“You are already what you are seeking… there is no goal, you are utterly free already”.-Carlos Pomeda
To be self aware, is to be conscious of, aware of you. You are the self, in the phrase “self-awareness”. I’m not talking about you as Mr Joe Bloggs, or Isobel the dentist, or Raphael the school teacher. Or even you as “Dad”, son”, mother, wife, brother, living legend. Im not talking about who you want to be, or about your alter ego who comes out when you hit the tequila’s.
I’m talking about the you who is yourself: the you who feels happy when you see the sun rise, who feels grounded when you come home from travelling, you who feels alive when playing, Who feels nurtured when surrounded by loved ones. You who feels sad when someone passes away. The you who you sometimes show, but often hide from the world.
Therefore to be self-aware is to be aware of this self and The Practice is whatever means you have to deepen awareness of this authentic self and to express this authentic self.
Often people talk about higher consciousness, or expanding your consciousness or conscious living, or raising consciousness. I think its helpful to break this down. Its a wonderful paradigm, when understood, but probably an annoying hippy cliche when not understood.
If I were to say “I intend to live more consciously” the Consciousness in this context refers to awareness. In other words, “I intend to live with greater self-awareness”. I intend to be more conscious of my true self.
This way of understanding throws up a duality. If there is a true self, there must be a false self. Yes indeedy… now we are getting somewhere. This the whole point of the Practice.
We all want to be free. Do you agree?
What is it that keeps us unfree? Why are we not all living our lives, free from the constraints of worry, fear, anxiety? Why are we not all free creatures flying high, running wild, expressing ourselves, doing what we dream of, imagining then creating our futures?
Why are we often more like Human doings than Human beings? Why does a situation exist where a man or woman can spend the best years of his/ her life accumulating possessions and status and then reach the end point and the realisation that he/she had missed the point of living?
So why are we unfree?
Is is because there are scarce resources so we must hustle to hoard them for our survival? Is it because the world is so dangerous and uncertain that it behooves us to live in a perpetual state of red alert?Or is it because we have become conditioned to think and behave in a certain way?
Is it because all the noise out there, all the goings on in the world outside of our minds must pass through the filter of our minds to become part of who we are. And this filter itself, the filter of our minds has become so shaped by the currents of the world we live in?
THE REASON WE ARE UNFREE IS BECAUSE WE MISTAKE OUR CONDITIONING FOR OUR REALITY.
Think about how you entered this world, a little being free from the conditioning of this lifetime. You could see it in your eyes. You can feel it in your aura. Purity. Even if your screamed and shat all day long, there was a purity that others could sense. An innocence, as white as white can be.
And then life happened. You learn quickly that love is indeed conditional. You learn that if you behaved in a certain way, certain things happen, if you ate your veggies you got the ice cream. You were told we are not enough in many subtle or unsubtle ways.
You were graded and divided by tests and numbers. You were measured like pieces of wood. You were judged by what you said and did, not for who you were.
By the time you exited the mechanical institution of mainstream education you were probably subject to 13-20 years of industrial era conditioning. The systems that were used to forge steel and build machines have been used to shape your mind and those of the people around you. You think I’m exaggerating this? Lets look at what happens next.
We you have an identity. Now you have graduated, and you have achievements, labels and certifications. Like a cog in a machine you have a serial number and a job to do.
And so now you can progress to the next stage in the cycle of cultural conditioning: the work-force.
Hooray! You can now list all your labels and achievements on a piece of paper and send them to an institution of another kind- one that will pay you money, if in return you sell them your time.
You can jump on linkedin.com and create a wonderfully grandiose rendition of what functions you serve, and what cog in the machine you are, and how you wish to be seen by the world.
You can now spend 200+ hours a month pretending to care, with colleagues you sometimes will never know beyond elevator chat. You learn quickly that just like in school certain actions result in certain results, so you spend much time preparing your mask so that it looks like you are committed to doing the best actions for these results, lest someone catches you unawares and realises that you don’t actually give a fuck.
It would be disastrous if someone were to catch a glimpse of what lies beneath the mask.
And so we become conditioned to exist on an artificial level. Living through a facade. It is what everyone else is doing. It seems to work to hide one weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Its seems terrifying to express something that has not passed through the filter of “is this appropriate”.
And so we hide what we feel. And allow the emotions to build up, unexpressed, repressed, layering upon each other like a crust. Underneath this crust is the dying true self… who we really are, what make us come alive, what it feels like to be free.
And so day after day, year after year this thing, this crust, this identity, this ego-self, this caricature develops. We walk further and deeper into a prison of our own making.
So to answer the question, what is it that keeps us unfree? The answer is: It is the connection to this identity that keeps you unfree. YOU ARE MISTAKING CONDITIONING FOR REALITY.
How can I therefore become free & aware?
This is true. But you did not consciously walk into this prison. You must however consciously walk out. You can not stumble out, unconscious, accidentally. You must be aware of your imprisonment, be aware that the door is always open, be aware that there is freedom outside.
