I experienced the power of my RAS this year at Venice Airport. We were unexpectedly late catching our flight, we were rushing through the crowds, it was noisy, it was hot, it was very busy. I was concentrating on keeping up with my husband as we weaved through the crowds, through security. And yet….over the tannoy I heard my name called- Alison Clarke. How did I manage to pick that out over the noise and the busyness of the crowds, and tune in at that precise moment, whilst filtering out everything else that had been said?
That is the power of the RAS!
The Reticular Activating System is the part of our brain that is responsible for filtering the 400 billion bits of sensory information that it has to process every second. But HOW does the brain know which bits to filter out and which bits to pay attention too? Because we tell it which bits to focus on!
We have been programming our RAS for years- it knows everything we have told it about who we think we are. It knows our beliefs, it knows what we like, it knows what is familiar to us, it knows our repeating patterns, and its function is to seek out from all the sensory information flying around us, things that match that.
It is the filters we look out through.
You probably have had a tangible experience of your RAS too. You know that thing when you decide to change your car for a different model? I bought an MX5 a couple of years ago. Before that I hadn’t really noticed MX5’s on the road, they had just joined all the rest of the hundreds of vehicles passing by me that I am not paying attention too. But now I have an MX5 I see them everywhere. And I bet that’s true for you if you have decided to look for a particular type of car, you start seeing them everywhere. That is your RAS, looking for patterns that match what you are focused on and looking for what you have programmed it to look for.
However, the thing about your RAS is that as well as looking for cars and drawing your attention to your name in the cacophony of an airport departure area it also looks for anything you want to avoid in your life and it will find evidence of it for you, through its filters, and then bring it to your conscious mind to experience.
It is programmed to match patterns, and doesn’t discriminate between good ones and bad ones, and we all know that sometimes our habitual ways of showing up in the world can work against us.
Life happens. Life is a constant stream of information that passes in front of our eyes that we apply a meaning to from our personal mind. The meaning that we apply will depend on our “perception” of events, not on the events themselves- and our perception of events will be created by our up to date biases, how we are seeing things and the thoughts we believe in, and think are true.
For example, if we have been bullied at school we will create a pattern match in our RAS that will look for signs and signals that we are being bullied again in later life or taken advantage of, or that someone is getting at us. Our RAS is trying to protect us. We look through our filters and we think we are seeing the same thing happening again, but what we are actually seeing are our insecure thoughts superimposed over life that could have a completely different meaning and outcome, if only we were seeing it differently.
We are never actually seeing or experiencing what is happening, we are seeing our version of life through our filters. We are never experiencing other people we are experiencing what we think about other people. All of our definitions of the personal self and what we think of the world is projected out through our eyes, via brain activity and life gets coloured, deleted and distorted, because it has to be…. because we can’t take it all in, so our RAS deletes all the stuff we can’t manage and leaves us with the familiar.
Life looks like it’s repeating itself, it can look like it is out to get us and then we react to that, thinking we are reacting to life but we are only ever reacting to a projection of our own thoughts. All our experiences are created first in our mind and the feelings that follow are the results of our own thinking.
This is how life works. We are experiencing an inside world projected outside of us. We are not experiencing circumstances as they actually are, we are experiencing them as we think they are. Life is not out to get us, but we can be out to get ourselves via what we choose to focus on.
So…. what does all that actually mean on a practical level?
How do we get our RAS to work for us rather than against us, to find the positive rather than the destructive. How can we get our RAS to look for more useful evidence of our innate wellbeing that we may have lost sight of, how can we get our RAS to focus and find the things we want it to find, to create new patterns to match to?
– by telling it to!
It is a bit like setting your GPS. If we don’t input a destination it will just react road by road, not really knowing where to go, but if we consciously give it a set of instructions and set a course for it, it will focus and lead us towards it. It will cause us to notice things we may otherwise not have noticed, it will bring things into our line of sight.
Our RAS is why we experience coincidences, it is why we find our self in the right place at the right time, it is how we align ourselves with what we want to accomplish, it is how things fall into place. You are always attracting, experiencing and accomplishing whatever your dominant thinking believes it will accomplish, experience and attract and what you are giving your focus and attention to, ……what you are thinking about most of the time. If you are setting your RAS with stories of glass ceilings, thinking about all the things you don’t have or that are wrong in your life you will experience more of that…. it’s not life conspiring against you, it is how you have set your RAS as an infinitely creative being, and it has gone off to find it for you.
So, perhaps there is something in life that is not going how you would like it to, or something you are feeling frustrated about. Or maybe there is something you would love a positive outcome for.
Set your RAS intentionally with focus. Affirm your appreciation for where you are and what you currently have because if you set your RAS from a place of dissatisfaction then you will get results you will be dissatisfied with. Set it from lack and you will get more lack. It’s pattern matching remember.
I have been experimenting with this recently. Only in a fun way. I have consciously thought about a person and a desire to see or hear from them. I have thought how about why I would like to see them, what it would feel like to see them, what I would like to talk to them about- and guess what- they have turned up, either in person or on-line getting in touch with me!
And I wonder, if I hadn’t set my RAS would they still have been there, but I just wouldn’t have noticed them?
This is nothing new under the sun- this is the law of attraction, this is dream boards, this is goal setting…. this is just one of the amazing ways that we as creative being can have fun with life. But your RAS is the science behind it!
Focus your thoughts on creating the feeling you want more of. Know the experience of the desire before you experience its physical manifestation. Set your GPS to follow a feeling.
And be aware- our Reticular Activating System is why we have the phrase “Be careful what you wish for”.