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THE ART OF LIVING CONSCIOUSLY

Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use of this material is prohibited .

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

What the superior man seeks is in himself;
What the small man seeks is in others.
-Confucius

1.) You tell me the problem is that you’re involved with an inattentive, emotionally unavailable partner.       
I say that you’re afraid to take a chance on being loved.

2.) You tell me the problem is that everyone in your life takes, takes, takes without giving anything iin return.
I say that you use  the act of giving as a means of
hiding and as a  result, no one could possibly give back to you.

3.) You tell me the problem is that people don’t understand you.
I say you’re afraid to be vulnerable enough so that  they may get to know you.

4.) You tell me the problem is that you attract people to your life that don’t honor who you are.
I say that you’ve yet to reveal your authentic Self to the world.

5.) You tell me the problem is that you settle for less than you deserve.
I say that you set people up to disappoint you in order that you may empower yourself with      self-righteousness.

6.) You tell me the problem is that your life is full of chaos.
I say that you run from yourself by creating and    
then getting lost in the drama of your life.

7.) You tell me the problem is that life has a way of
dumping on you.
I say you’re an unindicted co-conspirator in all that you attract to your life.

8.) You tell me the problem is that the people in your life burden you with too much responsibility.
I say that the mere thought of letting go sends     
shivers down your spine.

9.) You tell me the problem is that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself.
I say that your willfulness is like the proverbial six hundred pound gorilla, it sits wherever it     
wants and in so doing has overtaken your life.

10. You tell me the problem is that you feel like you’ve become lost in your life.
I say that you’re disconnected from your      
spiritual center.

11.) You tell me the problem is that nothing ever  
changes for you, despite your most noble of
intentions.
I say you’re more invested in maintaining the    
problem than living the solution.

Although you and I may not agree on the cause of your emotional and spiritual aches and pains, we both can agree that we want the hurting to stop. And that can and will happen for you, whenever you’re ready for it to do so. For you can learn how to build sacred relationships and, in so doing, transform the ache of your unfulfilled longings for meaningful human connection into loving relationships that feed your soul! You can begin living the two most important words in the English language, “I deserve!”, and, in so doing, create a life that honors the essence of who you are! You can [re]claim your emotions and, in so doing, turn hurt, anger, and resentment into acceptance, love, and compassion! You can liberate your voice from shame and fear and, in so doing, free yourself from the patterns of self-sabotage that continually defeat your best intentions! You can make friends with your fears and, in so doing, create life-affirming choices! You can [re]connect with your higher power and in so doing illuminate the path to your higher consciousness!

Sound like a tall order? Too good to be true? Overblown promises of a snake oil salesman? Nay, nay! I want you to know that all of it is possible and more! You need only embrace the art of living consciously as a way of living your life.

What do I mean by living consciously? Well, first off, you need to know that living consciously is not an abstract concept to be learned. Rather, living consciously is an approach to living each moment of your life that needs to be mastered. What’s in it for you? Why go to all the time and bother? Why invest yourself in a process of transforming yourself on the inside rather than attempting to change all that is external to you? Simply put, as you master the art of living consciously, you’ll finally break down the barriers that you and only you have erected--barriers that have prevented you from ending the war with yourself, opening yourself up to most fully love and be loved, and [re]connecting to your spiritual center.

How can living consciously possibly transform your struggles where nothing else has helped before? Living consciously is a way of living your life in which you are present to each unfolding moment of your life.  “So,” you rightfully ask, “what’s so important about that?” Well, only when you’re present to each unfolding moment of your life can you be most fully connected to your authentic Self, the people in your life, and your spiritual center. And it’s the strength and consistency of your connections to your authentic Self, the people in your life, and your spiritual center that’s the bedrock of your emotional and spiritual well-being.

So, how best to create, maintain, and sustain those vital connections? You can best create, maintain, and sustain your connections to Self, the people in your life, and your spiritual center when you’re aware of and take ownership of what the present moment stimulates within yourself emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally, motivationally, physiologically, and spiritually.

