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Archive for Monday, October 1, 2012

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Mind Matters: Conscious awareness leads to greater self-control

October 1, 2012

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Conscious intention may be loosely defined as the capacity to create an aim or purpose with awareness.

Underlying our conscious intention is brain activity. In fact, scientific studies reveal that the brain has already put an action into motion before a conscious intention is created!

Think about it — are you hungry before you say “I’m hungry,” or when you say it? The timing of this process of brain activity followed by the mind’s recognition of impending action at times seems infinitesimal.

Yet it is also true that the ability to shorten the time between brain-driven action and conscious awareness may influence one’s ability to govern behavior, thus avoiding unintended behaviors (such as overeating).

We see this phenomenon all the time in our work with Brainwave Optimization technology.

An example: Throughout the day, a young girl picks at her lip until it bleeds. She is unconscious of this activity until it is pointed out to her or she notices the blood on her fingers. We see in her brainwave assessment that she has a significant imbalance in her temporal lobes causing delays in timing. As the post-assessment brain training progresses and temporal lobe activity (along with all other lobe activity) balances and the intensity of activity decreases, she is finding it easier to recognize the urges to pick — at first, stopping herself when she becomes aware she is picking; and then stopping the behavior before it starts. Eventually, the energy in the brain driving the behavior no longer exists.

Essentially, the process involved the gradual reduction of the time between brain activity and conscious awareness leading to a greater capacity for self control. In addition, she was able to influence the brain activity by changing her response to it.

It is not outside of our own human capacity to influence the timing between brain activity and conscious awareness. We can directly influence the behaviors we wish to reduce or extinguish. We can as well influence and increase the behaviors that we want to develop and thereby increase the positive feelings that result from them.

We know the amazing capacity of Tibetan Buddhist monks to control brain activity and behavior. The mastery is the result of years of meditation that continuously closes the gap between the brain and mind activity.

Most of us do not have the time or patience to practice meditation to the extent Tibetan Buddhist monks do (though this would be a pretty peaceful world if we all did). But there are measures we can take that take up less time and can produce quality results.

The first step is to stop expecting that you “should” be able to do this or that without conscious effort.

It is amazing how much we forget the incredible stress we are all under in today’s world. We greet the day running from task to task, responsibility to responsibility and expectation to expectation with little consciousness; all the while living with financial crises all around us, wars, political divisiveness, cultural and religious intolerance, and a variety of other environmental stresses.

And when we are exhausted at night, can’t focus on our job or studies during the day, struggle with emotional instability, feel anxious and overwhelmed, what do we do? We ask the question, “What is wrong with me?” As if that isn’t enough, there is usually someone close by who is there to point out that there is “something wrong with you.”

Well-being starts with the awareness of what it is like to be a human being in this world.

Here are just two things you can do to start down the path of creating greater conscious intention and attention.

• Put off until tomorrow those things you will do tomorrow. How many of us go to bed with tomorrow’s activities as part of our thoughts? Nothing like a good review of tomorrow’s stresses to make sleeping a fitful event.

Before bed, write down tomorrow’s planned tasks and place it in a drawer. Then create an intention around sleep. Like, “I intend to seek peace and relaxation at this time.” Then place your attention on those things that give you peace. Read a favorite Bible verse, pet your dog or cat, give your family members hugs, meditate, etc. Be sure your attention is on what you are doing. Take in the positive feeling and imagine your heart soaking in it. Smile in appreciation of the feeling and take yourself to bed.

Upon awakening, don’t immediately grab your task list from the drawer. Don’t lay there and lament the day’s events before they even unfold. Instead, take some time to connect to the positive feeling you created the night before. Connect to the same things that created that feeling. Let your heart soak in appreciation and gratitude.

Create an intention for the day. How do you want to be today? As you move into task mode, do so with grace and a smile on your face.

• Practice, practice, practice! You will add things along the way that work for you. If you think those Buddhist monks were masters after a day, a week or a year, don’t fool yourself. However, continuous focus on intention and using your intention as a guide to know where to place your attention will lead to greater mastery of your experience.

— Jena and Ed Bloch can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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