Expand your RAS

Recently I got invited to join two very different, in fact opposite in nature, Facebook groups. The one has an objective of sharing with its members uplifting and inspiring stories, good news and motivating experiences. The other is an outlet for people to moan and complain, a place to share all the ugliness we come into contact with in everyday life. Naturally, all day long I am bombarded with notifications from both sides – sometimes funny, occasionally heartwarming, and in many instances outright ridiculous. Turns out if you give people an outlet for a particular emotion, they will always somehow find what to pour out of it.

As hilarious at times it is, to scan through the posts, I am struck every day how few the posts in the ‘good news’ group are, and how numerous and elaborate the complaints and the bitching on the other side. For some reason, perhaps influenced by the general negativity of our corner of the world, we find it easier to notice and comment on the ugly, offensive and unpleasant happenings in our daily lives. It’s as if we go out there deliberately looking for something to gossip about or be offended by, having made it our daily mission to expose stupidity, rudeness and total lack of manners of some members of our society.

I think however, it is our own negativity that makes the dark and ugly around us stand out. We can only notice in others that which we already recognise in ourselves. And looking at the world around us is nothing but looking into a mirror, where our own ideas and emotions are reflected and shown back at us. That is, if that’s what we are determined to see.

Because, you see, there is another way. There’s this phenomenon, a rather complex function of our brains call Reticular Activating System. I won’t go into the details of its medical complexity since I don’t understand exactly how it works anatomically anyway. A lookup in Wikipedia will tell us that “The reticular activating system helps mediate transitions from relaxed wakefulness to periods of high attention”. Or as it’s most commonly know as ‘the red car phenomenon’. Like, when you buy a red car, and suddenly there are red cars everywhere, so many more than you even noticed before. And that’s something that, I’m sure, we have all experienced, more often that we’re actually aware of.

Say, for instance, you take up a new hobby. Like fly-fishing. It’s totally new to you, you’ve never thought about it or paid any attention to the fact that it’s practiced by millions of people. Before, in your world, fly-fishing didn’t even exist. But for one reason or another, perhaps encouraged or persuaded by a friend, you decide to give it a go. And suddenly something strange, yet wonderful starts to happen. You walk into a bookstore or go to a magazine kiosk, and for the first time ever you notice the dozens of books and magazines on fishing. You open your daily paper, the one you’ve been reading for years, or go to your favourite news site and there are articles on the subject everywhere. Turn on the TV? Yup, apparently there’s an entire channel dedicated to your new pastime. What happened? Did the world suddenly discover fly-fishing? Did everyone just like that decide to engage in the same activity as you?

No. The answer is much simpler. There is no world-wide conspiracy to flood every media outlet with news and information about it. You simply expanded your awareness to include something that was always there, you just never noticed it before. You ”transitioned from relaxed wakefulness to a state of high attention”. Or as my meditation teacher used to put it, so simply and elegantly, “where your attention goes, your energy flows”.

Whatever you choose to focus your attention on, it leads to an expansion of your awareness and growth of your consciousness. Whether you choose to expand your knowledge on a subject, engage in a new activity, search for something in life or simply buy a red car – where your attention goes, your energy flows. You will start noticing it everywhere around you.  

Which takes me back to my Facebook group – the optimists and the pessimists, as I call them.

Whatever we are intent on finding in life, it’s already out there. The question here really is – what do we want to fill our days, and our minds and hearts with. Should we go out in the morning, taking notice of all the ugliness around us? If we did, we would find it. But how about we start our days, firmly intended to look for beauty and light? No, not live in denial of that which is less than perfect or desired, but simply make a small effort to find something to smile about, something which, when shared with others, would brighten their day. And when we find something to smile about, let’s share it with our little world.

It’s up to us to choose what we focus on. And whatever we bring our attention to, the more we seek it, the more we would find it. For the Universe is kind and generous in this way. We each create our reality with every thought, word and action we put forth. And at the end of the day, the question that matters is, what kind of a world do we want to live in.

So start tomorrow. Take one good, positive thing, and make sure you find it, again and again. And the next day find two. Then three. Do not let a day go by without this. And soon you will notice a shift deep within. And your world will be better. All it took was for you to expand your RAS.

Namaste.

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