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to being present to what you’re experiencing emotionally, cognitively, motivationally, physiologically,  behaviorally, and spiritually to each unfolding moment of your life!

Living consciously requires of you to be present to and connected with each unfolding moment of your life as it is happening. In order to do so, you must be present to what each experience in your life awakens within you. There’s no escaping this one essential fact. You can’t possibly live your life consciously without being available, without being open, without being connected to the moment by moment events that are the DNA of the circumstances of your life.

Now that sounds obvious, almost inescapable. Yet, stop and think about it. How much of your day is spent on autopilot, just going through the motions? What are the devices you use to self- medicate, to numb yourself to the impact of your day-to-day existence--excessive drinking, drugging, working, achieving, sexing, raging, spending, gambling, isolating, controlling, caretaking? How much of your life have you sleepwalked through--detached, uninvolved, numbed out, removed from all that swirls around you? On the other hand, how much of your days are lost because you’re flooded with emotional reactions to everything that happens? How much of what you think and do is nothing more than conditioned responses, automatic reactions, well-rehearsed scripts that preclude any remnant of spontaneity from appearing in your life.

Why is being present to the moment a powerful catalyst for the art of living consciously? Because everything that happens in your life presents one more opportunity for awakening--awakening from the deep sleep brought on by living life through your automatic, conditioned reactions to the events of your life. Every single experience you have provides an opportunity to choose between the comfort of the familiar or walking through the fear of the unknown. It’s this very moment by moment opportunity for awakening that intensifies the richness and depth of personal transformation. And when you commit yourself to being present to each waking moment, without yielding to your fears and irrational concerns, likes and dislikes, opinions and judgments, and expectations, a new world of possibilities opens up, providing you with one more opportunity to enrich your life. By committing to being more and more present to each unfolding moment, you’ll discover how liberating it is to let go of your old ways and rejoice in the wonder of living consciously.

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to expanding and deepening your awareness of all that awakens within you as you become more and more present to each and every unfolding moment! Living consciously requires that you cultivate an expanded and deeper awareness of who you are, what the events and people in your life awaken within you, and what motivates you to enact the choices that you make. Just what do I mean by awareness? Awareness is the acknowledgment to yourself and others of how you are actively experiencing the present moment at the deepest levels of who you are.

Again, being connected to what you’re experiencing is an absolute precondition to expanding and deepening your awareness. You can’t make things up as you go along. You can’t guess at what is happening. You can’t rely on what you read in a book, heard at a workshop, or was told by a therapist. You must experience it. You must experience the present moment with your mind, body, and soul at deeper and deeper levels of your being. Quite simply, each unfolding moment impacts the emotional, cognitive, physiological, behavioral, motivational, and spiritual aspects of who you are. There’s no denying the fact that each unfolding moment has some impact on each and every aspect of who you are and the choices you make. However, sadly, all too often, you disconnect from the impact of the present moment in any number of ways.

You disconnect from the present moment cognitively by minimizing, rationalizing, intellectualizing, denying, belittling, joking, and blaming. You disconnect from the present moment emotionally by withdrawing, shutting down, numbing out, self-medicating, and withholding. You disconnect from the present moment physically by disconnecting from part(s) of your body. You disconnect from the present moment behaviorally by engaging in behaviors excessively such as drinking, drugging, working, sexing, exercising, gambling, spending, isolating, attempting to control other people’s behavior, being overresponsible in your relationships, and/or caretaking. You disconnect from the present moment spiritually through your judgementallness, by being a slave to Ego, by developing an overreliance on your self-will, thereby forsaking a life of surrender as well as not developing faith as the basis for your relationship with your higher power.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Living consciously requires that you expand and deepen your awareness of what each unfolding moment stimulates within you. As great a challenge as that may seem, the payoff for doing so is even greater. As your awareness expands and deepens, you’ll begin to develop more flexibility in how you respond to the people and circumstances in your life. As you develop more flexibility in how you think, feel, and act in your life, your choices will become less reactive and more responsive to the present moment. As a result, you’ll experience more love and less loneliness, more harmony and less conflict, more compassion and less judgment, more joy and less despair. Afterall, isn’t that what all this work is for, isn’t that what’s in it for you, isn’t that what you would hope could come from mastering the art of living consciously?

