Pat Mason has just read a series of inspiring blogs by Deepak Chopra. Becoming conscious is the only hope we have of living a useful and happy life so bring it on is what she says. Here is her summary of those blogs together with related thoughts on the nature of Authenticity.
THE CONSCIOUS LIFESTYLE
from Deepak Chopra (as summarized by Pat Mason)
- Routine is the most common obstacle to being conscious. For most people there is comfort and safety in following their daily routines, but comfortable or not, routines permeate the work we do and most hours of the day.
There are Several Reasons Why that is an Obstacle to Living Consciously
- Routine activity conditions the brain to follow old familiar neural circuits. Over time, new input has a harder and harder time registering, because the course of least resistance is to follow the same ingrained pattern.
- Routine dulls the mind by making you go on automatic pilot. Hours can be filled keeping busy without actually thinking.
- Routine makes you less active and more re-active. You find yourself in a rut when your day is organized around e-mails, meetings and a calendar of planned activity.
- Some routine is useful: keeping regular hours, going to bed at the same time, organizing time for routine but necessary tasks and maintaining a regular healthy diet are all good for the body. And the fact that these things are planned for regular times means that you know you will have time to free up your mind; doing this type of organized routine can free up the mind and remove stress.
However, outside of that type of routine the problem lies in the mind. Every day the mind controls a feedback loop where you can choose the kind of input that will be processed. Mechanical as it sounds, you can’t pursue your dreams and fulfil yourself at a deep level unless you participate in a rich, evolving, fully alive feedback loop.
The input that fits a conscious lifestyle will have the following characteristics: fresh, unexpected, surprising, delightful, challenging, inspiring, heartfelt, spontaneous, curious, creative, vital, selfless and expansive.
If your daily routine leads you in the opposite direction toward unconsciousness, the following words apply instead: repetitive, predictable, conformist, unadventurous, automatic, reactive, dull, boring, exhausting, unchallenging, numb, uninspired, selfish and mechanical.
The Aim is Simple yet Profound
- Aim to minimize the downside of routine and maximize the upside. Don’t take the false path of distraction.
- By rising above routine you can build a life that feels alert and alive at every moment. The only tool for building such a life is self-awareness.
- When faced with the same old routine – even if it’s a very high level, the mind falls into a predictable groove. There is pressure to stay in the groove so as not to rock the boat.
- If you look at brain function, each of us is performing dozens of multi-tasks simultaneously. You can digest food, secrete hormones, talk about politics, worry about the impression you’re making, and have a flickering sexual impulse at the same time. Most of this multi-tasking goes on unconsciously.
- The mind doesn’t participate in the automatic functions of the body and even semi-conscious functions like breathing, emotional arousal and mood basically run on automatic pilot. Which means that the brain, being a creature of routine, easily succumbs to inertia.
Lessons to be Drawn
The brain can only display its hidden potential when we intervene. It is up to us to lead, inspire and use the brain as best we can.
Being conscious comes down to awareness, which must be as clear as possible. When awareness is dulled by routine work it isn’t clear.
The second thing in everyone’s life that makes them unconscious is limited coping skills. Life is made up of an endless stream of minor challenges, demands and duties that eat up our time—and our awareness. Better coping skills will leave more time to think and the mental space to think better.
When somebody is overwhelmed by daily work pressures, there are common reasons for it:-
- Taking on too much responsibility
- Trying to exert too much control
- Performance anxiety—worrying about what can go wrong
- Treating the small stuff as big stuff.
- Demanding too much of yourself
- Allocating time in inefficient ways
You may not have looked at these as coping mechanisms but they are. To prove that to yourself, look at how you approach a hobby that you love. If you can divide how you approach a hobby from how you approach work, you have made a step toward living consciously. You can see that you are capable of two modes of getting things done.
