A presenter at a professional conference I attended yesterday asked the audience how many of us had arrived at our workplace or in our own driveways lately and had no idea how we got there. I saw quite a few hands raised and was initially confused. My first reaction was, “What a strange question!” My second thought was, “What is wrong with all of those people?” Was he talking about having amnesia or the early onset of Alzheimer’s? Thankfully, clarification came quickly as he suggested that we so often carry out the routines of our life unconsciously. We’re not fully present on that road we’ve driven a thousand times. We’re in that infuriating meeting that ran over. We’re checking off our to- do list in our mind, trying to talk ourselves out of skipping exercise today, and wondering if that off the cuff comment offended our teammate at work. If we happen to be parents, we’re simultaneously wondering if we’ll have time to get dinner in their stomachs and make it to practice on time, while wearing our referee cap and officiating the sibling rivalry in the back seat, to the beat of whatever channel we prefer on the Sirius XM radio, because thank God the kids have their own tunes, courtesy of the i pods/touchs/phones they’re each plugged in to. Of course we’re paying attention to the other drivers on the road, obeying road signs and keeping it between the lines! No officer, unfortunately I didn’t realize I was going 15 miles over the speed limit. Truthfully, I barely realize that I’m on this road at all because of all the other places my mind is right now. Throw in some talking on the phone or God forbid, texting, and no, I must admit I have no earthly idea how I arrived home.
Living consciously. Type that into the Bing search window and you’ll get 3,950,000 entries. If I had to define it on my own, ( which I’m doing now), I’d say it was being fully aware of your experience at any given moment, being fully present in your thoughts in that moment, appreciating the sensations and nuances the moment brings, and at the same time fully comprehending that each word emanating from your mouth, and every action you take in that moment is making a ripple that affects some form of life outside of your self. That’s pretty heavy dude, as we were fond of saying in the 70s. Well, yes it is!
The workshop presenter suggested that our love affair with today’s new and improved, obsolete in another few months, there’s an app for that technological smorgasboard of a world is creating, yes, he actually said creating, a generation/society of human beings whose brains are being rewired to operate unconsciously! WOW! If we stop doing the 4 other things we’re currently multitasking, give that thought our full attention and consider the full ramifications, we’ll most likely be slightly terrified. If we actually had the time in our chaotic lives to venture into some current brain research, the radicals among us might just choose to follow the advice of the level-headed topless dancer in the John Prine song Spanish Pipedream. She told him, “Blow up your T.V., throw away your papers, go to the country, build you a home, plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own.”
So much can happen when we’re not paying attention. Ask any mother of young children what occurred the last time she was on the telephone! Essential to living consciously is slowing down and realizing that the one moment we reside in presently is the only one that exists. It wasn’t just a second ago and it’ll be gone in another. When I’m around people who seem to effortlessly exude that life philosophy from their very pores, I’m envious and tend to make promises to myself about adopting a lifestyle change or habit that has the shelf life of shellfish. So here I am, once again, trying to work my own personal program, by writing about that very thing I struggle with.
Essential to living consciously is listening. And that happens best when there is silence. It’s can’t be a simple coincidence that listen and silent share the same letters. In our silence we respect and revere the other who is speaking. It’s also in our silence that we become acquainted with our own soul’s desires. Whether we just unplug ourselves from everything and everyone, close our eyes, and breathe deeply for 10 minutes a day or make a serious committment to guided meditation, there are a myriad of well documented health and wellness benefits. It’s in the silence that peace, inspiration and clarity can be heard knocking ever so quietly on our doors.
Being silent in today’s world is a novel idea and experience to many. I personally treasure the silence I’m capable of experiencing during 2 key points in my day. My solitary 10 minute morning drive to work is just enough time to for me to focus my intention for the day, express gratitude for all that I’m thankful for in my life, and pray for guidance in areas that are troubling me at the time. Later, after spending a full day with ninety 6th grade students, I cherish my noiseless ride back home. But I wouldn’t be writing this if I couldn’t still be found eating, playing Words With Friends, flipping through a magazine, checking Facebook, pinning on Pinterest AND watching/listening to the TV all at the same time on far too many an occasion. And I know that doesn’t look anything like living consciously.
So there you have it. My confession and admonition to myself and you dear reader. Let’s all make a committment, minute by minute to do our very best to live more conscious lives. And help our kids do it too! It WILL make a difference that we’ll each be able to see, taste, feel, hear, and experience in our own lives and in the world we all share. Like the poster I had on my bedroom wall in 1968 said about war; living unconsciously is not healthy for children or other living things. And we can miss so much when we’re not paying attention.
Peace and Love