Jacopo Fo English Blog

Come to Alcatraz Independent University


1st key


(in one minute)

We have an exceptional resource that we know nothing about: our irrational brain. It has to do with a mental circuit that works at great speed and controls particular muscle bands: the "deep musculature".
Here is the first experiment: it will immediately make you understand how these muscles work.
Place the back of one hand against a piece of furniture or against a wall. Begin pushing hard with your arm, as if you wanted to move the obstacle. Continue pushing for a minute. Then move away from the obstacle and relax your arm. Incredible but true, the arm rises by itself as if by magic.
It is strange to see the arm move by itself without the brain consciously ordering it to do so. As this happens, you feel a strange sensation of fresh lightness (listen to it, later, we will see why)


While you pushed your hand against the obstacle, the voluntary superficial muscles (controlled by the rational brain), got tired quickly. This fatigue was signaled to the unconscious brain, which activated the muscles that it is in charge of (the deep musculature). One of the functions of these deep muscles is to provide support to the voluntary muscles when they get tired. When you stopped pushing and relaxed your arm, the order given by the rational brain didn't reach the unconscious brain, and so it wasn't retransmitted to the deep musculature, which therefore, didn't receive the order to stop pushing. Thus, while you believe you are no longer pushing, the arm rises by itself.
We are not able to consciously feel the strain of the deep muscles precisely because the signal that they send while working stops at the unconscious brain. Therefore, the rational mind doesn't feel the work of the "irrational" musculature.
We use this musculature commonly; for example, while riding a bicycle, when we no longer feel the strain, even though we keep making the same movement. We also use it in moments of fear, when adrenaline completely frees this kind of muscular power.

At times instead this process gets jammed: when a car is coming towards us, it can happen that we are unable to deactivate the rational brain and to activate the irrational one. Thus we find ourselves to be perfectly aware that the car is coming towards us, but we are unable to move. And in the meantime, we diligently note to ourselves:
"Yes, the car is coming toward me. I can't move, the car is getting closer, it will squash me, it'll hurt like hell! I'll end up in the hospital. Oh, shit!'
This is what you call panic.


Wouldn't it be better to learn to use these unconscious muscles? This is very easy, because it is natural to know how to use them. First of all, breathe deeply. Then repeat four or five times the experiment of the arm that rises by itself. Breathe deeply, and savouring this strange lightness, you will also feel a light freshness for a fraction of a second. This sensation is very light, but tangible. Listen to it, identify it, "photograph it" (so to speak).
Now you must try doing something goofy. Imagine feeling this fresh sensation in your arms while you lift a weight. Think only about this and about lifting the weight, without contracting your arms (it's an obvious contradiction in terms).
You feel like an idiot doing it, but if you try it, you will succeed. You have to pretend to feel that light sensation as you remember it. You will feel very little fatigue. You won't feel the strain.
By repeating this exercise two or three times a day for a week, you will restore the possibility of consciously controlling the deep musculature. You can activate it in an instant at your will. You need only to order the muscles to relax and to become fresh while you are carrying out a strenuous task. It is as if you are communicating with your unconscious brain "on the rebound", reproducing in your rational mind the sensation that accompanies the result that you want to obtain.
The deep musculature causes freshness. Thinking about freshness, I cause the deep musculature to be activated.

Surprising, isn't it? But there's a lot more!


This is a technique that will allow you to win a pile of money betting with the usual cousin or uncle who thinks he can do anything (there's one in every family). You do it with a dollar bill, but you can also use a $10, $50 or $100 bill, depending on your possibilities.
One person holds the dollar bill and the other stands with his thumb and index finger a centimeter away from the banknote. When the one holding the bill lets go, the other has to catch it by closing his fingers and without lowering his hand.
It seems simple but it is very difficult. Try it and see for yourself. The problem is that too much attention is required when the other person lets the banknote fall. This way, you make the rational brain work, which records everything and therefore is very slow. If you want, you can make your reflexes five times faster. Once again, it is just a matter of activating the unconscious mind and the deep musculature (which is lightning swift when it wants to be). How is this done? We will use a trick here too.
As usual, you have to think something absurd... that is, you need to think that you have already caught the banknote. You must not think of anything else. Don't order your fingers to grasp the money. Pretend you already caught it. Imagine your fingers already grasping the bill, the touch of your fingertips against the paper. You will see that after a while, you will succeed in acquiring surprising speed. You will end up being able to catch the bill before it falls more than 2cm.

