Examining Our Conditioned Mind

women-149577_640Because we live in a body, in a physical existence, a family, nation, and culture our mind has been trained in certain ways.  Most of this conditioning takes place in childhood or early adolescence.  Once the mind is conditioned- enculturated- trained- habituated-it takes attention and discipline to change the reactivity and assumptions of our automatic and hasty mind. The preferred method of changing or reconditioning the mind is compassionate witnessing of our thoughts, monitoring our emotional response, and gently allowing time, silent pauses, and deep breaths to mitigate our mercurial and unconscious response to life’s sudden surprises.

Let’s examine the seven probable filters or lens through which we view the world. These seven lens are: Gender, Early Physical Environment, Family Class or Caste, Nation of Origin, Ethnic or Racial Origin, and Family Beliefs.

Early Physical Environment means that you were a child in a physical location. Did you grow up in the city or the country; in a large town or a small one; did you grow up on a military base; did you have opportunities to interact with nature and a wild environment; were animals in your life or not; did you see animals as pets or a means of livelihood such as farm or ranch animals?  Australia MoodboardThe place in which you spent your childhood colors the way you interpret environments around you.  It affects how comfortable you are in certain types of situations.

Let’s use as an example a relationship with animals.  If there were pets in your childhood and there was a positive interaction with them you probably enjoy playing with animals and may even own several cats or dogs yourself. But if you grew up without exposure to animals it’s probable that you have a certain discomfort around them.

Family Beliefs during childhood affects how you interact with others now.  This is true if you grew up with spiritual beliefs or none at all.  Even if you rejected your family’s training on how to interact and what to expect from others it is still affecting you.  Rebellion is a form of being affected for there is nothing to rebel against if there isn’t a pattern in the first place.

Screen Shot 2012-08-07 at 10.37.44 AMFamily pattern beliefs might include a belief in secrecy- what’s heard in the family stays in the family. Secrets are necessary in order not to get into trouble or not to get others into trouble because no one must find out what is happening behind closed doors.  Sometimes the pattern of a family belief could sound like this: life is a struggle.  Only educated people succeed in life.  It’s as easy to love a rich man as a poor man.  What will the neighbors think?  We have a reputation to protect.  Don’t talk about father/mother’s drinking you’ll get them fired.

The things you were taught to believe, as a child, about religion or a lack of religion affect your response to situations and opportunities within life.  Perhaps you have a challenge with organized religion, even if you didn’t belong to one, but what you saw, heard, and learned as a child created a belief and you might still be operating from that belief.  If your mental thoughts constantly create an experience of guilt and shame regarding your thoughts, actions, or lack of action- this is a conditioning of mind from your family’s or religion’s understanding of the world.

Family Caste or Class- which is still part of our consciousness even if we like to believe that people in the United States don’t operate from classification.  If you were raised middle class you believe one set of values, if you were raised blue collar there is a different view of the world, and if you were raised in poverty the way you understand life was effected.   And if you were in a wealthy class there was also a set of expectations and understandings about duty to the family, self, and maintaining place.  People of different social classes are discouraged from mingling too much with people who are different from us. People are still  judged by how they dress, speak, and where they came from.

Ethnic or Racial Identity also plays a part in defining our understanding of the world and our place in it.  Most Caucasian (white people) don’t think of having a racial or ethnic identity but if we  truly examine our beliefs we will soon see that white people have a certain way of acting and thinking that is different than those of others. Examine what you understand about your ethnicity and what you believe that means for you in the world.

National Identity is also part of our conditioned mind consciousness.  This is the way we were taught to think of being a citizen of a particular country.  What did you learn in history about the role of your country in the world?  Who were your nations enemies?  Who were the allies and why?  What rights do you believe you have that others do not?  And why is that ok?

GS-2Perhaps the greatest conditioning of all is Gender orientation.  What does it mean to be a woman?  What does it mean to be a man?  What does it mean if you are LGBT?  When we are born, or even before, the most important question people ask about a baby is- it a boy or a girl? From there many assumptions are going to be made about the future of that being.  What do most people in the world believe is true about girls and women?  What do most people in the world understand about the role of male entities?  What do many people believe about those who are LGBT?  LGBT people are still persecuted all around the globe and even killed because that’s not an ok gender to be.