In hobby mode you handle things in the following way:-
- Being relaxed
- Having fun
- Enjoying yourself
- Feeling no pressure
- Appreciating the steps that get you to your goal
- Immersing yourself in the process
The point here is to recognise your ability to be in at least two different states of awareness. Once you recognise them, you can choose which one to be in. The job doesn’t force you to be stressed; staying unconscious does.
There are steps we can take to be conscious, by adopting a different style of coping. The kind of coping mechanism we use will have a huge bearing on how our life turns out. If we want to live a conscious life, that goal is incompatible with self-defeating behaviour.
A conscious life develops from the inside. We must stop and ask ourselves how we want our work to feel. Take each item in the hobby list and in relation to work ask yourself: Is this how I feel? If the answer is NO then you aren’t thriving. You are letting your work be in charge, sacrificing who you are for what you can accomplish.
Focus energies on the inner person. The more you do, the more you can find an unshakable centre. In doing so you will begin to value how you feel, what your intuition tells you, how other people are responding, and what your limits are. The most successful people have already reached that point. It isn’t ‘successful habits’ that get them to the top. It’s being centred, aware and secure.
When you get truly centred you shorten the distance between what you want and how to get there.
Knowing is an inner quality—the goal is to create a setting where the right choices can be made.
Experts in time management agree that following a set routine, coping with challenges as they arise and fulfilling short term desires are all inefficient and wasteful. They require a short attention span, and in place of long term gratification, you are settling for tiny hits of pleasure.
Long term desires are emotionally more mature, because they delay gratification in the service of a bigger reward.
The trick is to derive the right kind of short-term fulfillment. The right kind isn’t hard to define.
It Consists of What You Do Today to Make Next Year Better
Think of it as writing a book. If you write a page every day, your manuscript will be done next year. A page doesn’t sound like much, but the catch is that it must fit into the final product. Ernest Hemingway set a goal of only half a page a day. If you can do anything today that consciously goes toward fulfilling a long-range vision (plan, project or mission) you will become the Hemingway of your own life.
Here are some suggestions:-
- Set down a single vision, project or mission.
- Set aside time to work on it every day.
- Work consists of doing research, analyzing what fits, producing the material, investigating your target audience or market, learning from projects similar to yours, challenging your assumptions, writing a proposal, seeking a mentor, partner or confidant to bounce your ideas off, raising capital if needed.
- Set interim deadlines that you can reasonably meet every month
- Be adaptable about changing your vision as it unfolds.
Each of these steps should be interesting and exciting.
Consciousness expands whenever a person feels creative, passionate, and joyful. When you have these qualities, you’ll wake up every morning eager to fulfil your long-range goal.
The Value of the Five Steps
- You become action-oriented; your goal doesn’t drift or become an empty dream.
- The above steps can be thought of as making time for the future; some real commitment is involved. It’s important to think about what your vision or mission should be.
- Regardless of who climbs to the top, the most fulfilled people in any profession are those who followed an inner vision. They consciously shaped their futures from the inside, which is the only place you have any real control. A large percentage of these people had highly successful careers, but that was secondary. First and foremost came the freedom to write their own scenario.
The Externals of Life Fall in Line with Internal Values
And with the atmosphere we create around ourselves…
When writing your single long range vision, mission or proj
ct, consider these criteria.
- I will be satisfied with the work at every stage.
- I will benefit everyone around me.
- The effect on my family will be positive.
- I will feel creative.
- I will take pride in my accomplishment.
- I will be smarter, better and wiser the more I pursue my vision.
- I will head into the unknown, a place I want to discover and explore.
Only when you are centred, self-confident and secure in the values you are sacrificing for, will the journey become conscious.
Every vision brings setbacks and frustrations; there is inherent stress whenever we step out to accomplish something no-one else has tried before. No amount of self-discipline can control the stress. Only when we are centred, self-confident and secure in the values we are sacrificing for, will the journey become conscious.
