“Mindful Living Creates Happiness”
Life is really about “managing” two aspects of our lives: our “outer-environment” and considerably more important, our “inner-environment.” Keeping all the plates spinning can be a daunting task, to say the least. Living in a fast-paced, schedule-oriented society like ours creates a very fixed and predictable structure to our lives, but this very structure to our lives leaves little flexibility and can create copious amounts of stress that can rob us of our sense of happiness and inner “well-being.” Fulfilling so many obligations to work and family means a large percentage of our lives is lived out merely at the level of “functionality,” with very little time to devote to ourselves. This can have detrimental effects on our level of self-awareness and the degree to which we consciously navigate through life. Not “engaged” with the dynamic process of life, we tend to merely go through the motions of securing our most basic needs.
The key to having a sense of balance and any resemblance of peace of mind is by cultivating our ability to be “PRESENT.” To be present is to live ‘mindfully engaged’ in the ‘now-ness’ of each moment, in order to prioritize things, evaluate their relevance, and thus effectively manage our inner “well-being.”
“Mindfulness” and “presence” are elusive concepts for most because society keeps us living at such a hurried pace, we’re always focused on what needs to be attended to next. As a result, we bring very little “awareness” to our state of being. Awareness is the ONLY catalyst to bring about changes in ourselves and in our life. Without awareness our emotional state of mind remain reactive instead of responsive and entirely circumstantial.
How often do we devote way too much time to certain aspects of our lives only to have other aspects suffer? For example, there are many who work themselves to death, only to have their health and relationships deteriorate. This imbalance and inability to manage the various aspects of our lives can create so much unnecessary stress for us.
Our human intelligence, a recently acquired product of evolution, is such, that if we do not organize it properly, it only causes confusion and misery. Instead of being robust with tremendous potential and possibility, it is a very sophisticated tool that has become a big problem for most of humanity.
With clever minds, we’ve given our suffering all kinds of different names, calling it concern, stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, sadness, or misery, but essentially it simply means our mind has gone rogue and is now perceived as being beyond our control. How often I hear people say, “I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it! My mind won’t shut off!”
No longer able to see that our thoughts and feelings are “ours” but not “us,” the complexion of our emotions is seen as almost entirely circumstantial – meaning, we believe our feelings are just a natural response to what is happening to us in any given moment, therefore we just surrender to them, feeling powerless to do anything but wait for them to pass. This is a very debilitating and disempowering premise to approach life from.
So moving beyond suffering involves becoming “mindful” of it. But, oh how much energy we exhaust in trying to ignore it!
Pain in life is inevitable, but emotional suffering truly arises from within us and our inability to remain present. Tortured by our thoughts we find ourselves effortlessly floating back into the past, where we ruminate on memories and things we cannot change or we project ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown. Both are “non-realities” and can be debilitating and disempowering projections of an overactive mind.
In other words, we lose our grip on reality, as our mind writes a script over every experience we’re having instead of seeing and experiencing each moment for what it is. Our focus becomes very myopic in nature as we incessantly replay events and/or conversations from the past over and over, that we believe are the source of our pain. All the while, we mentally drift back and forth between two non-realities: the past or the future. We are anything but immersed in the “present” moment. If we are suffering all by ourselves, it is our mind along with its never ending stream of thoughts, that is now working against us; no one else. As a result, we become victims of its seemingly intentional and incessant provocation. This is all fear masquerading as logical thinking as our mind tries connecting the dots in trying to make sense of what is causing us so much pain, but it’s very pathological, compulsive, and misguided energy. Rather than soothing us, it devours us. Sadly, this is the default state of mind for most of society and this constant stress has profoundly detrimental effects on our health. Learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way is paramount to our well-being.
So, let’s give this context:
Most of us have never paid attention, nor have we explored the MOST IMPORTANT DIMENSION of who and what we are. We are trapped with a constant outbound focus, believing LIFE is “out there” and we’re “in here.” Looking out from behind these eyes of ours, we see life as something to be pursued, never realizing it’s only going on within us.
We cannot know life any other way than the way it happens within us. “YOU,” and you alone, are the ONLY DOORWAY to existence for yourself and the experiences you’re having. LIFE is only experienced through the mechanisms of our body, which again, is OURS, but is not “US.” This distinction is crucial to one’s understanding on their path to enlightenment.
And therein lies the problem. Our whole perception of life is determined, not by the events themselves, but rather by our interpretation of all the information we take in through our five senses. Everything we know or ever could know, has entered our understanding by seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling. This is the only way you can know life and perceive the world around you. Without your senses you’d have no perception of the world or yourself at all. We experience this deprivation every night when we sleep.
As we enter into sleep, the whole of existence disappears because our five senses have shut down. Obviously, we don’t cease to exist, it’s just that the mechanisms of the body are not being employed to create an experience for us. When we awaken our “awareness” returns . . . at least of the “outside” world. We see ourselves as trapped in this avatar interacting with the world “out-there.” So, what I’m alluding to, is that our sense organs are all outbound. What we’ve internalized as the world presses in on us, are only impressions; indelible perceptions we’ve developed about ourselves, others, and the world around us, based on what has happened to us along our journey over the course of our life. The repetitious patterns that play out have given a predictability to aspects of our life, and that predictability predisposes us to seeing what we want to see. What we see depends largely upon what we look for.
The cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us governing our hopes, fears, aspirations, biases, beliefs, prejudices, perspectives, and opinions –fashions and creates the lens we see reality through. This lens is our “karma.”
The key to developing peace of mind is to develop the awareness that life is only going within us. It’s ALL only perceived within us. Pleasure and pain is experienced within you. Joy and sadness is experienced within you. Lightness and darkness are experienced within you. Every experience is only going on within you.
Something I try to do in counseling others is to simply have them acknowledge their fear and realize it’s ALL going on within them. In doing so, we can then start to deal with our fears, insecurities, and past traumas to heal ourselves. So, to put an end to this endless chattering in our minds, wreaking havoc on our emotions that are teeming with so many complexions, we look at the irrationality of these thoughts by giving them context and putting them into one of two categories: Love or fear.
For all our complexity, and despite the fact that we give our emotions so many names, we really only have two emotions: LOVE & FEAR.
Anything other than LOVE is rooted in FEAR. All emotional suffering is fear. Anger, indignation, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and sadness, all come from unresolved hurt and the subsequent fear that developed within us as a result, that we are afraid to re-experience again.
For example, what is anger? If you look underneath anger, you’ll always find unresolved pain and fear. Anger can arise for a number of reasons, but, at its core, it’s fear. Anger arises when something is threatening our sense of security. Easily offended or provoked, we fear what others think of us or fear others will see who we really are behind the thin veneer of our persona (ego). Anger can be the fear of having to suffer the untoward consequences of choices that we’ve made, and as a result, we fear we will be penalized or will have something taken from us. Anger can be the fear that something adverse is going to happen to us, be taken from us, or that our expectations will go unmet. Fear that something adverse is going to happen to us as a result of someone else’s decision or choices. What is depression? The fear our life is never going to be any better than our current state of affairs. And sadness? Sadness is the fear that the gaping hole left by something or someone we’ve lost will leave us with the inability to ever recover because it or they cannot be replaced. Loneliness? Loneliness can be debilitating. It’s the fear that we’re always going to be alone or the belief that no one thinks we’re worthwhile enough to spend time with. Anxiety? Fear of the unknown. It’s all FEAR!
This is important, because a large number of our fears come from the very negative internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves, that stems from an incapacity to love and accept ourselves. As a result, we create self-deprecating and often frightening stories that only validate and reinforce our fears and the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. The key to reducing stress and healing the wounds from our past involves creating a “gap” between our thoughts and our feelings by becoming the observer of our thoughts and reframing them.
So, rising above the compulsive and capricious nature of our damaging thoughts involves developing our awareness, becoming “mindful,” present, and by paying attention to the meandering of the mind and the messages we’re sending to ourselves. Are we loving and honoring ourselves or are are we terrifying ourselves and bullying ourselves with insults that victimize us?
Victimizing ourselves is an easy place to go to because it actually serves us, at least temporarily. When we victimize ourselves we find it difficult just to breathe, so we give ourselves permission to just feel sorry for ourselves and play small for a bit. Others, understanding our pain, feel compassion for us, and subsequently, don’t expect much from us. So, we get to step out of the spotlight and stop participating in the incredible adventure of life to rest and regroup. But as is often the case, we often miss the lesson . . . the fact that EVERYTHING is our teacher.
Though usually met with resistance, pain is our teacher and is always a tremendous opportunity to grow! Primarily because, we tend not to grow during the joyous periods of our lives. During these times, we are immersed in the dynamic experience of life’s unfolding and the joy of just “being.”
Pain, has purpose! Whether physical or psychological in nature, all pain has purpose. When we are in pain we become laser focused!
Pain is a rather sophisticated biochemical cascade developed by the body, that summons and converges our entire energy and conscious awareness around the source of our pain or something that threatens our well-being. Pain is very acute and brings an immediacy to physiological and/or psychological gaps in our awareness by creating a hyper-focused awareness of the aspects of ourselves that we’ve been neglecting or to areas of the body that have recently experienced physical trauma.
Artwork by Martin Stranka
For example, the bulk of our immune system resides in our large intestine. Every year hundred of millions of people’s immune systems collapse because of poor, negligent choices made day in day out. With diets consisting of largely processed foods, loaded with sugar, and inorganic chemicals nature never intended for our bodies to process, our immune system is taxed and deteriorates. With millions of chemical processes occurring every minute of every day below the level of cognition and our conscious awareness, it’s only when the system collapses that the body’s software makes us painfully aware that it’s in trouble. Despite eating more than enough calories, the calories we consume are empty, nutrient-deficient calories. Starving our bodies without knowing it, our modern diets have created a very large percentage of people that are obese and simultaneously profoundly malnourished, decimating one’s immune system. In such a compromised state, that same percentage of the population develops a whole host of diseases ranging from the common cold, to the flu, to Type ll diabetes, to coronary heart disease, and cancers. All preventable by making conscious choices with respect to proper diet and exercise.
After years of neglect, and pushed beyond its ability to maintain homeostasis and a healthy internal state, our compromised bodies know how to draw our attention to what we’ve been either unaware of or simply ignoring. Diagnosed with any of these conditions, we seek the help of professional practitioners, and very quickly become acutely “aware” of the need to make better choices by choosing to live more mindfully, paying attention to what we failed to in the past.
