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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Consciousness is a Full-time Job


In order to get to the place I often refer to in these articles, about gaining inner freedom and inner peace, at some point you have to realize and assimilate that this is not something you do on Sundays, or on a weekend workshop, or when you feel relaxed, or on a week-long retreat. This – becoming conscious and staying conscious, is a full-time job. (Listen to my audio clip: Emotions: Your Road to Inner Freedom).

Making Conscious Choices

That means that especially at the beginning you will need to make the conscious choice of how much intention you will put into paying attention to what it is you are thinking, feeling, doing, and saying. Because if you don't make such a conscious choice, and begin to apply some discipline in order to bring about this process, not much will happen.

Reminding Yourself At All Times

As this becomes more ingrained, more of a habit, you will notice that it soon requires less of an effort. It begins to become automatic.

Do you remember when you learned how to drive a car? Wasn’t it confusing? Mind-boggling? The number of things you had to remember to be aware of? The rear-view mirror, the clutch, the brake, the road, the side mirror, traffic all around you, the dashboard indicators, and so on. It might have seemed almost like a nightmare at the beginning, and even if it didn’t, it certainly took all of your attention. But only for a time. It is something you now do without constantly needing to think about it, and remind yourself about it.

And so it is with becoming conscious. You need to continually remind yourself about paying attention to it. At the beginning that is precisely what is required. You need to constantly remind yourself in order to remain conscious, or to pull yourself back into consciousness, into awareness.

Even if you have to resort to tricks such as putting post-it notes up on your bathroom mirror and in the kitchen, or putting paper clips in your pockets so that when you feel them, and ask yourself what they are doing there, you remember to remember to remain conscious or to return to consciousness. Some people put a small pebble in their change purse, others set the alarm on their mobiles to vibrate once an hour, or set the kitchen timer in a similar fashion, simply to use any method that works to help you remain conscious, or if you've slipped back into blindness, to help you come back from there.

Becoming Responsible For Yourself

However, at the beginning, as you make a conscious choice to follow this process, you will also begin to realize the absolute need for you to decide to become totally responsible for yourself. (See also Claiming Responsibility For the Self). And in so doing, you will realize that:

  • It is not enough to go to a seminar and get all revved up by a particularly inspirational speaker
  • It is not enough to read yet another book that makes you feel so wonderful while you read it because it addresses all those issues that you so much want to work on.
  • It is not enough to participate in yet another interactive workshop that blows your mind because of how you feel when you are performing whatever it is that the workshop is about.
  • None of this is enough unless you also decide to take all these wonderful things that you are hearing, reading, and participating in, and make use of them throughout your day, every day, to the end of your life 
The Road to Inner Freedom

Many - if not most - clients complain that when we discuss methods by which they can find greater inner freedom and inner peace, it sounds like such hard work.

They tell me that it's all very well for me to talk about it, but that for them it is just going to take so long and be so hard.

Building Muscles

In some ways they are right. None of this work is possible without some dedication and discipline. I often liken it to developing biceps and triceps in a weak or flaccid arm. In order to see some change, you need to be lifting weights or going to the gym on a regular basis for about three months. You have to be consistent, and you have to believe - during those early days and weeks - that even though it appears that nothing is changing, that something is indeed changing, and that you will soon see the desired results.

Becoming Aware of the Self

We talk about becoming aware of the self and its reactions, making conscious choices at each step of the way that are good for you on an energetic level (these may not be the easiest or most immediately pleasing choices, but they are the choices that give you the greatest sense of satisfaction with yourself), and choosing responsibility for the self in all senses of the word.

When we get to this point, some clients then protest, indicating that there is no proof that the end result will give them what they are seeking (inner freedom and peace in their lives and relationships), other than the fact that I (and untold others) vouch for it due to the effect it has had in their own lives.

Mindfulness: Paying Attention to Your Intention

Hence it is wonderful to listen to yet another person speaking the same language - this time couched in the terms of mindfulness meditation (I've posted about this in the past and mentioned Jon Kabat-Zinn). In this instance it is Daniel Siegel, MD, author of The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, whose podcast I listened to at the Brain Science Podcast a wonderful site I link to on my own blog. In this podcast, he speaks about mindfulness meditation and the beneficial effects it has on your well-being ... and these benefits speak directly to the type of desired effects I referred to earlier in this post, that cause some clients such difficulty.

Benefits

By paying attention to your intention over a period of 10 minutes every day, focusing on your breath, you begin to become aware of your awareness, and in this process certain sections of the brain are activated. (See also How Low Frequency Thoughts Erode the Quality of Your Life). Studies show that this process ... a state of mind that you work on with effort, becomes a trait, a long-term aspect of an individual's way of being that then happens without effort, and whose benefits cause you to:

  • develop more capacity to regulate your body (blood pressure and immune system improve, etc.)
  • attune to yourself and others in a deeper and meaningful way (you develop compassion)
  • regulate your affective states better (you approach, rather than withdraw from things)
  • develop the ability to extinguish fear
  • develop response flexibility … the capacity to pause before you act; you think about your options and choose the most adaptive
  • have more insight into yourself
  • develop greater empathy
  • have more morality
  • you have access to your intuition, which is fundamentally your body’s wisdom
All of these benefits - brought about as studies have proven - through mindfulness meditation, are the same benefits that can be achieved through other mechanisms, but that frequently take much longer, and require much more conscious effort.

Choose to Internalize Becoming Aware

How you do it is your business - even whether you do it, is your business - but these are some of the best roads to inner freedom and peace.

Consciousness is a full-time job. Until you realize this, until you internalize it, until you decide to make this realization a central and fundamental part of your life, and then act upon it, becoming conscious - and living a conscious life - will elude you and slip from your grasp over and over again, just as wisps of fog over the sea evanesce in the morning light.


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Also visit my book website: www.gabriellakortsch.com where you may download excerpts or read quotations from any of my books (also in Spanish & German). My latest book Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin is available globally on Amazon in print & Kindle. You can also obtain it (or any of my other books) via Barnes & Noble.


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