Pay Attention to What You Are Paying Attention To

Zen Benefiel, Author and Transformational Life Coach ( takes us on another apocalyptic (uncovering knowledge) journey in making sense common. Zen is a polymath, deep thinker, and researcher and it comes out in his comfortable and open, yet focused style.

It doesn’t matter whether you really care about what’s going on between your ears the way Dr. Melissa Hughes does. You will enjoy how she brings the much-needed discussion to light – how the brain works and what we can do with that knowledge.

As a fourth-grade teacher, she came up with the question, “How can I be the best teacher I can be if I don’t understand how the brains work, or how the brain quirks?” You’ll enjoy the details she offers as to how and what we’ve learned about the brain.

She shares that the boon in brain research started in the 1990s under the Bush administration, which sought to organize technology toward exploring the topic. Melissa relates her trying times as a teacher in Ohio and the effect of emotional contagions and stress hormones from teachers to students regarding the new high-stakes tests that had been introduced.

The learning she found as a teacher and applied in the classroom was not just for the classroom, it actually helps throughout life. She relates how the ‘happy chemicals’ trigger the higher thinking functions of the brain and shares more definitive details about the chemistry and functions. Have you ever had a ‘What was I thinking,” moment? Melissa offers some insights into observing our interactions for self-growth.

What all is happening outside of our awareness? How do we find out? We move into noting various pieces of awareness, such as confirmation bias, that affect interactions on personal and professional levels all the time. Intellectual humility comes over time by seeking out other opinions and perceptions that are in direct opposition to our belief systems.

What do you do to engage intellectual humility? Do you know how? Melissa offers some possibilities as to how one might engage the process, though she notes it takes a lot of discipline to do so. Her research into creating ‘atmosphere’ and ‘experience’ in restaurants found much detail of other perceptions we have in the moment that we aren’t conscious of in the moment.

How do you or we use the invitation to experience more? Melissa starts with attention and intention (perhaps interactions, too). Do we really pay attention to everything we are feeling or sensing in the moment that affects how we engage each other and our situational experience?

How do we see the world? Is it through just our own experience or do we consider what has shaped another’s point of view?

Melissa mentions that we must learn this behavior, that we aren’t necessarily given the natural skill. We have to develop the self-awareness over time and through disciplined effort.

How do we build psychological safety and emotional intelligence in the hybrid world?  Melissa shares some details from current research and considerations that you’ll find intriguing, if not useful. Further in there are some suggestions for putting this awareness of how we affect our own consciousness and others similarly into practical use. She offers a challenge for testing it.

Melissa says we need more human connection; those moments of happy thoughts that occur when people interact in healthy ways, like sharing a smile. She shares three techniques to find balance and ‘happy thoughts’ in the moment. They are all things that affect the brain/body connection. If you can breathe, you can put them into action.

“Pay attention to what you are paying attention to,” was Melissa’s parting gift.


Zen Benefiel
Zen Benefiel
Zen says his life has been spiced with personal and professional opportunities that came through his nurturing of faith, love, and trust that dreams do come true. What built that faith, love, and trust began as an orphan told of his adoption just after his 4th birthday. The spice continued with experiences that span the gamut of the paranormal and include off-planet engagements over a lifetime. Can you say outlier? With two Master’s degrees and multiple certifications as well as an interesting professional history ( his passion turned to transformational life coaching just after the turn of the century, having become a rather astute cognitive scientist with extraordinary insight and intuition, he transformed Be The Dream (founded in 1988) from the intention of bridging best business and spiritual practices to a reality that has served hundreds. A decade and a half of writing was filled with cathartic wonders. His gifts are useful for Team Partnering as well, facilitating people, places, and things to build mega-structures with pre-construction teambuilding sessions. Divorced with four children, 9 grandkids, and 2 great-grandsons, he remarried after 30 years. Luba is from St. Petersburg, Russia, and their meeting, both agree, was a cosmic conspiracy of destiny, spiritual compatibility, and future vision of a newly ordered world in harmony with natural order. After 47 years of preparation, and stepping into what feels like fulfilling destiny, he recently became the Executive Director of the Live and Let Live Global Peace Movement that is inspiring the world now.

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  1. Thank you Zen for this wonderful coverage of the focal thoughts of Melissa.
    That is perfectly right– to pay attention to what we pay attention to. Paying attention to negative thinking for example alerts us to think differently because this what will shape our identity at the end.