Focus on You
We have all heard the phrase that the mind is a terrible thing to waste, yet this is something we all do to varying degrees on a regular basis. No only do we not exercise it enough we also know little about it and so we tend to not take good care of it. This is something I realized years ago, a realization that led it to being something I have focused on in my personal studies and meditations, in the lectures, workshops and seminars I have given as well as my writings. The more I delved into the topic the more I realized the ways that we "abuse" it as well as the hows and why's of it.
This awareness is a big part of why I started writing a new series of essays under the banner of "Becoming Conscious" (1). We do not do what we do to our minds intentionally, we do because we simply do not understand them nor the consequences of how we use them. There is plenty of literature on how to help young minds develop and how to work on and improve the adult mind. Despite this many seem unaware of the consequences of not paying more attention to how they can help their children's minds develop (2) nor how to work on and maintain their own. To most their minds appear to be working just fine and so they do not recognize the impact of it on their lives.
When you build a home you go by a plan. You do not just start with all the pieces in a pile and then build one without a plan even if you have done so many times before. Imagine if you did this? Well, this is more or less how our minds are developed in the first few years of our lives. The mind does not develop based on a genetic pattern as our physical self does, it is built up based on how we react to and integrate our experiences. As a result, children need to be guided and a big part of a parents role is to help them train their minds.
To get an idea of what I am referring to imagine being a child and you are trying to build a house and recognize that at that age you really do not know what it is you are building or indeed that your are building anything at all. Now add in that the material you use to build it may not be the best. Once your house is built, regardless of how you built it you need to further develop and maintain it. What kind of house would you have built and been living in under such conditions? For better or worse this is essentially how we go about it.
We misuse our minds because we not understand them. When you build a home you go by a plan and when you buy something you get a users manual. If what you bought was complex and requires maintenance you are provided with information on how to keep the item in good working order. We do not get either of these so we tend to not build fully functional minds nor do we know how to keep them running well. The result is that we have minds that are not well constructed and over time we fill them full of essentially meaningless junk that has absolutely no value.
We do this in a number of ways each and every day because we do not realize the impact our thoughts have on us and every aspect of our lives. I will be exploring this in great detail in the series I mentioned. In this essay I will look at one of the things or acts we do that does not serve us and limits our potential. To start to lift the burden of what we are doing with our minds I would like you to consider doing one thing - focus on you.
When I say "focus on you" I do not mean in a narcissistic fashion, I am referring to putting more attention on how and what you are thinking and doing and not what others may be up to. You may think that this is just common sense and a simple enough concept to grasp and do, but neither of these are the case. If it was common sense more would recognize the value in it and if it was simple enough to understand and do more people would be doing it. The reason we do not see it is we become distracted and caught up in the external world around us, pay far too much attention to what others are doing and tend take our queues from what we perceive outside of us than from within.
We do not see that we have allowed ourselves to be caught up in, among other things, an endless quest for self validation. In this quest all we are doing is chasing our own tails. We spend far too much time concerned about how others view us, what they think about us and how we compare to them. We also spend far too much time considering the impact of what others do on our lives and too little on the impact of what we do independent of them. When you consider this you can see that this approach means we have given up control, what control we have that is, to others. Instead of acting we spend a great deal of our time reacting. We do not advance this way. What happens instead is that we become stuck in ruts that saps our strength and keeps us from accessing the incredible potential we all are capable of.
We do such things regularly but rarely even notice we do so and at those times we do we typically do not consider the consequences such thinking has on us let alone why we have such thoughts in the first place. Part of the reason is that we do have built in defence mechanisms and so there is the instinctual drive or need to evaluate threats. This mechanism can useful in circumstances where we are physically threatened; however, the mind often ends up using it where no such threat or risk exists. We run from challenges, we avoid change, we see risk in even ideas and over analyze things to assess risks many of which are not real but imagined. This mechanism is something we have inherited but we can override it and it certainly is not something we should allow to rule us. However, in a very real way it ends up doing just that because we are not mentally conscious enough. This results in our non-conscious or subconscious mind determining far too much for us.
