Tracy Lee Karner

How to Grow Brain Cells

Tracy Lee Karner
Mid-life and still growing…

I’m exhilerated. I’m amazed. I’m middle-aged and I’m still building new brain pathways!

When I started playing this mind game, which helps me fall asleep, I thought I must have been taught it by someone.

But no one I’ve asked has ever heard of it. I googled it, and couldn’t find it.

So, maybe I actually did invent this. Have you ever heard of it? 

It’s a visualization that helps me drift off to sleep when my mind is running fast on too many great ideas. Counting sheep was just too easy–I could do that all night long without slowing down. This method of counting backward and forward, with visualization, tires my brain. 

Picture a 100-minute clock. 100 at the Twelve, 25 at the Three; 50 at the Six; 75 at the Nine. See the dial and the numbers in your head.

Tracy Lee Karner
100-minute dial; The Karner Clock Game.

If closing your eyes and imagining this clock in detail makes you tired, that’s good. Falling asleep is the goal.

After you get beyond visualizing the 100-minute clock without dozing off, put one hand on the dial of your clock. Imagine that it can swing freely and loosely, like a pendulum.

Then, wind it straight up to 100 (high noon).

Tracy Lee Karner
The Karner Clock Game–100.

This game only works if you lie down in a place where you could fall asleep. Close your eyes and visualize it.

From 100, let your imagined pendulum drop clockwise, swinging all the way around until the pendulum stops at 99.

Tracy Lee Karner
The Karner Clock Game; 99.

Then let the pendulum drop counter-clockwise, and back around up to 1.

Tracy Lee Karner
The Karner Clock Game; 1.

Notice that 99 + 1 = 100.

Next let the pendulum swing clockwise to 98 and back counter-clockwise to 2 (make 100), then to 97-3 (100). Get it?

When I first started playing this game, I rarely made it past 90/10 before zzzzz.

But repetition creates memory pathways in your brain. Then, because you become familiar with these pathways, your memory follows them like cows traipsing home to be milked at sundown, and the game no longer makes you as sleepy as it used to because it’s too easy for your brain.

Fortunately (for your brain cells), but unfortunately (for falling asleep) you’ll get better at it. That’s the paradox.

Soon you’ll discover the cool thrill of braininess that happens when you get to 50/50 and the pendulum just hangs there at the bottom, all wound down. Then it starts swinging, little by little, by some power of your internal regeneration, making you wonder, where does regeneration come from?

This gets more difficult. Don’t give up. See the pendulum swinging counter-clockwise first to 49, then swinging clockwise to 51.

Tracy Lee Karner
Visualize 49; The Karner Clock Game

Tracy Lee Karner
Visualize 51; The Karner Clock Game.

Now visualize 48, visualize 52, visualize world peace, visualize whirled peas… zzzz!

The point of any game is (or ought to be) that it sharpens skills. The Karner Clock Game is good for body and mind because sleep is good for the body, while arithmetic and language-learning are good for the mind.

So what happens when you discover that you’re not getting sleepy even after your pendulum swings through the count backward from 100 and up from 1, until you reach 2/98; 1/99; 100!

Now, how do you fall asleep?

Try another language. It doesn’t take genius IQ to do this. I know English-speaking preschoolers who can count to 100 in Spanish. Just learn the words.

After I mastered it in English, I played the Clock Game in German (any language at all, will work).

neunundneunzig / eins … It soon made me go zzzz…. zzzz…

But eventually, especially if you are in the least bit proficient in this other language, your neural pathways will develop connections and there you’ll be, wide awake at

zwei / achtundneunzig; eins / neuenundneunzig; hundert. Now what?

Play the game in two languages simultaneously. Count down in one language; count up in the other… neunundneunzig / one; achtundneunzig / two…

One day, you might discover yourself zipping through the first fifty swings without thinking about it. The pendulum drops all the way down and comes all the way back up to

ninety-nine / eins; 100!

And now?

Add your second foreign language. Count down in your first foreign language while counting up in your second foreign language.

All it really requires, at first, is learning to count to ten (I chose French), neunundneunzig / un; achtundneunzig / deux…

…because If you’re like me, by the time you get to neunzig / dix, your old noggin’ will be just plum tuckered out…


But pretty soon I was counting to twenty in French, then thirty.

Yesterday, when I laid my weary middle-aged bones down to take a power nap, I played the clock game. At first I didn’t really notice how easily my brain was pulling up the numbers in two foreign languages, one of which, ten years ago, I didn’t speak a word of.

These days I can read French. Wow, I’m fifty years old and I’m learning a new language.

Yesterday I zipped through the pendulum game in two foreign languages and there I was, still wide awake at

Quatre-vingt-dix-huit / zwei ; quatre-vingt-dix-neuf / eins; 100!

Growing brain cells has all kinds of wildly-great benefits from staving off dementia to increasing creativity.

Our ability to grow brain cells diminishes with age. But it doesn’t end. We  have to work more consciously at it, just as we do with physical exercise. We  CAN continue to build brain cells no matter what our age, IF we continually push the limits of our capacity.

How do you push your brain to work harder?

7 thoughts on “How to Grow Brain Cells”

    1. My husband is using it now, too–he says it works because the pendulum is hypnotic (because it’s almost impossible not to move your eyes when you’re “seeing” the pendulum swing), and the circle is Jungian–womb-like and ultra-comforting.
      I don’t know why it works–I just know that it DOES work.

      1. If I may be so bold, I would like to explain. Ken is correct about the hypnotic result.
        In my twenties, I took several (self) auto-hypnosis classes. The whole object is to clear anything from the mind that prevents relaxation. By concentrating on the visualized clock face with different pendulum positions, one forgets the pain in the arm, previous arguments or daily stress. It focuses one’s mind on something unremarkable, which allows the body to relax. At near, or full relaxation, one falls asleep. As we’ve all experienced, if waking in the middle of the night, there is something pressing on the mind preventing sleep.
        You should patent the concept. It obviously needs to be unique with illustrations just as you have provided. Hopefully no one steals your idea before you try to publish it for profit, since you’ve already made it public.

        1. Thanks for the explanation, George. I don’t have any experience with hypnosis–I just knew that it worked. Now I understand why…
          The cool thing about WordPress is, by publishing my words & clock-images on my blog, I’ve also automatically copyrighted them. That means if anyone else to sell the Karner clock as a sleep aid,they have to prove that they were using it and made it public before I did (November 21, 2012), or else they’ll owe me royalties.
          I just hope it helps people sleep (because sleep is so important). But it would be fun to get credit for inventing something, and get my name in Wikipedia as the inventor (if I really am the inventor). And then, maybe if I get famous as an inventor, people will recognize my name on the cover of my memoir (which is coming out next month), and buy my book. 🙂

        1. Yippee!! Sleep is so important for health and attitude.
          It still works for me, after years of doing it. What I didn’t expect, was that it would make my brain function better–quicker, while I was awake. I’m not sure if it’s the mental workout, or the better sleep, or a combination of both.
          I’m glad it works for you! Pass it on!

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