With millions of years in its design the body knows how to heal itself, but sometimes it needs to gather our attention around what needs to be healed. Emotion trauma, always creates introspection and the tendency to reframe our choices. We evaluate the paths we’ve taken and where they’ve led us. In appraising the outcomes, we assign value to our choices, the intent and motivation behind those choices, and in turn learn a little bit more about ourselves, about our place in the universe, and how to move through this experience called LIFE.
Every living thing owes its existence, its development, its morphology, its anatomy and its physiology, and its survival to the natural process of natural selection and adaptation. Every virus, bacterium, fungi, mold, plant, fish, amphibian, reptile, and mammal’s intricate design is the result of adapting to opposing forcing acting upon them and nature’s beautiful solution in designing a way to counter and adapt to those pressures. Our emotional development is no exception. Every hardship galvanizes our emotional gains made in our development. This is what we call wisdom.
It’s unfortunate, but we live in a society that provides us with so many ways to distract ourselves, so, we don’t have to deal with our pain if we don’t want to. As a result, many become bitter instead of better; wounded instead of becoming wiser.
In our society, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport, where the individual is programmed out of the individual, and where endless marketing only creates a society of “isotypes,” our self-image is constantly being chipped away at. We cannot help but reinforce all of our fears and insecurities because society, sadly, only appeals to the egoic mind and keeps us focused on the superficial. With this constant outbound focus, we lose sight of who we are and become oblivious of the journey we’re on which becomes only an afterthought and something we rarely contemplate. And what is the journey we are on? The journey of self-discovery! Every experience here is lending itself to the evolution of consciousness, both ours as an individual and the collective consciousness of all that is.
Contrary to our popular societal belief, the point of our journey is not to simply work, shop, die and inherit some form of “eternity,” which for most, is a future event we arrive at “after” we die. Here’s the rub. If something is eternal, it’s infinite, it exists outside the dimension of time; it’s indivisible, with no beginning and no end. Time simply doesn’t apply in a dimension that’s infinite. Something doesn’t “become” eternal, it’s either eternal or it’s not. Though I explain this in far more detail in other writings of mine, our souls, the inner dimension of ourselves, are infinite with no beginning and no end. We are points of conscious awareness in endless transition and transformation.
And that’s the point! “Eternity” is not something we inherit, it is inseparable from what we are. We’re living it in each finite, tiny moment to moment experience we’re having! Forever is made up of “NOWs!” Eternity is only a series of “NOWs,” conscious experiences, strung together to create an endless procession of more “NOWs.”
We cannot have an experience that lies beyond our awareness because our awareness is the only way experiences can be “experienced.” We cannot have an experience we’re unaware of. Because we cannot experience anything outside of ourselves, every event requires us as an observer in order for it to be experienced.
Awareness is a process of inclusion, where what is happening outside of us is experienced “within” us. We are both the center and the circumference of every event happening within the sphere of our awareness. External events create internal ripples within us that we experience as thoughts and emotions; the two are connected but make no mistake about it, every experience we’re having is based on how we “think” and “feel” about it, and that is only going on within us. So, life is never happening to us, it’s only and always going on “within” us.
Awareness creates ALL our experiences and only exists within the infinitesimally small space between the past and the future, that we call “now.” NOW is all there is. The past exists only as our memory and the future only as our imagination, but both projections of the mind are happening NOW. So do we want to experience Life as it IS, or live trapped in our head, ruminating on the past or projecting into the future – neither of which is “REAL.”
When we lose ourselves in thought our awareness moves from the physical senses to the internal projections of the mind. We disappear as does our awareness of what is going on around us. We go largely unconscious as we indulge in the pictures appearing on the screen in the theatre of our mind. The physical realm evaporates away as we become lost in our thoughts. The moment is lost to the meanderings of our mind.
This is eternity – regardless of where the mind wanders, or where we choose to focus our attention – in reality, or in our thoughts – it’s all only happening NOW!
Eternity is happening NOW. We’re living in eternity – only transitioning in and out of form, from lifetime to lifetime, as we phase in and out of the physical dimension with the avatars we construct. We’re here because the physical plane provides opportunities that are simply not available for the evolution of consciousness, in the nonphysical, where we rest temporarily. In between lifetimes, there are no struggles, no challenges, no problems to be solved. Our conscious expansion is halted. The physical plane and the mental obstacle course that it creates allows for the individual and collective consciousness of creation itself to expand forever.
So, let’s expand!!!
To live our life to the fullest, assuming that our most basic needs of physical and financial security have been met, I believe there are five areas of life we need to develop and balance.
Whatever we have been deprived of in life always tends to be our highest aspiration. Growing up in poverty and instability, money and creating financial security for ourselves tends to be our greatest aspiration. Deprived of love and affection, finding a loving relationship tends to be our greatest pursuit. If we had the luxury of having a somewhat stable and wholesome upbringing, becoming the greatest version of ourselves is often our most determined pursuit, and part of that usually involves expansion into the spiritual expect of ourselves. But, though people associate the term “spirituality” with their highest aspiration, they often conflate the idea of spirituality and religion which by contrast, teaches us to export our happiness, well-being, and security to Heaven, believing a power much grander than ourselves will intervene should we need it to. It’s a somewhat fatalistic perspective, putting our lives in the hands of a god that ultimately determines what our fate is, we don’t. Unfortunately, that means that we will never have peace of mind until we shed our mortal coils, and are buried 6 feet under. That is not the goal of life. Life in the physical plane is one of contrast and struggles that serve as a catalyst in the transformation of expansion of our soul.
