Tag Archives: Mind

Are You Really Paying Attention?

Instant Partner

The other day I was hanging out with a friend of mine on this lake. Not really on the lake, next to it. There was this restaurant with an outdoor bar near one of the shores, or edges, or whatever you all the border between the lake the land.

We were watching all the people that were jet skiing, water-skiing, and boating. There seemed to be quite a few recreationists using motorized assistance in their recreational endeavors. There wasn’t much wind, so we didn’t see any wind surfers. There were a few swimmers, but for the most part, everybody had some kind of mechanized tool to assist them in their recreation. Then we saw something particularly strange. Something that both my friend and I had to do a double take, stop mid way through our conversation, and ask each other to verify what we’d just seen, to make we hadn’t slipped into some shared hallucination.

It’s kind of like when your brain is on autopilot, and starts to use your stored memories of what is going on around you to create the representation of reality, and then something completely upsets the system. They’ve done plenty of high level studies, using brain scans and cat scans and all kinds of other scans and when we are awake and conscious, up to fifty percent of everything we see, feel, hear, taste, and smell (all the data coming in through our five senses) is generated internally. Like when you go back to a web page without refreshing your browsers. You’re really looking at the website as it really is, only the way it was when you first surfed there five or ten minutes ago.

Like if you have a Yahoo! Email account, and you go to the Yahoo! Homepage, you’ll see so many messages in your inbox. Then if you surf someplace else, and then come back to Yahoo, you might not see any increase in mail, even though your buddy just sent you an email. Once you refresh your browser, you’ll see the new mail.

Scientists believe the brain works in the same way. If you are in a familiar environment, and the things around you aren’t changing all that much, your brain will start to rely on your stored memories to create what you think you see around you, rather than what is actually going on. So when something strange or out of the ordinary happens, your brain has to refresh it’s browser, and that can be a weird feeling.

Especially if that strange thing happens quickly, before your brain can refresh itself to catch up on what is really going on. Your brain doesn’t like to work very hard (or maybe that’s just me) so it will usually defer to stored memories whenever possible. It doesn’t like to continually “see” what is really going on unless it has to.

Many experiments bear this out. This is a reason why eyewitness testimony is the weakest link in any criminal case. One example of this is an experiment where they had a “criminal” come in and steal a professor’s briefcase during a lecture. Later, when they interviewed the students, the description of the “criminal” was all over the place. Some said tall, some said short, there wasn’t even any agreement on what ethnicity he was or even what color clothes he was wearing. Everybody seemed to base what they “saw” on their own experience with criminals, be it in real life or from watching criminals on TV.

There are all kinds of cool optical illusions that make use of this seeming limit on the brain. But is it really a limitation? What the brain in accuracy and detail, it more than makes up in speed. Our brains have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to deliver split second life and death decisions based on quickly changing data. Those that had slower brains, that sat around to contemplate things, didn’t last very long.

Those that had quick brains that decided when to run and when to fight, lived long enough to pass on those genes. So today we are left with a brain that is incredibly fast, but sometimes makes errors in reality detection. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to “refresh our browsers” to see what is really going on around us, rather then relying on assumptions and guesses.

Which is kind of what my friend and I did at the lake. It only happened because there was a momentary lull in our conversation, and we happened to be looking out over the lake at the same time, and toward the same spot. There was this guy on this Jet Ski that would jump out of the water, and then dive back in. He would dive completely under the water, Jet Ski and all, and then come back up a few meters later. Not such a big deal, as I’ve seen this in Jet Ski shows before.

But what we both saw was that this guy a was on a jet ski, by himself, and jumped up in the air, and then dove into the water, like normal, but when he came out there was a girl on the jet ski with him. As soon as we both saw that, we completely lost track of our conversation, and then asked each other if we both saw what we think we saw. After we verified that we both saw the same thing, we then focused intently on the water, specifically the area of this strange occurrence.

We weren’t exactly sure, but this “couple” did a few more tricks, and then both rode to the side of the lake, and as they did so a bunch of people were clapping and taking photos. It appeared to be some kind of show that was sponsored by a liquor company, who was hosting a big lakeside party that evening.

