Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Naw-Ruz! 9 Intentions for the New Year & a little Brain Science

Gardens at Baha'i World Center - Baha'i Media, permission Baha'i International Community

As the sun set yesterdy I gathered with Baha’is and friends to celebrate Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year. Our celebration was enriched with the arts of local friends who shared what they loved – live music, dance, photography. From The Story of Baha’u’llah I read about the Naw-Ruz observed by Baha’u’llah and His family on the outskirts of  Baghdad after their severe mountainous winter journey into exile from Tehran. Then it was time for a delicious pot-luck dinner and enjoying the company of friends old and new.

New Year naturally brings to mind “Resolutions.” Hmmm, aren’t resolutions those things that people try to force on themselves in January, only to find them impossible to keep and so stealthily, guiltily, drop them? I decided “intentions” is the word I prefer – not resolutions imposed by a parade of “shoulds,” but what do I choose for myself? And it seems natural to ride the wave of self-awareness, however small or large, that comes with the Baha’i Fast. Or in other language, to continue in the creative process of that archeology of the spirit.

So yesterday morning, the last day of the Fast, I spent time reflecting and writing down a few things I want for myself in this new year. Maybe you’d like to write a few things down yourself? Here is a gentle prompt for this kind of reflection and focus. I have used it in writer workshops at Green Acre, where we focused on personal writing life, but you can focus on whatever you choose.

Write down:
3 things you want to let go of

3 things you want to keep/increase

3 things you are grateful for

Why is it a good idean to write down your intentions and gratitude? In her book Write it Down, Make it Happen Henreitte Anne Klauser describes the brain science behind it. She identifies the RAS – reticular activating system – a group of cells at the base of the brain stem “whose job it is to sort and evaluate incoming data. . . like a filtering system of the brain. Writing it down sets up the filter,” explains Klauser. Things start to appear.”

Ever buy a blue Honda? she asks. “If you . . . buy a blue Honda, all of a sudden you see blue Hondas all over town. You might wonder, Where are all these blue Hondas coming from? But they were there all along; you were just not paying attention to them.

“Putting a goal in writing is like buying a blue Honda; it sets up a filter that helps you be aware of certain things in your surroundings,” writes Klauser. “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the crebral cortex: “Wake up! Pay attention! don’t miss this detail” Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that, like the blue Honda, were there all along.”

Paying attention is a key point in the paradigm for sustained creative process, so write down your intentions to clue in your brain on where to pay attention – and give yourself a little New Year’s gift. Happy Naw-Ruz!

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