If we look outward it is an endless journey to finding happiness. If we turn inward and it is just one moment, where everything changes. We are no longer in pursuit of joy, but rather our lives become an expression of our own joyfulness.
“He who looks outside, DREAMS. He who looks inside, AWAKENS.” – Carl Jung
Since spirituality is a word ascribed to experiences that lie beyond our 5 senses, this area deals with our conscious perception, or lack thereof, of the non-physical aspect of ourselves that we loosely interpret as “I” or “me.” The proverbial “ghost in the machine.”
For most of us, we don’t develop deep roots and intimate ties with this aspect of ourselves, because so much of the intimate knowledge of the mystics has been kept from us and replaced by religion. As mentioned, many conflate religion (which sees creation as something separate from a “believed-in” creator) with spirituality. And society? Society only cultivates our overwhelming preoccupation and identification with the physical and mental aspect of ourselves – our ego.
In the Hindu tradition, this is referred to as “MAYA” – “the illusion of self,” and is a reference to the false identification we make with our physical body and even our thoughts as being “US,” as opposed to seeing the body as a vessel that we temporarily reside in, and our thoughts as an automatic process happening independent of who and what we are at our core – our essence.
From this perspective our body is seen as a sophisticated technology of sorts, that is an amalgamation of soil, water, air, and fields of energy that have coalesced into physical form, housing our consciousness. The body is ours, but it is not “US.”
A distinction between the brain and the mind should be made here because all too often we identify with our thoughts as being “US.”
Think of the brain as the doorway to experience in the physical plane of existence. It’s simply a technology created by nature itself.
Our thoughts occur spontaneously as an automatic process arising from the body’s software, with the brain acting like the CPU of a computer consolidating information taken in through our 5 senses. Quantum physics has revealed that there is no physical reality in the sense that we believe there is. Though imperceptible to us at the macroscopic level of our senses, everything, even solid objects, are vibrating. Our senses are how we interface with the vibrational fields of frequencies in this third dimensional density. Everything with experience we experience because we are interacting with fields of energy vibrating in a range of frequencies that are commensurate with what we can experience through our 5 senses. As we do so our mind generates thoughts.
In every moment, we can view thoughts automatically generated by our mind. What we are witnessing, is the mind’s sifting through information it has gathered from previous experiences, as it tries to tie present experiences to what it has experienced in the past. This is how the brain wires itself and allows the mind to navigate through the experiences we’re having in the present moment. It does this to create predictions, because the only thing we know as “truth” is what we’ve already experienced. Every new experience is categorically associated with other similar experiences from the past.
But, to see ourselves as the body is to neglect and fail to see a much more expansive dimension of ourselves . . . our connection to everything.
Consider the fact that half the capacity of your lungs is outside in the trees. The entire water content of your body is from the ocean. The energy powering your cells originated in the sun and was converted into physical mass by plants. Ingested by you, this stored energy is enzymatically converted by your body into the physical mass you identify with as being “you.”
Knowing the history of the universe is to know that Earth and everything on it, including your body, is made of stardust and is entirely “solar powered.” The Sun is at the very heart of your existence in the physical plane and is what is powering every aspect of you. One might even say that the Sun is your power cell, and is, therefore, an aspect of your physical system. The point being, we are connected to everything that surrounds us. This acknowledgment of our connection to everything was expressed as far back as the 1st century in the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, in which Hermes wrote: “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.”
For a more expansive understanding of this concept, I encourage a reading of one of the most beautiful explanations I have ever read in describing reality, which I came across in a book called THE SECRET OF SECRETS by OSHO. It is a collection of talks given by OSHO, filled with detailed explanations of what Master Lao Tzu referred to as the “Golden Flower;” an allegory for the blossoming of one’s wisdom.
The link is on the Shift Ethos home page, titled “The Universe Within and Without” or you can click here: https://shiftethos.com/2018/12/30/the-universe-within-and-without/
So, what does it mean to identify with our body as being us when in fact we, or perhaps I should say our body, is an amalgamation of the elements and fields of energy that surround us? Where does the physical aspect of ourselves begin or end? Our skin as the outmost aspect of our body?
We tend to think that the boundaries of the body are well defined by our skin, which separates our inner environment from our outer environment. But, in reality, we are an intricate piece of a much larger system that is interacting with itself, just as the molecules within us are part of a much larger system: our anatomy and physiology and all the chemical processes occurring within us.
Our physical body is just a scoop of the Earth held together by breath. As an extension of the Earth itself, which is the product of the burnt out crucible of a star predating the Sun, we are literally composed of stardust. Our body is a highly-organized aggregate of everything surrounding us (the air, the oceans, the plants, the soil, and minerals from the Earth) and is in constant interaction with it. The body is simply a medium that allows life to temporarily flow through it while housing the ethereal aspect of what we are for a brief time.
