The past few months have found me sequestered on a plane more often than usual. Frequently unable to sleep and not a big fan of watching movies on a 3 inch by 5 inch screen, my activity of choice to pass the time is to read. If I don't have a gripping book with me, then I read lots and lots of magazines and journals. Their subject matter and articles run the gamut. Most recently, I was reading the December 2008 issue of Psychology Today and Inc. Magazine. While they are wildly different magazines, there was an article in each magazine that intrigued me and gave me pause. Having read them in sequence, both these articles became even more powerful - especially so, as I was reflecting on my hopes and goals for 2009.
I have always read and believed that your thoughts affect and influence your life experiences. However, most of us go through life unconscious, on autopilot often consumed by our thoughts but unaware of their true impact. But how and what would we think and feel, if our thoughts and brainwaves created our immediate physical reality? Would we change our thinking, our thoughts? Well that technology is in the works.
After I was served my drink by the flight attendant, with my can of tomato juice in hand, I flipped to the lead article in Psychology Today titled "The Art of Now" by Jay Dixit. While it did not mention anything particularly ground-breaking, it reinforced the importance of mindfulness - of being present and aware of your thoughts. When you become conscious of your thoughts, you are more able to merely observe and accept them and become less governed by them. Only when you are free from the chatter in your mind are you able to fully appreciate and celebrate life. Mindful people are happier, more accepting, more exuberant and secure.
Unfortunately, too often we are so consumed in our own thoughts that it trumps everything in our surroundings. Ellen Langer from Harvard University suggests in this article that we become mindless because once we think we know something, we stop paying attention to it. When we lose focus and appreciation of our surroundings and present environment, we turn inward with the faulty assumption that our thoughts and anxieties have more pressing value. They then become our perceived reality.
Buddhists call our lack of appreciation of living in the present, "monkey minds," because we instead prefer to swing from thought to thought mindlessly. So few people I know take the time to enjoy a meal, savor a cup of tea, admire the brilliance of a flower or feel the warmth of the sun on their skin. But if they did, it is proven that they would be happier, more fulfilled, less depressed.
The irony is that if life is passing us by because we are consumed with the minutia of our own thoughts, how many of us are actually fully aware of its content and of what we are imagining and conjecturing every minute?
This leads me to my second article - "Reality Bites" by David H. Freedman in Inc. Magazine. The focus of this magazine is generally about entrepreneurs and up and coming companies. In the December 2008 issue, they profiled the work, the founder and the scientists at a young company in Australia called Emotiv. These people have created a headset that reads your brain-waves and thereby allows you to conjure up entire worlds using nothing but your mind. (Read the italics again - this is huge).
This technology they hope will introduce emotions into the sterile computer revolution. Doors and windows could open because you think it. Your stereo, as described in this article would sense that you are depressed and play more upbeat music, and so on. The options, the possibilities, the uses are limitless. That's incredible isn't it?
This then led me to ponder - what kind of environments and experiences would our thoughts and brainwaves be creating for ourselves? If we were fully aware that we could completely affect and alter our immediate physical reality with the sheer will of our thoughts - wouldn't we become more mindful? More conscious of each thought? And wouldn't we be more selective about what we choose so often to fixate and focus on?
Well, think about it - this future ain't so far off.