In a recent post, I wrote ‘Who is the ‘I’ in ‘I am’. There, I shared research which suggests we are operating at a level of about the 95% unconscious. We actually have a choice to more consciously connect the dots of our life experiences as free-willed beings.
Freud puts it at 10% and some say an 8% consciousness.It is disconcerting at best and has us being friendly, herbivore zombies at worst.
In this post we look at how neuroscience, Jobs, Socrates, and Gaia each up-the-ante in reaching for our human potential. Personal development relative to our potential takes more conscious responsibility for ‘connecting the dots’.
If ‘I’ am only actively present 10% of the time, someone/thing else is doing the creative, productive work. I don’t mind working together, with faith and my evolutionary brain power, but I really do want to be CEO. And, I want to know what is being done on my behalf.
Being a mindless, habitual, zombie actually holds adaptive, evolutionary value and there is comfort in tuning out. But, where is the meaning-of-life value in that, really? When I am having difficulty meditating, I remind myself of that.
Life is remarkably complex–way too much to do all on my own and get anything done. There is no way I can do everything at a full conscious, mindful level so working with the brain (and faith if that works) has adaptive value.
the role of my brain as co-conspirator
We can actually change the physical nature of the brain. According to scientific research, we can physically change the structure of the brain and the ways in which it reacts to stimuli.
It’s a fascinating area of study, because often we think of the brain as fixed. Once we get to adulthood, the common conception is that behaviours and ideas may develop, but brains stay, well, largely the same.
Meditation studies in neurology are revealing that’s not the case. By doing a bit of strategic relaxation and mental clearing-out you can physically shift your neurobiology.
Functional MRI (left) showing activation in the amygdala when participants were watching images with emotional content before learning meditation.
After eight weeks of training in mindful attention meditation (right) note the amygdala is less activated after the meditation training.
free-will and the Gaia hypothesis
The Gaia hypothesis says that all energy and matter are balanced through a self-regulating mechanism or organism–a biological homeostasis. This is true. But, we still need to be consciously attentive.
Consciousness was born with energy and matter, not out of it. Human consciousness is a keystone of global homeostasis or global demise.
The Greeks referred to Gaia as the earth goddess who was the daughter of Chaos. The universe, the world, my life, your life are all examples of systems of ubiquitous chaos and order and the natural tendency towards the balancing of things.
And, we are also noetically endowed with intelligence and consciousness for species survival. Our consciousness can take us further into chaos or closer to balance.
the unbearable heaviness of being conscious
Jean Paul Sartre sees this as an existential dilemma for many who find too much conscious freedom and responsibility leads to ‘anguish’ and self-deception. We assume ‘bad faith’ roles as we ‘fall’ into the norm to ease the burden.
Yet, this compromises our ‘authentic’ human existence and the good we can do with conscious living. The outcome can include cognitive dissonance, anxiety and depression.
And this is where many minds turn to God or at least the pondering of the possible role God has in all of this. This is tough to do on our own, right?
looking to the ‘isms’ to take some of the responsibility?
One of the biggest areas of ambiguity is figuring out which authority is the one that determines how we navigate through existence: individualism, spiritualism, materialism, or naturalism. But skepticism keeps showing up on my list.
And then I found this list below and I wanted to share it with you.
At first glance, we might mindlessly chuckle as each holds some element of truism. Then, with greater consciousness and in particular, ethical consciousness, I could see how easy it is to propagate cultural stereotypes.
Without ethical and conscious reflection, we can fall into the trap of mindless adherence.
In the article in Wiley-Blackwell, peer-reviewed Modern Language Journal lists the following classical ‘isms’ in a political satirical way:
Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbour.
Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then gives you some milk.
Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then sells you some milk.
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Nazism: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.
Even in humour, these caricatures of ‘isms’ must be viewed with caution. Mindfulness alerts us to confirmation bias, in our own beliefs and those of others. Intuition and skepticism in the wakeful mind can minimize the tendency to fall into the crowd.
the three monkeys
The three wise monkeys are a pictorial maxim, embodying the proverbial principle “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.
I also see the trap of ignorance.
There are various meanings ascribed to the monkeys and the proverb including associations with being of right mind, speech and action. In Buddhist tradition, the tenets of the proverb are about not dwelling on evil thoughts.
In the Western world both the proverb and the image are often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility. This can happen when people refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing, looking the other way or feigning ignorance. It is a phrase is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye.
A free-willed existence does require radical empathy so we stay on course with consciously ethical actions and thoughts. We take a more responsible path.
the balancing act
Homeostasis is our natural, innately attuned tendency towards balance— physically, psychologically, cognitively and emotionally.
If we operate, habitually, in the 10% conscious range, we rely on previously learned knowledge and understandings to unconsciously guide us. But, that knowledge is likely redundant. I have lived in the unconscious realm out of fear and anxiety.
Moving into higher states of consciousness does requires a greater level of responsibility. So you would think it would be more fearsome. But it has actually been super empowering.
An unexamined life is not worth living. True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.
To find yourself, think for yourself. Let him that would move the world first move himself.
Beware the barrenness of a busy life. He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.
There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.
connecting the dots
And I do not necessarily like the knowledge I have been conditioned to integrate into my memory and shadow side.
Without bringing those to light, change I have undergone would not have been possible. The more I know, the more I am able to extend my control over my brain.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
~ Steve Jobs
As we move forward with increasing amounts of free-willed mindfulness, we sort through and connect the dots from the past, creatively and critically.
Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.
In order to advantageously connect the dots, I know I need to be conscious, intellectual, intuitive, perceptive and ethically minded.
Overall, it takes courage and vulnerability to open up and be the responsible CEO of my identity-narrative. But, so far, I can only see the good. Being a zombie is unnerving.
~ a guide to healing mind, body, heart, soul and spirit.
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