I wonder how many of us have been entertaining the annual topic of ‘New Year Resolutions’ over the last week or two? For my part I will admit to dragging my somewhat podgy and unresponsive spacesuit along to the gym for the first time for several weeks on Sunday morning.
For me, the first week in January – certainly in the shallow and competitive eyes of my ego-drive – is very much my favourite time of the year to get down to the gym. January is the only month of the year (with the possible exception of a brief surge of panic inspired attendance heralding the onset of summer) that I am able to convince myself that there may very well be at least as many people in the room that appear to be less fit than me, as there are people who’s bodies I can only look at with envy! So, Happy New Year to all those owners of shiny new running shoes, with your even shinier new faces – I salute you! Please know that if you are able to make it through to March you will have succeeded in selecting a New Year Resolution that will not only change your waistline, it will change the way that you experience the world.
My New Year Resolution then, in terms of the old objective setting model ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ is actually more of a ‘continue’ than a brand new activity or act of self-denial. For 2014 I intend to significantly ramp up the percentage of my time that I am living my life fully consciously. Specifically, what I mean to say is that, for as much as I am able, I will be looking to be operating with my Frontal Cortex engaged, fully mindful, and present in the moment. This means that I will need to be vigilant to all of those surprisingly frequent occasions when I find that I have been drifting through important parts of the day with my unconscious, limbic (or lizard) brain running my show based on old established beliefs, patterns and behaviours.
No doubt we will all be able to relate to car journeys where we suddenly arrive out our destination to realise that we have little or no conscious memory of large chunks of the journey. On these occasions our unconscious mind – our ‘auto pilot’ will have safely and expertly taken the controls, and will even have alerted our conscious minds if anything potentially dangerous or out of the ordinary happens on route. Very often, however, the truth is we allow far more complex activities than driving a car to be run almost entirely by our unconscious minds. Some of us literally ‘wake up’ after many years in the grey zone, wondering how on earth we have drifted along for so long, secure in our familiar routines and safe within our comfort zones. Many of us live our lives happy in the illusion that we have made our important life decisions based on rational thought when the fact is that our fear-based egos will have dismissed a huge range of ‘impossible options’ before they even make it onto the logical ‘worthy of consideration’ list. It is the primary role of our egos to prove we are right, and uphold our beliefs and values – even when those beliefs don’t really serve us that well anymore. If we allow it to, our ego will happily take the controls, and steer our lives on a course that will carefully avoid anything or anybody that might dare to challenge our beliefs about ourselves, and the world that we live in.
The chances are then, like me, you will have a belief that whilst you may well consult your unconscious emotional guidance system when appropriate, ultimately the majority of your behaviours, actions and important decisions are governed by your conscious, logical mind. However, every once in a while, we will hear some feedback about ourselves that may cause us to question that belief. For me one such piece of feedback was given to me, quite recently, during a meal with two people who I consider to be true friends and who’s opinions I value and trust. I’m not even sure how the conversation arose, but I clearly remember how these two lovely people, (who I will call Angela and Karen), went on to tell me about aspects of my behaviour which, to be honest, I not only found quite appalling, but which, shockingly, I had absolutely no conscious awareness of. Apparently, at times, my telephone manner leaves a lot to be desired! It seems that, pretty routinely, at a point where a conversation (specifically a non-business conversation) goes on for more than maybe 5 minutes, I start to get a bit twitchy. I remember being told about this strange man who would interrupt, finish other people’s sentences, and prematurely summarise the point that my friends were making. This stranger, who was using my phone, and talking with my voice, became increasingly agitated and disinterested the longer conversations went on, and appallingly, quite routinely made my friends feel that they were being a bit of a nuisance.
At first I didn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t recognise this behaviour as ‘me’. Almost immediately, my ego offered up a fairly satisfactory explanation, putting the blame firmly at the door of these two women (who are both clearly more than capable of talking for England!) My ego made me feel better about myself – apart from this niggling fact that I was completely unable to connect with any memory of acting in the way that was being described. I decided to seek out more feedback, and luckily, in my line of work, when you feel the need to work on ‘some of your stuff’, there is no shortage of people that you can turn to for help.
I spoke to Nikki. We tapped on it. We went back to a memory of childhood when – and I’m showing my age here – our family shared a telephone with a lady down the street. Every Sunday evening we would go along to this lady’s house (we called her Auntie Enid, although she wasn’t really an auntie), and we could phone our Nan. At the point that Nan answered “Tonbridge 2415” my mum would turn over the egg timer, and I had 3 minutes to say everything that needed to be said.
We may think that conscious mind is running our behaviour, but certainly in the sub-category of ‘non-business telephone conversations’, I discovered that my lizard brain had been on autopilot and running some very old, and totally unconscious, behaviour patterns.
When we manage to keep our egos out of the way, we begin to see ourselves the way that others see us. When we start to understand the way in which we filter our reality so that it fits with our beliefs, and our preferences, we begin to see that there are many important factors within our lives that are run according to old unconscious patterns and programming. Unless we make a conscious effort to be fully present, in the moment, we risk running our familiar, and family-ar, relationships on unconscious, habitual, lizard brain, programmes that may, or may not be working for the people in our lives that we love and care about.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”