By Susan Kavanaugh
“Our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.
When your mindfulness becomes powerful, your concentration becomes powerful, and when you are fully concentrated, you have a chance to make a breakthrough, to achieve insight.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
There are probably lots of people who respond quite differently when I use the phrase “Conscious Living.” There are those who have no idea what I mean and could care less, those who understand the concept but think it’s “wooey-hooey,” and those who embrace the topic as an aspiration. I can also include those who not only consider it an aspiration but a firmly founded way of living. Depending on where you fall in these groups, determining and understanding your conscious self may be a short and happy journey or a longer one to which you may or may not choose to commit.
The journey begins with understanding your conscious self.
I want to emphasize here that I’m not talking about Carl Jung’s theoretical id, ego, superego, unconscious self, and collective consciousness (although, there is academic overlap). This is about how “present” you are in each moment of your daily life and the choices you make when you are “present” versus simply living life in general.
We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something. And, though our minds may be like washing machines, with ideas going round and round, we rely on the mind. It tells us when we are happy, when we are stressed, when we must make a decision, when our body has needs (such as hunger or sleep), and a myriad of other messages. Our mind can also become focused on the past, or on the future. We may relive joyful memories or bind ourselves in regret. We may be planning a dinner party or a vacation, or a project while on the job. We rely on our mind, but are we taking care of it? We take care of our loved ones, we take care of our hair, and we take care of our finances, pets, cars, and so on. But when was the last time we cared for our minds? When was the last time we took a break from the whirling thoughts and just did nothing as a way to relax and nurture the mind?
In discovering our conscious selves, we must first slow the world down (at least in our minds). We can meditate, purge our thoughts through journaling, focus only on our breath, gaze into a candle flame, and eventually let our thoughts untangle themselves and pass through— until we feel we are suspended while conscious. In these times, we can embrace the present moment. That’s all we really have isn’t it? The future, which you have not yet entered, becomes the present. The present as you stay in it slows into the past. The true, authentic you is what you acknowledge and recognize in the present. A wise ministerial colleague of mine once said, “The point of power is in the present.”
The most significant encounters with ourselves and the most powerful decisions we make are done in present moments, when we are conscious, caring for our minds, and connecting with the sense of something greater or larger than ourselves. In the present, we feel most alive and better able to acknowledge our senses. This mind that we nurture in present moments is the same mind that we rely on to direct us toward being kind, being creative or doing our very best. And, we can choose how those actions will “manifest.”
We can’t change everything in the world that happens to us, but we can change the way we respond to it. This can only occur when we are conscious. Uncover your conscious self and begin to see who you really are, what you truly feel, what you truly want in life, and commit to mindful decision-making.
Once you have met the real you, it’s time to identify your true needs and wants.
Put it to the test.
Try at least one or more of the following exercises:
1. Develop your imagination. You do not have to practice meditation, but try listening to an audio program that helps you focus on the positive. There are many excellent “guided-meditation” audios. You can search for these through iTunes or online. Audible and other audio production companies make some of the finest available. Find one that helps you relax and receptive to intuitive messages. Visit https://soundcloud.com/user-938144380/release-renew for a 5-Minute guided audio with a series of affirmative statements about renewal. Or try another brief guided audio to help you focus and experience the present moment https://soundcloud.com/user-938144380/determing-your-predominant-sense
2. Find a quiet place, without distractions, light a candle and focus on the flame. Take a piece of paper and allow your mind to roll out thoughts as you describe the experience. Focus on your senses while you determine the description. What does the flame, and/or flame and candle, look like? What colors do you see? What movement? What does the experience sound like? Can you hear a crackle as the fire sparks, or is there a gentle quiet? Use your finger to reach out and put itself near the flame. Do you feel heat? Did you stick your finger in liquid wax? Did you burn yourself? What did you sense physically? Stick your tongue into the air, or taste your finger that you used to get near the flame. What is the taste? Finally, do you smell anything? Maybe it is the smell of smoke or the candle’s scent.
Describe this in writing, as if you are telling someone about the flame and they have never seen fire before.
Finish your writing. Gently blow out the candle. Close your eyes and imagine you still see it. Take a deep breath, exhaling slowly.
When you complete this experiment, notice how you view everything in physical form around you now. Does anything seem different?
3. Get outdoors and take a walk, preferably in a quiet area. This walk could be on a beach, along a mountain trail or through the woods. Pay attention to your stride and your breathing. Let your mind wander. Think about anything you want, but keep your body moving. Hopefully, you’ll be able to spend at least a half-hour on the walk, but whatever time you take allow your mind to wander.
When you return to your starting point, are there any ideas that came to you that may be helpful to choices you will soon make? Does your body feel energized or relaxed? Let the feeling wash over you.