How often do your action, reactions and emotions surprise you?
If not often, there are two possibilities. The first is you’re an enlightened one who spend decades in meditation, tracing the counters of your own thinking.
You’re not as introspective as you think.
“Of course I got angry when that bus driver smirked at me. That was natural, who wouldn’t?”
A lot of people wouldn’t. Including you, had circumstances been slightly different. So why did you react this way to this situation, when other times you wouldn’t?
Your consciousness is opaque to you. That’s because the vast majority of your mental experience happens outside your awareness. You carry lessons from your childhood that you’ve long since forgotten, even as they control your actions.
That’s why travel broadens your mind. You see how other cultures act and it shines a light onto your programming. Onto things you took for granted – things you assumed were common sense.
It’s an excellent start.
But you are more than just your culture.
So much more.
When you live with a clear consciousness, you see things in your inner mind you normally wouldn’t. You notice yourself getting upset, or anxious, or bored, or aroused, and you can choose to study that response.
Without clarity, you act on the impulse.
Even if you don’t want to.
Even if you know it’s going to cost you. If nothing else, anger or fear robs you of your piece of mind. Or it can destroy your ambitions, relationships, career and even your health.
But when you see it – and I mean really see it – it gives you a moment of power.
You can lean into your reaction.
Or you can step back and diffuse it.
When you first learn to think like this, you surprise yourself a lot. You stop taking your reactions for granted. You stop seeing them as ‘natural’ (even though you learned them) and ‘obvious’ (even though most people would act differently).
After a moment to pause, you ask yourself why this reaction and why now.
Maybe you’re just tired.
Or maybe you’re carrying decades-old manure in your head – the sorts of neuroses that cause so much grief, but crumble the minute you investigate them.
After a while, you surprise yourself less as you learn your own style of thinking.
Then you surprise yourself more, as you break through to a new level of unconscious reasoning.
The end result is full awareness of your own mentality, but you don’t have to reach that. Every step in that direction gives you greater choice and self-awareness.
Here’s the first step: