In the theater of one’s mind is a multi-dimensional consciousness in which our thoughts point our attention in a particular direction. Neuroscientists have discovered that repetitive thoughts form neural pathways as neurons that fire together get wired together. Thus, the more a particular thought or belief is activated and reinforced, the stronger these neural pathways become and the more automatically they become our “go to” pattern of perceiving. Ever feel like you were in a rut or maybe a little insane for doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results? Maybe there is something to be said for it being “all in your mind” – or at least to some significant degree. The power of human thought is also worth considering in terms of the ongoing influence that society and family beliefs have in molding our point of view as individuals – for better and for worse.
Here’s some good news about this. Neuroscientists use the term “neuroplasticity” to refer to the fact that our brains have the ability to change our synaptic wiring, which is reflected in our point of view. Thus, we have the opportunity to intentionally change our thinking by forming new neural pathways that in turn will change our experiences. Indeed, we have the opportunity to be powerful creators of our own consciousness or to be passive heirs to the autopilot programming of our own history and external authorities.
When we are operating unconsciously on autopilot, we are selectively perceiving our experiences by interpreting them in a way that is in alignment with our existing beliefs, fears, hopes, and dreams. Quite literally, it’s almost impossible for a different point of view to get through to us when we are on autopilot.
Our expressions and behaviors are quite literally self-fulfilling prophesies of our mindset. Over time, when we are running on autopilot, new experiences simply serve to validate our existing way of being in the world – our autopilot responses to future experiences. Thus, when we are not consciously encountering our lives, our experiences simply validate and reinforce our existing beliefs and fail to inform us of new possibilities.
When our perceptions of ourselves, others, and the world we live in are based on little or no conscious awareness and intention to create greater health and well-being, our lives are defined by the autopilot recycling of our attitudes, judgments, illusions, delusions, memories and memory patterns, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams. We exist in a veiled state unable to see what is right in front of us.
Autopilot is not all bad. For example, when we establish healthy habits like eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and having a healthy sense of self, we can put them on autopilot and not think about them unless and until we have the need to change them. However, autopilot can get us in trouble if we have negative patterns of thoughts or emotions running us and we aren’t even aware of it. The degree to which we allow our negativity to run on autopilot (without conscious awareness) is the degree to which we are powerless over it.
In contrast to autopilot, when we create through conscious intention, we bring our awareness fresh and new to each present moment and allow our beliefs, fears, hopes, and dreams to change based on new input. This updating process allows new and different thoughts and feelings to emerge, which in turn can result in new behaviors and ways of being and experiencing our lives. We have the ability to consciously direct our thoughts and feelings through the power of intention, thus taking a far more active role in creating, promoting, and allowing more of what we want in our lives. The state of our consciousness forms the bedrock upon which the dramas of our lives unfold. Within the privacy of our own consciousness – in the theater of our mind – we create our own sense of reality, which we inhabit as our role in the great drama of life. It is a complex structure, like a skeletal system for our consciousness.
An old Chinese proverb captures the power of our thinking in shaping our lives:
Sow a thought and reap an act;
Sow an act and reap a habit;
Sow a habit and reap a character;
Sow a character and reap a destiny.
This is true for us as individuals as well as for groups and societies at large. Thoughts persisted in become taken for granted and are often misidentified as the truth because of their familiarity. They become the building blocks and assumptions that serve as the foundation for a point of view that, unchallenged, will invisibly run on autopilot and shape our future thinking.
To step into the process of creating our lives through conscious intention, unencumbered by all of this is to simply be – free and authentic, with a sense of personal accountability and responsibility for our own creations. When our consciousness is present in the moment, we live in our authenticity, encountering and integrating our new experiences, open to change and alteration as appropriate. There becomes a fluidity and aliveness to our experiences rather than a rote repetition of the past. Even our deepest, most treasured beliefs no longer define who we are. We let go of our story, as we awaken to the magnificence of living more consciously in each moment. However, the price of admission is to let go of the need to be ‘right’ in a fixed point of view and to move fluidly through life, open to change and evolving one’s point of view.
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