It’s easy to hold to the belief that we are living on Earth, when in fact we “ARE” the living Earth. We believe we are living “IN” the universe, when in fact, the physical form we take on, emerged from and are enmeshed with the universe. We are vessels made from and housing the universe itself. We “ARE” the Universe!
That is the physical aspect of ourselves. Our housing so to speak. But what about the “spiritual” non-physical aspect of ourselves?
As Rumi once so elegantly stated:
“I am not a drop in the ocean. I am the entire ocean in a drop.”
Just as a droplet of rain, or a dewdrop on a leaf or a blade of grass, is formed by the coalescence or aggregation of moisture in the air, the moisture it’s pulling out of the air ultimately came from the ocean. Inside every drop of rain lies the entire constituency of its source; the ocean. Though it is separate from its source; the ocean, it is the source; the ocean, and will someday return to its source; the ocean. There is no beginning and no end to this cycle. It is simply a system endlessly recycling itself.
So it is with physical form. The physical aspect that you identify with as being you, is nothing more than focused consciousness that pulls together fields of energy and coalesces it into what we perceive as physical mass. Your body belongs to you but it is not you.
Birth and death are only illusions and are a product of form, but at our core, our essence, we are formless. “YOU” have no beginning and no end…
Understanding this “oneness” with everything is the beginning of one’s spiritual awakening!
I’ve placed an entire chapter of the same title, from my forthcoming book, that I’ve broken up into 5 short reads, here on this website, https://shiftethos.com/2018/02/10/the-illusion-of-maya-self/, that provides far more detail on this concept.
Our spirituality (not to be conflated with religion) is where our life’s purpose and meaning comes from. I consider this aspect of the Human Experience to be paramount to our “well-being” because how we experience life is largely determined by what we ‘believe’ the Human Experience is about. To delve into true spirituality involves looking deeper inside ourselves, past the surface image in the mirror. It takes time and a little devotion to see beyond the veil of illusions, stemming from our ego, that we’ve created about ourselves, to discover what lies beneath this skin we wear. That’s because the stories and illusions we’ve created in our head have so many feelings associated with them.
These are deeply ingrained, often unshakable beliefs we’ve wrapped ourselves in that we feel define us in a pragmatic way, or so we think. In reality, we’re not limited by anything but the beliefs we hold about ourselves.
We will spend most of our time here because “mindfulness” is the centerpiece of our experience of life. The degree of “mindfulness” we exercise in any given moment determines the quality of our life at any time.
It goes without saying that, it’s important to maintain a strong desire to learn, and an intellectual hunger, because continued learning keeps us mentally healthy, engaged, and active. It also gives us perspective. Continual learning ALWAYS enriches our lives beyond measure because it’s a catalyst for the blossoming of wisdom. Hopefully, we are all constantly evolving and moving from a nebulous state of “being” into a state of “becoming” a better version of ourselves. This area deals not only with our desire to learn but the context we give to what is learned.
The mind and spirituality go hand-in-hand and are absolutely complementary, because what we fill the mind with plays an enormous role in how we advance spiritually and our conscious experience of LIFE itself. What I mean by that is that we can fill our heads with a lot of knowledge in learning new skills for our occupation, improve our financial status, or how to just survive in the world and still have little to no understanding of ourselves. That’s because few us rise above living at the level of mere “functionality” and keeping up with all of life’s obligations. With time often being in short supply, prioritizing things to allow for what is an advocation, can be daunting. But with determination we tend to find time for the things we want to find time for.
Social media and mass marketing through every medium cultivate an outbound focus, keeping us preoccupied with things that appeal only to our ego and constantly focused on our external reality. As a result, we become invisible to ourselves, and almost completely unaware of the inner dimension of ourselves. Our self-concept is nothing but a hollow projection of the beliefs we hold of ourselves. Instinctually, we begin to attach our value, sense of relevancy, and self-worth to a series of false identifications we make with things external to us: our body, our appearance, our relationships, our career, our income, our possessions, and the status symbol in our driveway. Whatever we identify with, our minds begin to wrap around. Once we begin identifying with these as a means of defining who we are, we’re heading for trouble, because all of these things are external, temporary, and can be taken away.
When we look out and see life, happiness, joy, love, and pleasure as an external pursuit, we’re in EGO. In meditating, we empty the mind of its contents, focus on our breathing and go within ourselves. Here we are creating a gap between our thoughts and feelings, and us as the observer of our thoughts and feelings. In doing so, we begin to realize we are something altogether separate from the experiences we’re having. We realize all these attributes of life simply spring forth from within us as a product of the quality of our thoughts. With this awareness the ego dissolves and we discovery our ESSENCE, which lies even underneath the experiences we’re having.
Prior to this discovery, this separation eludes us. We feel powerless in changing the way we feel. This is why we get stuck in our emotions. Looking within to find the source of our unhappiness goes against the ego’s tendency, which seeks pleasure and avoids pain. Instead of sitting with our pain, processing and transcending it, we by default, seek the path of least resistance and look for the next fleeting experience we can anesthetize ourselves with. When we live at the level of our ego we become trapped in an endless cycle of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance.