To succeed you must not think.


It seems strange that the fingers close automatically. But it's really not so strange. Let's go back to the previous example. If a car is about to hit you, you don't start thinking that you must first move the right or the left leg. Otherwise the car will mash you.
The fear that seizes you when the vehicle is about to run you over, alters the normal way of how your brain works. You no longer think of what you have to do, but where to move in order to save your skin. In other words, your attention shifts to the objective that you want to reach. How to reach it is a task that is transferred naturally from the rational to the instinctive brain.
If it has ever happened that you have saved yourself from danger through swift action, you will have noticed afterwards that you remember only the moment preceding and following the action. You didn't register the action itself. This is because your rational brain was deactivated while you were acting, and therefore it could not register what happened.


Generally, we use our rational brain to command our actions. You look at the dollar bill. The dollar bill begins to fall. Your brain registers what is happening. It orders your fingers to close. Your fingers close.
This entire procedure is too slow. In fact, the dollar bill falls. That is why you need to act using your instinctive reflexes. We're too used to thinking that we command all our movements and that nothing can happen outside our rational control. But, as we have seen, this isn't the case.
Repeat this exercise until you succeed in catching the bill in the air. If you don't succeed in thinking that you have already caught it, just try to relax and keep on trying. Sooner or later, you'll succeed.
When you have finally succeeded, continue doing this exercise. Try to "photograph" the sensation that you have in your brain as you catch the dollar bill, and try to reproduce it.
Use this method when you are thrown a pair of keys or you drop a glass. After the first successful attempts, you will see that it becomes very easy. Practice for a few days, and when you get a chance, use the same method (thinking that you have already succeeded). Or use it while you play darts, tennis or volleyball.
Even in this case, over time, you will witness a change. Gradually, this technique will come natural to you for catching an object in the air or for aiming at something.
Japanese archers have used it for centuries.
They aim by imagining that the arrow has already hit the target,
or by imagining the arrow stuck in the center, or by thinking of being at one with the arrow and the straw target.It is simply a trick by which the unconscious mind activates itself. It is in the mind that takes aim. This ability has nothing to do with "powers of the mind" that propel the arrow... In fact, the unconscious mind is able to aim only after it has learned everything about the trajectory of the arrow, and this happens only after hundreds of hours of launching arrows with a bow.
It's not a miracle: it's only a basic technique to fully develop our potentialities. But it works so well that by now even Western archers who practice the quick shot use it. By following this method, you will notice that you are able to grab an object that falls out of your hands without even having decided to catch it.
This happens when the process of reactivating the unconscious circuits of the deep musculature and of the instinctive reflexes has been completed. For this to happen, I repeat, you don't need months of boring daily practice. You need only to repeat the exercise for a few days in order to "fix" the experience and then to remember to use these circuits when you want to.

