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Ask. Repeat. Ask.

The Earth must freeze before it breaks into spring, a few stars must die for new ones to be born, the heaven must claim some souls as others begin a new journey and, the old year must come to an end for the new one to begin. Death and Birth, twin sisters are hard to tell apart, like sunset and sunrise and yet they are so different. As the old year ends and the new one begins, most of us get pensive. We think about the past and what the new year will bring.

Some are hopeful while others are cautious. For the hopefuls, every beginning comes with the promise of something unexpected and amazing about to happen. Maybe the year that went by was drab and dull but, what if the new year was going to be their year. Full of luck, small blessings, and even miracles. I like the hopefulness in the words -- ‘what if’. It crushes facts and reason and shines the light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, I belong to the latter group, the cautious. These are the people that look at the year, no, not the year, their whole life in hindsight, through a magnifying glass. And sometimes taking a stock of things means, wondering why things went wrong and getting disappointed. It also leads to new year resolutions.

Again, the world is divided on whether making new year resolutions is a good idea. Some of us can keep them while others can’t and sometimes things are just beyond our control. But resolutions like affirmations are all about faith. Or are they?

The mistake we make is to imagine science and spirituality to always be at two ends of a spectrum. As opposites, poles that repel each other. But that’s hardly true. Many spiritual practices were invented by great spiritual leaders that understood the mind and the amazing and intricate workings of the human brain. When a sentence or a thought is repeated very often the mind has the power to make it real. Maybe not always but often. Resolutions, affirmations, or any goal setting activity aimed at turning around your life, rests on this scientific theory.

Psychology bears proof to the fact that when a belief gets deeply rooted in our unconscious mind, it overrides everything else to make us behave according to what we believe. So, if it’s a positive thought, we will work harder, take greater risks to achieve what we want. But, if it’s a negative thought we get dejected and hang up our boots.

Many years ago, I shared a tiny apartment with a friend. Among her frugal possessions was a green leather diary with a debossed acorn in gold. She wrote her affirmations in it every day. I never asked her what they were, and I never found out if they came true. But I knew this, despite a painful divorce and being separated from her child who lived with her grandparents, so she could study and work, she always had a smile on her face. She went on to find love and now has a beautiful family. Since I knew little of what she wrote, my imagination ran rampant. I often thought of how beneath the green cover of the diary, on which sat an acorn, a symbol of growth and vast potential, were words. I would often think of how the determined etchings of her pen carved the words in stone.

But that kind of fertile imagination eludes me now. Since then, I have learned of a tiny part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System. It decides whether we will see the glass as half full or empty, the experiences we will open ourselves to and the risks and opportunities that we will take. Every second our body is bombarded with millions of information. Imagine that you are in a lunch buffet that has an impressive spread of dishes. You will naturally gravitate to the foods you like, pile up your plate with your favorites and steer clear of those that you don’t. This is the kind of filtering that the RAS does with information around you. If it didn’t our brains would crash due to an overload. RAS is the reason why some students sit up and listen to poetry in class while others yawn. The reason why we block out the noise and pay attention to an announcement over it at an airport. Or repeatedly pick up negative or positive information that ultimately defines our moods and our future. So, this part of the brain not only filters information it is selective too.

When we repeat a thought very often, we begin to focus on information and experiences that will help us realize that thought. This happens involuntarily, in our brain by training the RAS. So, lets embark on a new journey this year with our best friend, our mind. It's vast potential and magic is something we can discover if we open ourselves to this exciting idea. Go ahead, make a wish, your mind is listening.