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to being congruent between what you are experiencing, what you are aware of, who you are, and what you choose to do! Actively experiencing the present moment by itself is meaningless without expanding and deepening your awareness as a result of your moment by moment experiences. Expanding and deepening your awareness is meaningless without that awareness being grounded to your connection to each unfolding moment. Actively experiencing the moment and expanding and deepening your awareness only becomes meaningful when you’re able to synthesize active experiencing with increased awareness.

How do you synthesize active experiencing with increased awareness? The word I use is congruence. Congruence manifests itself in the self-disclosures that you articulate, in the actions that you contemplate, and, ultimately, in the choices that you make. Congruence arises out of the blending of active experiencing with increased awareness. Simply put, you’re congruent when what you’re thinking, saying, and/or feeling matches what you’re doing, or when what you’re doing matches who you authentically are, or when what you’re feeling, thinking, saying, and doing flows from your spiritual center.

What can be inferred from what I’ve just said is that congruency takes place on the emotional, cognitive, physiological, motivational, behavioral, and spiritual levels of who you are. When you’re deeply immersed in the art of living consciously, all aspects of who you are match or are congruent. When you’re life choices spring forth from this internal sense of connection and congruence, you’ll find that the choices you begin to make take you further and further into a life of emotional and spiritual well-being.

However, if you’re life is full of moment by moment incongruencies, then you’re perpetuating a state of disconnect between you and your authentic Self, you and the people in your life, and/or you and your spiritual center. For example, if you’re experiencing something that makes you angry, yet you’re smiling as you talk about feeling angry, you aren’t congruent. If you’re face is flush with fear, yet you’re words say that you aren’t experiencing anything about the roaring lion that is laying down next to you, you aren’t congruent. If you agree to doing something that you don’t want to do, your desires and your actions aren’t congruent. If you participate in behaviors that bring dishonor and shame to your authentic Self, you aren’t congruent. If you find yourself trying to control all the circumstances of your life rather than nurture a deepening relationship with your higher power, you aren’t congruent.

Can you see how these disconnects would perpetuate the current state of emotional and spiritual dis-ease you experience? If you’re able to see these type of disconnects as the root cause of much of your emotional and spiritual dis-ease, then you have already begun to make a huge transformation in your thinking. For you see, implied in acknowledging that the source of your emotional and spiritual dis-ease stems from your disconnection from the present moment, from your authentic Self, from the people in your life, and/or from your spiritual center is the simple fact that you’re no longer holding other people and/or your circumstances responsible for your happiness and well-being. It’s impossible to create the type of personal transformation you’re contemplating without first making this critical shift in your thinking. However, once the shift has taken hold, you’ll discover a life of abundance from opening up to the process of living consciously.

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to separating the there-and-then from the here-and-now! There’s one very important skill you must master if you want to be most fully connected to the present moment. Without this skill, your connection to the present moment will be short-circuited by interference from the memories and emotional reactions of your past. The skill that I’m referring to is separating the there-and-then from the here-and-now. You see, all too often the present moment stimulates memories of past experiences and the emotions that are associated with those experiences. When that happens, it’s easy to lose your orientation as to what you’re reacting to--the present or what the present stimulates within you about your past. It’s critical that you better distinguish the there-and-then from the here-and-now--better differentiate when your reaction is stimulated solely by the present, solely by what the present activates from your past, or some combination of each?

