381: The Power of the Clarity of Our Intention AND Where We Direct Our Attention — Understanding Our Mind
Wednesday May 15, 2024

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One of the most reliable ways I have found to get to know someone and how they perceive the world is to listen to what becomes most frequently shared in conversation in the first few meetings. Part of the reason it must be the first few meetings is because you are unfamiliar with each other, and this is the time when we are more often than not engaging earnestly; the other revealing of these initial meetings is the consistent themes that are of focus to the person speaking, because if you are listening closely, you begin make sense of the lens through which they see the world, especially if these meetings are spread out over a long duration of time – say months or over the course of a year, so a particular unwanted or jovial event isn’t influencing their perspective as understandably it might.

We each have an amazing super power within us that when we understand how it works, transforms the quality of our lives. Instead of living in fear, constantly worrying and doubting the goodness of our fellow human beings or that our dreams can come true, when we understand how the Salience Network works in our mind, we unwrap a priceless gift.

The salience network is the cognitive system the brain uses to determine what is important, so if we don’t understand the components of and how it functions, we can be at its mercy and ultimately relinquish the keys to what will open the door to living a life of true contentment.

What the salience network does is determine the priority of everything that we experience, hear, see, etc. – both internal dialogue and external stimulus and information. Based on what we value, the SN homes in on the content that we will rest our focus. Author and adjunct professor at Stanford University and the director of the Center of Compassion and Altruism Research and Education Dr. James R. Doty shares in his book Mind Magic, “Salience is usually related to context and is produced by novelty or the unexpected, but it can also be brought about by shifting one’s attention consciously toward whatever feature we choose to value.” So when we consciously train our brain to focus or look for certain information that will aid us in the direction we wish to travel, that is what the brain will find through its filtering. Through this consistent and conscious repetition, “we can make the intention we are attending to salient to the exclusion of other inputs. By doing so, we create what is known as the salience bias or cognitive ease, causing our intention to be one our subconscious cannot ignore”.

“It is our ability to choose that allows us to focus our attention and influence our unlocked subconscious to manifest our intention.”

One of the three parts of the Salience Network is where the amygdala of the brain resides. And understanding how the amygdala has evolved plays a vital role in whether we live our lives in the state of a Lizard Mind or a Sage Mind.

What is the amygdala and what role does it play in our brain’s functioning? “The amygdala is part of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), whose job it is to ensure our physical survival and the survival of our genes, and whose primary activity is to engage the fight, flight or freeze response. That is where the amygdala reigns.” Then, thankfully, “the human nervous system evolved further with the addition of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) also known as the rest-and-digest response, whose job is to return the body to a peaceful resting state, a process known as homeostasis.” When we are in the rest-and-digest response, rather than the fight, flight or freeze response, “we feel calm and composed, we are open to connection with others and with our environment, and we have access to the higher level functions of the neocortex, including abstract planning, creativity and logical reasoning.”

Become clear about your intention. “If the brain is not sufficiently familiar with our goal, it will reject it by default: the new information is just too heavy an energy lift . . . only after significant repetition [of visualization and clarification of our intention] can our desire become comfortable to the brain.”What we are doing is bringing the brain to a state of cognitive ease. “Through repetition and positive emotion” we teach our subconscious what is important . . . as we repeat our rituals and visualization, we enter a state of flow, which enables us to have deep experiences of positive emotions, and this is one way to teach our subconscious to associate the goals we wish to pursue with the biological reward systems in our bodies.” This complete absorption while immersed in the activity is “the state that connects us to creativity and clarifies our intention in our subconscious.” When we understand that the subconscious responds to repetition, we understand the value of repeating what is valuable to fulfilling our intention.

“The more skill we develop in learning to watch our experience without becoming emotionally activated, the more skill we have in placing and keeping our attention on the things we want to manifest.” —James R. Doty, MD

What we will explore today is how to unlearned unhelpful defaults of our mind and begin to settle with ease into using the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic nervous system which will then provide us the ability and mental energy to manifest the intentions we have set for ourselves.

1. Resistance fuels the unwanted

“When we resist events, whether physical or emotional, our resistance stimulates the amygdala.”

Put simply, when we focus on what we don’t want to happen, thus bringing more fear, thus fuel for focusing on the unwanted, we are actually unwittingly telling the amygdala that is is of great value to us in the sense that we think it is a grave threat. And so essentially, we are telling it to look for, filter for and prioritize what we do not want. Opposingly, “the less fear we bring, the less we are going to activate the threat salience, leaving our attention free to be directed as we choose”. In other words freeing up our energy reserves to give to our attention on our intention.