The result of our non-conscious minds activities is the creation of an artificial drama, call it the illusion if you would like. It is one we get caught up in because we tend to see our minds as us . We end up living in the illusion or artificial drama it has created. I run into this frequently in my discussions with people. When chatting with them about it one of the things I often suggest is that they spend some time asking themselves a simple question and then contemplate their answers. The simple question is "Why do I care what others think about me?"
When I suggest they ask themselves this question one answer many people come up with almost immediately is that they do not care. If this is your answer then, with all do respect, it is likely that you are living in denial. Unless one is enlightened, which next to none of us are, we ALL have a significant ego and do this to varying degrees whether we want to admit or not. We may not do it in all areas but we certainly do it. The areas where we do this show us where our insecurities and growth points lie.
When you first set about meditating on or contemplating this question you may find it hard to focus your attention on it unless you have done a fair amount of meditation in the past. The reason is that there are literally thousands of different thoughts that will be activated by this question. These thoughts will swirl around in your mind though most will be just below the conscious level or buried deeper. When you do this make sure you ground, clear and centre yourself as it will help. If you are a Twin Powers member (3) there are essays explaining them in the section on Spiritual Development and these essays have links to exercises on how to do them (4).
In your meditation or contemplation, if you get clear enough, you will find not one answer but many. If you then consider each answers you will find yourself with even more questions. If this does not happen it is not because there are not answers, it is likely you are reluctant to "hear them". The answers you get can take on all kinds of forms such as , What they think affects me.", "They can hurt them by what they think and say about me.", "I want others to like me." or "I don't want others to get the wrong impression of me" and so on.
You will notice that with each of these answers the mind is evaluating risks to itself or us to varying degrees. It does this even when there is either no real risk to us or it is something we have no control over anyway. By this I mean that if a car is bearing down on us we have control over whether we move out of the way or not, but we have no control over what others are thinking nor what they may choose to do.
We can try to determine every possible action others may choose to take and then consider what we will do in each case but the folly of trying to do so should be self evident. By this I mean that we cannot know what they will do and it is a waste of our time and energy trying to do so. We should simply let such thoughts go. Now, if the risk of what they could do is significant we can and perhaps should consider what they might do and how we will deal with it, but this is rarely the case. And when we do this we should do so pragmatically and not allow ourselves to delve back into the drama.
We make such things relevant to us as I mentioned and we also take them personally. We should not do so. For one thing what others think of us is none of our business and in addition their thoughts about us cannot hurt us unless we allow it. What matters is how they treat us and not what they think, because frankly we all carry so much mental and emotional baggage that should not trust their or our own minds to be clear and objective.
The reality is that no matter what you do, how decent, caring, compassionate, loving, smart, gifted and so on you are there will always be people who don't like you. That is their issue and not yours. To hammer this point home consider Jesus as he is described in the Bible. By the accounts of his life he is portrayed as a very loving, compassionate, caring and decent man whose focus was on helping others yet there were those that hated and feared him. They did so so much that they eventually nailed him to a cross and left him to die. So if Jesus couldn't get everyone to like him, not that it is likely he cared one way or the other, then none of us will.
Further, what they think is really none of our business. If you think it is then you have other challenges to work on. Further, the fact is that unless we are very telepathic we have no idea what others are thinking. Then there is the fact that even if we can read their minds we do not know if they are consciously aware of those thoughts themselves.
The bottom line is that for the most part all we have is our own suppositions about what others are thinking and these are based on our preconceived notions and baggage. Even if they not just think but also say negative things about us there is nothing we can do to change that. Nor can we change how people react to what they may say. You can try talking to people to "set the record straight" though often instead of convincing them you are not as the other person suggests you only end up reinforcing their belief in what they heard. You cannot stop ignorant and judgmental people from being the way they are no matter how much you try and you should work on letting go of the want, desire or need do so.
Earlier I mentioned that the answers we get should lead to more questions. We only get to these when we question our answers. For example, if one of the answers we get is "What they think of me is important to me." we then ask ourselves something like "Why is what they think of me important to me?" It could be that somewhere in our past we created the thought or thoughts that what others think can affect us, we need, desire or want their approval or we have come to base how we feel about ourselves on what others think of us and so on. We then turn each of these answers into more questions. The challenge is, as I mentioned, that the thoughts we are seeking are usually buried quite deep and many are behind walls our minds have built to protect us from what it deemed to be painful memories. That makes our task more challenging.