Why is this so important? Because all too often present events trigger past memories. When this happens, those present moment events become the triggering mechanism for many of your patterns of self-sabotage. Without having clarity about what you’re  reacting to in the present moment, you’re vulnerable to acting out conditioned reactions of coping that were developed from past experiences, and sadly, not necessarily applicable to the here-and-now triggering event. That creates the following problem. Once you slip into one of your many conditioned reactions of coping, you no longer have the free will to choose to do things differently than you have in the past. And once you lose your free will, you become a slave to old, old conditioned coping reactions that inevitably no longer work for you as effectively as they once did.

Can you see the vicious cycle that you need to end? Without being able to separate the present from the past, your life will perpetually feel like a wild out of control roller coaster ride. Here’s how the ride unfolds. The present moment stimulates emotionally charged experiences from your past. As this happens, you disconnect from the present moment, regress into the unresolved emotions and patterns of coping from your past, dump those unresolved feelings on the people in your present life, recreate in the here-and-now behavioral dynamics from your past, and/or [re]create chaos in the here-and-now that mirrors dynamics from past wounding experiences. Now that’s a mouthful, so let me walk you through some of what I just said with the following example to make my point.

A few years ago, I went to a party with a good friend of mine, Beverly. It was quite cold that evening so Beverly wore her full length fake fur coat.

Now this coat is the biggest, furriest thing that you have ever seen. When we arrived at the party, our host took Beverly’s coat and put it in the spare bedroom. As the evening wore on, Beverly came up to me and told me that she was ready to leave. She went upstairs to get her coat from the spare bedroom as I began saying my good-byes to our host.

A few moments later, I heard the loudest, shrillest, shriek I had ever heard. I realized immediately that it was Beverly who was screaming hysterically. 

Naturally I went running up the steps to see what had happened. There I saw Beverly, her body trembling, her hands glued to the sides of her head, screaming at the top of her lungs.

It wasn’t until I was able to help her calm down that I could even understand what she was trying to say.

You see, Beverly was deathly afraid of dogs. She had been her whole life. When she was three years old, while sitting in her stroller one day, she was viciously attacked by a huge dog. She received over one-hundred stitches and was obviously very traumatized by the whole situation.

Well, evidently when Beverly went into the dark bedroom, she saw this huge pile of fur laying on the bed and immediately assumed it was a dog. She became overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and bolted from the room.

I didn’t want to upset Beverly any more than she already was, but, I was somewhat confused. You see, I knew that the people who had given the party didn’t have a dog. So I spent a considerable amount of time trying to assure her that there wasn’t a dog in the room.

The funny thing was, the more I tried to convince her that there wasn’t a dog in the room, the angrier she got with me. In trying to be helpful, it seemed I was making matters worse.

I finally convinced her to come with me into the room so that I could show her that there was nothing to be frightened about. 

She finally agreed. We slowly crept up to the doorway and peaked into the room. Sure enough, there on the bed sat this big furry, lumpy creature. Now I was really puzzled.

I cautiously stepped into the room, fumbling around in the dark, searching for a light switch.

All the while Beverly was peeking over my shoulder, nervously clinging to my back.

Finally, I found the switch. After the light came on, we both began to laugh uncontrollably.

For when the light came on in the room, what do you imagine we saw laying on the bed?

That’s right! It wasn’t a dog at all. It was Beverly’s very own fur coat!

Dogs, fur coats, the past, the present, the here-and-now awakening the there-and-then? The connection? Just as Beverly discovered, oftentimes, circumstances that you encounter in your present life can awaken the emotional charge from past experiences. When this happens, your perception of the here-and-now becomes very distorted by what the present moment has awakened within you. As a result, you can be brought to your knees with fear, act-out that fear in your present day life, and ultimately perpetuate the past in your present. In order to undo this mechanism of self-sabotage, you need to be able to distinguish the difference between the dogs and the fur coats that you encounter in your life.

You can see from Beverly’s experience that when you become more clear about what you’re reacting to--either the present (fur coats) or the past leaking into the present (dogs)--you can more clearly assess what is happening to you in the moment. The value of this is that your fears don’t have to overtake how you react to any situation when you’re grounded in the moment, for you’re clean about what’s happening to you in the moment.