To be aware and conscious is to be free. To be unaware and therefore unconscious is to be unfree.
For the unconscious, decisions are made through reaction, or through playing out the automatic patterns of conditioning. So when we are not recognised for the work we have done, we feel resentment and pain. When someone pushes in front of us in the queue, indignation and judgement arises like an unstoppable force.
When someone tells us we are wrong, we retreat into our shell, put up our defences and shy away from the conscious examination of reality.
The irony is that even if we think we are making conscious decisions, we are often not, because the conditioning can be so strong that its is actually a subconscious program that is influencing the decision.
Therefore, when you say “ I commit to going on a diet”, you may tell yourself that you are doing this for your own wellbeing and because you want to be a healthy role model for your kids. This feels noble. But you may be carrying with you the residue of cultural conditioning that says being overweight is not sexy, you should be lean, and look like a Calvin Klein model with a 6 pack. In other words, you may be pretending to be acting from love, but actually be acting from fear.
And this brings me to a very powerful lens through which to examine ourselves in a conscious way: The simple question:
Am I acting through love or fear?
I have found it to be true in my life experience that love and fear are binary, or oppositional, 2 sides to a coin. This is not fluffy new-agism. This is practical and actionable.
If you are considering leaving your job to start a new business, ask yourself- Love or fear?
What you will find is that fear is the language or energy of the caricature/ mask/ facade/ linkedin profile/ ego self. Love is the energy of your true self. This can be subtle to distinguish, because of course you have been subject to a lifetime of conditioning that has created a perception of what love is that is far from the truth. Contrary to Hollywood illusions, love is simply acceptance of what is. Love is not something you do involving flowers or sacrifice. It is something you are. It is a state of being that is always there, it is the default state when we have dismantled all the conditioned programs that keep us from FULLY accepting.
When wise people like the Dalai Lama, Carlos Pomeda, Alan Watts or Eckhart Tolle talk of presence, or of living in the moment, living in the now, this goes to a depth that can only be understood with practice. Unless you have a practice, you don’t know what they really mean.
This is far, far more than stopping to smell the roses. Living in the moment is a gateway to develop full acceptance of what is, which is to live with love.
The angst we feel that is rooted in non-acceptance of what is. That anxious feeling that feels nauseous and keeps us from enjoying our Sunday evening… the feeling that this life we have is not good enough- this is FEAR. This is non-acceptance of what is.
But the illusion that so many buy into is that this anxiety, or this perpetual state of unease about the present moment reality is precisely what keeps us pushing for a better future. This is the fundamental problem. This cultural illusion that we are not enough, and that to fix this requires us to be more of something, to do more of something. This is what keeps us locked into the hamster wheel, going round and round forever. Your situation in life may be unsuited for who you are.
BUT YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU ARE ALL YOU CAN BE AND ALL YOU WILL EVER BE. YOU ARE ALREADY IT.
It is only when you can remove the obstacles to this knowing that you will be free. These obstacles are our conditioning which creates this false sense of self. Its the judgement of ourselves for not showing our full selves. It the illusion that we can use the same level of consciousness to solve the problem that got us into this pickle. We can not “ego” our way out of this. We can not think our way out of this. We can not compete our way out of this.
We require a new set of tools and techniques and a new lens through which to see the world. Well actually they are a very ancient set of tools and techniques!
But, you might be saying.. I don’t see how just sitting there watching my mind will do anything. I don’t want to be like those dreadlocked hippies who smell and try and sell me stuff in Byron Bay. I get what you are saying, I’m also a real world person with real goals and I want to give my kids a great education and that doesn’t pay for itself.
Well, all of that is “outside stuff”. That is not the direct concern of The Practice- that is not the point of walking a path of a more conscious life. Your external reality reflects your internal state. Your practice will lead you to a knowing of who you really are, and from that place you can make better decisions about the external world.
So whats next.. how to become more aware?
The grand paradox that many can’t get over, is that discipline is the path to freedom. When we build and commit to a structure in our life that we have consciously chosen, we become free to play within in. We are free because we have consciously chosen our path.
The discipline of having a path, or a practice means that you have built a playground or a experimental laboratory into your own life. You can now examine what parts of you are real and authentic and what parts of the result of conditioning. through the practice of contemplation, you can examine why you have these parts in you, and with the practice of compassion you can accept them, but choose a new way to be.
Through the practice of mindful living, you can learn in inhabit more fully this moment in time, so that regrets about the past and anxiety about the future does not dominate our consciousness. We can learn to accept what is, with love, with trust, with surrender that is so courageous, that you hardly know what it means yet.
Through the practice of meditation, you can come home. You can come home to who you really are. You can put down your baggage of conditioning, and just rest.
To live a more aware life. To be conscious. To live in flow, to live with a practice. This is not about adding. This is about taking away. the practice does not add. It only takes away. As Carlos Pomeda told us in a workshop on Saturday, “You are already what you are seeking.. there is no goal, you are utterly free already”.
What does my practice look like? I’ve just told you the nuts and bolts of it. The path has been laid down: meditation is the core of it.