Published on July 20, 2007
Before the session begins, we are each given a bottle of water. Soft music fills the air and the atmosphere is relaxing.
"Sit with your back straight. Close your eyes. Breathe, you are alive," we are instructed.
"Rest your left palm on your stomach and your right palm on your chest. While breathing in, imagine a string is pulling your chest upward. If you don't feel both your palms moving, you are not breathing deeply enough."
The deep breathing aside, this session has nothing to do with meditation. It's an exclusive workshop on intelligence development being led by Vanessa Race, managing director of Genius Creator and author of the recently launched opus "Atchariya Saang Dai" ("Genius Can Be Created"), her first book.
"Water and oxygen are essential for your brain's development. The body and brain are inseparable. So, never forget your body when you want to develop intelligence," she says.
The brain weighs a minute 2 per cent of your overall body weight but consumes one quarter of the oxygen we breathe, she adds.
Next, Race asks us to begin with the end in mind. Imagine the day of your death, and think of what you have accomplished in life. Then picture yourself in the next 10, then 20, years. By the time you reach the age of 80, think about what you'll be doing, and how you will be leading your life. Then do the same in reverse, moving back in 10-year increments until you reach your present age.
The workshop is aimed at helping us understand ourselves and our feelings, or develop "Intrapersonal Intelligence", part of the "Multiple Intelligences" theory of Dr Howard Gardner, a professor of education, and Race's adviser at Harvard University.
Gardner's work on multiple intelligences is said to have had a profound impact on thinking and practice in education - especially in the US. Developed in 1983, his theory suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on IQ testing, is far too limited. Instead, Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults.
These are Linguistic Intelligence (the ability to learn languages); Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (mind-body coordination, or the ability to use the body to solve problems); Spatial Intelligence (the ability thing in terms of three-dimensional patterns); Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (the ability to think logically and scientifically); Intrapersonal Intelligence (the ability to understand oneself and appreciate one's feelings); Interpersonal Intelligence (the ability to understand the intentions and desires of others); Naturalist Intelligence (the ability to recognise and categorise certain features of the environment); and Musical Intelligence (the ability to perform, compose and appreciate musical patterns).
"We are all multi-gifted," says the 30-year-old Race, a Thai-American who earned her masters in neuroscience at Harvard. Race, who speaks Thai and English equally fluently, says her own strongest suit is linguistics.
Indeed, her current career path would appear to bear that out. Apart from working as a researcher and author, she conducts corporate coaching, counsels, writes columns for three publications, owns a school and develops curricula, hosts two radio programmes and teaches archery.
She's also been part of a marine rescue, worked as a volunteer translator during Thailand's tsunami tragedy and most recently won Bt1 million on TV game show "Atchariya Kham Kuen" ("Overnight Genius").
"We don't need to follow just one career. It's possible to excel in several fields and have the energy to do them at the same time. I think it would be boring to be stuck in the same job."
The first tools you need for creating genius are simple, she explains.
Get a piece of paper and a pen and draw three large circles, each with an overlapping area. Write all the things you are skilled at in the first circle, what you love to do in the second, and what the world wants from you in the third.
"What you write in the centre - the overlap of the three circles - can be your career and the answer to a fulfilled life," she says.
The three circles can be regularly updated because our lives are dynamic, she adds, before introducing a second session on "Interpersonal Intelligence".
We are shown pictures of unknown persons and asked to think of subjects they might be interested in, and of what we would like to say to them.
One of the most important characteristics of lucky people is that they create the chances to meet new and different people, she explains.
Research conducted on the lucky and unlucky found that the luckiest people have friends in various professional fields and usually keep in contact with their acquaintances.
"Logically speaking, friends in different fields can give us unexpected solutions to our problems, which may help turn bad fortune around. So why not give your long lost friends a call tonight and get an update on their lives," she suggests.
"Genius can be created at any age," Race stresses, adding that genius has nothing to do with size of the brain or age, but with the amount of nerve fibres, which can be created every day.
"The word 'genius' seems to scare most of us. Most of the best research on the brain is only read by academics. I intend to translate this useful information into an easy-to-digest style so it is disseminated to as many people as possible," she says.
Race has accomplished part of her goal in "Atchariya Saang Dai", which smoothly combines theories with her own experiences and suggestions for practice in everyday life.
Those who purchase a copy will also have a chance to boost some aspects of multiple-intelligence by joining a free workshop.
Race has been back in Thailand for six months and is currently working on her doctorate thesis in neuroscience, which she plans to complete in 18 months. In parallel, she intends writing another five books to develop the minds of young professionals and school children.
As an expert on the brain and education, she's cautiously optimistic about Thailand's education system.
"It's gradually developing along the right tracks," says Race, who prefers taking small steps and working with attainable goals rather than thinking big.
"Know your own limits. I never think my accomplishments will have an impact at the macro level. I'm simply doing my best in the moment."