Just as Beverly remained a prisoner of the trauma that she experienced earlier in her life, you too will remain a prisoner of your past until you begin to separate the past from the present. The more you can differentiate how the past leaks into the present moment, the less power you’ll have to give to your past. And as you begin to sever the emotional ties to the past, you’ll be much more available to the present, thus enabling you to benefit from the art of living consciously.

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to [re]claiming all of who you are as a person and in so doing live from your authentic Self!   Living consciously requires that you end the war with yourself by uncovering and integrating each and every aspect of who you are that you have abandoned, not acknowledged, and/or remain, to this day, unaware of. As important as what the above statement does say is what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that you need to figure out how to change everyone in your life. It doesn’t say that you need to figure out who you need to be with each person in your life. It doesn’t say you need to improve the external circumstances of your life. It doesn’t say you need to lose your sense of Self in the problems of others.

No, the focus of this investigation is internal, not external. The focus of your work is uncovering who you are. The focus of your self-examination is on how best to reveal your authentic Self to the world. The formula for undertaking such self-examination? Go within yourself. Bump into all the parts of who you are. Dare to touch all of the different pieces of who you are. Let go of the masks that you’ve created in order to hide your wounded self from the world. Reveal yourself to the world. Have the courage to [re]claim and experience all that is human about who you are. Ultimately, live your life in a manner that honors the essence of who you are.

Why does living consciously require that you go within and [re]claim yourself? Why is it so important to go beyond the life you’ve created for yourself, to abandon what you believe you know so well about yourself and venture into the darkness of the unknown? Because you’re walking around in your life confused, misguided, unaware of, and/or disconnected from much of who you are.

How is it possible for you to still be so in the dark no matter how much you’ve worked on yourself to this point? There are certain aspects of who you are that either you or the significant people in your life have judged to be less than desirable for you to acknowledge, take ownership of, and/or express in your day-to-day life. For example, when discussing the Kennedy family, it’s often said that part of the Kennedy family culture is that whenever the children would cry an adult would tell them, “Kennedy’s don’t cry!” And so, the children were given the message that the part of them that feels sad or hurt is inappropriate to experience and display. The consequence is that the children would not experience or disown altogether their sadness.

On the other hand, there are traits and characteristics of being human that you may judge to be less than desirable. For example, for whatever reason, you may judge anger to be an inappropriate part of who you are. As a result, you may never allow yourself to feel and/or express your anger. Therefore, when you experience your anger, you may simply deny it or stuff it far away within you to a place where it can never come out.

Whatever the reason, whether it’s somebody else’s judgment or simply your discomfort for any and all aspects of your humanness, there’s so much about who you are that you do not claim as you. By denying and disowning any aspect of your essential humanness, you have disconnected from each unfolding moment and therefore hindered yourself from living consciously.

So how best to [re]claim all of who you are as a person and begin living from your authentic Self? [Re]claiming all of who you are means that you take ownership of all that you do, think, and feel. There’s a very simple formula for taking ownership of all of who you are. Open yourself to experience as fully as you can each unfolding moment of your life. How?

First, learn how you close yourself off, how you remove yourself from the moment. Do you live your life from the outside looking in? Are you merely an observer of rather than a participant in your life? Are you afraid to step into the fray and risk being hurt, betrayed, or humiliated? Do you live a life of independence because the idea of depending on another human being makes you shutter? Do you choose the safety of the sidelines over the vulnerability of being in the game? If so, if you’re removed and withdrawn, how can you experience anything about your life, how connected can you be to the moment-to-moment flow of your life?

Next, learn how you defend yourself from experiencing each moment of your life. Do you use anger and hostility as a wedge that comes between you and the people in your life? Do you use judgments of others as a way of separating yourself from the pack? Do you continually explain away the aches and pains that life brings your way? Do you feel your way through experiences or merely think your way? Do you hold the world at arms length with your rationalizations, justifications, and explanations? If so, if you’ve managed to insulate yourself from involvement with other people, if you’ve managed to bulletproof yourself from the inevitable ups and downs of life, how fully present can you be to the ebb and flow, the joy and sorrow of being alive?