You might consider exploring these seven lens within a group of friends. One of the advantages of exploring these seven mind conditionings with a group is the ability to discover that no two people will ever be exactly alike.  This is true even if they came from the same family background. Each person has a unique view of themselves and how the world functions because each individual exposed to these common conditionings will decide and respond in a different way.

Therefore to practice being Human we learn Acceptance and Allowing. 

acceptance-seeing-with-heartAcceptance is not approval even if the dictionary seems to indicate that’s what it means.  Acceptance is seeing the value in another person because of his/her unique and one of a kind beingness.  We cease to expect another to be just like ourselves and instead have an adventure of discovery together.

Allowing is the permission we give to another to be herself or himself and to express his or her life without needing our approval or disapproval.  This is the truth of freedom which is seldom experienced even though impressively talked about.

Understanding that we can’t escape our reactive mind response to life can either be depressing or an opportunity of awakened intelligence, of enlightenment.  If we understand how we react to the world around us from our experiences of the past we have the potential to experience the present moment in full awareness.  We learn to see the conditions and emotional arising from the past; take note of their existence; and breathe into the current moment, the current time, to see if we might experience something new, exciting, and momentously beautiful.

We are slaves to the past when we are unaware of its influence.  We are awake to the present moment when we perceive the past but remain firmly planted in the now.acceptance

Awakened Intelligence

If we are going to participate in sacred ceremony it means there are some things we will no longer be doing during our preparation time- which can be weeks or months prior to the Ceremony.  Sometimes we fast on certain types of foods, or enter a media ban in which we stop watching all the bad news of the world.  Or we might dedicate our time to prayer or creating sacred objects or garments that will be used in the ceremony.  IMG_4390Preparing for and participating in sacred ceremony becomes our life.  It’s not something we just show up for on a weekend, join in the music and dance, and then go home to watch a movie or return to our jobs.

There are many reasons that people come to a spiritual path- sometimes it’s because their life doesn’t work and they’re seeking a way to feel successful in jobs, relationships, and personal intimacy.  Sometimes individuals seek to join a spiritual community because they feel they have a great gift to offer and want to find others to appreciate it.  But sometimes people join a spiritual path to help make a difference in the lives of others.  It is these people who are willing to learn and practice the true meaning of sacrifice.

An authentic path of spirit gives one the opportunity
to experience awakened intelligence

Awakened_WomanIn the world, on a regular basis, most of us are engaged in daily entertainment or some form of consumerism.  This is because we are trying to avoid thinking about and realizing that illness, old age, change, and death are the realities of existence.  Since this idea tend to be depressing and off putting we form our lives around avoidance of these energies, even though, in the end, this never works.  Little children, young people, middle aged people, as well as old people go through changes they never anticipated, become ill, and even die.  Reality can, and will happen, to everyone.  But most people prefer to remain asleep and ignorant of these realities.  Awakened intelligence is the ability to live our lives, on a daily basis, as though it were our last chance to love, forgive, listen, share, or be kind to others.  Awakened intelligence means creating a life that has meaning regardless of the realities that await us.

Having a life means making a contribution to the welfare of others.  To make a contribution to the betterment of the world we are willing to sacrifice: time, money, effort, and ourselves in order to participate in actions that make a difference.  This contribution can be the practice of prayer. spiritual awakening Prayer is the focused intention of blessing those around us with the good things in life, love, joy, peace, beauty, healing, or grace.  We contribute by being kind and thoughtful to our family, friends, and associates.  We contribute by forgiving those who speak ill of us, listening with full attention when others are sharing a story that is important to them, and by allowing others to be who they are rather than expecting them to live up to who we would prefer for them to be.  We contribute when we notice and comment with appreciation on the gifts that others have shared through words, ideas, or deeds.  We contribute when we are willing to share affection with those around us- a smile, a hug, and a kind word, a touch on their shoulder or their hand.  In order to live our lives in this way we must be willing to sacrifice focusing on what we think, what we want, and what we expect.

4734c4fc70366adc5ba834ead143af9fWhen we have Awakened Intelligence we have begun
to realize our spiritual nature-
we start to take the road that leads to Enlightenment.