One of my favorite things to teach is about the “third eye,” also called the ajna chakra. The word “ajna” translates to “command center” in English. Interestingly enough, we find the pituitary gland in this part of the body, which controls the function of many other endocrine system glands. Meaning, depending on what we experience *or imagine* our pituitary gland releases hormones that either calm or excite our bodies. Essentially we can use the power of our mind to heal or harm the rest of our being.
The intersection of modern neuroscience and ancient spiritual traditions fascinates me. Ancient yogis and mystics described the maps of our reality thousands of years ago and now science is starting to explain them.
These detailed instructions, while sometimes lacking in the “why” of how they work still produce miraculous results. As Arthur Clarke once said, “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.”
Continuing on the concept that the ajna chakra cultivates our existence is this idea that what we place our focus on is what we become.
For those of you who have taken a yoga class, you may have been standing in tree pose when your teacher guided you to find a “drishti.” This Sansrkit word means “gaze” or “vision.” The full instruction is usually to “place your drishti on an unmoving object.” Incidentally, when one starts to focus on this point, the body begins to stabilize as well.
Then we have this practice of bhakti which translates to “devotion.” If any of you listen to Ram Dass you have likely heard him mention this practice, as it was his main sadhana. This is where the practitioner chooses a deity to work with — reciting prayers, offering gifts, and practicing visualizations. The idea behind this is when someone places their attention on a specific deity they will end up uniting with the deity, attaining the same qualities of that being.
If you think about it, this isn’t really too far off from modern axioms like, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Have you ever been around someone so much that you started to speak like them? Or been in a relationship where the two of you started to mimic the qualities of the other? This is not a mere accident or even something we consciously choose. It is an important part of our evolution as humans.
I remember first learning about this while studying for a trauma-informed meditation training. We were asked to read various books which uncovered the neuroscience behind yogic practice. This is where I first learned about the development of the human brain.
The brain has been growing in size for millennia. Different regions came into existence at various times. This is important for us to note because the older parts of the brain still have the strongest wiring. Meaning, before we had things like language and self-reflection, we had observation. What we observed, we learned more quickly. This is still true today.
It’s why the old phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do,” is basically nonsense. This idea literally counters what we know now about how humans learn and adapt.
To show this, here is a quote from the study Beyond the Perception-Behavior Link:
“When we perceive the behaviors of others, we may proceed to unconsciously copy or mimic those behaviors. That is, perceiving observable aspects of others (e.g., their expressions, postures, behaviors) activates the associated representations in memory, which in turn makes us more likely to do the same. In addition to activating behavioral representations, perceiving these “observables” (Dijksterhuis & Bargh, 2001) may also lead to spontaneous trait inferences. Thus, the perception of observables may activate specific behavioral representations.”
Additionally, what we feed our minds is what we start to orient our lives around, whether we intend to or not. Only about 5 to 20 percent of what is in our minds are within our conscious grasp. This includes the thoughts that run through our heads each day. Meaning that our choices, thoughts, and actions are made up mostly by unconscious movement — even if we’re awake and feeling like we are actively making these decisions.
In reality, the decision was made for us in the days, weeks, and years prior by what we had been consuming and observing during that time.
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”― Oscar Wilde
What that means is the small percentage of our conscious mind informs the direction of our subconscious tendencies. This is why when we intentionally start to speak nicely to ourselves our brains start to produce positive mental chatter effortlessly. Or conversely why when we watch distressing shows we end up dreaming about them at night. I have even seen time after time people close to me live out scenes from their favorite movies and books, but completely unintentionally.
I also have this theory that the reason why teens seem to instinctually plaster their walls with the idols they adore is the same reason why some adults create vision boards for themselves. It’s the same reason why there are temples and monuments and pantheons.
Because we have this ancient knowledge in the fabric of our bodies that know when we create an altar and cultivate our focus we will become like that which we gaze upon.
Why is all of this so important right now?
I have been thinking about this more and more, as I scroll through the internet and have my attention pulled this way and that.
Here’s something miraculous, here’s something funny, here’s something devastating, here’s something confusing — in rapid succession.
I feel my attention and energy waning. My potency in being able to manifest and create has somewhat diminished. On a non-mystical level, we know that social media has the ability to drain us of our energy and make us depressed.
Additionally, we are constantly being sold something, whether outright or not. Observing friends, celebrities, and influencers in the most epic locations, with the biggest smiles, in the best clothes tells our subconscious minds what to prioritize. Even if consciously we know these things do not necessarily make us happy, and the pursuit of them can make us miserable, the subconscious mind only understands what it has been fed. Then it pursues that.
Between the photos of beautiful people with amazing lives, we see the slides and images that tell us we shouldn’t want too many things, or how life is so hard on this planet. Videos of the most horrific nature enter our eyes, often not sought out by us, but by merely scrolling a little further. Our bodies may flood with adrenaline, cortisol, and corticotropin.
As I write this, I am starting to realize we may be associating the pursuit of this “best life” with stress and anxiety. What fires together wires together, as they say.
On top of that, our minds cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. Whether you visualize a positive or stressful scenario, observe it on a screen, or actually experience it, your body will still do what it has evolved to do. The command center will send the appropriate signals to the body, either allowing you to relax or preparing you for battle.
I am curious what having such a scattered and shallow view of the world ends up doing to a human. I know that we are starting to find out. Some of us know first hand.
What I am really interested in, though, is what we are capable of as humans. Especially when we use what we know to cultivate new realities.
Although the forces at play are utilizing this knowledge for capital gain, no one is forcing us to use the tools the way they intend.
We can choose to place our attention on what has heart and meaning for us. We can create the spaces that reflect back to us what we actually value. We can participate in the activities that are most nourishing for our souls.
What becomes miraculous is how easily the world can actually change. If anything, I have learned that it doesn’t take a lot of energy to make a change. It just takes creating the right conditions and showing up consistently.
When each one of us chooses to live in a way that is more conscious and harmonious, people will see these changes and they will mimic this behavior. Without any words, without even trying.
It’s just human nature.