Mind and Behavior

Important concepts, principles, and practices of mind and behavior

 

ARTICLES:

Not the Proverbial Life          Resonance

Conscious, Subconscious, Unconscious, and Superconscious

Passed It On?     Three Loves         Seeking Truth

What to Do          Effect

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Not the Proverbial Life

Like the proverbial stone thrown into the pond with ripple begetting ripple, quick personal change results in the need for further changes. You are alerted to this by a discomfort caused by challenges emerging from the most recent changes you’ve made. Additionally, this success reminds you of your long-term life goals and raises fears that if you don’t take further action you may miss out, and then never be happy. Both these welcome and unwanted results are unknowingly reinforced within you by the world through social convention, capitalistic corporations, governmental politics, and dogmatic religions. Even those close to you, who wish you well and want the best for you, participate in this operation telling you there is more to do. They suggest what to do, try to persuade you to do it their way, and may even offer to help you do it. But what others and the world do not do is support you in being your unique self. Rather they encourage you to be who they believe you to be. And because they are also under the same worldly influences as you, and are also conditioned to be what world culture wants one to be, they will unknowingly support those goals not your personal ones. It is not possible for it to be any other way; most people are simply not aware of this conditioning and often lack insight into their own unique character and life to be of any genuine assistance to another. Furthermore, others rarely have a thorough comprehension of your values, character, and unique destiny, the information required for anyone to make an informed decision about their life.

To wisely make changes in your life it is important to remember it is a process in which one change leads to another, and then requires yet another. Change occurs in more than just one’s beliefs, feelings, and behavior. Change in these habits results in one’s identity and character also being reshaped. Each change redefines you, even if only slightly, and it is from this new identity that you make the next change required to continue your healing or growth. And with each change you must consider your personality traits in relation to specific aspects of your personal journey. A simple illustration is the need to take the next step after having previously increased recreational activity to increase social time with others. Further personal work may now be necessary to reduce a noticeable increase in anxiety, strengthen one’s confidence and esteem, or improve one’s interpersonal assertion. These secondary efforts are the necessary follow through that support the initial habit change, and make it more natural and regularly occurring in one’s life. The resulting permanent change in personality now supports what is meaningful in one’s life, i.e. active lifestyle, friendships, interpersonal effectiveness, and leads to self-actualization.

Not only does this understanding of personal change produce lasting results, but it also fosters an attitude of living every moment of one’s life on a leading edge of personal discovery. And it grants one further insight into the world, providing an objectively real, rather than conditioned view of it. Together they give one the feeling of newness in every moment of every event in one’s life. With this approach one feels openly receptive to the present, unconditionally alive, and that one is living life as a daily adventure. And most importantly, one secures and is able to live one’s true life and destiny.

     Questions:

What is the origin of your beliefs, values, and goals in life? Consider the significant sources and people who have influenced you.

Who do you trust to give you good counsel about yourself and your life when you need it? What is it that makes you trust them in this way?

When was the last time you attempted to change a habit, only to revert back to it after a brief period of change? Did it become a complete relapse or only a partial one? Explain the outcome.

Consider a habit you would like to change, how you would do it, and how it would feel when the habit is first changed. Then imagine the challenges that would arise upon the initial change in habit, and consider what your strategy would be to prevent a relapse.

Consider three things in your life you wish were different or not in your life. Now consider each one’s exact opposite. Reflect on whether or not these reveal what is meaningful to you, and if they provide some direction for you to live a more fulfilling  life.

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Resonance

Whether it is the advice to “follow your bliss” or “do what brings you joy” to facilitate your journey to wellbeing, happiness, or greater spirituality it is important to know what insights to discard and what ones to let guide you. To verify utility, whether it is something you have read, a dream that you have experienced, guidance from a therapist or teacher, or some other form of feedback, you should attend to whether or not you feel a resonance to the particulars of the message. This moment of resonance is characterized by truth and beauty in which things become obviously clear and you subjectively know the facts being considered apply to you. Through objective reasoning you know that your actions, beliefs, and emotions are being accurately described, that truth has been uncovered. Simultaneously your intuition goes beyond reason, subconsciously integrating the information being considered, which you then experience as a feeling of beauty. What is both fact and personally meaningful has come together with wisdom resulting in the “ah-ha” experience that tells you that you have discovered something valuable for your journey.

     Questions:

What do you notice about your thoughts and feelings when internal or external feedback is not valid?

Is your concentration sufficiently strong to mentally assess significant feedback, and when it is not do you write out the information to think it through?

Describe in your own words the feeling of beauty.

Describe the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

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Conscious, Subconscious, Unconscious, and Superconscious

When we engage in self-examination or counsel with another the unspoken question we are asking is what is in my mind of which I am unaware. And no matter the topic it is always paramount to discern and keep track of the different types of information in the mind. Being able to do so insures that all relevant and useful information is available to comprehend and act on the subject. Because of the inherent extraordinary complexity of experience nowhere is this more important than when one is on a spiritual path. How then can we improve the quality of our awareness?

One of the easiest models to use in exploring the mind is the one that distinguishes four levels of consciousness, labeling them as conscious, subconscious, unconscious, and superconscious awareness. Conscious awareness is the most obvious of them all because it is the most prevalent. It is the awareness used when reading this sentence, when thinking through a problem, when talking to yourself or to others. It is the reasoning from which we conclude the truth about something or someone, especially ourselves. Phenomenologically it is experienced as the voice in our head, usually noted as being in the front, directly behind our eyes. It is easily and clearly discerned, one might say, “heard”, and moves in a discursive progression at a sustained, only slightly variable pace unless there is pause for consideration of some sort.

While conscious awareness can dominate our experience it is the other three that contain the most valid truth. And while it is readily available to anyone who takes the time to notice it, subconscious awareness is frequently overlooked. It is that second stream of consciousness or information that is present simultaneously with conscious information. Logical like conscious awareness, it often adds to or embellishes it with greater details, memories, or associations. These can be present as faint words, incomplete thoughts, barely noticed sentences that all seem to be in the “back of the mind”. At times subconscious awareness presents as complete discursive thought that is quiet, slow, and seems to reside in the back of one’s head. When this information contains an insightful conclusion we could not have predicted we often call it intuition. If not brought to the fore and clearly stated in complete words, the subconscious information is often lost by the conscious mind even though its message may affect one’s actions. How often have you exclaimed to yourself you don’t know why you said or did something even as you realize something in your mind had to precede and cause what you did? Generally, forgetting subconscious information is not preferred, however is valued if praying or meditating because it can lead to other desired forms of awareness. When we remain in this subconscious awareness it is the beginning of “not thinking”, moments in which our mind does not attach to its content, a prerequisite to superconscious awareness.

Unconscious awareness is often thought of as the information in our mind that is not known to us. All of us act without cognizance of our behavior or its cause. This ranges from the frown on our face to the crossing of our legs; reveals itself when suddenly we feel the pain of muscle tension from holding our bodies in an uncomfortable position for too long; and is frequently experienced as a slip of the tongue that shows our true feelings about someone. Indirect access is the means to understanding what is not known to conscious awareness, and this is most commonly accomplished through analyzing body language, free associations to a topic, and the contents of our dreams. Becoming consciously aware of information that was at first unconscious is the sine qua non of self-understanding and personal change. And as valuable as it is in this regard it must not be confused, as it often is, with the information of superconscious awareness.

Superconscious awareness is information that transcends while including the other three types of awareness. In its less evolved form it is the information of union when two come together as one, whether it is two people in orgasm, the observer and the sunset, the initiate and the guru. What is traditionally experienced as separate is now known as one with the other. In the more evolved form there is no union but rather a cognizance that nonduality prevails in reality, that there is no other, there is only the One of which we are all a part. Phenomenologically this is experienced as an expansiveness of self into spaciousness and vastness, while simultaneously feeling as if one is going inward and deeper. All the while there is an identification with everything, not as the individual objects they appear to be, but as the manifestation of the only One of which one’s individual self is experienced as part of also. Universal unconditional love, peace, and joy are part of this experience, varying in intensity, seemingly as a function of one’s attention during the spiritual moment. Mentally the mind, while still having access to reason and intuition based on discursive thinking, now has available to it a knowing of reality that is sudden and direct, not reliant on common thinking and its mental constructs. Extraordinary human experience, such as dreams foretelling the future, visions of religious figures providing guidance, and phenomena of mind over matter have been known to occur.

Whether for psychological growth or on a spiritual journey, awareness of the content of our mind is necessary to make informed choices to maintain harmony in our lives and also to meet our life’s goals. While considering our emotions, thoughts, and actions in the context of the mundane, existential, and spiritual aspects of our lives, attending to these four types of awareness helps to insure a comprehensive understanding of ourselves and of reality, increasing the likelihood of our happiness however uniquely and personally defined.

     Questions:

If regularly attentive to the content of your subconscious awareness or mind, how do you use its information to inform you about yourself and others?