Had we been watching the whole show, it might not have been impressive as it was. But to watch one guy go under water, and come up with some girl on his jet ski is pretty cool thing to just happen to notice in the middle of some conversation about something that I can’t even remember.

Ever Expanding File Cabinets and Brain Flexibility

Stretch Your Mind

I met a friend for lunch the other day. Not really a planned thing, we had bumped into each other a couple days earlier and had made tentative plans on the spot. Kind of like “I’m gonna be here, at this time,” kind of thing. So anyway, he was telling me about this neighbor of his who recently moved in next door. Kind of a weird guy, but not in a bad way. Sometimes when you get a new neighbor, especially in a small apartment complex where you know you are going to run into this person on a regular basis, it can be a little interesting at first. Everybody wants to see who the new guy is.

It’s kind of like when you start a new semester at school. You have a whole bunch of new classes, and you aren’t sure what your classmates will be like, or any of your teachers. And you know that the first week of school you usually don’t do much anyway, so there aren’t any worries there. So you are pretty much free to let your curiosity roam and imagine some possible futures. Of course, that usually only last a couple of days, until you realize that it’s just another set of classmates, and another teacher.

Of course, sometimes you get lucky and sit next to a really cute girl or guy, or your teacher is particularly entertaining, somebody that actually enjoys their job. But more often than not it’s simply a matter of getting to know new people that turn out to be pretty similar to the old people.

So anyway this guy was into all kinds of exotic artwork from various different countries. He had traveled quite a bit and collected little pieces from here and there. When my friend saw him moving into his apartment, he couldn’t figure out exactly what the guy was all about. He saw him carrying in these different carvings and stuff, and had to come up with a story of what the reason was behind him. Maybe he was into voodoo, or maybe he was a professor. Every time the guy would go downstairs to his moving van, he’d bring up another box of stuff. And my friend couldn’t help but watch the whole time. His moving van was parked underneath his window, and when he walked to his apartment, he had to pass his big front window.

I was reading this book once on hypnosis. It was a hard book to read, or at least to pay attention to. It was written to give an objective overview of hypnosis and what it was, but the author also wanted to give the reader a subjective experience of what if felt like to feel the first hand effects of hypnosis. But he did it in an odd sort of way. He would be writing about some clinical aspect of hypnosis, then he would switch right into to a firsthand experience of it. What made it so interesting was that he never let the reader know when he was switching. So you’d be reading this, following along, and all of a sudden you would stop and wonder exactly what this was, and where this was going. Like you are sitting there, trying to remember what it was you were reading before you got to this part, and although you thought there was some sort of connection, you aren’t exactly sure what it is, now, reading this. But because it’s easy to find things like that interesting, you just keep on reading.

He was saying that when the mind looks at something that is unfamiliar, it is much easier to put it into a category that already exists. Some experts believe that there is a discreet time in a person’s life, when the categories aren’t completely labeled yet. This is up to about 7 years old. Not that we can’t create new categories after the age of seven, but around that time, the brain switches into “put it into it’s appropriate category” mode from “make a new category mode,” which can make for some interesting hallucinations, like my friend experienced when seeing this guy bringing all those weird things into his apartment.

The fun stuff happens when the brain finds a couple of possible categories, but there is nothing else that suggests what category to put something in. If you’ve ever had the experience of eating or drinking something, and getting one thing while you are expecting something else, you can understand this. Like if you grabbed what you thought was a bottle of ice water, and it turned out to be seven up, there’s be a brief pause while the brain figured out what in the heck was going on. You see the water, you decide that it’s water, so the brain already prepares and taste buds, and everything to receive water, but when the seven up hits your mouth, the brain has to back track and switch all of it’s reference information. That can take up to a second, and during that second your brain is temporarily off line. It’s actually pretty cool.

But after he talked to him, he did turn out to be a hobbyist. He liked to travel, and he would just pick stuff up at random, usually on his way to the airport out of wherever he had visited. If he were into furniture, he would have all kinds of different furniture pieces. If had been into music, for example, he may have had different musical instruments from different countries.

