Being Awake is a State of Mind
It’s up to us.
- Each of us arrives at adulthood carrying with us the deep scripting from our nuclear and extended family (mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc.) and from the previous generations of our family of origin. This scripting creates a “way of being” and a “way of acting/reacting” that is, for the most part, instinctual and automatic. Our actions and our reactions are driven by forces which, to a great extent, exist below the level of our conscious awareness. Because it is so deeply ingrained, this scripting is extremely powerful and has a major impact on us in every aspect of our daily lives.
- The “human intelligence system” is comprised of a thinking dimension and a feeling dimension. Every interaction we have is a composite of what we think and how we feel at the moment. When we feel threatened even in subtle ways, we instinctively (that is, automatically, with little or no self-awareness) shift into one of the classic defensive modes–fight, flight, freeze or appease–to protect ourselves. The greater the threat, the more likely that our feeling self will overwhelm and even eclipse our thinking self.
- Learning to be a more balanced “self” is a lifelong process and occurs gradually with an increase in self-awareness and with better self-management skills. The more frequently and astutely we observe the interplay between our thinking and feeling selves—and how they drive our ways of being and acting—the more we can be “at choice” for how we will respond to the unfolding events of the day. As we become less and less anxious in the face of threats small and large, we become more grounded, more thoughtful, more resilient, and finally, more at peace.
Becoming more of a “self” (aka “Awake”). A few ideas.
- Spend as much time as possible being present to the unfolding moments of your life. Watch your own mental processes. Minimize time spent on past regrets and future concerns, thereby devoting more and more of your thinking and feeling to the present moment. Relax. Focus.
- Peace of mind is not achieved by working to avoid conflict in life, but rather by learning to deal with life’s conflicts and blessings with equanimity. Developing peace of mind starts with fully engaging the situations we face daily, making the best of those situations, and then accepting and being present to our current reality.
- Realize that each day is a miraculous gift. Whatever happens, the moments of each and every day will only come once in your life. Learn to meet those moments with a welcoming invitation and recognize each of them as the precious gift of life itself. Embrace the days of your life without longing for something else to be true. What happens today is today’s truth. Accept it, learn from it, grow from it. Move forward.
Where to begin? A few practices.
- Practice the discipline of engaging in each day with:
- Objective Judgement – Now in this very moment
- Unselfish Action – Now in this very moment
- Willful Acceptance – Now in this very moment – acceptance of everything out of your control. 1
- Throughout the day consider:
- What part am I playing in this situation? Then:
- What is the responsible thing for me to do in this situation?
1 Three guidelines from Meditations – Marcus Aurelius