If you meditate or practice centering or contemplative prayer how do you respond to, or make use of that which arises in your subconscious during your practice?

Do you engage in any personal psychological or spiritual practices that help you maintain cognizance of the content of your unconscious awareness or mind?

In your own words, describe an experience of superconscious awareness, and evaluate its relationship with the other three states of awareness at the time of your experience.

Describe the experiential difference between dreams that originate from unconscious awareness or mind and visions that originate from superconscious awareness or mind.

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Passed It On?

Have you educated yourself today? Or maybe learned something about yourself that was important? And what was it about, your shortcomings or your strengths? And what did you do with that information? Hopefully you did not hate yourself for shortcomings or mistakes but accepted yourself for who you are. Maybe took pride in your courage and honesty, and even set your intention to further improve the asset or imperfection, so you can be the person you wish to be. Or perhaps you celebrated for the goodness you discovered, relishing the moment of recognizing some knowledge or skill you possess. And to whom did you pass on this insight, not in some guilty or bragging fashion, but as some wisdom that could benefit someone else? Humbly keeping in mind that when we scratch the surface we are all pretty much the same, struggling with our character flaws, and if fortunate rejoicing in our successes and good traits. All the while learning to love others and oneself for the evolving person each one of us is.

     Questions

Explain in your own words the truth that people are not what they do.

What are you hoping to attain with improved self-awareness?

Do you extend compassion to yourself and others on an equal basis, or is there inequity in doing so?

If you did not always treat yourself with self-respect, what did you do to successfully change that, and what is the lesson you learned that might help in further changes you wish to make?

For whom do you consider yourself a role model or mentor?

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Three Loves

If in my loving you I tolerate your bad qualities and behavior I will detach or shut down to you, and bit-by-bit our relationship will sour. And our initial chemistry and friendship will likely weaken or die. Resentment will remain in the background, and will eventually be partnered with a degree of antagonism. Even if living under the same roof we will be living apart, and contempt will likely become our companion, projecting a shadow over our lives.

So long as there are no differences that are deal breakers, and our similarities are many and the inevitable differences between us serve our happiness and growth, then romantic love will prosper. Fitting together this way our love will be genuine, with the chemistry and worldviews we share seeing me through to accepting your shortcomings, all the while remaining lovingly close to you. Instead of detachment there will be the same compassion extended to you that I grant myself. And because this supports open conversation characterized by understanding, affirmation, and self-discovery our love will grow as we share with one another our experiences in the world. We will have a love that is secure while continuously bringing us to the edge of ourselves, both as autonomous individuals and as an empowered couple.

And if we are true soulmates, our relationship will be blessed by the wonder of all loves, unconditional Divine Love in which through some Mysterious way the spirit in me sees the spirit in you. Some say this is God loving the God in each of us, as God loves Itself. And if our relationship is not harmed by detached love, and true romantic love endures, then Divine Love will be maintained and strengthened serving to support both our relationship and our spiritual growth. Our life will be one of living with Spirit, graciously abiding in and sharing the good fortune of our Love and Its Light.

     Questions:

Remembering the last time you were in a difficult relationship, explain to yourself what it was that caused you to stay in it for too long.

Most of us can identify similarities with our partners, so now take the time to clarify for yourself differences with (present or past) loved ones that you found to enhance your happiness or wellbeing.

Describe how it feels to detach from another and/or to shut down to them, comparing it to the way it feels when you compassionately accept another and/or their actions.

Many confuse romantic love with Divine Love. In your words describe the difference between them, and relate it to your spiritual experiences.

True romantic love is characterized by a connection that includes understanding, affirmation, warmth, rising of one’s energy, and wanting to be with the other person. Take the time to rate your personal relationships on these qualities.

