In his TED talk, “The Art of Misdirection,” Apollo Robbins gives a brief and accessible overview of how our mind allocates attention and then, with an incredible pickpocketing performance, shows how susceptible we are to misdirection.
For 15 years, fueled by frustration over my own fear-based thinking, I’ve observed how I allocate my attention, studied how to meditate, and sought teachers to inspire and help. As Robbins says, attention steers perception, so it stands to reason that if I put my attention on cultivating interior spaciousness, I will perceive more space. And if I put my attention on judging folks around me, I’ll be more susceptible to perceive that I, too, am being judged. Both have served me as shining examples of this theory, that how we place our attention determines how we see.
To take this a step further, I’ve observed that as I placed consistent attention on many judgments, daily over several years, my brain became much more likely to call upon those neuronal connections of judgment, which was perpetuating the experience that the ‘world is against me.’ That fear-based thinking led to destructive and draining behavior that needed to shift. Learning how to place my attention intentionally on the vastness of my inner world regularly through meditation and yoga, I can focus more readily, practice patience and cultivate my relationships with less judgment, more steadiness and loving care. I can be more alert to the threads of cause and effect, especially when it comes to my family and my work.
So in his talk, Robbins implores us to “play” with the “security guard” in our brain, who’s in charge of the ways in which we place our attention. How could the security guard let any judgments enter? Likely because this guard hasn’t had enough training, therefore permits thoughts like judgments, doubts and limiting beliefs. And in our experience of a lazy brain, somehow it all seems as though it’s “happening” to us, rather than an inner state we’ve (subconsciously) created. Time to train our brains, by educating the guards at the gates.
Meditation, mindfulness and yoga are the ways in which we can train those “guards.” Regular practice helps me choose how I spend my attention, so I can be present wherever I am. When I forget to choose how I pay attention, doubt comes roaring in, refinement dissolves and my body doesn’t feel like my own. With practice, we can begin to train our minds to be more attuned to love, to subtlety, to listening. We can communicate and relate with more kindness, notice when we aren’t, and avoid own our missteps – with ourselves and others.
…the true miracles are always worked out in silence first. — Baird T. Spalding
In a September 2013 Huffington Post piece by Gabriel Axel entitled “Why Your Brain Loves Yoga,” the neuroplasticity of our brain is shown to make it “hackable” and therefore capable of deliberate positive change. We can, with practice, rewire our brains to be more susceptible to err on the side of love and listening. Scientifically proven to be what creates a sensation of space, time and healing in both body and mind, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems, which decreases physiological arousal signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. There’s also evidence that yoga practices help increase our capacity to remember, increase pain threshold, and our heart rate variability (an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly). And in the past decade, yoga has been found to significantly mitigate symptoms of PTSD in veterans, anxiety in recovering addicts, depression and general psychological distress.
To gain anything real, long practice is necessary. Try to accomplish very small things first. — G.I. Gurdjieff
Axel talks about how practices and processes of yoga and meditation “work the brain and nervous system in a synchronized and harmonious manner.” For me, this harmony is slowly becoming a benchmark with which I can align my inner state, a state which I can call upon when I feel challenged, confronted or constricted. And yes, I forget, allow the “guards” to be distracted and lose ground within myself, revert to old patterns and habits that don’t serve me. Luckily the practices are there, waiting for me to begin again. Am I less likely to be susceptible to misdirection when I’m actually practicing? Absolutely.
But I’m certain I still would’ve gotten my pockets picked by Apollo Robbins.
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It’s a fast start for 2014: We’ll see shooting stars, Venus dancing with a new moon, and Earth getting close to the sun. Jupiter stays up all night, and we endure our latest sunrises.
With the full moon here Jan. 15 at 11:52 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (Jan. 16 at 4:52 a.m. Universal Time), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory, January features two new moons: Jan. 1 and Jan. 30. On the dusky evenings after new moons, look to western heavens to spy the sliver of a young moon.
Very often, people ask me how I see the future. And I say that the future is for them to build however they want it. The unwise regret the past, think the future is destiny and are miserable in present. The wise see their past as destiny, the future as free will and are happy in the present.
However significant the events of the past year were at the time, looking back, you cannot see them all as anything but a dream. Reflecting on these events, what stands out is the impermanent nature of all things. Events are like stones and pebbles in the great river of time which keeps flowing unabated. In life, things are to be learnt and forgotten — learnt so that you do not repeat the same mistakes and forgotten so that they do not leave you traumatized.
Here are four ways to a happier 2014:
Make Meditation a Part of Life
Modern life’s demands lead to stress and restlessness, which can be released through a few minutes of meditation. Meditationgives you deep rest. The deeper you are able to rest, the more dynamic you will be in activity. It is the best tool to wipe your mind clean of all past impressions that weigh you down.
Often, we get pulled in different directions and are unable to devote time to ourselves. We do not take out the time to think and reflect. This can leave us dull and tired. A few quiet moments everyday are the source of creativity. Silence heals and rejuvenates and gives you depth and stability. Sometime during the day, sit for a few minutes; get into the cave of your heart, eyes closed, and keep the world away.
Make a commitment to make this world a better place to live. Do some acts of kindness without expecting anything in return. Service alone can bring contentment in life. It creates a sense of connectedness. When you bring some relief to someone through selfless service, good vibrations come to you. When you show kindness, your true nature, which is love and peace, come to the surface.
Our love, faith, and belief should be deep-rooted, and then everything else moves on its own. The feeling that “I am blessed” can help you overcome any failure. Once you realize that you are blessed, then all the complaints and grumbling disappear, all the insecurities disappear and you become grateful, contented and peaceful.
Spend time with Nature
If you are not amazed by the magnificence of this creation — your eyes are not yet opened. Tell me, what in this creation is not a mystery? Birth is a mystery; death is a mystery. If both birth and death are mysteries, then life is certainly a greater mystery. Being completely immersed in the mystery of life and in this creation is samadhi.
Just like we live in the outer world of events and circumstances, we also live in the inner world of emotions and feelings, which we are not always aware of. The distance between the outer and the inner worlds is just the blink of an eye. Yoga is the skill of keeping attention on the inner world while acting in the outer. When you are lost in the outside world, there is disharmony in the inner world and life is like a war. When you are established in the inner world, there is clarity in the outer world and life becomes a game.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year!
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