The self-training process is automatic. In fact, it's not about learning something new or creating new abilities; rather, it's about reactivating, a natural operative system that we have forgotten to use.
It is the same with newborns. If you throw them in water right away just after birth, they will swim. But if they aren't given the chance to do it, afterwards they will no longer be able to swim. Only after learning how to stay afloat does it again become instinctive to move the right way (obviously, learning how to swim "with style" involves the learning of a particular technique, but that's another kettle of fish).
The topic of the rediscovery of natural processes is very important, and it is central to explaining better why quick change is possible, precisely by following this policy of small steps that I am suggesting.
If it was possible for you to lift a suitcase without effort and to catch the dollar bill in the air, you have just achieved a profound change in your way of being. The satisfaction from the results achieved has pleased you and you will want to use these methods again for obtaining other positive results, which will gratify and motivate you to experiment further. And this will happen without effort, without having to discipline yourself.
The satisfaction of changing without effort will cheer you and you will start to appreciate this unconscious brain of yours - poor thing! - so that when you explain to him properly what you want, using a language that he understands, he will faithfully obey you, offering you astonishing performances.
This way, the rediscovery of a small element of your personality becomes a small change, a module, a fractal that reproduces itself. In the end, your conception of yourself will be modified. When faced with a problem, the first thing you do will be to choose which mental circuit to use.
Just like when you sit down in front of the computer, you first decide which program to use depending on the work that you have to do (obviously the rational brain has its advantages, too. If I had to fill out my income tax form and tried to use my unconscious mind, the result would be pretty scary).
To ask ourself which circuit to use will inevitably lead us to rediscover and to finally identify a world that is part of us but which we never look at. Have you ever reflected on how many things we do using our instinctive circuit at least in part?


If you think of what movements to make while you are dancing, your movements will lack grace.
You have to switch off the rational mind and let the unconscious take over if you want to move smoothly. Has it ever happened that you were able to write something "at one go"? Have you noticed that it seems that you are writing under dictation and the words only come out the instant before your pen writes them? Where do they come from? From the unconscious mind.
It's like when you have a word at the tip of your tongue, but you're unable to say it. You continue to search for it with your rational brain as hard as you can. But you don't get anywhere. Finding the right words is not a rational activity. It is the unconscious that goes searching for them in the archives of your memory. You are not able to remember because you are too rationally involved. In order to find the lost word, you have to distract yourself. If you do, the unconscious processor starts to work again properly, and shortly afterwards the missing word comes back to mind magically.

The same can be said for the intuitions that don't come if you try too hard, but instead come on their own while you brush your teeth or take a walk.
Constructing a drawer in our mind and putting inside it all these activities that we perform in state of flux will further change your point of view. To identify these moments means to make use of them, to acknowledge them, to be conscious of them. To bring them out from that shadow zone of events that have no value or that we never think about. It means to exploit forgotten resources. Then, when you're not able to write something or you're not able to let yourself go with the music, you remember that you cannot because you are using your rational mind instead of letting yourself go with the "flow". In other words, that relaxed state in which everything flows without effort, when the rational and the irrational work in synergy. And you know that you can reach this state by entering into a state of slow consciousness.


You can induce a state of flux with the same silly method used before: to imagine, to prefigure, and to project the sensation of what you want to obtain. Once that sensation is photographed, you can relive it as much as you like, pretending to feel it.
You communicate "visually" what you want to the irrational brain, making it "feel" your wishes. And it obeys you.
Breathe, relax and let yourself go. Shortly afterwards, you will find the words that elude you. If you still can't, forget about it, sleep, or do something else. You've given your order. Your obliging unconscious mind has received the right command. Have faith and you will see that "inspiration will return to you". And when it comes, you can let yourself go with that flow.
All the great artists, for as long as art has exited, have told us a thousand times over that art blossoms like this. It seems to happen by itself. You need to have patience and wait for it to come and then you can let it possess you. Michelangelo would say that the statues were already inside the block of marble. All he did was to let them come out. But how does this happen?

The idea is that beneath the surface of things flows the energy that sustains the world: an energy that, if we listen, we can see. It will guide us if we let ourselves be carried away by its harmony. If we trust this harmony, we will allow it to guide our existence in the best way. By what else can we let ourselves be guided by if not by the natural rhythm of the elements?
Start communicating with the life force; listen to your unconscious. You will begin a whole different journey.
Yes, this is magic. The magic of life.

You need only to realize that an arm can rise by itself, and in a few minutes you find yourself thinking about the vital spark that you can perceive by leaving the unconscious part of yourself open. This way, you can touch with your own fingers the miracle of the essence of the world.


Index of contents