The purpose of the insulating sheath (myelin) is to allow electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve fibers.
The more layers of sheath you have, the faster you learn. You build up layers through struggle and repetition - ie Deep Practice.
★ Struggle presents “opportunity to grow” (layers). Our deep practice is “in a place of struggle”.
★ repetition is essential to building myelin.
★ The Quality of full engagement is imperative for myelin growth. "10 minutes of attentive practice is worth more than 100 scales" Trevor Wye).
To “mylinate” is to shift perspective. Our “muscle memory” is myelin.
When mylinating, one is more intense, there are more notes on the music (i.e. you "see" more at once - the zoom lens of your focus moves in and out, seeing details and big picture at the same time) and time flies. Similar to "flow".
You transition from "Unconscious Incompetence" (you are unaware of the skill and lack proficiency) to "Conscious Incompetence" (you are aware of the skill but lack proficiency) to "Conscious Competence" (you are able to use the skill but only with effort) and "Unconscious Competence" (performing the skill becomes automatic).
It is empowering to know that it is through the frustration, struggle and repetition during deep practice that we build the myelin, which provides the miracle of “effortlessness” in a technique that was previously unavailable to us.
Automaticity: The more we develop a skill circuit, the less we’re aware that we’re using it. A Skill once gained feels totally natural.
That it is through failure, error detection, stumbling, reaching, trying and a willingness or even enthusiasm about being bad at something that allows the myelin layers to grow and for a new skill to be learned and then forgotten!
Deep Practice - locate the sweet spot on the edge of capability and learn to dance there.
1. break down a piece in small chunks - not playing it through, rather, put on your “Ultimate Observer” hat and “fix” every error of which you are aware. The most effective and time saving tool available is the video recorder. Another is to slow it down. The resulting detailed conceptual understanding allows you to “customize” your circuits to new situations - builds the chunks “into a private language of skill...(p.86)
2. repeat it - you’re honing the circuit.
3. Learn to “feel it”.This is a tough one - how I’ve made it true for me is that I’m going to feel it in my body, not my emotional brain. This allows me to “observe” and not get snagged into any “judgement” or “labeling” feelings (emotional brain).
Deep Practice takes an extraordinary amount of energy. According to Daniel Coyle, this effort may be fuelled or "ignited" by many things; Primal - a deadline, loss, safety. Passion, connection, words praising effort (not results) - “You must have worked really hard” and finally “Pure Art & Science” (p.143) - the awareness of “lightening in a bottle”. This is one of my favourite TedTalks on the subject, by author Elizabeth Gilbert (very entertaining too). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HBJa279i8M
The last component of this new awareness is to believe in your myelin miracle - not to sabotage it or undermine the efforts required to stay in the place of struggle and also to accept that you've learned the skill and needn't struggle with that one any longer. Chocolate may be very helpful in these times!
Finally, this process is the same for everyone - musicians, artists, athletes, writers, scientists, IT, engineers etc etc. It requires that we show up, do the work and have courage.