So, how we “experience” LIFE, that is to say, our “outer environment,” is only a reflection of our “internal environment,” and based solely upon the relationship we’re having with our self in any given moment. That relationship is taking place completely in our mind, and based upon the string of identifications we make with things that are not “us,” but instead labels we identify with and pin on ourselves in a feeble attempt to define who we are. So, it’s best to be “mindful” of it and the internal dialogue we are having with ourselves.
Make no mistake; LIFE is lived out entirely in our heads. Every feeling we have ever had is coming from the reality that we have created within us.
This can be a debilitating premise to some because prior to developing our awareness, the unfettered and unrestrained mind can make a mess of our lives by attaching meaning to all of our over-thinking. Trapped by our ego, we are always seeking validation.
In a society where we live our lives like machines, we have been hypnotized and programmed for misery. After all, living and making our way in the world is serious business! Places to be, obligations to keep, deals to close, quarterly reports to pour over and finish, and bills to pay. Who has time to be happy?
A very large percentage of the population at every tier of society is miserable, not because they live in dire circumstances, but because we have been lulled to sleep into accepting our role in society by living life as a series of scheduled events and a very acute focus on time. Our lives are compartmentalized into boxes of obligations and “To Do” lists. Consequently, we often seek to escape reality. We find ourselves often drifting back into the past, to “better days,” or projecting ourselves into the future with hopes and aspirations of a better life, but rarely if ever, are we fully “present.”
Society doesn’t allow one to live fully present. There are too many things to tend to, too much to get done, and too little time. As a result, always focused on the next thing to get done or the next place to be, the process of living one’s life can take place at an almost entirely sub-conscious level where we are neither alert nor fully aware of what is going on around us because our mind is always somewhere else; and we are never fully present. We’re always racing from one obligation to the next, one thought to the next, one fantasy to the next. This is all automatic thinking that is sub-conscious in origin and bubbling up to the level of conscious awareness.
An “awakened” person has an entirely different relationship with life and an entirely different experience of time. An awakened individual no longer dwells in the past, nor do they project themselves into the future. They no longer live lost in future aspirations (which does not mean not having goals), nor lamenting over the past. In other words, they stop living in their heads as victims of their memories or trapped in their imagination, compulsively creating thoughts that serve as the underpinnings of all their feelings in any given moment. The awakened individual knows only peace and joy because they don’t project any bias, good or bad, on to any experience they’re having. Everything simply is what it is. They know only how to be fully present moment by moment, by accepting life for what it is as opposed to what they want it to be. They are devoid of ALL expectations.
Until developing this kind of relationship with life, we tend to operate just below the level of our cognition (intentional – deliberate – focused thinking), below the level of our awareness or conscious thought, operating at the level of a whole system of patterns of learned behavior that are sub-conscious, automatic behaviors, learned in childhood. Subsequently, this is where we get in trouble emotionally. Think of this level of consciousness as running on autopilot, compulsively ‘reacting” to life. We believe we’re making conscious decisions and choices when in reality we’re not.
It’s unfortunate, but most of us suffer from a type of self-deception; the idea that as we decide upon things we’re making “conscious,” well thought out choices. We make choices from the time we awaken till we retire and go back to sleep, and really believe we’re thinking our choices through, but in most cases, it’s the automatic, pre-conditioned reactions developed from past experiences choosing for us!
This is why I have to draw a distinction between being conscious (the opposite of sleep) and truly being “awakened,” which is an entirely different realm of conscious awareness.
Again, at the level of awareness that most would consider being “conscious,” we operate in an involuntary, reflexive way controlled by biases, beliefs, and perspectives learned in our childhood that have been developed over time through recurring experiences and have created certain predictable behavioral responses and perceptions in us. This is KARMA.
Sadhguru, an eastern mystic, explains karma very well:
“The very way you think, feel, understand, perceive, and experience your life is determined by all these past inputs. So, your mind, is deeply, deeply, deeply conditioned by all this past activity. This conditioning of the mind, is traditionally what we call karma. Karma means action. More specifically, “MY ACTIONS.”
These are all the things that I did in body, in mind, in thoughts, in emotion, and energetically; most of them were done unconsciously.
The residual impact of all the activity that I have performed is right now ruling the very way I think, feel, understand, perceive, and experience my life. So, that is my karma, so this is how I am. Your karma is deciding everything about you.
So, the reason we say it is your karma is the very way you experience everything is your own making. In other words, it is determined by the biases, prejudices, and beliefs you developed from past experiences, that ultimately determines how you experience the present moment.
You are making up your experiences every moment of your life, but right now you are doing it in a compulsive way, so it looks like it is all just randomly happening to you. If you only become a little bit more conscious of this process you can make it happen any way you want. You are the maker of you all your experiences!”
Your experience of life is 100% you’re doing. So, whatever your past karma, that is the way you are.
If you are in love and hate, creating and averting, wanting and not wanting, your karma is growing. The stronger your likes and dislikes become, the stronger and more painful your karma becomes. If you have strong opinions about things, and a strong sense of like and dislike, your suffering is also intense, is it not?
Patterns of bondage are being built within you…”
[In awakening], now a new sensation comes. You are equanimous. You simply experience the sensation for what it is. You neither like it nor dislike it. You simply experience it because, if you like it you will distort it. If you dislike it you will distort it. All the karma attached to that type of situation in the past will begin to crumble within you. So, if you maintain this equanimous mind, then your karma will begin to collapse.
