An Examined Life
“I commit to growing in self-awareness. I commit to regarding every interaction as an opportunity to learn. I commit to curiosity as a path to rapid learning.”
Dethmer, Jim; Chapman, Diana; Klemp, Kaley. The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
What do all these titles have in common? I see them as catch phases in our culture, pointing to something that sounds intriguing… a path to a transformed life. But what does that mean? And can we do this?
Even I, who doesn’t read or listen to news, hear about concerns regarding an increase in depression, anxiety and mental illness. Suicide rates are on an incline, in all age groups. Addiction no longer just refers to the overuse of substances. People are over-working, hoarding, over-eating, over-exercising, over-shopping… the list goes on. So here we are. How do we get from here to where we want to be? “It’s easy”, the thought leaders tell us. “Follow me!”
Let’s see if I can scare you off with a Science of Mind quote:
“Consciousness is mental awareness. Consciousness is both objective and subjective.
Objective consciousness is a state of conscious awareness, equipped with will, decision, and discrimination. Its reasoning is both inductive and deductive, therefore it has self-choice.
The subjective consciousness is entirely a reaction to this objective volition. It is creative but not discriminative. It is, of course, conscious, but it is not self-conscious. It is conscious in the same sense that the soil is conscious of the seed. It knows how to produce a plant, but it is not conscious that it is producing it. It has no reflective, deductive, or discriminating factors. It is compelled by its very nature to accept and create.”
It’s ok if you skipped through that quote. I still have to stop and read diligently, even after 27 years of study, to capture what it is really saying. So I expect you might be perplexed. I don’t want to omit sharing thought leader, Ernest Holmes’, words for fear of scaring you off, however. That quote can be hard to understand… and while the journey of getting from where we are to where we want to be may be more easily explained, it too takes practice, diligence, and great courage to embark upon. Let me explain…
Our personal lives are constructed similarly to an iceberg. We are aware of about 25% of what is going on within our own hearts and minds. The other 75%, like with an iceberg, is out of range. We can’t see it.
Oh, some of our family and friends might tell us about it… and then we get mad at them! Haha!! Think about it, there are things you observe in those closest to you that, if only they would listen to you, and take heed of what you have to share, you know it would make a difference in their lives; moving them towards greater happiness and fulfillment. (Ask my kids, I try this on them all the time… sorry boys ☺️).
This is what Holmes is saying: that living a conscious life is about being aware of our mentality… of what we are thinking. I might be aware of thinking, for instance, “I want an Oreo cookie”, in objective consciousness. I might be aware of the sensation of hunger. What I may not be aware of, though, are the much deeper set of beliefs and stories I am telling myself that drive that hunger.
While writing this blog, my body feels jumpy.
After practicing this great work for many years, I have learned that this jumpy feeling has nothing to do with the cookie I might want. Rather, it is a knee-jerk reaction to calming the nervousness I feel about writing. I have old concerns and beliefs that my words might not be clear enough, or might be seen as too direct, or that I will be misunderstood. My jumpiness is rooted in feeling fear; specifically worry.
With this in mind, I have noticed that I tend to want to get out of my chair, move and eat. The movement helps to dissipate the jumpy feeling, and the food gives my body something to do through digestion. Both take energy. When I follow this impulse, I feel calmer, so I can sit back down at the computer and continue to write. Weeks later, an increase in 10 pounds might have me wondering about my lack of will to eat better, but the food has nothing to do with my desire to remain at my happy weight. It has everything to do with the 75% of my iceberg. (Or, as Holmes called it, “subjective consciousness”).
Subjective consciousness is the part of ourselves we are unaware of that doesn’t question our behaviour or our choices. Rather, it works proficiently and effectively at fulfilling our deep desire. In my example above, my desire for calm at all costs is brilliantly achieved. The very difficult aspect of the result, however, is that I am ultimately unhappy with myself for my apparent lack of self control and my spiral into weight gain.
Here is where the courage of conscious work comes in.
Once I use the tools I have learned to dig deeper into the part of myself that is running the background show (75% iceberg / subjective consciousness), and I become willing to face the deep fear and worry that follows me around through so much of my life, I am able to see that what looks like a desire to have a cookie is really an avoidance tactic for dealing with my inner pain. With this brought to the surface, I can courageously face my fears, and any old beliefs that perpetuate my worry, and ask myself, “Are these beliefs really true?”
If I respond, “Well yes, they are possible,” then I ask again (as author, Byron Katie, recommends), “Can I absolutely know for sure that they are true?”. When these questions are asked in the light of the spiritual truths I hang my hat on (my belief in an Infinite Universe that is Good) then I can truly see the error of my ways. From there, I can do some deep breathing, I can reflect on these higher truths, and I can skip the cookie.
My problem may never be solved completely because subconscious beliefs are insidious. But, now that I know my cookie response is directly related to my fears, I have increased my self awareness, and can more readily move forward in living my better life.
All the beliefs we have that lie well below the surface can seem scary. But, I gotta let you know, they are only stories we tell ourselves. They hold no real validity. The only power they have over us is the power we give them through avoidance, and by believing them to be true.
So, this is what I ask of you… hold my hand (or the hand of any trusted thought leader in this field, with whom you have trust), and then leap. Maybe it’ll just be a little leap at first… but leap you must. Dive under the surface of your waters and have a deeper look at that iceberg. It is waiting to float to the surface and have the light of day melt away its icy crust.
~ Do your research this week and sign up for a workshop or course, or join a support group of any kind. Look for a path that is right for you to open up the way to a more fulfilled and joyous life.
~ Once you have made the plan and committed, write me and tell me about your journey. I am happy to ride along beside you. ~ Jill (email@example.com)