But because he’d picked up all his stuff in a completely random method, none of it fell into the same category, which made watching him move in so interesting. He was just some goofball who collected a bunch of random stuff from bunch of random places.

The interesting thing is that he told me that after watching this guy move for a couple hours, and just feeling his brain be sent in all different directions as he tried to figure out the connection between all this different stuff, he said he had this weird feeling for a couple of days afterward. Like he somehow felt he had more room in his brain or something, like it was stretched out somehow.

He said that he was able to remember things that he’d thought he’d forgotten, and was able to remember other things in ways that were different than he had originally experienced them.

How To Exploit Glitches In The System For Fun And Profit

Nice To Meet You

So the other day I was out on my morning walk, (so I guess I should say the other morning) when I bumped into this old guy that I hadn’t seen before. He was some old guy that I see downtown sometimes. At first I didn’t recognize him, because he wasn’t wearing his downtown clothes. So I had to go through that momentary transderivational search when the brain pretty much freezes all forward progress and searches it’s database for the relevant information.

I was once on this university campus when me and a friend were having fun seeing how long of a transderivational search we could induce in people. The brain is incredibly fast when coming up with information, but sometimes it gets stuck momentarily.

For example, if you grab a bottle of clear liquid, that you think is water, from the fridge after a hard workout, and upon taking a huge gulp find out that it’s vodka, your brain will spend maybe half a second freezing and trying to figure out what in the hell is going on. Opening up the fridge is automatic. Drinking water when you are thirsty is automatic. Your whole mind/body system is in pure automatic water drinking mode, so when you chug down the vodka, your brain has to momentarily stop all processes until it figures out what in the world is going on. It may even take you a few seconds to realize it’s vodka, and not gasoline or battery acid.

Compare that to sitting in a bar and ordering a shot of vodka. You see it coming, so naturally there is no disruption. This actually happened to me once. I was in a restaurant, and I ordered a scotch on the rocks. My girlfriend got some kind of mixed drink or something. The waitress brought us each a glass of ice water. Or what I thought was ice water. I took a big gulp of what I thought was ice water, and almost upchucked on the table. She had mixed up my order, and brought me a glass of straight gin on the rocks.

So at this university, I borrowed a stapler from some girl working in the student center. A friend and I were putting up some flyers. When I returned the stapler, I gave her a ballpoint pen instead. But when I gave it to her, I said, “Thanks, here’s your stapler,” and handed her the pen. Her face froze for about half a second until she realized what had been going on. It’s pretty interesting when you do this to somebody on purpose. Their face immediately loses all expression, and their pupils dilate briefly as their brain diverts thinking resources to try and make sense of what is going on. The brain loves to run on autopilot whenever possible, so throwing a monkey wrench in there tends to mess things up.

There was this guy named Milton Erickson. He invented a kind of conversational hypnosis that he used in therapy on people. The cool thing about Dr. Erickson was that he would go out and experiment on people. Not conk them on the head the take out their organs experiment, but what up to them and do goofy things like giving them pens instead of staplers and see how they’d respond.

One of the things he invented was called a double bind. You give somebody two choices, so they think they are retaining their free will (this is important to humans) but in reality the choice is pretty much the same. He would say things like “Do you want to shake hands with your left or your right hand?” People would think and say “right hand.” They would realize that he was pretty much forcing them to shake hands. Of course, you can go too far with this. He would walk up to people and say, “Do you want to give me five dollars or ten?” In which case people would laugh and walk away.

Another thing he invented was the handshake interrupt. Maybe you’ve heard of this. A handshake is one of those things that is automatic, and takes up a significant portion of brain processing power. The physical part about shaking somebody’s hand is automatic, but at the same time you are gearing up to hear a person’s name for the first time, and give yours. There is actually a lot involved.
So you have this automatic process that involves receiving information, usually without question, from the other person. You are not likely to question another person’s name, but at the same time, it is new information, so it puts the brain in a particularly vulnerable position. Which Dr. Erickson learned to exploit.

