Your Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a structure that sits in your mid-brain and connects the brain stem, to the cerebral cortex, through various neural paths. Our brain stem controls most of our involuntary functions (breathing, heartrate, electrical activity), as well as reflexes of the body, while the cerebral cortex is the seat of consciousness and thinking abilities.
The RAS forms a link between these two different regions, helping our consciousness put together our sense of an internal world, through assimilation of sensory information, gathered from all body parts. In simple terms, the RAS lets us consciously know how we’re unconsciously functioning – are all systems “GO” or not.
The RAS is associated with a number of important human capacities including:
- Our circadian rhythms or sleep-wake-cycle
- Our capacity to recall or remember information (useful when we’re enrolled in school and being tested on materials covered in textbooks or in classes)
- Our alertness, especially as it relates to our danger reactions including Fight/Flight/Freeze
- Our ability to notice what matters and make decisions based on that capacity.
Why should you care about the RAS?
Because it also serves as a filter to help you focus on information that is most important to you. It functions as a two-way conduit to both send and receive messages between our conscious and unconscious selves – a handy tool if you know how to use it!
On top of all the things it manages automatically (collecting information for us so we can make healthy adjustments moment-to-moment and day-to-day) it also serves as a filter allowing us to quietly (and subconsciously) focus on the things that matter most to us.
Assuming you’re in touch with your core values (we’ve talked about that before) and acting in alignment with them on a regular basis, it is your RAS that points you toward the things you’ve PROGRAMMED it to notice and respond to!
Here’s a simple example of how the RAS filters information for us.
- You decide to buy a new car
- You narrow down the type of car, the brand, model, and color you want
- You test-drive your top picks
- You select and purchase your RED, FORD, ECOSPORT (actually my car).
- Suddenly you see dozens, even scores of Ford, Ecosports on the road, many of them red – and you’ve never noticed them before!
Your purchase process has “taught” your RAS that this is an important decision and that it matters to you – so now, your awareness is heightened, and your attention is drawn to the details you’d never really seen before — scores of Ford, Ecosports on the road.
What if you were to turn this filtering capacity into a magnificent tool for manifesting what you want in your life? What if you were to “teach” or “program” your RAS to be looking for, noticing, and calling to your attention those indicators in your environment that would most serve your needs and purposes? We have the capacity to do this, through the act of INTENTION. . .
- What if you used your affirmations to consistently remind your subconscious self WHO you want to be, WHAT you want to be engaged in, and HOW you want to live your life?
- What if you made a list of the many attributes and characteristics of people you’d like to draw into your circle of friends; kind people, thoughtful people, generous people, (etc.)?
- What if you painted a picture or made a collage (vision board?) incorporating images of the things you want to attract into your life (a promotion, a partner, a new home)?
Then, having richly and thoroughly described to your subconscious RAS the elements of what you’re looking for, you turn it loose to simply FIND those things in your environment, call them out to you and remind you to act on them! That’s what it means to MANIFEST in your life – to create what you most want to surround yourself with – it is an unconscious process made conscious by the act of INTENTION.
Sound crazy? Hold on, let me tell you a story (an old story from my own life). . .
In the early 1980s, I lived in Gary, Indiana. It is a small city, west of Chicago, on the Indiana side of Lake Michigan – it is also where Michael Jackson grew up. I was single and planning to move to Minneapolis. In preparation for that move, I began to recite to myself a mantra that went like this, “I am surrounded by handsome men who love being with me” – I did this thinking I might ultimately attract romance.
What I failed to do in programming my RAS with this mantra was to be sufficiently specific.
When I arrived in the Twin Cities, I engaged in building meaningful relationships with a number of health-related causes, many connected to the AIDS crisis that was raging at the time. Within a year, my life was “surrounded by handsome men who loved being with me” – all of them were gay.
I had totally manifested exactly what I asked for. Your RAS will do exactly as it is instructed! So, the moral to my story is to be careful what you ask for!
What do you want to attract into your life? Where do you want this year to be different from other years? What do you want to achieve or accomplish in the months ahead? All of these desires can be aided by INTENTIONALLY using your RAS – I’d be happy to show you how it’s done!