A Better Path

Posted: October 2, 2016 in a lonely journey, September 28, what makes us tick
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Every time I head into my annual thinking session I have an idea of what I want to think about. And every time I end up thinking about something else. But as I go over my notes, that something else always turns out to be exactly the topic that has been in some way on my mind for months. And that topic always a continuation of the chain that by now has spanned quite a few years. This year was no exception. Just like the last year, my mind wandered off to an unplanned territory, only to come back with conclusions that made the puzzle more complete.

Two years ago I said that I have figured out the intricate building blocks of the puzzle that I had been facing for years every time I would take a hard look at my life. I talked about living every moment as the ultimate goal, willpower and procrastination being two sides of the same token and self-respect as the cornerstone of happiness. Every single conclusion I reached back then is still correct. Yet, something has been missing from the picture. Something fundamental. Last year’s No Limits idea ventured into that territory, but did not go deep enough. Yes, breaking through one’s limits is extremely important. Yes, earning self-respect is a must. Yes, truly living every moment is the goal. But what is the cause of the eternal inner struggle? Why is there a fight going on inside me, to begin with? Who am I struggling against? I can declare (and rightfully so) procrastination to be rooted in fear, but where does this fear come from? Those and dozens of similar questions remained unanswered.

Until now.

I don’t know how scientific what is about to follow is. I have no formal education in psychology and, despite a decent number of good books, I have recently read on the subject, I’m far from being an expert. I don’t even have a goal of becoming one. I’m only concerned with figuring out what makes me tick and applying that knowledge to reach that elusive, yet very real, state of true living. Scientifically sound or not, my conclusions are based on my observations of my own actions, thoughts and behaviors. As long as they offer plausible explanations and don’t contradict facts, that’s all I need.

So here’s my newest theory or rather, the newest state of my multi-year “what makes me tick?” journey. This is a distilled summary of it, since there’s too much content to cram into a single post. If you have been following my blog, you know that I’ve been puzzled for years by some questions. I’ve just listed some of them, but there are more. Why, despite having strong abilities, I so often slip into the swamp of procrastination instead of putting them to use? Why do I even have to face the absurd idea of wasting time on something pointless instead of doing what I think needs to be done? Why, being a free man in a free country, am I so obsessed with a concept of liberation and awakening? Liberation from what? What are those bursts of life that I experience from time to time, that make my regular existence look like a gray shadow of what living my life can be? And so on and so forth.

At some point, I came to the conclusion that the struggle was imaginary. My mind, I reasoned, just deals with multiple options and tends to choose those that offer instant gratification. Piece of cake. Could be ended with a single decisive resolution. Several hundreds resolutions later I was still finding myself staring into the dark luring surface of the procrastination swamp way too often. As it turned out, the struggle has been very real. Snapping my fingers, no matter, how resolutely won’t end it.  But the conditions causing it can be healed — once they are understood.

We are born wired for freedom. That freedom is expressed in two aspects. One, our ability to imagine anything. Too, our ability to choose to go after anything we imagine. Our ideas may be wrong, our choices may be horrible, but we do have those two innate abilities that are cornerstones of our day-to-day existence.

And so we imagine and choose, and act. And when I think about things I like to do and things I want to accomplish, the most logical step in the world is, as Nike likes to remind us, just do it. But I don’t always follow that clean logic and when I do, it often involves a great deal of that inexplicable inner struggle. However, it wasn’t always like this. There was time, not too long ago, when I was getting some very noteworthy things done, things that made me proud and prompted me to set even more ambitious goals. And that gradual change is the key to understanding what happened.

Despite the convenience of perceiving my mind as a single entity, what I call I is, in reality, a thin layer of consciousness on top of a deep ocean of subconscious. The scientists have been debating for years what exactly subconscious is and even how to call it (unconscious is considered a more accurate term these days), but there is no denying the simple fact that the vast majority of our brain activity happens without any discernible involvement of I. Be it processing of millions of signals from my sensory organs, driving a car or instantaneous translation of written text into mental images, my brain is always busy with myriad of things that I’m not aware of. And that part of my mind by its very definition operates without direct control of my conscious. It has its own priorities and constantly uses them to make decisions. It leads a very busy life, trying to protect me from real and imaginary dangers and get me through my day unharmed, and, preferably, fed. And it is neither fully aware, nor particularity interested in the goals and ambitions of my consciousness. It probably views the conscious as a spoiled child who can afford to play with his toys, thanks to the safety provided by a busy adult.