Back in the late eighties I spent a few years focusing solely on working on me so I could get past many of my challenges or on my growth points. At that time I was meditating between one and four hours a day, sometimes longer, and for about seven months of that time worked with a psychologist every week or so. The person I chose was one who based her approach on the belief that we are more than just physical beings, this allowed us to incorporate very effective non-traditional methods. However, I had the time to do so as I was not in a relationship, had no children and a good job. I was indeed fortunate as that is a position not many are in.
When we go through this type of self-examination process we are going back into our past. At some point in the near future I will add an essay or exercise on how one can use meditation more directly for this purpose. When we do this we can see how we reacted to and integrated our experiences so that we can re-integrate them. The challenge in doing this is that our thoughts have connections to other thoughts, some that are buried elsewhere in our minds and they must all be addressed in one way or another. Further, some have even been modified over the years by our non-conscious mind. This is why the process takes time and cannot be rushed.
We should have more confidence in ourselves, to trust ourselves and the way we feel we should be regardless of what others might think. If we don't have this confidence then we should also be looking at ways to build ours up. There are many ways of doing this but fundamentally it starts with core beliefs about what we are such as realizing that we are not equal, that is we are not the same, but we are equivalent. Also that we are all learning different things and have different skills but that does not make any more or less valuable than anyone else. This is something I looked at in the essay Everyone Matters (5).
"I can listen to others; I can even follow what they suggest and still have a high level of self-esteem. For instance, I can think that someone is very smart, much smarter than I without attaching a valuation to this fact. I am not less than they are in any way simply because they may be ‘smarter than me’. So, because someone is smarter, taller, better looking, richer, faster, better at sports and so on, does not mean that I am of any less value than they are. We run into problems when we notice differences and then judge ourselves based on these perceptions." ~ from Everyone Matters (5)
We developed our issues over the period of our lives and we are not consciously aware of all the connections it makes within our mind. This is because the mind is always busy integrating experiences and thoughts. During this process it creates new ones and connects them together in the background as we go about our lives. For example, let us say that when we were young we tried to be our own person but others put us down for it and that as a result we let our feelings be hurt. If this happens a few times our minds will start to create thought forms that result in our being reluctant to step forward unless we feel we have the approval of others for fear of being put down or criticized.
Over the years our reluctance can be reinforced by other experiences that were similar and it can even affect other aspects of us. We may become shyer, more introverted and perhaps reluctant to be around the kind of people, or similar enough, that put us down and not even realize why. What is created is a tangled web of thoughts (6) that can reach into every aspects of our lives.
We are not born with such challenges as self esteem issues, we acquire them by how we react to our experiences. This is why it is important to not brush off our reactions to our experiences or ignore them. This is often what is going on when something happens and we say "It's not big deal" to ourselves. It might be convenient to do so but what we do not realize we are only adding to our burden. Instead we should consider what happened and our reaction. We should examine the experience using our reasoning skills, be as objective as possible about it and then consciously let it go.
We should not blame others for our reactions. They are responsible for their actions, but we are responsible for our reactions. For example, if someone were to say something to me and I find myself with hurt feelings I cannot blame them for my hurt feelings. They may have an issue to deal with, in terms of what they said and why, but I have an issue that led me to feeling hurt simply because of what they said.
Like many others I got picked on a lot when I was a kid. I was smaller than most others but intense, passionate, outspoken and not at all shy so such things happened frequently. When it was really hurtful I'd go home crying or angry and my mother would hug and console me as best she could. After I'd calmed down she would suggest that I not let others bother me and that they were the ones with the problem not me. She would also use the phrase, one I am sure most have heard, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me". It was great advice even though I wasn't always able to do as the statement suggests.
When such things happen, regardless of our age, we can deny this and tell ourselves that others are responsible for hurting our feelings or making us angry and so on, but I assure you that this is not the case. Emotions like guilt and blame are simply a convenient way to avoid personal responsibility for our actions. And make no mistake, our reactions are actions.
