The 1960s were all about the magic of the mind. We were fascinated by the subconscious and its hidden powers.
The Amazing Kreskin really did amaze us. When I was in sixth grade, Dad bought me this Kreskin’s ESP game/kit. The pendulum I always felt was hokey, but spent a lot of time with the cards.
Each had a color dot, or unique symbol, and we were supposed to discern (not guess) which color or symbol it was. Of course, I never mastered the thing, but it did awaken in me a curiosity about larger things.
In 1966, a cosmetic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz authored a book titled “Psycho-Cybernetics”. I remember seeing it around the house a lot. Also, Dad would do things, experimentally, to teach me.
Once, on a cool autumn evening, I was playing with friends and decided that I wanted to go into the house. As I came in the door, Dad was seated on the couch in the living room, to my right.
“Why did you come in?”, he asked.
“I dont know”, I replied, “Just felt like it.
He smiled and said,”I made you come in.”
He’d been experimenting with some of Maltz’s techniques, visualizing me coming through the door, and I did. Does that prove that Dad’s experiment worked? Of course not, but it was enough to pique my interest.
At 61, I still cant tell you what color underwear you’re wearing, or the name on the label, but I am very aware of an interpersonal connection that goes beyond the visual.
What brings me to this, today, is Maltz’s emphasis on Self-image. If there is one thing that I swear by, from all of those things, it’s that we can change our lives by changing the self-image.
In general, people who see themselves negatively, will have a more negative living experience than people with a positive self-image.
The last three years of my life are a testament to this. In 2015, I was in the darkest place of my life. Beaten down by circumstances, I’d taken on a victim mentality and felt absolutely like a waste of skin.
In 2016, I realized what was happening, and began to change that image. Since then, life has been a continuous chain of improving circumstances.
That isnt to say that nothing negative has happened. My car/home was stolen, and more, but it has all brought me further along a growth curve.
Today, I’m speaking to groups and leading mindfulness workshops. For a lot of this, I credit my dad, introducing me to the things I needed to know.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can read Dr. Maltz’s book, Psycho-Cybernetics. Of course, you can also contact me, and we can talk about ways that I might be able to help.
No one knows the actual meaning of this ancient Hebrew word. Most translators interpret it to mean something like “stop and think about this”, or in musical terms “to rest (pause)”, which I think fits the concept of Mindfulness very well.
Another reason that I chose this word is because of a common idea that people have about mindful meditation. People tend to believe that Mindfulness is a Buddhist thing, and since it’s practiced by Buddhists, I suppose that’s true, but it didn’t begin there. The idea of thoughtful meditation predates Buddhism by many thousands of years. It was practiced by the Biblical psalmists and kings, and before that, Babylonian, Median and Persian magi. To be truthful, it’s difficult for me to imagine that anyone living in those times could not practice it. Without our modern modes of entertainment, there was either human performance or observance of nature to keep us occupied. Have you ever sat quietly on a mountain or beach, or in a deep forest and attended to the happenings there? Do you ever take time to notice what’s going on in your body? The beating of your heart? The touch of air on your skin? That’s mindfulness.
As we talked about last time, your Reticular Activating System can be trained to open your awareness to new opportunities. It’s simple, but it takes time.
” From the day you were born, it’s been programmed with your basic beliefs about life, the world, and yourself. If you believe life is hard, it will filter out anything that says otherwise. If you believe the world is brutal, it does the same thing. So, if you believe your not good enough, too stupid, ugly, it will work to reinforce those beliefs. “
“To train it, you have convince it that things are different. That means you have to change your beliefs.”
“I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful. I am worthy of all.
I love you.”
“If you’re telling yourself you’re dumb, if you’re telling yourself you’re ugly, if you’re telling yourself you’re not worthy enough to have anything that you want, then that’s going to be your future.”
Recognize and Reboot
Most of us hold an ideal image of ourselves – ten, fifteen, thirty years down the road. It’s the person that we really want to be, but can never quite reach. I want you to understand that you’re already that person.
Yes, that’s what I said. The person that you really want to be already exists within you, you just dont act like it. You’ve picked up so much negative junk from people – parents, teachers, bosses, people who are supposed to know — that you’ve forgotten who you really are.
The key to changing your belief about yourself is to start dropping things that arent true. The very first thing is, I’m not good enough. Usually, the sentence goes something like this –”I’m not good enough because…”
When we boil things down, this is the basis for most of our dissatisfaction. Somehow, sometime, we began to believe it, and it’s wrong. What’s your because?
