How to Use The Reticular Activating System to Make Your Qigong Practice Stick
I just attended an excellent one-day seminar on
Getting Things Done by the productivity guru David
Allen. See www.davidco.com
for more information on
David Allen's programs.
Near the end of the seminar David gave one of the
most useful and succinct explanations of how and
why we can use the reticular activating system to
lock in more effective life habits. The advice is
perfect for ensuring you stick with a qigong
According to David, to ensure that we
automatically stick with a process or practice, we
need to identify so completely with an outcome or
experience these behaviors create that you must do
them in order to have it.
In the case of qigong, the most general and common
outcome is a feeling of gentle, energized
well-being, best summed up by the technical term,
Unfortunately, in our culture, with our general
addiction to stress, our habitual feelings tend to
oscillate wildly and erratically between the
extremes of two other technical terms, "Aaaargh!"
Now, the interesting thing is that with both David
Allen's process and with Qigong, the final outcome
is a more balanced life with more extended periods
of sustained pleasure. You'd think it would be a
no-brainer that we would all automatically choose
But most of us have become conditioned to choosing
the wild ride of cascading chemical and hormones
triggered by the fight or flight response. We end
up accepting fatigue, low-grade anxiety, stress
and sudden rushes of excitement followed by
slumping let downs as the norm.
As David puts it, we don't see how to get and stay
in a state of bliss, we barely believe it is
attainable and don't feel compelled enough to make
What makes us jump out of bed when we hear our
child whimper next door, but sleep through the
harsher interruptions of heavy traffic? It's the
reticular activating system, the part of our brain
geared to brute survival that constantly prompts
us to take notice of what is relevant to our
safety, security and well being. The RAS prompts
us to take notice of what is relevant.
What the RAS considers relevant, we focus on. What
we focus on, we identify with and reinforce.
So, we establish an inner thermostat that seeks to
regulate our nervous system to maintain a comfort
zone. To move us back from agitated, excited and
nervous to calm.
Most of us have set our internal stress point
surprisingly high. We have come to accept that
that is just how it is.
The trick therefore is to consciously reset our
inner settings so we no longer accept high stress
living as the norm.
What's the best way to create sufficient
identification with the new outcome? By
reprogramming our neurology through repetitive
involvement with a new pattern.
Repetitive programming tools that can help us
include outcome focusing, visualization,
affirmations, following coaches and mentors who
model the new outcome, physical engagement and
I frequently tell new qigong students to practice
as much as possible for the first three months
after learning a qigong form. An hour or more a
day, every day. And to attend group classes as
frequently as possible. If necessary to also read
qigong books and watch qigong DVDs.
The consistent, repetitive experience of qigong
practice will start to build a steady state of
gentle, energized calm that we realize we are able
to control. We no longer have to be victims of
stress and pain.
We will develop an early warning system that will
immediately alert the to when we are going
off-kilter, we won't like it and we are confident
that we now have an effective toolkit of posture,
breathing, attention and movement techniques to
restore us to our preferred state of energized
Another very powerful way to affect a change in
the strength of our identification with a process
is through an extended immersion, like a retreat
or a multi-day workshop.
If you are interested in jump-starting your
ability to feel and create extended states of
well-being in your life I strongly urge you to
attend the upcoming three-day Unlock!
I am teaching with Pavel and Steve Maxwell.
It's like getting an instant PhD in mobility,
flexibility and free flowing movement.
Besides having a dramatic impact on your physical
capabilities, it may catalyze a new vision for you
of what you can genuinely achieve to live a life
that is consistently pleasurable and
high-performing. Hope to see you there!
Note: this newsletter is also being simultaneously
published as my latest qigong blog entry. To read
any or all of my previous 29 blog entries visit: