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The quote below is a great way to lead into our discussion…
As much as possible, I try to live my life by bringing to my consciousness what is bubbling up from my unconsciousness. I try to clear the fog through which we often drift, to see where I’m going, to make conscious choices instead of automatic ones. Do you ever have a feeling that you’re drifting through life, and not going where you want to go? Or that you don’t know how you got where you are today? Living consciously is about taking control of your life, about thinking about your decisions rather than making them without thought, about having a life that we want rather than settling for the one that befalls us. If you’re drifting through life, or feel out of control, or don’t know how you got here … deciding to live consciously could be the single most important thing you do.Link to article
In Part 1 we provided an orientation towards consciousness and the key ingredients of stepping back, realizing you have choices, and then making the best choice through rational thought. In Part 2 we provided a basic example for how you can apply a more conscious approach to stressful situations. In this segment we will talk about making this a way of operating in your every day life, or conscious living.
Let me put my personal spin on this. We are predictable beings when we operate subconsciously. We are like drones that someone has put on auto-pilot and our life becomes boring and routine for most, falling into the rut. But when we look around, we see that most everyone else is doing this, so that we accept this as normal. We become unhappily ever after. Is it really any surprise that we see so many people with addictions, having affairs, getting divorced as they try to escape this monotony. We end up living for the weekends, which turn out for many to be another set of routines as we maintain our possessions, do our errands, and shuttle our kids to their routines. Yuck, or should I say YUCK!!!!
To begin with I felt like this until I experienced my wake-up call in my early thirties. The difference for me was that I was already active in my personal growth stage where I was dealing with my low self-esteem, self-confidence, and recognizing my unhealthy patterns and how they developed. I had made a choice to take charge of my life beginning with cleaning out the junk that had built up in my subconscious. I was on my own again, but this time living more conscious. I was growing my self-awareness of my patterns and issues and when I was experiencing them. But it was in my early thirties that I was hit was such a profound question that it had the impact of a Mack truck hitting me upside my head where I was confronted with another round of choices, growth and challenges.
I was having dinner with a consultant I was working with. We had great conversation. He was older than me and made me think how much I would have loved to have this relationship with my Dad. And like a caring dad he asked me the following question. “Michael, are you happy?” I started by saying all the “right things” such as (I have a nice home, a great job, etc.). He replied, “Those are nice to have, but you still have not answered my question, are you happy?” I squirmed in my chair trying to answer such a simple question. Instead tears were developing and now I felt embarrassed. He was patient and told me to take my time. Finally I blurted out, “I don’t know. I don’t even know what happiness is. I thought I was happy until you asked me this question. Now I don’t know!”
Once again, I became conscious of my real feelings, which we uncomfortable, which is why we tend to avoid these discussions. It is indeed easier to stay in our illusion that our life is normal and the way it should be. A series of events followed that kept me conscious of that damned question, Am I Happy? My mentor, a Vice President, was dealing with a bout of terminal brain cancer, and going through his own wake-up call, asked me what I was doing with my life. Fuck. Here we go again. My marriage had also recently ended which was transformational in itself, but now had me on my own and thinking about what is next with my life as well.
For some, this is where they find ways to escape, but I knew deep inside that it was time to confront these questions. I had a clean slate in front of me, and damned if I was going to pass this one over. Upon working with my counselor, I decided that I would take a leave of absence at work, stating that I needed time to heal from my divorce. I used this time to sit at a park, doing nothing but observing the life around me. I was becoming more conscious of everything. I even started to write poetry, real basic stuff, based on what I had experienced and learned that day. I was impressed with what I wrote. It was deep and profound.
So, the eight week LOA ended and I did what every normal human being does when returning to work. I met with my manager and told them that I was quitting. “Why?” she asked, shocked by my decision. After all, I was a high performer who had a lot of opportunity ahead. “What are you going to do?” she followed up with. My answer was simple. I replied, “I am going out and finding the meaning of life and how I fit in.” She laughed, thinking I was joking. I laughed too, but this time stating that I cannot believe I am saying this either. I resigned and hung up my corporate role for a backpack where I would go out and have the adventure of a lifetime.
My journey, or modern day vision quest, as I refer to it in my talk on this adventure, was nothing less than transformational. I stepped out of what I was supposed to be doing to ultimately discover more about life, its meaning, and where I fit in. Okay, so not everyone has such an opportunity and I get that. But it did make me realize that we should have a tradition similar to what the American Indians had with respect to Vision Quests. I also realized that one does not have to break away like I did. This is why I love my talks on the topic of Personal Growth, Self-Discovery and Enlightenment, to be a guide and inspiration to others to make a conscious assessment of their life and discover their true self.
I returned to “normal” life as a parent and educator in Corporate America. My work was now a means to an end (e.g. supporting my family) rather than how I identified myself. I gave up promotions to keep my work more enjoyable, which was defined as working with those on the front lines, the “real” people within every organization. I still had my struggles in life, but I was becoming more and more conscious. I would return to counseling every few years to deal with these challenges. I was reminded each time that I was a round peg in a square holes, and that I rarely, if ever, fit in during my life. I was a philosopher with a desire to learn more about life, and an educator with a thirst for helping others grow.
And here I am today, almost full time in what is my work today, focusing on helping others. Every day I have to use my consciousness and self-awareness to watch me repeat old patterns, slowly honing these issues with the result of being more conscious of everything I am grateful for and tidbits of guidance I learn to keep moving forward, or continually growing in my case.
Conscious living is taking the time to retreat from your normal routines and observe yourself and life around you. It is time to check in and assess how you are doing. It is about being more honest with self first, and then with others. It is about being me, my authentic self. Am I there yet? Although I feel like I have climbed many Mt. Everest’s (symbolically) in my life, I become consciously aware of new growth opportunities. I do this since I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. I want to be and become my full potential, which is why I realize that there are always new frontiers to conquer.
My single biggest quest outside of my own personal growth is to be a guide and inspiration to others who have experienced a call to a greater aspect of life, which I have summed up as, Waking up every day with meaning, purpose, love and joy.
Michael is an award winning author, speaker, facilitator and coach on the topics of Personal Growth, Self-Discovery and Enlightenment. Visit my website for more information (growhumanpotential.com).