Authenticity and Well Being
Pat Mason suggests that consciousness is not an end in itself. It has to be accompanied by dispositional authenticity; in order for there to be positive influence the two to need to be inextricably linked
Pat takes the following from a research paper by Wood, Linley, Maltby, Baliousis & Joseph who developed an Authenticity Scale by which the relationship between Authenticity and Well Being could be established. Thereby proving or disproving claims by the likes of Rogers and various other forms of counselling and psychotherapy that hold the view that there is a positive correlation between states of Authenticity and Well-Being and further that in order to have well-being, one must first be authentic.
There is a contrast here between actual experience (the true-self)—Pat Mason would call this a person’s core being—including actual physiological states, emotions and schematic beliefs; (box a) and the aspects of experience that are represented in cognitive awareness (box b)
The first aspect of authenticity involves the inevitable mismatch between the conscious awareness and the actual experience. Maybe perfect congruence is never possible and the extent to which one experiences alienation between conscious awareness and actual experience (the true self) composes the first aspect of authenticity (line 1) and leads to psychopathology. The subjective experience of not knowing oneself, or feeling out of touch with the true self, is indicative of this aspect of authenticity.
The second aspect of authenticity involves congruence between experience as consciously perceived (box b) and behaviour (box c). Authentic living involves behaving and expressing emotions in such a way that is consistent with the conscious awareness of physiological states, emotions beliefs and cognitions.
In other words, authentic living involves being true to oneself in most situations and living in accordance with one’s values and beliefs.
The third aspect of authenticity involves the extent to which one accepts the influence of other people and the belief that one has to conform to the expectations of others, given that humans are fundamentally social beings and both self alienation and authentic living are affected by the social environment. Introjecting the views of others and accepting external influence affects both feelings of self-alienation and the experience(s) of authentic living.
Taken together, self-alienation, authentic living and accepting external influence compose the tripartite person-centred view of authenticity. The researchers focused on the person-centred definition of authenticity simply because it appears to provide the widest and most comprehensive explanation of the construct.
The integrative nature of their definition is evident in treatments of the relationship between authenticity and well-being.
Wood, Linley, Maltby, Baliousis & Joseph refer to a previous study where dispositional authenticity was measured by Goldman and Kernis in 2002: they had asked 60 questions designed to measure authenticity and found strong correlations between authenticity and both self-esteem and a composite, subjective well-being. However some of the levels of consistency were low. The Wood, Linley, Maltby, Baliousis & Joseph authenticity scale however, revealed consistent results and strong correlations between Authenticity and Subjective Well Being, (SWB) and between Self-alienation with anxiety and stress (which were particularly notable) and depression. Also between Authenticity and self esteem and psychological wellbeing (PWB).
SWB—involving high positive effect, low negative affect and high satisfaction with life.
PWB involves fulfilling human potential as comprising autonomy, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life and self-acceptance.
Secure self esteem is related to authenticity since self esteem is a proxy for unconditional self regard, which person-centred conceptions strongly link with authenticity. Further through having unconditional self-regard because of personal authenticity, it is possible to hold others in unconditional positive regard.
To develop their scale Wood, Linley, Maltby, Baliousis & Joseph used numerous measures and scales previously derived and proven, in cross referencing and correlation between these measures and authenticity as specified in the tripartite model in figure 1.
Against all measures and scales authenticity was correlated positively with subjective well-being, psychological well-being and secure self esteem.
The researchers conclude with further questions about what environmental factors might lead to dispositional authenticity.
Rogers suggested that people were naturally authentic at an early age but that this authenticity decreased later in life due to the impositions and conditions of worth. Similarly a study by Neff and Harter (2002) found that people were more authentic when their ‘self’ was being accepted by other people.
Peterson and Seligman (2004) pointed out that antonyms of authenticity include deceitfulness, insincerity, pretentiousness and falseness.
It would seem that Authenticity is not possible without one first being consciousness, but that consciousness on its own, does not necessarily produce authenticity; however, applying the learnings of becoming conscious might.
