Are you in charge of your mind and, therefore, your results in life?
If not, then who is…?
If you’re not happy with your results, perhaps some part of what’s truly motivating you to “do what you do” comes from your unconscious programming. Limiting beliefs, unresolved negative emotions, and various internal conflicts are some examples of deep, internal programming that can operate for years without our conscious awareness.
The unexamined life is not worth living.—Socrates
If you’ve ever felt chased by nagging feelings that “something’s missing”, that “something” could be you—free from your major, disempowering programs. A person can learn to become aware of the daily choices that they’re making—and what’s motivating those choices.
So, who would you be without your habitual mindset? Perhaps someone who’s getting to where they’d like to grow?
The art of becoming more conscious to your unconscious processes is a bold exercise toward awakening and living a more congruent, less fragmented life.
Let’s first cover a few ways a person can continue to cause conflict within themselves and remain incompatible with inner-directed solutions. A person could:
- Continue to busy themselves with the ever-popular pastime of projecting out their unresolved issues onto others, and remaining clueless that they’re doing that. (Is it really “everybody else’s fault”, or are those that one blames actually providing a unique learning opportunity for them?)
- Continue to pile mountains of new, intellectual knowledge on top of their old, unresolved, unconscious issues and go about “talking the talk”, while quietly sweeping what they’re actually doing under the rug. This is also known as not “walking the walk”. (Don’t worry, one can always get back to projecting.)
- Continue being upset and reactive with others, thus allowing them to gain control over you through your hard feelings toward them. In other words—as they continue to live, rent free, in your head—your ill will toward them causes you guilt, which causes you anxiety, which can cause you to reach for the very things that cause the whole cycle to repeat. (Yes, handing others the “remote control” to your emotional life, so they can continue to push your buttons, is not a very good life strategy.)
Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.—William James
Okay, now onto some inner-directed solutions that promote some unity within, instead of division.
There are three essential tools a person can begin to get curious about and use in the development of their internal being (or consciousness). These elements work in concert with each other, blending synergistically. The ongoing process of developing these liberating tools is unique to each individual during their life’s journey, if they care to experiment with them.
1. The Gift of Present Moment Awareness
One common experience of present moment awareness that most can relate to is being momentarily overwhelmed by the vast beauty of nature. When you witness a spectacular sunset, it gives rise to awareness, appreciation and acceptance. That’s what present moment awareness can do.
If you really consider it, the irony is that the present moment is actually all you ever, physically, find yourself in. One present moment after another. Where are these concepts called past and future? In the mind. And, as you may have heard, when you have one foot on the past, and the other foot on the future, all you do is piss on the present.
Those who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, are as good as dead; their eyes are closed.—Albert Einstein
Buried under the labels of the labels of the labels that you use to label all your experiences, there’s the present moment. There’s the actual experience you’re having, taking place moment by moment. And then there’s your labels of the experience you’re having (which are largely colored by your past programming). The problem is that those labels can often remove you from welcoming the awareness, appreciation and acceptance within the present moment.
As Byron Katie says, “It’s not what people say that upsets us, it’s what we hear…Are you listening to what you believe about them, or listening to them?”
Because the words you use to label the experience are not the experience—they’re not “written in stone”. There’s always more than meets the eye (and the interpretation). To be truly in the moment is to break free from labeling it. You give that a rest—for a moment. Maybe two.
The present moment is your functional friend because it can be the entering wedge toward gaining some real clarity. And it’s always there, beyond the distortions and generalizations of our limited labels and conditioned reactions.
2. The Art of Objective Observation
The ability to observe yourself objectively—free from past conditioning (and unhelpful, old emotional reactions)—can be a powerful partner to present moment awareness. (And this, incidentally, is also often a by-product of effective meditation.)
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.—Victor Frankl
And that just means developing the capability to witness, with a little discernment, the exact moment you almost run an old stimulus/response pattern. Rather, you practice observing it away now with a friendly, detached awareness. Just noticing it away with a spirit of curiosity…without the need to build a personal identity around it…like with the neutral eye of a camera…without getting caught up in it.
Objective observation allows you to no longer be carried away by streams of negative thoughts and feelings. Instead, it’s more like you’re sitting on the bank of the stream just watching them float on by…and fade away.
And when you simply give yourself that calm space inside to watch your own behavior with curiosity and patience, you may begin to realize that you have a choice. You may even notice you have lots of healthy choices. And that you’ve “broken the spell” of being controlled through your upset reactions to others.
3. The Skill of Self-Control
Control your self, or be controlled.
That thing you’ve heard about called your “ego” is basically your programming (the little you). You are not your programming. You are what learned it (the bigger, more resourceful you)—but you’re much more than that even. The point here is, you can learn new things and thereby, transcend (rewrite) your programming. Never forget that there’s always room to create more good stuff within. Or as Thomas Edison once said, “When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this—you haven’t”.
The gift of present moment awareness and the art of objective observation lead to the skill of self-control. This means that you consciously interact with your own internal processes and direct them toward what’s truly important to you in the service of creating a compelling future for yourself.
When you feel the pull of an urge, whim or temptation, you practice consciously letting it pass, like a cloud, rather than struggling with it, or resisting it or pushing it down. And that provides the space for other choices (healthy replacements) to direct your focus and imagination toward.
If you’re going through hell — keep going.—Winston Churchill
Instead of just internally “pushing away” something you don’t want, you also replace it with a focus on what you do want. The skill of self-control enables you to replace what doesn’t work so good with something that works better, using your great gifts of focus and imagination.
A mentor of mine, Marc Gravelle, C.Ht., once taught me, “At any given moment in time, we’re either responding to our conditioning (our conditioned, automatic, responses) of the past, or, by recognizing our behavior in a given (present) moment, we give ourselves the “gift” of a new, or different reaction. A replacement reaction.”
Though these three tools may make sense to you, naturally, you’ll need the direct experience of practicing with them before you truly begin to “know” their worth. (There’s a vast difference between intellectualization and direct experience.)
There are many facilitators (some coaches, some therapists, some mentors, etc) that can help you to uniquely develop these tools in a practical, non-dogmatic way. In my practice, for instance, I enjoy making it as comfortable as possible for my clients to step out of their comfort zones and have fun learning how to navigate the unknown using their innate gifts.
Present moment awareness, objective observation, and self-control can work as a team to enable you to communicate more effectively within yourself (and with others) and live a more deeply satisfying life, aligned with a greater access to your truth.