What about you? Has someone told you that you’re weak? stupid? fat? ugly? skinny? unfocused? unlovable? FORTGET THEM!
Everyone is good enough – We just need to change our expectations. Both my brother and I play the guitar, and he blows me away with his blues. I can carry my own, but he is just plain spectacular. He can do Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, BB King and all those guys. On the other hand, when it comes to folk style fingerpicking, I have him beat. James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and the rest, he just cant play. Of course, neither of us can do that high energy bluegrass flatpicking.
Here’s the thing – We could each learn any of it. We really are good enough, and we know it. We just choose to focus on what’s working.
Know who you are – One of the most common things I hear is, “How do I even know who I am, anymore?” My best suggestion is to make a list. You have to be completely honest with yourself, though. Are you an idea person? A math whiz? A painter? Maybe you’re good with words, or you’re a great golfer. Write it all down.
Know who you arent – You also have to look at what’s making you unhappy. This one is a little trickier, because we want to label the symptoms. For example, you might say, “I’m unhappy because I’m out of shape.” The deeper question is, Why does that matter to you? What is missing in your life that you think getting fit is going to change?
Accept the Truth – For over forty years, I lived a false life, built on other people’s standards and beliefs, and it made me miserable. In 2013, it all came down and by 2015 I was praying to die. Unemployed for two years, let down by the people I trusted and loved the most, I felt abandoned and worthless. Every night, I went to bed saying, “God, please let this be the last time.”
In December of 2015, I was talking with someone that I’d recently met, and I told them I was 58 and waiting to die. They asked if I had cancer or some other terminal illness. When I explained, their response brought me up short. “That’s bullshit! You’re gonna spend the next thirty years waiting to die?”
In that moment, I was faced with the truth. I’d been playing the victim, wallowing in my pain, and it was ridiculous. That wasn’t me.
Determine Change — So, I began to work on my self-image, reminding myself of all the good that was in me.
When I did this, my RAS began to allow new information in. I was able to see different options, and this resonated with people around me. New, supportive people came into my life. Opportunities materialized.
Within two years, everything had turned around. I was happy to see the morning. Why? Because I no longer saw myself as a useless loser. I forgave people, became more grateful, and focused on my strengths instead of my failures. In those two years, I dropped the false expectations that I’d picked up from others and was beginning to reveal my authentic self.
Understand, this is not about simply repeating lines every day, although it may begin that way. It’s about truly believing in what a marvelous person you are. When you believe that you are worthy, and smart, and amazing; then amazing things begin to happen.
In my next post, we’ll talk about how to begin. Until then, Enjoy the Life you’re living.
In my previous post, I mentioned Napoleon Hill and Maxwell Maltz. These two, along with others, talk a lot about the Subconscious mind, and the power it holds.
In recent years, researchers have discovered where this amazing, yet elusive thing resides. It’s called the Reticular Activating System.
Reticular Activating System
Sounds important, yes? Well, in is. While the name simply means that it’s a web-like structure of neurons that activate something, what makes it important is what it does for you.
The RAS is a web-like structure of neuro-pathways located where your spinal cord meets your brain. It’s responsibilities are to control your level of awakeness, and to filter input from all of your senses, except smell. (Smell goes directly to the emotional center, which we wont talk about today.)
Imagine that you’re in a crowded waiting room. In a corner is a muted television. There is also an aquarium. It’s a warm spring day, so a window is open and a ceiling fan is turning slowly overhead. Behind the sign-in desk, someone is doing paperwork.
As you sit, scanning your phone or reading a magazine, you dont really notice what’s happening on the TV, or the sounds of bubble pumps in the aquarium. The outdoors sounds from the window dont bother you. Neither do the moving shadows from the fan. Shuffling of papers behind the desk are simply part of the background.
Then, in a whispered conversation around a corner, you hear something that sounds like your name. You hadnt noticed the people talking before, but now you’re listening. Are they talking about you, or was it some other word?
That’s your RAS at work. What if it hadnt filtered out all those irrelevant noises? How overwhelming would it be?
In a nutshell, the Reticular Activating System removes unimportant stuff, while notifying you when something important, like your name, comes up. The basic function of this bunch of neurons is to keep your reality as normal as possible, so you dont go crazy.
