You might have heard it said that we each “create our own reality,” but have you actually stopped to consider what that means? Do you believe it to be true? And if it is true, what does that mean for you and your life?
One thing we know for certain is that “reality” is subjective. Police know that an eye witness is one of the most unreliable sources of evidence for a crime – and it’s worse if there are more than one!
Need some proof? Take two minutes right now to watch this video:
If you missed the bigger picture, you’re not alone. Fully half of the people who see that video for the first time miss it. Why is that? It’s as plain as the nose on your face (you can see your nose, but do you — always? or do you usually ignore it as irrelevant information?)
There are several reasons for our “blindness” that modern cognitive and neuroscience have helped us to identify, but perhaps the most important is that we have selective attention.
What is Selective Attention?
We all have a finite amount of attention to distribute and utilize throughout the day. The more we spread our attention across multiple tasks, objects, thoughts or experiences, the less is available for use elsewhere.
Think about all the stimuli that your body and brain are bombarded with at any given moment. There’s the temperature of the air, the sights, sounds, smells and activity that you are passively experiencing.
If you are engaged in a task, like knitting or typing, the conscious and unconscious adjustments you must make from moment to moment to proceed fill your thought processes. The more involved the activity or task, the more attention you must give it and the less that is available for everything else. You simply don’t have the capacity to notice every thing that is going on around you.
Then you have to add in all the thoughts and emotions that your brain is applying as “filters” to the events and experiences around you and interpreting what they mean. By the time you’re finished with any given moment, the vast majority of information that you could have gleaned from it has been sorted and discarded (mostly by your subconscious mind) as irrelevant to your current goal or task at hand.
Side note: It takes a little bit of time to do this, which is why our conscious minds exist and experience life slightly behind our subconscious minds. This fact allows us to react quickly to situations that we would otherwise not be able to respond to. It also means that our subconscious minds must be trained by our conscious minds to guide us in the direction that we want to go, instead of simply following the direction that is most familiar. See the book MindReal or www.robertorenstein.com for more information and references.
All that sorting and discarding happens mostly on automatic, because that is the default of the subconscious mind. It tries methods out, or guesses at them, and if they work “well enough” to get the job done, it sticks with them. It’s so much easier than trying to figure out new ways of doing things, especially when one only has a few hundredths of a millisecond to make a decision.
Your Brain as a Computer
Your subconscious mind is very much like a computer. And thoughts or behaviors are like the code that runs it. Bad code that gets the job done but is inefficient or slow isn’t going to re-write itself. All the subconscious knows is that it’s still working – and the longer it works, the more ingrained – physically, in your neural pathways – the code becomes. That’s where the conscious mind comes in.
The conscious mind can help weigh and give directed meaning to events. It can rewrite the code that the subconscious runs by taking an active role and correcting the thought processes before, during and after they occur.
So how do we do this and what does it all have to do with reality?
One Important Idea: Here and Now
The closer we get to physical phenomena, the more certain we can be of Reality.
The moment in time where your body is present is called Now and the space it is in is called Here. The only place you can actually do anything originates from right Here and the only time is right Now. When we begin to abstract out and away from our immediate physical sensations, we begin to step away from solid reality and toward our mental and finally imagined reality.
Note that mental constructs can still deeply affect the physical world – they are quite real, they just exist in different ways. For instance, the mental construct of money has a tremendous impact on your physical reality.
If an opportunity to act has passed, you cannot bring it back. You can plan for a future opportunity, but that is not solid until the moment that your body arrives at that junction and you are able to say and do what you planned. You can reap the rewards or punishments of past action – or inaction – Here and Now and possibly use the past as a springboard, but you cannot change the moment you set that action in motion.
The thing to do then, when you find yourself spinning helplessly in a whirlwind of negative thoughts and emotions, is to bring yourself back to where you are at the moment and then neutralize the thinking because emotions fundamentally come from thoughts, so when you control your thoughts, you control your emotions.
The following steps will get you started in re-programming your subconscious code and calming your negative emotions.
1. Notice your negative thinking
2. Say “Stop!”
3. Find evidence to counter the negative thoughts.
Simultaneously and anytime you want or need to be grounded, simply pay very close attention to some small aspect of your body. For instance, the weight of your body on the chair as you sit. The way the fabric of your clothing feels against your skin. The temperature of the air moving in and out of your nostrils.
Feel your breath as it enters and leaves your lungs. Or you may try to feel the individual ridges of your fingerprint by rubbing gently with your thumb. Notice the sounds, colors, smells around you and try to find the smallest details you can to appreciate.
It sometimes helps to describe or narrate what you’re experiencing mentally or out loud, “Now, I am warm sitting under this blanket.” “Now, I can feel the tiny ridges of my thumbprint.” Tell yourself, you are feeling more relaxed and calm, you are letting your worry go and becoming more peaceful. Give yourself permission to do everything you can right now, including make solid plans if that’s appropriate. But it is not appropriate to worry or re-hash the past, so it’s okay to let it go.
Remember, you’re writing over thought processes that have been used for some time – maybe even your whole life, so you have to be diligent in catching the old ones and persistent in repeating the new ones. But with just a little practice, these three steps and the body-method of coming back into reality will become a habit very quickly.
Super-Charge Your Reality
If you’ve managed to quiet the negative thoughts and emotions in your mind, for even a brief period of time, then you are ready to super-charge your reality with the power of gratitude.
As simple as it seems, finding things to be grateful about will increase your happiness and help make the new brain code you’re creating permanent more quickly. For maximum effect, find at least three reasons to be grateful for where you are Now. You might choose to begin your day with gratitude or end it, or both.
Whatever your choice, realize that you have come on a long journey to get Here and there is so much potential in this Now.
You can live it, if you only focus your attention.