Finally, learn how you distort what is going on in the moment. Do you confuse the stimulations of the present moment with the regressive reactions of your past? Does the past continually flood your present thoughts and emotions? Do you rely on blame and projection as tools of escape--escaping responsibility, escaping the intensity of the present? If so, if you detach from the present moment and all that it awakens within you, how fully present can you be to what you’re creating in your life?

Taking ownership, that’s the long and short of it. Stop the denial, give a rest to the rationalizations, end the minimizing, put an end to the blame game, get out from under all of the judgments, let go of the notion that you’re a victim of the ill-will of everyone in your life. Although these are all devices that bring you momentary comfort to your times of fear and trepidation, these are also the obstacles to your becoming whole and living consciously.          

Everytime you deny an emotion you lose an essential connection to the here-and-now. Everytime you silence the voice of your authentic Self, you deny yourself the opportunity to be fully present in your life. Everytime you twist yourself into a pretzel in order to make yourself “more acceptable” to somebody else, you impose a lifetime sentence of solitary confinement to some essential part of your extraordinary humanness. Everytime you explain away your thoughts and feelings, you distance yourself from an important element of the force of life. Everytime you settle for less than you deserve, you give into the emotional equivalent of “Dr. Evil and Mini Me”--fear and shame! It’s only when you become whole, it’s only when you stop hiding behind the masks, it’s only when you dare to step out of the shadows that you can begin living consciously!

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to creating sacred relationships. Living consciously requires that you create sacred relationships with the people who matter most. Just what is a sacred relationship? A sacred relationship is a relationship in which you feel emotionally and physically safe to reveal your authentic Self, create a bridge of empathic understanding by entering the world of your friend/partner/ family member, and are empowered to resolve on-going underlying relationship issues.

Why are these three conditions necessary in order to create the kind of relationships that enable you to love and be loved? Emotional safety, revealing your authentic Self, resolving underlying relationship issues, and empathic understanding are the most fundamental elements of a sacred relationship. These elements are what cement the connections you make with other people. Without these basic elements, you’ll experience much unfulfilled longing and disappointment in your relationships.

For instance, do you feel imprisoned by your relationships, chained by the judgments and limitations that other people impose upon you? Do you feel powerless when it comes to having your emotional needs met by your friend/partner/ family member? Do you feel like the basis of your relationships are a never ending struggle for control? Do you feel invisible in your relationships, unseen in the midst of everybody else’s needs and expectations of you? Do you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of hurt, anger, and resentment, overwhelmed by all your unfulfilled longings for connection, love, and understanding that tug at your soul? Do you feel lonely and uncared about, a slave to your fears and demands about how you expect to be loved? Embedded in these questions are the signs and symptoms of relationships that are not grounded in the fundamental elements of emotional safety, self-disclosure, conflict resolution, and empathic understanding. By mastering these fundamental elements of a sacred relationship, you’ll discover how your relationships can take on a whole new tone and texture.

But if the conditions don’t exist within yourself and between you and your friend/partner/family member for each of you to feel safe enough to be authentic, then there will inevitably be disconnects between you and those people. In order for you to create the optimal conditions to reveal your authentic Self, you must master the skills of how to make a relationship emotionally safe. As well, you need to learn how to effectively self-disclose by  revealing yourself rather than explaining yourself. Revealing your authentic Self requires courage from within and acceptance and support from your friend/partner/family member from without in order for each of you to be open, vulnerable, and honest with each other.

Here’s a quick formula for how best to reveal rather than explain yourself to the world. Be connected to the moment. Acknowledge to yourself what you’re experiencing. Take ownership of what you’re experiencing. Express what you’re experiencing in the moment without judging yourself or others, attributing motives to others, editorializing about others, and/or characterizing the behavior and personality of others.