He would walk up to somebody, stick out his hand and say “Hi, I’m Milton, nice to meet….” And then he would suddenly change into a completely unexpected behavior, right at the point when the other person’s brain was open. He would take their hand, and quickly turn it around so the person was looking at their own palm. Then he would give them a few simple commands that would slip into their open to receive brains.

Now, when he started, he was nervous and unsure, which other people picked up on, and so it didn’t work so well. But when he practiced it and got better, he would do the hand in the face part just as natural as the handshake part, and people would go along with it.

So he’d walk up to somebody, say “Hi my name is Dr. Erickson, nice to….(put the other guys palm facing him)… and as you look at this you can think of all those things that make you feel that certain way…ways that make you wonder how many different things you can discover, now, that will allow you to feel those really good feelings, standing, there, thinking those thoughts…” And then he would simply walk away, leaving the guy looking at his hand. Usually about ten or fifteen seconds later, the guy would snap out of it, and look around, wondering what in the world just happened.

And when I finally realized who the old guy was, I greeted him accordingly. I asked him what he was doing in this neck of the woods, and not downtown where he is supposed to be. He said that he was visiting his grandkids, who live two houses down from mine. He had enough of their screaming and was out trying to clear his head. It’s good to do that sometimes.

How To Change Your Habitual Thinking to Powerfully Improve Your Life

It has long been recognized by many guru’s writers and sages throughout the centuries that the most certain to create the future you’d like is to manage the thoughts you are having now. Emerson wrote that is what he thinks about, most of the time. Napoleon Hill wrote that all great accomplishments of man have started with pure thought energy. The classic book “As A Man Thinketh” is yet another example of how your thoughts have a powerful and direct effect on the quality of your life.

What do you do if your thoughts are always focused on negative, fear or anxiety based images? What if your mind is filled with worry and negativity most of the time? Does that mean you are doomed to live a life filled with unhappiness and emotional pain?

I’m sure that you’ll acknowledge that you can’t be very happy if you are always thinking unhappy thoughts. Those that have happy and fulfilling lives are usually thinking happy and fulfilling thoughts. Because we all live in the same world, it would seem logical that if you changed your thoughts to a more positive perspective, you should see a slow change for the better.

But it’s not so simple. Thoughts are very sneaky, and have a way of running away from you when you are not paying attention. Luckily, just like any other bodily function, if you want to change a behavior, you only need to practice the new behavior long enough before it takes over the old behavior.

Unfortunately, for some this may take some time. But it is worth it, as the time you spend to change the quality of the thoughts you habitually think will have a drastic and profound effect on your daily life.

One powerful way to do this is to simply reverse your thoughts whenever you catch yourself. Simply flip everything around in your imagination that is negative, so it becomes positive.

For example, if you are having recurring worries about being fired, and you keep imagining in your boss calling you into his office and laying waste to your income, flip it around. Imagine the boss calling you in and giving you a raise and a promotion. This may seem a little uncomfortable, even impossible at first. You’d be surprised how habitual thoughts can seemingly dominate your mind to the point of not allowing any others in.

But the more you practice, and really force yourself to get into the new thought; it will slowly become a habit. It’s important to really flood your mind with good thoughts and feelings when you are thinking the new thought, that way you will train your brain to think those instead.

Because the brain naturally gravitates towards fear and protection, it might seem that the power of your new “forced” positive emotions don’t stand a chance against the comfortable worry and anxiety. That’s ok. Just like switching from eating McDonalds for lunch every day to eating turkey on whole wheat takes time, there eventually comes a point where you will crave the turkey on whole wheat, and despite even the thought of a Big Mac.

And so it is with your thoughts. The more you practice really feeling good with the opposite of your old anxiety driven fears, and quicker you will start to think those on a regular basis.

And when you start thinking positive thoughts on a regular basis, they will become unconscious and automatic. And that is when you can start creating new things in your life, almost like magic.
But it really isn’t magic. When you habitually think good, positive thoughts, that will come across in your behavior and your speech, and others will pick up on it. Your relationships will improve; you’ll get noticed more at work, strangers will smile at you more often.