2. Stop the negative self-critic that lives in your mind

“If we want to manifest successfully, we must decrease the volume of the voice in our heads that tells us can’t do it.”

The critic living in our head sprouts from the SNS or fight, flight or freeze response, and it focused on surviving, thus not relaxing. “Where the fight response may once have helped us defend ourselves against a marauding tiger, it now causes us to fight against parts of ourselves that we believe do not measure up, triggering overpowering emotions of shame and the feeling that we are not good enough.” And this is where the negativity bias is rooted. Think of it this way: the SNS sees no benefit in being positive – “How does that help us survive?” And so “it does not merit out attention in the same way as a threat.”

When we unconsciously allow our mind (i.e. thoughts and then decisions) to be limited by the SNS, we throw away our self-agency. We throw away our power to live a deeply enriching life full of moments to savor and dreams to realize. Doty describes this as a self-created prison.

When the self-critic directs our lives, we drain our ability to give our attention to focus on our intention. “The reason we become discouraged is that the inner critic’s cruel tirade steals our inner resources and diverts them away from our positive and healthy life goals.”

3. Cultivate self-compassion

“Once we get the hang of being OK in the present moment, we can cultivate self-compassion, the inner critic’s kryptonite.”

“Self-compassion has the power to heal the parts of us that feel chronically unsafe and unloved—the basis for our shadow and our resistance to thriving—and transform them into vital sources of wisdom and compassion to share with others.”

4. Becoming aware of limiting beliefs

“It takes great effort and care to unmask a long-standing false belief, but freedom from our distorted worldview will create the space to embed the positive beliefs that will give energy to our manifesting.”

Self-awareness plays a crucial role in our healing and shifting from the reliance on the Lizard mind to a regular use of the Sage mind. Doty shares a detailed practice to help identify the limiting beliefs that are getting in the way of believing in yourself, making the changes you seek and being brave enough to think well of the world and the possibilities. From not thinking we are good enough, to distrusting people we come into contact with, when we recognize how our limiting beliefs prevents us from attaining what we seek, we can then change those beliefs. Which leads me to our final point that will let the healing take place and uproot the negativity and doubt that has infected our ability to manifest the life we desire.

5. Create your own safe haven of nourishment

“When we meet someone who is at peace with themselves and relates to us without judgment and with a depth of compassion, we are empowered to relate to ourselves in the same way.”

Caregivers play a powerful role, negative especially, but most definitely positive as well, as our mind is imprinted with how life can be. Doty explains that “many of our deepest wounds that give rise to the loudest negative commentary in our minds arise from distressing experiences in our earliest stages of bonding with our caregivers . . . these early disappointments and traumas underlies the very beliefs that have become the obstacles to manifesting our goals.”

And so, the only way to weed out these unhelpful and survival-based beliefs is to “offer ourselves a safe haven in which we feel unconditionally valued, loved and cared for.”

Along the way, the safe haven we need may be beyond what we can give ourselves, so by consciously paying attention to who we surround ourselves with, choosing the company of compassionate, non-judgmental people, we provide connections and exchanges with people who strengthen our trust that the world is a kind place, people are compassionate and we need not shrink in fear.

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With the knowledge of how the salience network works, and the difference between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic systems, we can then consciously reduce or eliminate the “grip of the inner critic and consciously care for our wounds of the heart.” When we do this we have learned to “hold our inner compass clearly and constantly in our minds and are fully free to visualize and rehearse our dreams, the power of our imagination lets us live in them in the present and this enables us to be in frequent contact with the elevated positive emotions we need to teach our subconscious to pursue the goals and dreams we envision for our lives.”

We each, throughout our life journey, have potential to make it absolutely amazing and the stuff of dreams, but until we realize how we are hindering the dreams from turning into our reality, we cannot manifest it. The knowledge of how our brain works, how it has evolved but what still remains and how we can unknowingly trigger it, gives us the manual guide of how to use the amazing gift that is our brain. Because once we know how to use it to support our intentions, manifestation due to where we have placed our attention will most certainly occur.

“Consciously directing our attention where we choose is the key to our inner power.”


Living Beautifully in Paris by Mathilde Favier

Episode 331

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