My subconscious learns and evolves throughout my life, just like my conscious does. But unlike its conscious counterpart, which may decide to hurl myself down a steep ski trail or get into a fight for a cause it considers worthy, subconscious does not get excited by a challenge. What it cares about is protection and maintenance. And if it senses danger in the path chosen by the conscious, it is not inclined to cooperate — unless it has been conditioned to accept that kind of a path. On its own, it always chooses the path of least resistance. Yet, it can be trained, condition and directed. This is where my mistake has been all these years.

At some point, the gap between by conscious and subconscious started to grow. And instead of working with my subconscious and training it to trust the judgement of my conscious, I began to fight it. Concerned about my well-being, it began fighting back — and winning. Every time my conscious, tired of fighting,  would look away, the subconscious, left on its own, would find a way to get me busy with safe, easy and even mildly pleasurable activities. As a result, over time it has been taken over my day to day existence. Occasionally, my conscious would wake up, thinking about the goals it has wanted to achieve, scream in horror at the sight of the ticking clock and lack of progress, and try to go after its goals — only to face the growing resistance of my subconscious that over years has become accustomed to full freedom.

Then, my conscious would spent countless days in futile attempts to overcome the power of my subconscious and its growing control of my actions and thoughts. What’s worse, the conscious, frustrated by the meager results of its attempts, has been understandably harsh in its judgement, creating over time a very strong feeling of dissatisfaction with myself. And that’s where a vicious cycle got formed. The dissatisfaction was being fed into the subconscious regularly, which eventually has internalized it, turning it into an even deeper feeling of guilt and unworthiness that eventually started to permeate my entire existence. And, as a cherry on the top, my subconscious learned to dismiss the goals set by my conscious. From its point of view, those goals were bringing nothing but trouble. The conditioning took place, but it was negative. No wonder that my life has become such a mess.

This is exactly what that endless struggle of two souls has been all about. It’s been one, rather confused, soul in a constant and futile fight with itself. My consciousness against my subconscious. This path path has been a road to ever deepening misery.

But there is another path. I used to be on it, without understanding, years ago. The path of positive conditioning. The path of consistent conscious efforts that turn into robust and powerful subconscious patterns. The path that relies on and reinforces a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious one. It is fairly easy to get on that path. And — despite what years of negative experience are screaming to me now — it shouldn’t be too hard to stay on it. After all, my subconscious is eager to work together, especially now that I understand the nature of that struggle. How do I know? Well, every rhymed verse I’ve ever written has been a product of joint work of my conscious and subconscious. And had it not been on board, I would not have concluded Two Souls with these lines five years ago:

I am the one who wins the fight
The winner takes it all.
And in a swamp or in a flight
At last I will be whole.

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Comments
  1. dancergypsy says:

    Another year, it’s hard to believe, and here we are again. It’s wonderful to read your discoveries. Interestingly enough, I have been recently reminded of the subconscious mind and it’s power. It’s a system of thinking we do not even take awareness of, quite often, yet it has a very important function.

    Thank you for sharing your learning with us. I, too, can relate to this and I find myself in a very similar place. I guess the greatest thing we can do is continue, and never give up.

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  2. dancergypsy says:

    I really like how you described our minds, the subconscious and conscious. For me, (You may can hear my solemn sigh.) it’s as though I’ve been here already. I’m trying not to beat myself up for “forgetting” what I know. I think my biggest challenge is keeping my focus on what’s truly at play. Of course, I haven’t totally forgotten my subconscious mind, it’s only too often I haven’t practiced what I know works, consciously. We can’t forget our subconscious mind completely because it’s literally alway on. But why do I do this? Why do I put valuable knowledge to the side?
    It could be, as you say, my spoiled conscious mind is too egotistically ready to handle everything and waiting to achieve the next big thing. It becomes discontent and bored with just positive affirmations, like “You know that already!” Yet, I can see that maybe beneath the surface I am simply trying to convince myself I know and believe something I haven’t fully blossomed into…
    Then there are days when I fully use my subconscious to accomplish something unbelievable. I will see the results and be blown away, then ask myself how it happened. 🙂 It’s as if my silly conscious mind cannot fathom the potential, even while I witness it.
    Bear with me, if you will…
    I will do things out of sincere desire and find myself in shock of my mind. “Is that really possible? Yes, it is really…wow, I knew it but wow… How did I do that?” It’s almost as if two parts of me don’t get each other, or some such phenomenon.
    There are times when I feel as though my minds are twin sisters and one is more foolishly arrogant at times, has bouts of laziness, really enjoys talking to herself and worrying. While the other sister is far more reserved and takes what she gets, works much harder and quietly, holding vast ability rarely put to full use. And I cannot help but at times wish I was more acquainted with the quiet sister. She does incredible things for me.
    It makes perfect sense that the quiet mind bears secrets untold. You have encouraged me to not lose hope of grasping her, in spite of how I feel I’m not where I want to be.
    Honestly, I feel I should have mastered this by now which is probably interfering and far to negative. So you see, Mr. Unmaskd. My delightful minds have their work cut out for them. Two sisters, they are, needing to work together. 🙂

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  3. Sunshine says:

    Poetry of a Thinking Session (c)

    Heading into my thoughts to ponder numerous questions why
    Putting together pieces to figure out what puzzles my mind
    Asking where I’m going and reflecting on where I’ve been
    Unlocking my mind’s mysteries all these years of journeying
    Now I am a lot more whole since beginning to understand
    Living moments while discovering what ticks for this man
    Finally I don’t think what I thought for such a long time before
    Content to be with both parts that help make me so much more
    It is not my pride or ego but rather a truce of forces within
    Reaching a peaceful place inside for each new day to begin

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    • dancergypsy says:

      Sunshine, it’s good to see you’re still around. Nice words! 🙂 I am glad you chose to share.

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      • Sunshine says:

        Thanks dancergypsy. As always, I enjoy reading your responses. The savage story you shared a couple years ago was quite good and has stayed in my mind just like many of Unmaskd’s posts. I’m glad you’re still around too… I guess with social media if someone doesn’t post often enough, people drift away. Are only 3 people left now? This could be an opportunity to delve even deeper and converse.

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    • Unmaskd says:

      Thanks for sharing. “A truce of forces” is great way to put it.

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      • Sunshine says:

        It seems as though you have made more progress than usual this past year in your journey, so I am very happy for you. Look how much you have expanded your mind for better understanding these past six years. The trick now is to live without repeating any form of what you don’t want just for the familiarity factor or knowing what to expect. It is one way to keep challenge and a greater chance of a feeling of awakening and liberation in your life.

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  4. Sunshine says:

    In response to your tweet, “Self-conditioning is the only way to move past weakness. Physical or mental — there are no shortcuts. No repetition means it won’t stick.”

    This statement can go one of two ways. Remember my post about the dot’s and the stars (a children’s book) and how they didn’t stick? Here though, I’m writing about the usefulness of repetition to make things stick. I agree that repetition of positive thinking and/or behaviors are necessary for creating success in an area, but it may end up being what dulls the mind and life over time. Possibly, sometimes, a dulled mind is good in a wind down mode before sleeping. For not dulling the mind, maybe the solution is repetition with slight changes along the way (not excluding some big changes too) to render the desired outcome. Repetition reminds me of the Aristotle quote posted: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Changes would prevent going on automatic pilot in what you’re thinking and doing, since once the brain and body have a repetition down I would think that is when one becomes mindless or less mindful — unless trying to master something (but even then, perhaps slight changes are needed in the learning curve of mastery. I suppose in some instances, being mindless may be useful to some extent being in a zone of feeling or in letting any form of art flow. Is it change in repetition that continues to keep a sense of awakening and liberation? Is it still repetition if there are changes? I often say I love change — that is when I feel most alive, yet I continue to have a routine life many hours of the day. I do try to change it up when and where I can. A person can change things up as much as they want on any given day (within the parameters of the parts of their life in which they are free to own their time). Essentially then, a person can experience their life a little more or a lot more on any level.

