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Our attention matters

These last few years have taught me to not trust anything – a job, a boyfriend, my health, the day ahead of me. I’ve implicitly learned to expect the worst and most days when I wake up, my panic goes into overdrive, bracing me to be struck down again.

Luckily, I have learned to question my implicit feelings and thoughts and to look objectively for other things that might also be true. I’ve had incredible things happen because of these past hard events. To access the greater truth of my life and experience, I have to be mindful of where I put my attention.

Our attention is a very powerful thing. It’s the foundation of neuroplasticity and rewiring the brain-body for meaningful change. However, this change doesn’t start easily. In fact, the mechanisms of neuroplasticity are only enabled through stress and effort – “limbic friction”.

Change is disruptive and hard. Changing long ingrained emotional habits can feel almost impossible. Our neural networks for stress and fear are often very strong with well-established synaptic connections between neurons. We will be met with internal resistance every time we try to make a change because these connections are so strong.

…until they’re not.

That’s the beauty of this work. Every time we bring our attention to a new habit, a new way of approaching something, a moment of mindfulness, or a new way of being - we build new synaptic connections which grow in strength every time we choose our attention.

Additionally, each time we choose to do something different, the old synaptic connections start to weaken and our old ways of being start to fall away. We build the new and weaken the old with every mindful, intentional step we take towards changing.

Each morning when I wake up and start to feel panic’s grip tighten, I make a choice. Instead of fighting it, I choose to feel the panic and I breathe into it. I focus my attention on the sensation of panic and my breath and then it starts to shift. And in that shift, my awareness can expand past my panic to my actual lived experience... my corgi bounding around my condo, excited for our walk, reminding me that joy exists everywhere.

And its working. Panic’s grip around my neck is fledgling. A lot of mornings I wake up and don’t have to dance with my panic at all.

It’s only effort at first.

Repetition rewires the brain. It’s a practice. As with everything, the more we practice, the more natural it becomes. Coming back to this work over and over again will change your neural pathways and one day it will become your new way of being.

Cheers to better living


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