It’s important to distinguish real, automatic deep positive thinking form Pollyanna style positive thinking. That usually comes across as fake and insincere, and I’m sure you know when somebody is projecting that kind of “happiness.”

The happiness you are shooting for is deep and automatic, and very subtle. And very powerful. Which is why you should make it a habit.

So remember, whenever you find your mind spiraling downward into a pit of depression and despair, just flip everything around in your mind. And be patient, as the outside world usually takes a while to catch up. Hang in there.

Take Charge of Your Mind

I was listening to these two guys arguing over some political issue on the radio the other night. Lately it has been a big issue, with people from both sides seemingly digging into their positions. Just like those two guys were. Recently it has been in the news quite a bit, and prominently written about on many online news sources and blogs. I’m sure you’ve seen more than enough of it recently. Which is why it was interesting that I listened to these two guys going at it for as long as I did. They weren’t really bringing anything new to the discussion; they both seemed to be repeating the same arguments that had been repeated from both sides already. I don’t know if the news has been slow lately, or there aren’t enough national disasters, but this issue, (and I think you know the one I’m talking about!) seems to be in the news way longer than it should.

It got me thinking about the way people argue their point. When you really dig below the surface of most arguments, they aren’t really arguments at all. An argument, of course coming from the mathematical or logical term, where a set of facts is presented, and an argument is how you illustrate that one set of facts logically leads to another set of facts. All cats speak Spanish, here is a cat, therefore, this cat speaks Spanish. All people are smart, you are a person, therefore, you are smart.

But if you listen to most arguments, they are really just a collection of synonyms and examples of their beliefs, and not why their method is better for a certain application. And not only that, they are contests to see who can most forcefully present their set of beliefs and collection of synonyms. Who ever forcefully and relentlessly puts forth their opinions the strongest is usually the winner. Even in political debates, where you expect a high level of logical skills, they just present their opinions over and over again.

There have been many extended studies of primates, and you’d be surprised how similar they behave to humans. There was one famous book called “Chimpanzee politics” written by Frans de Waal, where he studied a group of chimps for two years. They exhibited intricate and detailed political maneuvering, social rules and etiquette, different strategies that they used to interact with each other based on the individuals social status and standing. It was really extraordinary how we are much more similar to our primate cousins than we think Sure we dress up in suits and use eloquent words, but are the intentions below our actions any different?

Some say they aren’t. Some will point out that there is only a two percent difference in our DNA. Others will point to the book “The Naked Ape,” by Morris. Some will use complex social theories to describe how we really are no different than monkeys, and that the whole of our culture, religion, art, music is nothing more than a complicated expression of our natural desires. Others even go so far as to say that we are completely bound by our primitive urges, that we cannot escape the need to beat our chests and proclaim ourselves better than the next guy.

I don’t think so. I think that despite the huge proclivity for humans to behave, in many ways, identical to apes and monkeys, we don’t have to. Sure we come pre-programmed with desire for food, safety, sex that manifests itself in the form of housing developments, insurance companies, and a plethora of sex related marketing tools, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Mother nature only wants us to live long enough to produce more people. And she, in her infinite wisdom, put in us the drives and desires necessary to be able to do that without ever having an original though or plan of action. We can go through life being a complete slave to our drives and desires and still do pretty good.

But the great part about being human is that we have choice. We can choose to obey our desires as if they are our gods, and that will be that. Or we can merely acknowledge and accept them as only a motivating factor to drive us towards the life that we want. We can choose the outcome we desire, and organize our lives around them, so that we are not slaves to our desires, but we can turn them around and allow our desires to power us and motivate us to achieve any result that we want. Of course, it’s not easy. Just look around you and you will see many examples of this. Fast food for out bodies and minds are in absolute abundance in our society. Resisting can be difficult, but not impossible. Any true reward can be a long time coming, but when it comes, it makes it all worthwhile.