    I remember your post asking what people’s “sticky song” was, so it makes me wonder if the above mentioned insight would pertain to all aspects beyond the physical or mental in reference to change or goals. Is it the repetitiveness in words or a tune that makes one song more popular over another? That makes one song catchier than another? That makes one song have more longevity over another? (Of course, in that instance, it might possibly come down to a song’s purpose). I’m sure there must be information out there documenting the analysis of songs and why some are hits and some are not. Or maybe that’s the million dollar question yet to be answered. There’s got to be scientific aspects to art in it’s intricate technicalities when broken down that give insight into the core of what makes even a song “tick”. Then I wonder if it goes even further when it comes to people and the popularity of any individual living on this earth. Many, if not most who are successful (as gauged by worldly standards of popularity often measured by recognition and wealth) work extremely hard to make a success in what they give the world in any given area (you discussed this in your posts about Susan Boyle’s “instant success” and the revolutionizing world-changing work of Steve Jobs and his team). Then, there are some people who have talent (and some who may not) who have the “it factor”, but honestly, what is “it”? Can “it” be identified? Do we all have “it” but not all have tapped into “it”? Just the other morning I was telling my daughter some of the things I really like about her prompted by having had such a great time together the evening before. Then the topic of popular people came up as I was driving her to school and she said she wouldn’t want to be popular in middle school because people follow you around, try to dress like you, etc. People are just funny like that I suppose. I also recently received an e-mail at work in which the word following was inadvertently spelled foolowing and it made me think about all the social media following that goes on and how in some ways it is foolish. If a person really likes something, enjoy time with whatever fills you whether it is yourself, people, things or any combination thereof, but following and not knowing why you follow and not knowing why you do what you do is where part of you becomes mindless and not in control of your life or destination. Some may only have excuses, but at least they are in touch with either what they are doing and/or why.

    Something I observed in my life a few years back was paying attention to the thoughts I’d have before falling asleep and the thoughts I’d have upon waking up. It’s those thoughts that give much insight to understanding yourself and what you love, what you struggle with, what you want, etc. and depending on if those thoughts are positive or negative, you can condition your brain by changing those thoughts at those two times each day.

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  5. Sunshine says:

    Regarding your tweet: “If you’re serious about self-improvement, look up NEUROPLASTICITY. What our brain is really capable of goes beyond wildest scifi ideas.”

    [*I have listened to a lot of speakers on a variety of health topics, but am not an expert and have no formal education on these topics, but find them interesting. Please do share sources of information you have found interesting (books, audios, websites, names of experts, etc.)] Neuroplasticity is exciting and gives hope for possibility to go beyond what was once thought. Are you familiar with brainwave entrainment? Some excellent brain tools I have in my library are: LifeFlow by Project Meditation, Passive Brain Fitness by Jeffrey Gignac, Holosync by Centerpointe Research Institute and Paraliminals by Learning Strategies. (All programs are not to be used at the same time, but rather going through one program at a time, one disc at a time with time in between one segment to the next). Have you learned about gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta brain waves or binaural beats, monaural tones and isochronic tones yet? Some of these tools are designed to help you achieve the brainwave patterns within minutes that it takes a Buddhist monk 25 years to achieve (maybe there are shortcuts here and there for self-conditioning after all).

    Check out Jeffrey Gignac’s Ted X talk:

    Dr. Daniel G. Amen is one of the leaders in brain health with his SPECT scans
    http://www.amenclinics.com/healthy-vs-unhealthy/

    According to Dr. Amen and several other experts, our brains need certain nutrients for better brain health. Some foods that nourish the brain are essential fatty acids (eating Alaskan wild-caught salmon) or taking cod liver oil, Omega-3’s, organic blueberries (berries tend to be sprayed heavily with pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group), walnuts (best to soak all nuts for several hours, then rinse and eat to reduce phytic acid). If you google brain foods, you’ll get plenty of information. We need good pure water too… and lots of it since about 60% of our body is water. The rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces daily, but if you drink coffee, tea, alcohol or if you exercise heavily, you need to drink more than the recommended. Staying away from the bad fats is important for brain health as well. (This means no hydrogenated oils). Organic, unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil is best for cooking and organic, virgin, unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil is best for room temperature or unheated uses such as in a homemade salad dressing. The root of major diseases (heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, etc.) is cellular inflammation. The number 1 inflammatory food is french fries with sugar a close 2nd. What reduces cellular inflammation is greens and meditation. Stress increases cellular inflammation and even watching violence on tv causes your body to have a fight or flight reaction on a cellular level. Even sustained strenuous exercise causes cellular stress so apparently interval or burst training is optimal for our bodies. In my opinion, wheatgrass, non-gmo alfalfa, blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella are the best green foods (sources of chlorophyll) to consume. Turmeric and ginger help fight inflammation as well. Then of course, there’s earthing or grounding to help us get negative ions from the earth to combat the effects of positive ions our bodies are exposed to from electronics.

