Over the past 6 months I've had the privilege to have been taught by some of the top experts on mind body and biomechanics on our little planet. Realising and learning the art of embodiment has been quite the journey so far and it’s only just begun. Being exposed to new insights and ideas has literally changed how I think, feel and move through life. Literately! Such a special gift would be wasted if it’s not shared and taught. So I’m going to share an insight that I've been thinking about and experimenting with now for months. It’s so subtle and nuance I've been hesitant to talk about it to friends and clients in fear or misinterpretation. The principles of mind body, I feel most people understand and can explain (and can make posts about them on the internet), but embodying those principles is a completely different world all together. So enough of the build up already...
Focus (or selective focus), is what I want to share with you today. It’s very common in the self help community to say that what a person focuses on becomes that person’s reality. Two people can experience the same event and there can be two very different interpretations of the experience, thus producing different thoughts, points of view and feelings. A fascinating concept when you really spend time to think about it. An example I like to use a lot is a pretty girl at a bar... Two men see a young, good looking girl, on her own at a bar. The first guy assumes that she is on her own, bored and wants someone to talk to her. Whilst the second guy assumes she’s waiting for her friends or boyfriend and he shouldn't disturb her. As you can imagine the actions of the two men after assessing the situation would be very different. This is a fun example but you get my point. How you interpret situations, will determine your thoughts, which affect the feelings in your body and finally dictate the actions you take, or do not take. I just find that fascinating! Our focus is the fortune teller of our life experiences. Of course so far I've just given a superficial example of what selective focus is. So let’s go deeper.
Reticular Activation System (RAS). Your RAS is an alert system (to bring something to your attention). Evolution decided it would be a good idea if human beings had a warning system installed. So if danger entered the environment, we would be aware of it and could take the appropriate action to help ourselves. You could view your RAS as a value system. Danger inherently has value as we need to know when there is any. Back in the cave man days our RAS would have to be finely tuned, to help protect our tribe. If a threat entered the environment such as a hungry lion, we would need to be aware of that threat in order to either fight of the lion or run! Another example is when you’re walking through a terminal. Think of all noise, hundreds of people talking, music, announcements, luggage carriers. Yet not allot of the noise is brought to your attention. Yes you can hear the general background noise but not any individual person or sound. Then a new announcement comes in saying your name or the flight you’re boarding and suddenly you’re attention is ‘fully on’. Your RAS is like a filter between your conscious mind and your sub conscious mind. It takes instructions from your conscious mind and passes them to your subconscious mind.
Try this exercise...
I want you to find the colour green in the room you’re in. Look for the colour green. Everything in the room that is green. Now close your eyes. Keep your eyes closed and try to remember everything in the room that was blue... Chances are you can’t remember anything that was blue. That’s because in that scenario green had the value. You can change what your RAS focuses on.
So enough examples, why is this important? About 70% of my client base initially started working with me because they suffered from back pain. As I began to teach healthy movement and include exercises to compliment their improved movement patterns, the results were very interesting. 8/10 of my clients (if I've been working with them for a little while) would feel liberated and free from their back pain. While the odd client would experience a small improvement but still keep recycling the same pain. Even if their movements and posture had improved. What’s even more interesting is the clients who had serious issues with their back normally improved massively while some of the clients who weren't improving, had very little problems with their back (from the point of view of structural integrity) but claimed to be in more pain. Of course there could be many possibilities why this is happening. But in this particular case study all the clients who still suffered with back pain regardless of treatment had one trait in common. Their focus was always in tune with the memory of back pain. Regardless of the action taken. Because their focus was highlighting back pain. They experienced back pain. Just to emphasize, I’m not saying this is the only reason for their pain. But it would be ignorant to not acknowledge this recurring trait. I’d like to make the insight. Our Internal focus will manifest our external reality. In other words. If you focus on your back hurting. Your back is going to hurt. If you focus on your back feeling lighter and looser. Your back is going to feel lighter and looser. You give energy to whatever you focus on.
This isn't to encourage people to ignore their pain. This is an invitation that once you’re doing the correct movements and treatments for your pain. Change your focus. If after an extended period of time there is no change in your body, then you need to change the action you've taken. Change the exercises, technique and treatment ect... But as long as you’re taking healthy action, give yourself permission to move your attention away from the pain. Stop validating the problem by giving it more value. This is a mental discipline. One that you can develop through meditation and mind body exercises.
The reason I’m so convinced of this mental tool is because I shared this insight with my clients who were still suffering from back pain. I’m happy to share with you that they are now experiencing less pain and are enjoying their movements more and more. How amazing! I gave them a biomechanical image to focus on. When doing pelvic tilts for example, I had them imagine the internal movements of facet joints L5 and facet joints of the sacrum. Going away from each other and towards each other (of course I demonstrated with bones before giving the image). Before I go any further I must credit the Franklin Method (which I am currently studying) as this is a Franklin Method exercise. Using imagery to improve function. Quite the breakthrough in the movement world (and life) when used properly.
Our mind and body are constantly receiving huge amounts of information from the outside world. It would be too overwhelming for us to function in everyday life if we were exposed to all that information. This vast sea of information is filtered to our conscious mind so we can function and ‘make sense’ of things. What you’re able to be aware of is 1/10th of what is really going on in the world around us. So why not focus on what is useful to you rather what is not useful to you. The power of selective focus is so profound I feel personally I've only scratched the surface of it’s benefits. Considering that we all use selective focus anyway, we pay attention to this or that. We might as well use this mental tool to in power us. To change in the direction we desire.