What is your thinking action?

I am a part of the Doodle Revolution, and proud of it. The manifesto for this revolution is simple:

We, the Doodlers of every nation, in order to form a more perfect world, establish semantic truth, promote whole-mind learning, provide for the struggling knowledge worker and student, enhance educational well-being, and secure the benefits of the Doodle for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Manifesto for Doodlers everywhere.

Emphasis mine. The idea of whole-mind learning is a fascinating topic for me. I went to an “alternative” elementary school; alternative meaning we didn’t have desks, but a couple of tables. We had story time every day where we sat on a rug and listened to My Father’s Dragon and The BFG. Recess was mandatory, and I spent most of my time sprinting around, gloating about how I was faster than all the boys. I was, actually. I think in the third grade I was the fastest female sprinter in school, and I beat the fastest male by a second or so. Last time that ever happened, let me tell you.

I digress. The point is, when I went to junior high, the idea of working at a desk was foreign. The idea of sitting around gossiping rather than using pent up energy during our “lunch break” drove me nuts. High school was even worse. I had managed to convince myself by then that I wasn’t athletic because I didn’t like gyms or team sports. I spent all my energy studying and creating art. And so it went in undergrad, as well. I felt stifled, because I was stifling myself.Doodles on Flickr

I began doodling my notes during my design practicum course in graduate school because I was exhausted from teaching, being a student, and fighting a sinus infection. I was desperate to stay awake; I sat in the front row and was terrified to lose the respect of my professor had I succumbed during his lecture.

My first doodles had nothing to do with the lecture. They were simply a way for me to have something to focus on while listening; passive listening was going to put me to sleep. I felt guilty about it. I had been chastised by a teacher in high school that I wasn’t paying attention because I had doodles all over my notes.

Even though I had felt half-asleep, I remembered the majority of the lecture. I was participating in whole-mind thinking, using my ears to hear the lecture, using my eyes  to see his examples, and using my creative abilities to engage my mind through creative synthesis. Over the years, I’ve made my doodles purposeful so that I never take notes the old-fashioned way.

Jared Spool's "The Secret Lives of Links" on Flickr

And then last night while chatting with my grand-student (i.e. a student of one of my students), Austin, he mentioned that he knits during class. He explained that everyone in his cohort and our professors understood that he could concentrate on the lecture and knit at the same time. Though it was an online chat, I found myself nodding.

“Well sure,” I typed, “that’s your thinking action.” As if I use the phrase thinking action all the time and hadn’t just coined it on the spot. Didn’t matter. As soon as I typed it, I knew it to be true. Sunni Brown has made it very clear that “doodling ignites three learning modalities—auditory, kinesthetic, and visual—and dramatically enhances the experience of learning.” Doodling is my thinking action. Knitting, apparently, is Austin’s.

Austin hard at work

I’ve started watching people, their habits and behaviors, and have come to the conclusion that many people have a thinking action. Maybe they tap their pen against the table. Maybe they go for a walk or run. Maybe they play an instrument. More often than not, it’s an action that requires little else but their mind, body, and a singular tool.

Thinking is also a verb; it is an action one does. I feel as though people expect you to stand still while thinking just because it is intangible. Or that if you do something with your hands while thinking that you’ve moved on to another topic, or worse yet, ignoring them entirely. False. Next time you see someone doodling while you’re talking to them, or if they pick up a set of knitting needles, or hell, if they dance a little jig, don’t assume they’re not listening.

In fact, they’re probably listening better than someone who stares at you blankly, or smiles and nods.

I’m curious to know, what is your thinking action, if you have one? And if you don’t, why do you think that is?