“Most of us prioritize externally oriented attention. When we think of attention, we often think of focusing on something outside of ourselves. We “pay attention” to work, the TV, our partner, traffic, or anything that engages our senses. However, a whole other world exists that most of us are far less aware of: an internal world, with its varied landscape of emotions, feelings, and sensations. It is often the internal world that determines whether we are having a good day or not, whether we are happy or unhappy. That’s why we can feel angry despite beautiful surroundings or feel perfectly happy despite being stuck in traffic.
University of Toronto study compared exteroceptive (externally focused) attention to interoceptive (internally focused) attention in the brain. Contrary to the conventional assumption that all attention relies upon the frontal lobe of the brain, the researchers found that this was true of only exteroceptive attention; interoceptive attention used evolutionarily older parts of the brain more associated with sensation and integration of physical experience; brain regions that link the cortex to the limbic system. These limbic connections may support more direct access to emotions and physical sensations while the neocortex is more responsible for a conceptual sense of self. By recruiting “limbic-bridge” areas, a person using interoceptive attention may bypass the pre-frontal neocortex, directly tapping into bodily awareness that is free from social judgment or conceptual self-evaluation.
For some, turning attention inward can be distressing, because it may tune us into emotions that are not comfortable. However, constantly distracting ourselves through attention turned outwards will not remove those underlying emotions. Yoga, breathing and meditation practices are designed to increase our interoceptive awareness. By learning to engage with our emotions through our dedicated interoceptive awareness, we may experience the first signs of healing. Research conducted with veterans suffering from trauma is also showing this to be true. Though the veterans are at first wary of being present with the emotions, feelings and memories that can arise during their first yoga, yogic breathing, and meditation practice, they report that over time those distressing inner experiences start to actually wane and heal. Best of all, they feel empowered. No longer reliant on drugs or a therapist, they have learned to use their own breath to regain control of their lives.”
and see what Deepak Chopra has to say on the subject here – where I found the cool images on this post, thanks Deepak ; )