Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The power of positive thinking

I went to donate blood this afternoon, and as always, they do the little test first to make sure you have enough iron. Unfortunately the minimum requirement for blood donors is 12, and my blood only registered a 10.3. I was disappointed, because of course they do the iron test *after* half an hour of other questions like Have you recently played with typhoid-ridden rats? and Do you regularly inject yourself with other people's bodily fluids?, and besides, it frustrates me to not be able to give blood when I'm a perfectly healthy human being.

So the nice blood guy said "Well, we can try again on the other hand if you want... there's not much of a chance it will be different, but sometimes if your hands are cold it can register a bit low." So I said sure, what the heck, I have plenty more fingers. Besides, the second test was on my right arm, which is my tennis arm, so of course all the strong blood's going to be on that side. So we both started joking about focusing my iron and the power of positive thinking and so forth... until the little machine beeped, and the guy's eyes got huge, and he said "Um, I don't know what you did, but now you're at 13.7."

Cool, so now I can give blood. And just to be on the safe side I spent the rest of the day thinking World peace! World peace! World peace! just in case I have magical powers I was not previously aware of.

Anyway, all of that reminded me of a habit I used to have of making a wish at 11:11. If you're not familiar with this, it's sort of like wishing on stars, for the digital age - if you happen (and it must be by chance) to see a digital clock just when it shows the time 11:11, you can make a wish.

I don't know if this is part of the official 11:11 lore, but the habit I developed if I happened to catch that magic moment was to stare at the clock, not averting my gaze until it turned to 11:12, and focusing the entire time on my wish. For a long time I made a regular practice of this, and the best thing about it was that it taught me to always have a wish at the ready, so that I didn't waste big chunks of that precious minute trying to decide what to wish for.

And, interestingly enough, if you are frequently nudged to evaluate what things in your life you most want to wish for, that does wonders for helping you clarify what it is you really want.

A couple of years ago, What Now wrote a really lovely post along these lines (I'm so happy that I actually saved this reference); she wasn't talking about the 11:11 phenomenon, but she has a wonderful description (from her partner D.) of what she calls the background work of the brain: "Our brains are always engaged in background tasks; if we ask ourselves a particular question at least once every day, the brain starts to gather information on that question automatically throughout each day."

I think there's an awful lot that we do to train ourselves to think in particular ways. Squadratomagico just wrote about a couple she knows who have the habit of constantly denigrating everything around them, and I thought boy, do I know those people. They live in the same world I do, but they've trained themselves to pick out all the things they don't like about it. Others train themselves to look for any possible slight to themselves, any sign that they're not measuring up to the expectations of others; still others get in the habit of looking for opportunities. It's all in what you teach your brain to do. (Either What Now or PPB - unfortunately I didn't save this link, but I'll be happy to give credit if anyone remembers - once used the example of setting your computer password to be something you want to focus on, so that you're reminded of it every day. I loved that.)

I used to be in the habit of thinking about what I most wanted, which kept me attentive to the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of direction I wanted to head in. I've slipped on that lately, to the extent that when our dean recently asked me what my longer-term career plans were, I didn't have a very clear answer at the ready. I know what I want to do today, and this week, but with my life? Haven't had time to think about that lately.

But heck, if I can boost my blood iron, maybe I can be a little more conscious about steering my life too. I don't feel like I'm off track, particularly; I just don't know what my track is at the moment, and if I saw a clock turning 11:11, I'd waste a good part of that minute trying to figure out what to wish for. Time to get back in the habit.

What would you wish for?

No comments:

Post a Comment