Our minds are littered with such thoughts from our past because unless we dealt with them fully at the time they will be there lurking in the shadows. We are likely unaware of them accept at times when our experiences trigger them and we react. We likely do not consciously remember why we react as we do but our minds never forget. This is also why truly and fully forgiving others for what they do is so important. Forgiving is not an act of excusing others for their choices, it is a way for us to let go of the of blame as holding onto it keeps us attached to the event. By holding onto them we are condemning ourselves to live with them until we let go, which all to often ends up being for the rest of our lives.
It is impossible to deal with this topic, or any aspect of the mind, in isolation from all others. The thoughts and processes of mind are simply too highly connected for this. So, if you are planning on doing the type of examination I have spoken of here I suggest reading the series "Our Mental House" (7), especially the first three the essay. These essays are one of the places where I have covered the topic of how thoughts are created, connected and the ways they affect us. Another series that is worth reading is the one titled Awakening Our Gifts (8).
Knowledge of how the mind does what it does and having a better idea of what we are can led to a better understanding of our mind and self. This is essential if we are to make practical use of the knowledge. Of course I am just providing some examples to help you along on this process as I cannot and do not presume to be able to answer such questions for anyone but myself. We all have our own reasons. If you are a website member I will be covering this in a fair amount of detail in the Becoming Conscious series (1).
One should not start down this path unless they are willing to do a fair amount of consistent work. This is because the vast majority of our self esteem issues have their roots in our childhood and over the years we have added to and complicated them significantly. The result is that it can and typically does take a lot of effort to get at them. This is part of what psychologists and psychiatrists try to do using various forms of therapy. We can only start to get over such issues when we have the courage to take a cold hard look at ourselves and are willing to acknowledge what are we generally refer to as our failings or weakness.
I stated "failings and weaknesses" because that is how they are commonly referred to. I prefer not to use these words as there is a certain amount of judgement in them and we get enough of this already. Over the years I have had discussions on this with Human Resource staff who do something called SWOT analysis. The letters stand for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Instead I use the words strengths or skills, growth points, opportunities and barriers. The majority of them disagreed with me as they did not see the difference in terminology as being relevant. Some thought my terms were too weak. I disagreed with them then and still do. My beliefs on this are reflected in the Exercise section of the website where there is a series of four exercises that under the heading of "Taking A Look At Yourself" (9). The last exercise in the series is not titled "Strengths and weaknesses, its title is "Skills and Growth Points".
I have mentioned numerous times that knowing thyself is the path to growth. This is reflected, for example, in the teachings of Buddha and the Eightfold Path, Jesus as mentioned in the Gospel of Thomas in that if one does no know thyself they are the poverty and in relation to the Quran where a Hadith of Rasil states "Whoever knows himself knows his Lord".
We get to know ourselves through doing such things as I am suggesting in this essay. This is not something we can accomplish in a day, we have far too much baggage for that. What we can do is start to explore ourselves and work on what we discover. In this essay I have only barely scratched the surface of this topic, though I have covered aspects of this in many essays and will do so in more detail in the Becoming Conscious series.
The undeniable truth is that we can hide away in our ego and live in fear but if we do this we will always live in fear. Certainly we can choose to this path but there are consequences to doing so. Living in fear negatively affects our mental, emotional and physical health and also means we are living in the past. if we are working on personal or spiritual growth or trying to develop our awareness, as in our empathy, telepathy, intuition and so on, we must start shining "our light" into and our attention onto the "dark corners" of our mind or ego. If we do not do this we will remain a captive of our past and cannot hope to find balance in our lives or be at peace with ourselves let alone the world around us.
© 2015 Allan Beveridge
- Becoming Conscious: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/section-2-growth-fundamentals/becoming-conscious-the-power-of-perception
- The Guiding Hand: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/the-guiding-hand
- Becoming a Member: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/becoming-a-member
- Spiritual Development: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/section-3-spiritual-development
- Everyone Matters: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/everyone-matters
- The Webs We Weave: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/the-webs-we-weave
- Our Mental House Series (Link is to part 1 of the series): http://thetwinpowers.com/en/our-mental-house-part-1-the-dynamics-of-thought
- Awakening Our Gifts Series (Link is to part 1 of the series): http://thetwinpowers.com/en/awakening-our-gifts-part-1-the-face-of-our-challenge
- Taking a Look At Yourself: http://thetwinpowers.com/en/section-4-exercises/ex-3x-taking-a-look-at-yourself