The Role of the Body
Pat Mason offers a personal plea from the heart—let us not forget the role of the body in this: the body not just as an integral part of the whole but it is a distinct part of the whole. The body has become somehow separated from the mind and as Susy Orbach says:-
…the body has become as poetry is to prose: a distillation, an encapsulation, a metaphor. It has become almost everything else but, a breathing, living, giving, receiving, desiring body…
Pat says that the whole thing seems to me to come down to that of relationship. From the relationship with our earliest of carers comes our relationship with ourselves and ultimately our relationship with others. A sense of self includes a sense of our body through our relationship with our mother’s body (whence we came) and our sense of body affects and develops to influence our psychological sense of self . Susie Orbach:-
…we seem to have lost the body as body and the body as having a psychological and developmental history of its own. In the interpersonal, intrapsychic play of our lives, the mind has taken not just the lead role but all the supporting cast leaving the body as a kind of prompt when the lead actors lose their lines.
What collapses under the rubric of the psyche is the significance of the physical treatment of the body in terms of how the baby girl came to feel in her body and the ways in which the mother’s gender specific treatment of her baby girls and baby boys affected, not just their psychological sense of self, but their physical sense of self and their physical subjective sense of self.Attachment theory has focused on the problematic nature of self (Fairbairn 1953; Winnicott 1971, 1975; Bowlby 1969). We know that it is the emotional relationship between care, mother and baby, which provides the sustenance, the psychic nourishment for the infant’s development of a sense of self. Two conditions are essential for the development of self in the infant. The carer needs to see the baby as separate, as a ‘being’ with its own needs and desires, and they need to see and accept the baby’s dependency. In other words, for the baby to feel that what emerges from inside of her or him is okay and thus feel that it exists in an alive way for itself, it needs recognition. Its coos, its initiatives, its cries, its curiosities need to be acknowledged, seen, and responded to. Repeated experiences of recognition are the way the baby comes to have a sense of self as generative and vibrant. The relational interchange is the emotional food which the baby internalizes in the development of self. Experiences in which the baby’s gestures are consistently misunderstood or interpreted as being about something else create in the baby a sense that what it produces, its essential productions or me-ness are somehow wrong, and then the baby’s sense of self has to develop to incorporate this psychological reality…
Perhaps this is where a conscious and authentic human being might start from—in order to progress in the way we were born ‘to be’ the only sure route back is through the pursuit of consciousness and authenticity. This can come from allowing awareness to surface again through stillness of meditation, as well as through the work of those who have become more conscious and authentic in themselves in assisting others to re-align their lives.
Elsewhere Colin says there’s ‘…Nothing new under the sun. As I get older and older I notice that the same old ideas keep on circulating round the world as though they were brand new—never been thought before… A good friend of mine says that the old books contain everything you need…’ I agree and I have even seriously contemplated the same idea, says Pat who, bearing in mind the properties of water, offers:-
The Water Course Way – Lao Tse
As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone,
So to yield with life solves the insoluble:
To yield, I have learned, is to come back again.
But this unworded lesson,
This easy example,
Is lost on men.
(From Witter Brynner The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu . According to Chinese traditions, Laozi lived in the 6th century BCE. Some historians contend that he actually lived in the 5th–4th century BCE, Notice there are multiple ways of spelling his name.)
And from David Whyte—from the 20th century—Pat sent this once to someone thinking it was quite the most moving thing she had heard when it was read to her for a long time. However, to her dismay the person reacted from their own sense of self which had become depressed and she was castigated for being stupid enough to regard it as anything of value; in fact she was told that no one should read it. However, just in case, I have marked in bold those parts which are significant to the discussions above and beyond. It seems to me to speak of consciousness and authenticity equally.
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
Or many gods
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the centre of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequences of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
From Fire in the Earth
©1992 Many Rivers Press)