The big difference between us and our monkey cousins, it that we can choose, and despite the ease with which we can forget that, we know this to be true. We know that the fully human life we deserve is only a choice away. A thought away.

The biggest promise of humanity is the simple ability to choose our thoughts. This has been known, written about, and passed down orally since the ancient times. But it’s not easy. Especially today with a bazillion things to snatch your attention from where you want it to be. Like everything, with practice it becomes easier. Those that know this secret, and practice it are the engineers of the society we live in. The rulers, the captains of industry and the politicians that presume to tell the rest of us how to live our lives. You don’t have to listen. Choose your own thoughts. Choose your own destiny. Start today. Now.

Pay Attention to the Wisdom of Your Mind

As you are sitting there now, reading these words, feeling those feelings in that chair, you can begin to notice the sounds around you. And as you expand your awareness to the sounds around you, you might begin to notice certain sensations that you hadn’t noticed before. The feeling in your left leg, the feeling behind your right ear, the sensations on the bottom of your feet. And as you feel those sensations, and hear those sounds around you, you may begin to remember memories of things that happened before. Memories that you hadn’t remembered to think about until now. Happy memories, pleasant memories. You might begin to recall ideas you had from before that you hadn’t begun to follow through on yet. Ideas like this one, or that one, that seemed like a wonderful thing, a wonderful idea of something that you could do or say or express, and then somehow something else happened, and that wonderful idea went to the back of your mind, where it’s been waiting ever since, for you to come here and remember it.

One of the good things about memories is that the really good ones have a tendency to come out more often than others. Some of these disguise themselves as “bad” memories that you don’t want to think about. Like one day you’ll be doing something that you normally do every day, and one of “those” thoughts will pop into your head and you’ll realize after you’ve thought this thought for a few moments that it isn’t a particularly happy thought, and you wonder why it keeps running around and around in your head if you don’t like thinking it.

The reason I use the word ‘disguise’ is because they are actually trying to help you in some way. Sometimes a thought will origin with the intention of pointing out something to you, and it will grab whatever metaphorical memories that it thinks will help you out the most. Often times these metaphorical memories are rather mysterious, and instead of looking for the underlying message, we tend to try and force the ‘bad’ thought out of our minds.

I had a friend once that was a really spiritual person. She was always wearing different colored crystals and practicing different forms of meditation. I went to a lecture once with her of this guy that was some mystical guru from India. It was at this new age center downtown in the city I was living at the time. There were several very interesting people there, and they were all from different disciplines and areas of expertise. It was interesting because the guru from India gave his message using lots of metaphorical terms that could be use to apply to many different situations. After the lecture, we went out with a couple of her friends to a Pakistani restaurant nearby. It’s interesting when you find things are close by that you didn’t know before. Kind of like finding related things when you didn’t have any idea these things have anything to do with each other.

So while we were eating, one of her friends started telling me about his spiritual guide. Now as soon as he started talking about a spiritual guide, I was reminded of an interesting religious ceremony I witnessed once while in Taiwan. I was at friends house, which happened to be next door to a temple. My friend’s uncle owned the temple, and my friend and her family lived in the house. One of her older relatives (I think) stood in front of the alter at the temple, and then started mumbling a bunch of really incoherent speech, at least it was incoherent to me. My friend calmly explained that he was channeling entities from some other Buddhist plain of existence. I wasn’t sure what to think about this so I just kind of watched with interest. He went on like this for about ten minutes, until he finished and left.

So this guy says that when he communities with his spiritual guide, his guide sometimes gives him direct suggestions, and ideas. Other times his guide speaks only in pictures that sometimes takes him several days to understand. He says that everybody has a spiritual guide, even if they don’t know it. He said that most people’s spirit guides try and communicate to the person based on the person’s own belief system and upbringing. This where the Catholic Church got the idea of Guardian Angels (which is an official belief in the Catholic Catechism).
He went on to say that the secret in correctly interpreting your spirit’s communication is to be open, and to trust your mind to come up with the right answer.

Which it’s good to always pay attention to your stray thoughts, because you never can be sure where they are coming from.