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The Land of In-Between

August '09

Last week, I ended a coaching session with a request that a client (let’s call her Jane) imagine two scenarios in the upcoming week: the first – a future where she kept a particular item and the second – a future where she let it go. In our conversation, Jane had reiterated good reasons for saying good-bye to this large item, but she also had voiced some exciting possibilities for using it in the years ahead.

Whenever I make a request at the end of a session, clients have the option of saying “yes”, or “no”, or making a counter offer. In this case, Jane responded with an immediate “yes” plus a magnificent expansion, “I will imagine each scenario just before I fall asleep.”

What a wonderfully wise idea! She had intuitively grasped what recent research has revealed: this in-between time before falling asleep is where creativity lives. Psychologists even claim to be able to enhance the creative performance of musicians and dancers by boosting the low-frequency theta waves that predominate as we turn inward and fall asleep.

Haven’t you noticed that ideas often come to you when you find yourself in this kind of relaxed condition? For example, when you are driving along a highway and suddenly realize that you don’t remember the previous few minutes, but you’ve discovered a new thought about something. Both Edison and Salvador Dali consciously traveled to this realm of in-between to unleash their own creativity.

Edison solved problems by falling asleep in a chair with ball bearings clutched in his hands over metal pie plates on the floor. As his hands relaxed, the noise of the ball bearings hitting the plates would awaken him, so he could jot down solutions that had come to him in this drowsy state.

Story has it that Dali also trained himself to doze off in a chair. He rested his chin on a spoon held in one hand, propped up by his elbow resting on a table so when he fell asleep, the clatter of the spoon would arouse him – whereupon he began to paint the fanciful images that had emerged in this hypnagogic state.

If you have a problem to solve, or are seeking new images, why not follow the approach of Edison, Dali and my client? (I don’t think you need to use the ball-bearings.) I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the results of Jane’s experiment and would love to hear about any of your efforts too!

Happy end of summer,



  1. Julie said on August 31, 2009:

    Always filled with so much insight, information and great take aways. Thank you.

  2. Wendy said on August 31, 2009:

    What a brilliant article Bonnie! I don’t think any of us use that time in between enough. I had that experience the other night. I was fretting over the design of a six month teleclass. I said I will wake up and have it all figured out. I jumped out of bed at 5:00am because it was clearly in front of me—the whole strategy for the design.Thanks for the reminder—-when I wake up with a hot flash I’ll solve a problem!

  3. Bonnie said on August 31, 2009:


    Love that 6-month teleclass-design strategy in one night!


  4. Steph said on August 31, 2009:

    Wonderful, Bonnie! Thank you for this idea-sparking sharing.
    My relaxed idea time is in the shower… there is something hypnotic about the warmth and the water.

    Love and joy,

  5. Inger Raahauge Nielsen said on September 1, 2009:

    Swimming is my preferred exercise and and when I am able to do my laps without much interference I figure out all kinds of things. While I was in school I wrote my papers in my head while swimming and was able to remember much of it when I had time to write it down. I get new ideas, I figure out how to approach a problem. It is the same concept I am relaxed while swimming and I do have a note book in my swim bag to jot things down in.

  6. Bonnie said on September 1, 2009:


    Love the swimming laps approach to paper-writing!


  7. Bonnie said on September 1, 2009:


    Hypnagogic, hypnotic showers – what a blast!


  8. Bonnie said on September 1, 2009:

    You are most welcome, Julie!


  9. Marna said on September 1, 2009:

    Robert Penn Warren wrote poems in his head while swimming laps.

    I remembered where I put my car keys the moment I woke up one morning (in the pocket of my raincoat).

    As usual, great reminders and ways to use that fertile time before/after sleep.

  10. Bonnie said on September 1, 2009:

    Thanks for the Robert Penn Warren info, Marna!


  11. Mary Gottmann said on September 18, 2009:


    What a great idea–the theta state for ideas. I am getting interested in dreams, and this goes right along with this exploration. Thank you, Mary

  12. Bonnie said on September 18, 2009:

    Mary, I love your phrase, “the theta state for ideas.”


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