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When I was a kid, I sort of mastered the art of lucid dreaming. Here’s how I did it: when I went to bed at night, I’d visualize a wheel cut into pizza pie slices. There was a type of revolving window on top of the wheel that I could turn to see “inside” each pizza slice. And each slice showed a different image. Perhaps one would be a forest, another a jungle. Maybe one would have music, another silence. I’d turn the wheel until I landed on an image that I liked, and then I’d enter that image—and that would focus my dreams.

I don’t know if I still have that talent. I haven’t tried it in decades. But I do know that it’s a solid analogy for the way my mind works not only when I’m sleeping, but while I’m awake. Over years of watching, I’ve noticed that my mind tends to rotate through a range of images throughout the day. Sometimes it throws up an experience or a feeling. Other times it’s a thought or idea. If I pay attention, I can choose which feeling or thought to focus on, just like I did when I selected my dreams as a kid. If I’m not paying attention, however, my mind generally makes that choice for me. Unfortunately, it’s not always the best or healthiest choice.

Look there! I mean, there!

Here’s the thing. Like puppies distracted by endless scents, our untrained minds are inclined to wander towards the things that attract us most. Often, those are simply the things that yell the loudest. For example, if you’re experiencing some kind of serious pain in your body, odds are your mind will laser focus on that pain, no matter what else may be going on around you. Similarly, if you’ve been presented with upsetting news, your mind is bound to constantly replay the story—even if it makes you feel anger, or resentment, or sorrow. I think of it as the “oooh, shiny” tendency of the mind—the things that glitter most brightly will keep attracting our attention, even if they threaten to blind us.

Despite this being a natural tendency, I don’t think it’s one that serves our highest purpose. When we allow our minds to run rampant, we essentially abdicate responsibility for how we choose to think and feel. That’s because emotion follows attention, and each time our mind jumps to a new shiny object, our emotions swing accordingly. I’m not suggesting that some emotions are “better” than others. At any given time in life, we’re bound to hit up against both the emotions that cause us pain and the emotions that cause us pleasure. What I am saying, however, is that we don’t have to allow those emotions to dominate our lives willy-nilly. We can actually have a say in how we feel. And we exercise that skill by consciously choosing what we pay attention to. 

Making a conscious choice

The power of this practice is unfathomable. Rather than allowing happenstance to upset the balance of our emotions, we can simply decide not to pay attention to a thought or feeling that unseats us from our consciousness.

Recently, I made a mistake at work that upset one of my clients. In the past, when a situation like that arose, my instinct was to wallow in regret and guilt. I’d feel terrible for hours, or even days. I’d imagine worse case scenarios of the client refusing to work with me ever again. This time, however, I decided to handle the situation consciously. I apologized and gave the client a discount. She was grateful. That was it. I didn’t beat myself up. I didn’t add an extra layer of misery to the experience.

Every single day, we’re presented with ample opportunity to practice this skill. It’s allowed me to notice that, when I’m conscious, I’m capable of forgiving—both others and myself. I’m capable of responding to the underlying truth of a situation, rather than reacting to the knee-jerk emotions it may initially make me feel. I’m capable of letting go of the feelings that don’t serve me and better opening my heart to love.

So I present this to you as a challenge: the next time you find yourself inclined to shut down, tune out, react without thinking or spiral downwards, decide instead to change the channel.




About the Author

Aviva RabinoviciWhile Aviva Rabinovici has earned a law degree and is the founder of AR Communications Inc., one of North America’s leading copywriting boutiques, these are not the achievements closest to her heart. What truly makes her shine is having nurtured a passionate, loving marriage for over 26 years; raising three phenomenal children who light up her life; sustaining a 20+ year yoga practice; and co-founding Conscious and Carefree—a blog dedicated to exploring how to live life fully in joy. 

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Originally published at www.bcarefree.com