One of the revolutionary insights to come out of neuroscience research over the last decade is that of neuroplasticity. [see my earlier article on neuroplasticity here if you haven’t already… http://quantumphysicsofbeliefs.com/neuroplasticity-and-self-perception/]
Up until recently, the brain was regarded as a physiologically static organ and that our brain structure was mostly immutable after the human developments of early childhood. However, we now know that the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, something that continues throughout life.
Research during the 1990s—showed that our brains undergo a massive reorganization between our 12th and 25th years. The brain doesn’t actually grow very much during this period. It has already reached 90 percent of its full size by the time a person is six, and a thickening skull accounts for most head growth afterward. But as we move through adolescence, the brain undergoes extensive remodeling, resembling a network and wiring upgrade.
Not only does neuroplasticity allow the neurons in the brain to compensate for injury and disease, but it can adjust in response to new situations, different stimuli, and changes in the environment.
While this seems like a small discovery, it’s enormously powerful, because it means that we are not captive to either nature or nurture in the way we once thought we were. While both nature and nurture play important roles in shaping our brains and in forming our memories, behaviors, habits, and, responses they are not “destiny”. We have much more control than we used to believe. In effect, we can re-wire our brains.
Brain Energy Flows
Simply becoming more aware of our responses and paying attention to the ways we want to alter them can get us the results we want. After all, where your attention goes, there flows the energy. And what flows through your attention shapes your mind.
Mindfulness, which, among other things, is an attentive awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) is an antidote to delusion and is considered as such a ‘power’ (‘bala’ as is known in ancient language, Pali; that was indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.). This faculty becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place. It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now.
As per Eckhart Tolle teachings… Honoring the present moment is what enables the greater vision to unfold with greater creativity and less stress. The only reality is the present moment, and honoring the present moment through complete acceptance frees up space in the brain for ideas to flow freely and frees up energy in the body to put those ideas into action. In this state of acceptance and presence, you will be able to creatively assess your daily life, your role at work, and the opportunities for change.
By using the power of attention, one can change the brain in subtle ways. Meaning that you allow your brain to effortlessly but ‘mindfully’ notice where your attention is at any moment and to intentionally choose where you want it to be. It is important to pay attention if we intend to improve our ‘living in the present moment’ and the best news is that it is not hard to do. What is hard is to make it a habit. Begin more intentionally noticing what is happening for you at the sensing level. Ask yourself what is happening in your body in the moment. Are you feeling calm or are you feeling overwhelmed or in a state of panic?
Next, ask where your attention is focused that may be making you feel this way. Is it focused on a thought or narrative that keeps replaying in your head like a broken record or alternatively is it exactly where it is of most benefit and where you want it to be. The key is in noticing where your attention is focused and being more intentional in where you want it to be focused.
Next, look at stepping out of your thinking in an impartial spectator way and notice what is in your narrative, what are you thinking and do you need to shift your thinking to support you to focus your attention in a different direction.
Do You Know that it Takes 23 minutes to Regain Focus?
We live in a period of unprecedented complexity and distraction. It even has a name: SOS – Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s not quite ADD/ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.
It’s very easy to lose focus, and to succumb to SOS. This is actually a normal response because neuroscience research tells us now that the brain is designed to seek novelty and stimulation. It’s just that too much stimulation and novelty seeking can wreak havoc on focus and ruin productivity.
Every time you get distracted by an email or the ping of a text message, it can take up to 23 minutes to regain focus (particularly if you were on the verge of an insight or in a really heavy thinking task). Imagine what effect this has on productivity. Not only are we bombarded by these kinds of environmental interruptions, but our internal states also compete for our attention at any given moment.
Therefore, it’s important for each of us to be aware of our own attention. Are you easily distracted? Do your moods take over? Do you find yourself on automatic pilot? Do you know what the phrase ‘the lights are on but no one is home’ means?
Developing the attentive awareness can help you tame both types of distractions. The practice of noticing where your attention is and bringing it back to where you want it to be will re-wire your brain over time. You’ll be able to notice distractions for what they are – your brain is looking for novelty and reward. When you understand this, it can assist you to resist the constant temptation of the myriad distractions clamoring for your attention. You will be better able to focus on the task at hand and at the end of the day you might have some left over energy to do some of the fun stuff.