Your mind will become equanimous when you become accepting of what is there right now. You are neither liking it nor disliking it. You are simply experiencing it the way it is. In order to experience life to its fullest, we need to develop this attribute.
As you accept, accept, accept, you move into higher and higher levels of freedom. As you resist, resist, resist, you are digging your own grave all the time. Karma means action. Whose action? My action. Whose responsibility? My responsibility.
Karma is fatalism. Taking 100% responsibility of your life is the only way to overcome karma.”
Simply put, how someone treats you is “THEIR” karma, how you react is “YOURS!”
So, until we rise above the level of our karma (conditioning) we are each a product of our past experiences. Each of us has learned a countless number of beliefs that create our perceptions. As a result, we see what we have been “conditioned” to see, seeing things a certain way, through the lens fashioned by the impressions made upon us by all our experiences.
Based on those beliefs our thinking is subjective; meaning our past experiences created beliefs that function as the lens we view the world through today. We unconsciously and instinctively compare what we’re presented with to what we know from past experiences. Those memories, particularly the painful ones, which forged the deepest patterns in our way of thinking, dramatically influence how we evaluate and react to things.
Our painful or traumatic experiences, which we may not even consciously remember today, unconsciously determine our choices. The option of whether or not we take a risk in most cases is predetermined. Unconsciously, we may be afraid to feel the pain of being hurt again, and so we choose not to take the risk. We think our choice is well thought out because we believe we’ve weighed out all the available risk factors, but the real fact is, our inner fears outweighed any external facts about the risks and predetermined what our choice would be.
In most cases, we probably already decided not to take the risk, before it was even presented because we’ve programmed ourselves not to take risks above a certain imperceptible level of risk. This is because our thoughts bubble up to the surface in a never-ending procession from a wellspring inside of us often times creating very unrealistic fears and apprehensions. So why are we so afraid?
Research has shown that the pattern and types of thoughts that run in the background, like apps on a phone, are a product of the rudimentary thinking that developed in response to our childhood experiences, and that those patterns of thinking become automatic thoughts and behaviors that unconsciously determine all of our conscious thoughts as adults. So even though we believe we’re making “conscious” decisions today, the decisions we make are most often predetermined by “patterns” of thought that we are oblivious to. They were developed in childhood and running in the background, as adults.
Running on this type of “auto-pilot” we tend to “react” without any conscious thought, to our experiences in a preconditioned fashion, applying no reasoning to those reactions.
* It’s important to note that these “reactions” are triggered, automatic impulses learned in childhood that are so ingrained in us they never make it to the level of conscious thought. They’re automatic and therefore reactionary.
Trapped at this level of consciousness we fall victim to the impulsive thinking that takes place within us, never realizing that we are in fact, separate from our thoughts and therefore always at “choice” in choosing how we engage others or respond to our experiences. As a result, these unconscious “reactions” hold a lot of energy waiting to be triggered and released with a myriad of corresponding emotional responses tied to them. But in “reacting” we have no control over how we feel. These patterns of thinking are completely compulsory.
So, is there any hope of rising above this automatic behavior and habitual thinking that is so prevalent?
Buddha discovered, that until we develop our “awareness” and become the observer of our thoughts, which believe me, is an endeavor in and of itself, most of our beliefs and biases remain conditioned, impulsive patterns of behavior. Until we develop our awareness, our feelings will always lie beyond our control and we will remain powerless in “choosing” how we feel about things and whether we “react” or “respond” to things.
It’s unfortunate, but most will never ascend or awaken to a higher level of consciousness than the conditioned, well-rehearsed, well-learned, automatic, programmed, self-activated patterns of behaviors we learned in our childhood that govern most of our behaviors and decisions throughout each day. Doing so requires effort and a certain amount of tenacity. Living very hastily in a society of immediate gratification, the discipline of “mindfulness” is one that must be entered into with commitment and patience with one’s self, because it takes time and practice. After all, we’re trying to undo and overcome years or even decades of cultural programming.
This is why so often many of us can feel like victims when our expectations are not met and life fails to bend to our will because we believe that life is simply happening to us and we have very little “choice” in the way we feel about it.
Let me assure you, we have far more control over our experiences than we believe we do. The first step is developing “awareness.”
A good first step to truly developing awareness is to commit to turning off your television for one month. Remove yourself from all social media and news media. Simply be with yourself for one month, fully conscious of every experience you’re having.
When we turn off our television and remove ourselves from all media and news, we can begin to experience life as it “IS,” unfettered by the musings, perspectives, and opinions of others and outside influences. We can begin to exist as a piece of life, no longer feeling trapped by it. We become present, not projecting any bias on to what is happening around us. Pay attention to everything around you, and be a part of it, existing only as an observer, while suspending all judgment and allowing people to be who they are. Project the idea, that you’re connected to everything and that everything is merely an expression of your own inner reality.
Free yourself from all expectations and the need to have life bend to your will. Experience this and take note of how you feel.
This area deals with your physical health. Since your body is the means through which you experience everything in the physical plane, it is important to keep our body healthy. Our health is largely determined by our mental health and the way we feel because our thoughts create our beliefs, our beliefs create our story or the internal narrative we make up about ourselves, others, and every experience we’re having, and that story creates ALL of our feelings, again, about ourselves, others, and every experience we’re having.
The relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and physical health is a complex interweaving of the three. What the mind represses, the body expresses. Emotional “dis-ease” always leads to “disease.” We can eat all organic foods, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, not smoke, avoid soft drinks and juices, and workout every day. If we’re not emotionally well, our health will always suffer.
In addition to working out, I’m a huge advocate of Yoga. By yoga, I’m not referring to the American commercialization of the asanas (the body postures of yoga) involved in yoga. Though there are some benefits to performing just the asanas; the body, mind, spirit connection made by practicing the authentic, sacred practice of yoga developed in India, is a practice I encourage everyone to incorporate into their lives. Daily practice of this type of yoga will have you well on your way to boosting your physical integrity and grounding yourself emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
Notice I didn’t write “Relationships.”
“All Knowledge begins with Self-Knowledge” – We cannot know anything outside of our self . . . every experience is only happening within us. Since consciousness is always outbound [from within], we are both the center and the circumference – the subject and the object – of every experience we are having.
No one else is responsible for the way we feel – blame does not exist in an “awakened” individual. An awakened individual doesn’t seek love and understanding from another person; they radiate it unconditionally to others. They love with NO CONDITIONS placed upon another individual, in friendships or relationship that are romantic in nature.
At the level of our ego, everyone we meet is a reflection of what we love or hate about ourselves . . . and with society only appealing to the egoic mind, it keeps us trapped at the level of comparison and competition. That is very dangerous in a world where our unattended to minds are like a garbage heap; in that, every one that passes by throws something into it.
The impressions made upon us create our biases, beliefs, and opinions about everything. These predispositions create an internal dialogue within us, and the stories we come up with about others are always narratives that are commensurate with the beliefs that we have about ourselves. The content of these stories is woven together so as to validate or invalidate the beliefs we cling to about ourselves. That internal dialogue, validating us or attacking us, is a poorly designed coping mechanism developed in childhood, that no longer serves us as adults, but has become so compulsive we can’t seem to stop or just turn our minds off. Now our minds are working against us by keeping us trapped in duality.
“When pain, misery, or anger happen, it is time to look within you, not around you.”
The stories we make up about others is just our mind’s way of deflecting our own internal bully’s attacks (our intellect attacking our vulnerable inner emotional child), and gives ourselves permission to feel sorry for ourselves as victims . . . because as long as we judge the other person we don’t have to face our own self-deprecating internal dialogue who is really condemning us . . . not the other person.
As a result, we fail to acknowledge and understand others feelings, wants, desires, ambitions, and choices when we are only looking at what’s wrong with us . . . we see everything the other person is doing as uncaring, neglectful, and as rejecting and/or abandoning us, never realizing they are operating out of their own fear, just like us, and simply trying to protect themselves as well.
Relationships with our family, friends, and colleagues, are only a by-product of the only relationship we’re ever having, and that’s the relationship we’re having with ourselves.
In other words, the only relationship we are ever having, from the day we arrive, until the day we depart this world, is the one we are having with ourselves in any given moment, and that relationship is always and only taking place in our head. How we see ourselves isn’t based on what others think of us. It’s based on what “we think others think of us.” So, all external relationships essentially serve as a mirror reflecting back to us the beliefs we hold about ourselves because it is our interactions with others that evoke innate feelings within us that we use to weave together stories in our heads to explain everything that is going on around us . . . when in fact, it’s all going on within us.
An accurate depiction of ourselves is elusive because that depiction is completely imaginary (and by imaginary, I mean, only in our heads) and always filtered through the complexion of a whole myriad of different emotions that unfortunately, are always changing. In other words, we see ourselves through a different lens every time we choose to look at ourselves and contemplate the essence of who and what we are.
For the most part, our perception of self in any given moment is reactionary and myopic in nature, usually in response to an external trigger, or some circumstance we find ourselves in. It’s illusory, and making an accurate appraisal of ourselves “as a whole,” in an isolated moment of “feeling” something, is virtually impossible because we are not what happens to us nor are we the wellspring of feelings that bubble up to the surface in response to the events that transpire within a given day.
Developing “self-awareness” allows us to live consciously, in the eternal “NOW” and become the observer of our thoughts and the messages we are constantly sending to ourselves, that can either build us up or tear us down.
Here’s all I’m going to say about work. If it’s not in line with your passions and you’re seeking a job out of fear disguised as pragmatism, get out of it. And believe me, I know all too well that this is easier said than done. I too, have struggled for years in making the decision to pursue my passion. I’ve done so by working on what I’m passionate about in my spare time away from the pragmatism of my current job. I’m soon going to be making the leap!
People lose jobs every day. They hate “playing it safe” and taking a job just to make money. Doing so is ultimately unsatisfying and only erodes at our sense of happiness. Our career and all of our achievements along the way only provide us with a very transient sense of satisfaction if we are only working to make a living. If we aren’t truly passionate about what we are doing, no number of accolades will make work more meaningful.
I know that being pragmatic is the default judgment that most of us make in pursuing careers. But, if you have the means and the opportunity to pursue your dreams, do it in increments and then take the leap! Life is short! Take chances and go for it!
Love and Light to you in your continued journey of self-discovery!!!