How to Embody Your Intention
3 crucial elements that make your new year’s resolution work
All the wishing in the world cannot make even your BEST intentions come true. You will never THINK your way into change! The only way to change behavior patterns is with the body combined with emotion (meaning). Cognitive means will never be enough. Here’s why…
Here is how your highly-efficient brain learned everything it knows:
- It recognizes and organizes patterns by making neural associations, connecting neurons to neurons to form neural networks throughout your nervous system. Very quickly (while you were still a child!), unused patterns are pruned and frequently used patterns are reinforced.
- As you move through life and are exposed to “new” information and experiences, you brain favors what it recognizes in existing neural networks. Through long-term potentiation the brain makes structural and chemical changes to neurotransmitters and receptors to speed up the transmission of the “known,” selecting against new and unfamiliar patterns.
Colloquially, this is often cited as, “What fires together wires together.” It allows the brain to process enormous amounts of incoming data, but it also makes it blind to concepts, experiences, beliefs and behaviors we encounter once we leave childhood.
These two processes (and others) result in a constellation of automatic nervous system responses your body uses in a million minute ways to strive for constant equilibrium. After a couple decades of living with these patterns, your body shapes itself in response to these engrained reactions.
Making your new year’s (or any new) intention work begins with pattern disruption. You must interrupt existing systems and patterns to lay down new ones. Your body is key! Rewiring neural networks requires the involvement of the body since it was involved in the creation of these patterns. Also, your body’s habitual shaping and response to its environment gives you a point of entry for reverse-engineering these learned responses.
What are you disrupting? Begin by becoming aware of physical sensations involved in the old behavior or response. Notice:
- Temperature: Do parts of your body experience a rush of heat or cold?
- Pressure: Do you experience a sense of contraction or expansion? Do parts of your body feel heavy or light? Do certain areas tighten, like jaw, breathing, or hips?
- Movement: Do you notice a flutter? Goosebumps? A knee-jerk? Do your shoulders rise?
Once you become aware of these patterns, use the body to disrupt them. Change position or posture. Exercise is a great disruptor! You might explore therapeutic touch. Try writing to gain emotional insight. When you notice a pattern, seek disruption.
Notice and shift, over and over again. Develop a specific disruptive movement that you personally associate with adopting your desired intention. Feeling it = being it. Repetition is important, especially in the beginning.
I’ll share my example. My intention this year is “Soft and Slow.” My embodiment practice includes noticing tightening anywhere in my body and softening it; choosing softer words; slowing before response; and leaning back (which signals “slow” to me).
Repetition is important but not enough. There is one more aspect to embody a new intention: there must be emotional investment.
Set an intention you care about viscerally: a fire you feel in your gut Notice your passion! Involve your heart! Your brain’s rewiring favors emotional connections, so use the fertile void of disruption to pump up the LOVE of the life you are creating and the person you are becoming. Tie this relaxed, positive feeling into the disruptive behavior, and your brain will be onboard in no time!
When you develop the practice of creating meaningful intention, your life becomes a co-creative dance of manifestation. Every experience is a feed-back loop of learning. Program your brain to work on autopilot FOR–not against–you. My book, Intentionology: 365 Days of Living on Purpose, is apractical guide that helps you develop a powerful practice of replacing negative thought patterns with empowering, uplifting ones.
3-Steps to Embody Your Intention:
By your brain’s magnificent design, it is impossible to THINK your way into change. You must enlist your whole being to move your life in the direction of your dreams. These are the necessary components:
- Physical DISRUPTION of the associated bodily response.
- Deep, emotional CARING
- BODY positions and movement related to new behavior
Practice frequently to the edge of frustration or discomfort. Your brain should grumble a little, trying to trick you into reverting to your old behavior. Great! This is how you know you’re in the “Change Zone” where the magic happens.
[References and Resources: based on Amanda Blake’s work: Body = Brain.]
Whole-being well-being expert, Liz Garrett, translates scientific and metaphysical principles into PRACTICAL APPLICATION leaders use to change their lives, their relationships, their work and, ultimately, the world.
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