Because 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? The 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.
Family 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?
Perhaps 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 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.