Consciousness. Not complicated, not woo-woo, just key to keeping on the path to plain goal-oriented success … don’t take my word for it, check out Albert Einstein 🙂
What is this Consciousness and Why Care?
There is no one clear definition of consciousness (that I have found anyways) but it is generally linked to awareness – of both ourselves and things outside us – expanding out to our attitudes, values, soul and ‘being’. Big clue: definitions sometimes include ‘collective consciousness’ – you know the kind of norms that a society tends to work to, the idea of being stronger together, and some refer to ‘higher consciousness’ of moving beyond our basic animal instincts.
There is a mass of theory about consciousness if you choose to research it, with numerous models of different levels of consciousness – 3 or 5 or 7 or 17 …
As we move towards February already I am determined to keep finding those key things that will help us all finish the year with satisfaction that This Year we have Achieved Much.
I am convinced that Consciousness is a really key part to help keep us on our path to achieving our goals. I promised to write a non-complicated, non woo-woo and goal-oriented look at this subject. We don’t need more of complicated, right? We need to know What Works! So here goes:
If you want to achieve your goals, to leave a legacy in your path for the benefit of others, it is usually helpful to give some thought to others who have trod the path before you. It makes sense doesn’t it to learn from others to help us on our way? (If not, we’ve just said goodbye to education.)
Did you know Albert Einstein used to get letters from people all over the world asking for his help with their personal problems? His reputation was for both wisdom and compassion. The mindfulness master Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes a great story of Einstein’s views (in reply to a rabbi’s letter seeking advice in handling the bereavement of his daughter):
Einstein noted that as human beings we are ‘part of the whole, called by us “Universe”’ but as individuals we tend to experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings ‘as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of [our] consciousness’. For Einstein ‘this delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us’. Einstein’s view was that in seeking to widen our compassion to embrace all living things and nature in its beauty, we find liberation and a foundation for inner security.
What the *#! does That mean???
Well, if we expand our awareness we can see that nothing occurs in isolation, everything is part of larger systems. We can change how we perceive challenges and problems, how we perceive the world and ourselves.
And for me, that is one of the gifts of Mindfulness. Mindfulness practice helps us move away from our habits, auto-pilots and fight-or-flight reactions. That helps us see things more clearly, as they actually are in the moment, not through the lens of our personal history and baggage. In Mindfulness practice we learn to reconnect our breath and body and mind – so we are not stuck in repetitive thoughts or behaviours or physical feelings. We can extend that understanding of wholeness to what is outside of us.
We can literally learn to ‘think outside the box’:
This puzzle is a great example of how we ‘normally’ approach a problem, and how we can easily solve it if we free our minds to think differently. (This is quoted wonderfully in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s great text ‘Full Catastrophe Living’, or you can well, you know, use that search engine but – spoiler alert – you will instantly see the answer.)
By practicing Mindfulness, we can become more aware of the regular chatter that circulates in our minds and learn to see a bigger picture. We can influence and expand what and how we are capable of doing. We gain more confidence in ourselves. That to me is what Einstein meant in reference to finding ‘a liberation and foundation for greater inner security’.
Ways to practice
Just as there are many different ways of looking at ‘consciousness’, there are many different ways of looking at anything – one day we might see a flower as ‘just another flower’, another day we might stop in wonder at this creation of nature, this living and surviving thing, this product of the universe …
That works with anything – food is just food and we hoof it down almost without noticing and look at our empty plate almost in amazement (‘hey, where’d my dinner go, did I just eat that?’). On a different day we might be grateful for how the food got to us and relish it’s taste and texture and smell and touch and sound. We can wonder at how our bodies gain energy.
So can you see the same things can happen with our thoughts and behaviours? Some days we can be on auto-pilot, fight-or-flight, busy repeating the same thoughts, feelings and behaviours – be they good, bad or indifferent.
Some days we are instead focussed on goals – creating them, making plans to achieve them, putting ideas into practice and trying out new things. Somehow though, that pesky auto-pilot kicks back in and it can be hard to keep ourselves on-track.
If we take the Mindfulness approach, bringing practice into our everyday lives, we can get past that roller-coaster of auto-pilot and old habits versus striving to achieve. We can bring fresh eyes to our challenges and problems. We can raise our consciousness. So That for me is the point to take from Einsteins’ words – when we see more than ourselves, see inter-connectedness as well as our separateness, our thinking expands in scope and so does our capacity to reach and exceed our goals.
So far in this series I have looked at key points in helping us towards our goals:
…. And next time?
Way To Go:
It’s going to be a busy year.
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I am working on my first newsletter for a (hopefully fun) look at some of the most current issues and news stories as we go through the year – the mental health and schools issue is rumbling on for example, and I’ll look at a current trend in Mindfulness practice. If you wish to subscribe, please use the reply/comment form below – If I don’t have your details, I can’t email you the newsletter :(.
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