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Seeking Truth

Most of the time we reason and think about things in a logical discursive linear fashion. It usually limits us to comprehending things as “either/or”, “this is right but that is wrong”. Because people tend to gravitate toward information that supports their worldview most everyone competes for what they believe is their own superior truth. This is an obvious impediment to collaborative problem solving and conflict resolution. Now, in the post-postmodern era in which we’re living there is a pluralism because people want to be open minded and fair, and this results in people not considering the various degrees of truth in an argument and the need to synthesize them. Some try, some can’t, and those that cannot mistakenly hold all truths as equal, and this prevents consensus and good decision making, especially in a group situation with many good ideas. Using “and/both” helps this effort, reducing the tendency to invalidate one partial or limited truth with another. But this approach doesn’t suffice either. That’s because there can be a bigger challenge posed to the conditioned discursive mind, and that is the situation in which diametrically opposed truths must be reconciled. However reconciliation can be accomplished with an integrative attitude while asking oneself “what is the truth that transcends and includes the two opposing truths?” thereby a unifying and more comprehensive truth emerges and prevails. The need to integrate disparate truths in this fashion is not only necessary in interpersonal situations but is crucial for self-understanding. When purely discursive reasoning might have resulted in an impasse to understanding or an erroneous conclusion, a beneficial personal insight is more likely to arise using this approach. Nowhere is this more important than in understanding our experiences and our selves on the spiritual journey when psychological and spiritual truths can seem at odds.

     Questions:

How often do you successfully use intuition rather than discursive linear logic?

How often do you experiment with replacing the words “either/or” with “and/both”?

Do you recognize when you are trying to make your point or win an argument versus when you are being curious while emphasizing understanding what the other is communicating?

Reflecting on one personal insight about your character, would your conclusion change if you integrated conflicting truths?

If you were less willing to accept all truths as equal, while recognizing and not rejecting partial truths, how might that change your participation in group discussions?

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What to Do

Self-help messages encourage us to change our habitual reactions to harmful people and circumstances so we can be healthier and happier, more fulfilled.

This requires undoing the socially and culturally conditioned troubled mind with its uncomfortable bodily sensations, recurring painful or fearful emotions that can linger as moods, a “me-feeling” of weakness, failure, and low value, an irrational reasoning that reinforces these feelings, and an imagination that vividly sees life as difficult and one’s own as miserable.

One can stop the effect of this conditioning: by caring for the body with good nutrition, massage, exercise and proper sleep so one feels comfortable, healthy, and strong throughout the day; through effective management and resolution of emotions so negative moods are not created or maintained, but rather one remains in a neutral to positive emotional mood; with physical activity like sports, exercise, and yoga so the psychological self “me-feeling”, is one of strength, confidence, and worth; by learning relaxation and mindfulness practices like meditation, prayer, and meditative yoga to quiet the mind and strengthen the validity of one’s thoughts and beliefs so awareness is one of clarity and conviction; and using a rational state of mind to regularly fantasize, visualize, and envision positive in life and in one’s future, thereby maintaining an optimistic and hopeful attitude.

By no means are the actions one can take limited to those presented here, but serve to illustrate that efforts at personal change are best if directed at consciousness, i.e. the information in one’s mind, so there is a resulting change in one’s awareness. Though some of these actions also result in spiritual moments and will support spiritual growth over time, they are noted as a means to strengthen ego-self so one can act on one’s own behalf, be more effectively assertive, and maintain a feeling of well-being.

     Questions:

What habits are you trying to change and what results are you hoping for?

Other than the suggestions described what successful strategies are you using to change your circumstances or condition?

When you are successful acting in the new desired manner, what do you do to maintain the improvement?

What people in your social network respond positively to your new behavior, and how?

Do you react realistically and compassionately when you lapse into the old habits you are trying to change?

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Effect

Years ago I was taught that everyone is a psychologist, whether they have received training or not. We all analyze the behavior of others in our attempt to understand, make the best choices for ourselves, to help others, etc. One thing that my personal and professional experience has taught me is that motivation is overrated. Why did he say that, what caused her to do that, what were they thinking? Useful of course but all too often subject to invalid framing by the observer because of ignorance, wrong information, biases. A more powerful source of information to understand our own and others’ behavior is not cause, but effect. What was the consequence, the result, the impact on oneself, on others, on the surroundings? This provides one a more objective source of evidence and when taken with motivation gives a more complete understanding of human behavior.

When on a spiritual journey, recognizing effect enables one to determine the beneficial readings, spiritual rituals, trainings, and social activities that foster one’s spiritual emergence. It simply informs us what is working, helping to discern what is useful and fostering growth and distinguishing it from what is causing stagnation or harm. As importantly it informs us of our ability to maintain psychospiritual insights and change beyond the formal practice times.

     Questions:

How often do you consider effect when you are assessing your or another’s actions?

When considering another’s motivation for doing something, from what do you draw your conclusions?

Reflect on another’s action in a recent situation and rather than settling on one motivation for what they did, generate several possible ones and see if it improves your understanding.

Have you ever noticed how we all tend to repeat the same action even when we did not get the result we wanted the first time we acted as we did?

How closely do you monitor the result, usually as progress toward change desired, from your efforts?