map to a single word. At first, I didn’t go along with this idea as I thought the application of any ‘rule’ might limit the creative flow. Once I learned, however, to see it as a discipline as opposed to a draconian rule, the benefits and reasoning behind it became crystal clear.

A year or so ago, I was stuck on chapter 9 of of my book on Light Bulb Moments. It wasn’t flowing so I used Tony Buzan’s technique of free association Mind Mapping on the words “light”, “bulb” and “moment”. Now had I mapped using the phrase “light bulb moment”, my mind might have been lead to “Edison” and then “phonograph” or “Topsy the Elephant” (Google it) or to “Eureka”, “Archimedes” and “bath water”.

Instead, as you can see on the map below, “Bulb” took me to “tulip” and to “Amsterdam”. The word “Moment” in isolation made me realise we have a moment in time and the moment of a lever around a fulcrum. As a result, I started a series of podcasts called “Moments of Light” in which people talk about how they had a light bulb moment and did something with it.

The word “light” as you might imagine provided a deep and wide source of metaphor and association. Light of course can be split into a spectrum of component colours. It made me realise that quantum physicists ascribe many attributes like spin, colour and flavour to exotic particles like quarks. Then a light bulb moment came in.

Is it possible that thought itself has properties like colour or flavours?

At that point, the writer’s block vapourised and the result was a chapter called “Flavours of Thought” which I didn’t plan to write. This led to writing a whole book of the same name a month later that I didn’t plan to write either.

As chefs use a mix of flavours in their concoctions, I also combined the flavours of thought into various recipes too. As a result, about a year later a membership site appeared on the scene called “Recipes for Fresh Thinking” that I didn’t plan to build. I started training “Master Chefs of the Mind” to solve many common mind-based issues prevalent in every day life.

I then came across some esoteric material on something called the Cube of Space. I found I could map my Flavours on to the Cube. As a result, I found I had from nowhere created an amazing tool for personal evolution and advancement. This in turn lead to a new practitioner programme called the Cube of Karma that I had no plan in developing. I see it now as a gastronomic recipe of all the flavours of thought.

None of this was planned, none of it was foreseen. This all shows the power of a true Mind Map.

Related Links:

The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments

Flavours of Thought

Mapping your Mind

Mind Maps are useful and elegantly simple devices.

In essence, Mind Maps are simple drawings or sketches of associations you hold between things in your mind. They normally start with a central topic, either in words or even better if expressed as an image. You then draw branches off from that image of the concepts that spawn from the central image.

So if you Mind Mapped something relatively trivial like a shopping list you might have a central image of a shopping trolley and branches such as fruit & veg, household, frozen food, beer & wine, dairy and desserts. You can see what my typical shopping list is like. To make it even more memorable, you can use images of products on each branch.

What makes such a trivial Mind Map so powerful is that with a little training, you can forget to take the shopping list along, yet easily memorise all of its contents. I always Mind Map any talk I give on a single sheet of paper and am then able to reproduce all the points I want to get across without any notes or slides.

How do Mind Maps work

You can just imagine the internal dialog between the hemispheres when you are Mind Mapping.

The left brain says to the right brain, “Aha, a map! I do the map reading around here, leave this to me.”

The right brain, seeing that the left brain is busying itself in the detail says, “Great, now I can be truly creative.”

The same type of ‘dialog’ occurs when we are painting or writing or when we’re typing on a computer or using a mouse or tablet.
So most of our days are spent flipping from one hemisphere to another. It used to be thought that the structure called the corpus callosum mainly passed information between both sides of the brain. Current wisdom is that it actually suppresses one side while the other carries out a task. The map gets both sides of the brain in on the action.

Their real power is unleashed when you map associatively, i.e. using one word per branch, as this takes you off in unexpected directions and mimics our neurons’ interconnective structure.

“It is my firm belief that every brain is, by nature, a Mind Mapper! The fact that a baby learns a language is evidence confirming that it must learn by multi-sensual images and their radiating associations. I also believe that everyone contains the full set of multiple intelligences.” – Tony Buzan

Although there are many good software-based Mind Mapping tools on the market, some of the best Mind Maps are done with just coloured pens, pencils and paper. The reason for this is that some people can end up in a left brained mode simply by engaging with a computer keyboard, screen and mouse. When we have a pen or pencil in our hands not only do we use different neural pathways in our brains but the map manifests into physical, as opposed to virtual, reality. This leads to a better chance of your map leading to real world results. If however you do want use computer software, make sure you print your maps out and stick them on a notice board or wall.

“Be aware that many so-called Mind Maps are really just brain maps. Only when you engage in Whole Mind Not-thinking do you truly engage with the mind as opposed to just the brain.” – Me

When it comes to whole brain thinking, the impact of Mind Maps is explosive in the context of the creativity they seem to unleash. They are also really useful for aiding memory and brilliant for anyone studying and revising. If you do have children, my advice is to get them Mind Mapping as soon as possible.

Embedding Mind Maps in your Neurology

If you have a Mind Map you’ve already completed, you can use this visualisation to help you both remember it and to better notice serendipities linked to its contents

iPad or iPhone? Listen here…

If you would you like to learn more about these techniques, make sure you get a copy of Tom’s new book to find out where ideas really come from and how you can make sure yours actually happen …

The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments

Related blogs:

Getting in the Zone

Whole Brain Thinking

The Inspirational Breath

Cross Crawling

Food for Thought

Which side are you on?