In the moment, it filters out things that might distract you from your immediate purpose, but in your life, it plays a much bigger role
From the day you were born, it’s been programmed with your deepest beliefs about life, the world, and yourself. If you believe life is hard, it will filter out things that say otherwise. If you believe the world is brutal, it does the same thing. So, if you believe your not good enough, too stupid, ugly, it will work to reinforce those beliefs.
Let me reemphasize that:
Your Reticular Activating System works to support your deepest beliefs about the world, life, and who you are.
That’s why some people seem “lucky”, while others cant seem to catch a break. If you believe that the world is full of opportunities, the RAS is going to open up and send you all kinds of information about opportunities that surround you.
Contrariwise, if you believe that life is a struggle, filled with almost insurmountable obstacles, those are precisely the messages that the RAS is going to reinforce.
See, the RAS just wants things to be normal. What ever that means to you is what it will support. Your core beliefs are what it will protect.
Now comes the interesting part: You can train it.
How does it know what to filter out?
To train it, you have convince it that things are different. That means you have to change your beliefs.
Next time, we’ll talk about what that means (and it has nothing to do with religion).
Thanks for tuning in.
…and what you can do about it.
When I was a teen, a series of detrimental events left my father unemployed, unmarried, and broke. He’d been a successful manager in a large computer company and things had snowballed. You know the story.
One winter night, we quietly loaded up a trailer and moved out of our apartment in Denver, and drove to a mobile home park in Oklahoma. It was a stereotypical place, and our trailer was not in good condition, but it didnt leak and the heater worked.
Dad spent his days job searching, and we spent our evenings playing cards around a tiny table in the kitchen. Each of us kids had a bedroom, and Dad slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room.
At one point, I asked him, “Dad, what are we gonna do?”
He looked at me calmly and seriously and said, “I dont know, Son, but I do know that five years from now things will be completely different”, and I believed him.
I grew up in a home where anything was possible. Dad subscribed to the teachings of Napoleon Hill, Maxwell Maltz, and Jesus. If you can imagine a thing, and believe it, you can accomplish it. Selah!
Five years later, he had moved back to Denver and was living in his dream home. He had a new car. He’d also bought my sixteen year old sister a car. He was making more money than he’d ever made, in fact, more money than most people made. He was back in the computer services field as the Western Regional Manager. His territory was everything west of the Mississippi River. I honestly dont know how many people were under his authority.
You see, my father knew the secret of creating his own reality, and he taught it to me.
In the next few posts, I’m going to share that secret with you (and it really isnt a secret).
Recently, on VagabondStew, I posted my morning routine. As I was posting, I realized that it really is a meditative and mindful time. From the moment I wake up, until I’m in the driver’s seat rolling out, there are several times when I take time to notice the moment.
My time living in the forest, has helped me to become more mindful and aware of what’s happening right now.
Dont get me wrong. I do spend time imagining the future. Building a comprehensive image is vital to achieving the imperatives. Still, in order to function best, I also need to stay anchored.
Making my bed, for instance, is a time to focus, paying attention to pull the sheets and blankets tight, tuck the sheet in on the side, smooth out the pillows. I notice the different textures of cotton and wool, pillows and mattress, areas that are cool or warm.
This is important because it puts my mind into a task focused mode, along with the immediately tactile dynamic. I am grateful for this wonderful bed that I have.
Another way that my mornings are mindful is in the time I spend sitting or lying still on my bed, melding into my environment. I notice what’s happening around me – sounds, wind – and feeling the calm that comes with that. Again, I express my gratitude.
When I step out of my little sleeping pod, into the world, it is still dark. The million stars shimmer overhead. Some mornings it is frigid cold and I dont have time to properly take it in. Most days, though, I can gaze up. Naming familiar constellations, I wonder about the names of other stars.
At the same time, I attend the feel of the air. Is it brisk, or soft? Are there fragrances and what are they? I notice sounds, if there are any.
Up on the mountain, things are usually quiet, so early, but as the days lengthen and light creeps into the sky sooner, birds will waken and sing. I once found a moose standing in the midst of the meadow, just before dawn. Always, I am grateful.
Feeling and expressing gratitude is one of the most important and fundamental ways that we can build a more fulfilling life. If we arent grateful, we cant wonder why there’s so much negative in our lives.
Check out the post on VagabondStew.
If you’d like to learn more about bringing more positivity into your day, click over to the Contact page and drop me a note. I’ll get back to you quickly.