EDITION: August - October 2022

The Power of Perception

By Jerry Brownstein
Do our beliefs create our reality? Can you transform your life by changing your perception? To find the answers to these questions we need to look at how the workings of the brain interact with our power of intention. When you were born your mind was a blank slate with no prejudice, no bias and no beliefs, but sometime around the age of seven you developed what is called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This is the part of your brain that determines what information your conscious mind will experience. It has a vital function because our senses are exposed to about four billion (4,000,000,000) bits of information every second, but our conscious mind can only process about 2,000 bits per second. The RAS selects what will come into our awareness, and all of the other information is filtered out so that our limited consciousness is not overwhelmed. 

The only problem is that this RAS filter chooses what you will experience based on the values of the belief system that you absorbed during the first six or seven years of your life. This accumulation of input from your parents, family, society and media determines what comes to your attention in the world. No wonder so many people keep having the same problems over and over again with regard to relationships, money, health and happiness. The RAS is only allowing you to experience things that fit the perceptions of the belief system that you were programmed with. You did not choose your belief system, yet it controls your perception of reality… unless you decide to change it. 

Each of us has the power to adjust our mental filters so that we can choose more of what we experience. An example of how this works is what happens when we start to become interested in something new. It can be a song, an idea, a car or just about anything that you are intensely thinking about. Suddenly this new thing starts to show up in your life – in magazines, on TV, on the internet, in conversations.... it’s everywhere! By giving this item so much attention you have sent a message to your brain that it is important to you, and the RAS filter is then adjusted to let it come into your awareness. This shows that we can actually change our perception of reality by choosing where we place our attention. The next step is to learn how to use this power to consciously choose the content of our experience.

Most of us want our lives to be filled with peace, love, happiness and abundance. We can bring these qualities into our reality by learning how to change the belief system that controls the RAS. The key is to understand that all of your inherited beliefs became engrained through years of repetition and reaffirmation, and they can be transformed in the same way. There are two powerful practices that when used in conjunction with meditation can help you to accomplish this transformation. Affirmations are positive messages about ourselves and the world around us that reprogram our inner guidance through repetition. Visualization is a creative way to see in your mind’s eye the way that you wish your life to be.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the Mind. To make a deep physical path we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path we must think over and over the kinds of thoughts we wish to dominate our minds.”   (Henry David Thoreau)

These words were written over 150 years ago, yet they perfectly describe the workings of what science calls neural pathways - the “highways” that carry information in your brain. When we use affirmations and visualizations to focus our attention on positive thoughts and feelings we create new neural pathways, and the more that we repeat them the stronger and deeper these new pathways become. At the same time the old neural pathways of your inherited belief system wither away and weaken from lack of use. Over time this changes your RAS filter so that your experience of life becomes a beautiful reflection of what you choose it to be.  

People are fond of saying, “ I will believe it when I see it”, but that is merely an illusion because the real truth is that “You will see it when you believe it.” Instead of allowing inherited values to dictate the content of our existence, we have the power to create new perceptions that will literally change our reality. It all starts with the intention to be consciously mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions so that they reflect the person whom we choose to be. Each of us has the power to create a life filled with health, happiness and harmony… and when you believe it you will see it.