“The brain, as smart as it is, is also kinda stupid.”–Pete Holmes
Today, in one of my posses, we were talking about the brain’s Reticular Activating system (RAS). It’s about the size of a gumdrop, it’s located at the base of the brain stem and its job is to sort and evaluate incoming data. It sends what it thinks is urgent to the active part of the brain and steers the non-urgent stuff to the back. But as it’s organizing, it’s also busy interpreting, drawing inferences, and filtering out anything that doesn’t jibe with what we believe.
Very early on our minds establish a pattern of perception and then proceed to filter out everything else. In other words, we only “experience” things that jibe with our very limited perception.
I told the story in E-Squared about the girl from the Philippines who told me it was weeks, if not months, after she arrived in the United States before she noticed that some people here had red hair, including people she knew and dealt with on a regular basis. Red hair was inconsistent with what she had been conditioned to see and expect. So for several months, she was subjectively blind to red hair, seeing it as the brunette of her culture.
The RAS came up today because well…..there was some fear around last week’s election. It came up because some of us were worried and wanting to protect ourselves from what we think might happen in the future.
That’s why I’ve made “training my mind” priority numero uno. On a daily basis, I instruct it to look for beauty. Encourage it to seek out the bigger picture, to focus on the love and the seemingly impossible.
Yes, my mind and its RAS is an incorrigible slacker. Keeps wanting to return to familiar old ruts. Keeps listening to the spin doctor that looks at the world as a potentially scary place. Insists on focusing on the “information” from my five senses, from the news media, from the default setting that says, “Be careful. Worry. Don’t even think about learning to trust.”
So I just keep getting back up in the saddle, directing my mind to focus on what I know to be Truth. That everybody in the world really loves each other and that kindness is always the answer.
When we choose kindness and generosity in whatever situation we find ourselves, to whomever happens to be in front of us, it opens a crack to see a whole different reality.
That tiny twist—a smile, offering a hand, even just being generous in thought—changes the inner landscape. It reminds us, “Here’s how the world could be.”
Generosity doesn’t fit the narrative, not in a me-me-me world. And that’s the very thing that shakes up the old story, the dominant paradigm.
I also shared the beautiful experience I recently had with a Trump supporter who wrote me an email lambasting me for being a hypocrite. Instead of deleting it (as I might have done in the past), I wrote him back and thanked him for pointing out where I have built a wall between me and one of my brothers.
Because I know we’re all one, I know that anytime I make any kind of judgment, I’m actually casting out a part of myself.
It’s not what I want to do.
And you know what? He wrote me back and thanked me. In other words, I made a new friend.
I think it’s time for all of us to make some new friends. It’s not us against them. It’s us, all here together.
As Ted Mosby once said (well, Josh Radnor, the guy who plays him on “How I Met Your Mother”), “It’s not our job to play judge and jury, to determine who is worthy of our kindness and who is not. We just need to be kind, unconditionally and without ulterior motive, even – or rather, especially – when we’d prefer not to be.”
Pam Grout is the author of 18 books including E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality and the just released, Thank and Grow Rich: a 30-day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy.
It Is What It Isn’t