    What are we made of? I’m fascinated that our bodies are mainly made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur which has been referred to as CHNOPS. No matter how hard we try to be eco-friendly, we will literally always leave a carbon footprint (lol). Besides being made up of primarily 6 elements and some trace minerals we are comprised of about 10 trillion cells and 100 trillion bacteria (about 80% good and 20% bad, but necessary). Our environment, what we breathe in, what we put into and on our bodies has a direct effect on our state of living/health as a physical form and has a direct connect to our state of mind and brain function. We are also a series of tubes… consider the digestive system and nervous system, but beyond that, a cross section of a heart, kidney, lung, etc. reveals millions of tubes. Even bones are hollow tubes filled with marrow. As gross as the thought of it is, we all have parasites living in and on us. Inside our bodies they feast and grow on things like sugar, flour, and yes, pizza too! Some parasites are necessary to clean out the waste from cells, however, too many in the body can be what causes a mysterious, unexplained illness doctors can’t figure out. Ancient cultures must have known something about the importance of good bacteria since all cultures have incorporated fermenting of foods and beverages for at least 2,000 years. Raw culturing/fermenting/pickling is finally becoming more mainstream making it’s way back into people’s lives at a time when so many people are trying to find ways to be well. We are told hat 80-90% of our immune system rely on the good bacteria in the gut (I think I mentioned this a few years ago on your blog). Anyway, eating just 1-2 tablespoons of a variety of raw cultured food/beverages 3-4 times a day is the quickest way to turn health around.

    Experts tell us that 8 hours of quality sleep is important (without any electronics and no computer/tv screens at least an hour before bed, no wifi on in the house while sleeping, no light – not even the light from an alarm clock is what is the latest concensus for ideal sleep). It is while our bodies are sleeping that all the repair work is done. Regular quality sleep leaves you refreshed, in a better mood, you lose weight/maintain weight easier and helps keep you looking younger.

    Furthermore, researchers tell us that there is a brain-gut connection and a heart-gut connection. About 90% of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) is produced and stored in the gut. Is there more to a gut feeling than once thought? When a baby is born through the birth canal, it receives an inoculation of the mother’s bacteria so, as far fetched as this sounds, I have to wonder (just being open-minded to possibility) if the bacteria somehow are part of a form of communication (or it’s just instinct), thus explaining a “mother’s ear” in which she can be in a deep sleep and she hears her baby needing her in the night. My “women’s intuition” gave me a nudge to pack an entire change of clothes for my son when he was about four when going somewhere for a couple hours. He did not look sick, had no symptoms, didn’t eat anything that would make his stomach upset, and he ended up needing all the clothes and was not sick after arriving home. What is at the root of these things? Genetics, bacteria, quantum physics, something else, or any combination thereof?

    All this being said, I have come to think that belief is perhaps the most powerful of all tools. How else do you explain spontaneous healing of a disease or the placebo effect? I am not a brain or health expert but give you mostly an accumulated reiteration combining information from those who are. I love sharing good information to help people be healthier and happier. I think it’s our birthright to enjoy optimal health… it takes knowledge and action to fully live in that state of wellbeing, and to live healthfully is a constant awareness so we all do the best we can in a world that promotes mind-numbing, processed food eating, toxic lives. Living each day feeling vibrant has so much to do with what we think, what we consume, what we are exposed to and what we do. That’s all for now (I could keep going though… time to start a blog of my own to share tidbits of healthy information). Have a good one 🙂

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  6. Sunshine says:

    Happy 2017 Unmaskd! May this better path you are on embrace your lonely journey in such a way that it won’t be as lonely anymore (unless you prefer it to be lonely for some reason). Wishing you everything that deeply fulfills and nourishes your soul today and always.

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  7. Sunshine says:

    Looks like some duplicate responses posted…would you please remove enties dated October 16, 2016 with times 10:54 pm, 11:03 pm and 11:05 pm (as well as this one after removed)? Thanks.

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