STOP whatever you’re doing and SMELL where you are… take a long, slow, lazy sniff of this moment and watch its molecular landscape paint itself across your brain. Now draw a few shorter more urgent breaths and pay close attention to new layers and nuances that add texture, peaks and valleys to this internal mapping. Play at humanizing this universe by adding the intimacy of your inner elbow. When you focus your concentration, your complete conscious awareness, on any attention, it becomes your entire world for that breath – and every breath, being our most human quantization, is a life lived in full.
So change? Change is the process of altering our attentions. And we need an access point to get in there and get nitty gritty about switching our patterns of attention from automatic to manual. There’s a reason race cars have manual transmission: delicacy of control to maximize power and performance. Mindfulness, bringing a non-judgmental awareness to the present moment, is your access key. Through practice, conscious observation of our internal and external attentions (paying attention to our attentions) has been proven to build grey matter in your brain’s prefrontal reasoning/decision making area (your reality negotiator) while reducing the size and pervasive connectivity of your fight or flight, get-it-while-it’s-hot emotional amygdala. Interestingly, this process of bringing authority back to personal consciousness within the brain eventually rewires our natural resting state so you don’t have to walk around sniffing your elbow on public transit like a crazy person to experience the benefits of mindful living.
Now let’s get back to the void, that dopamine dearth that prevents so many of us from reshuffling our habits and patterns of attention. Because it’s dark down there, lonely and brutal because suddenly everything in us is begging and scratching for the chemical reward of familiarity. Yes, dedicated mindfulness meditation quiets your screaming toddler amygdala while also having the power to directly influence our genes’ epigenetic expression to help bring our attentions to a whole new genetic honesty (bit of a gritty read) but all abstraction aside, you need an immediate handhold down in the abyss.
Mindfulness gives you two: the dopamine payoff of curiosity and a moment to moment space beyond reaction. Curiosity is one of the most primitive, potent stimulators of our dopamine reward system. Grab hold and max it out! The void can be hell, sure, but it’s full of unique and fascinating body sensations and urgencies. Explore them, escape into observation and the pure glittering want of ‘why’. The void is an investment in the future, but this moment is just as rich and ripe for discovery. There is a glamour down here; the thrashing, wailing mourner of your mind is passion itself – and if you hold her lovingly, without judgment, she will bring you through to a self with the power to celebrate and sustain its own system through anything.
Stay tuned for Thursday’s post: Connecting with your universal self