I’ve written two books, Building Better Bridges: Creating Great Relationships With the People Who Matter Most and Making Molehills Out of Mountains: Reclaiming Your Personal Power in Your Relationships. Each book focuses on how you can create an emotionally safe environment in your relationships as well as the skills necessary for revealing rather than explaining yourself to the people in your life. If you would like more information, please ask me about the above mentioned books.

If the conditions don’t exist within yourself and between you and your friend/partner/family member in order for you to talk through your relationship issues rather than cover them up with chaos and/or indifference, then you’ll forever be caught in a cycle of chaotic circumstances, self-sabotaging behavior, and unresolved feelings of anger, resentment, betrayal, and hurt. Quite simply, embedded in most of your day-to-day circumstances are many of the unresolved relationship issues that exist between you and the people in your life. Until you begin to address the underlying relationship issues embedded in the events of your relationship, you’ll continue to mask these issues by creating other circumstances that take the focus off of the relationship issues or ignore those relationship issues altogether. Again, I refer you to Making Molehills Out of Mountains: Reclaiming Your Personal Power in Your Relationships to explore in greater detail a process of conflict resolution that will empower you to resolve the issues in your relationships.

If the conditions don’t exist within yourself and between you and your friend/partner/family member in order for you to understand each other, then you’ll perpetuate feelings of alienation and disconnection with the people in your life. Understanding how your friend/partner/family member experiences life through their world view is the most important bridge that you can build between you and anybody else. Without understanding your friend/partner/family member through their eyes and ears, your relationship will suffer as you continue to impose your view of the world on them rather than learning about their view of the world. Surely, you can see, if your relationship is based in part or in whole on imposing your view of the world on others, you’ll only further drive a wedge between you and your friend/partner/family member. But, by entering the world of others, you’ll lift the enormous burden of having to conform to your view of the world and allow the people in your life to bring out more and more of who they are.

There’s a process I wrote about in my book, Entering the World of Your Child: Creating a Sacred Relationship With Your Child. Although the book itself is written for parenting a child, the process is applicable to any substantive relationship you are involved in. The most fundamental aspects of entering the world of your friend/partner/friend is utilizing the power of your offering spirit, giving permission to your friend/partner/family member to express their feelings, treating your friend/partner/family member as a person to be understood rather than a problem to be solved, and talking to your friend/partner/family member’s feelings rather than their beliefs.

Thus, sacred relationships are built on a foundation of three interpersonal processes. Building better bridges enables you to create emotionally safe relationships in order for you to reveal your authentic Self. Making molehills out of mountains enables you to resolve the underlying relationship issues embedded in the circumstances of your relationships. Entering the world of your partner enables you to build a bridge of empathic understanding with your partner. These three processes are the foundation upon which sacred relationships are built. You need to master all three processes in order for you to attract the kind of people into your life who want to partner with you rather than be taken care of by you. The art of living consciously has little value if it happens in a vacuum. Only when you can safely reveal your authentic Self to the people in your life can the full potential of living consciously be wholly realized.  

What can you concretely do to begin living consciously?

Dedicate your life to [re]connecting with your spiritual center. Living consciously requires that you [re]connect with your spiritual center, Essence, in order that you may [re]connect with your personal energy, reverence, and let go of the influences of your personal energy, pride, created by Ego. I have written two pamphlets (Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Parts 1&2) that cover the subjects of reverence, pride, Ego, Essence, surrender, humility, and gratitude. If you would like more information, please ask me for the pamphlets.

For now, however, let’s just focus on the personal energy of your spiritual center, reverence, and its importance to the art of living consciously. There are three elements that make up reverence. Those three elements are humility, surrender, and gratitude. Humility, surrender, and gratitude are the three pillars on which a life of living consciously is constructed. If you don’t actively, continually, and consistently incorporate humility, surrender, and gratitude into every nook and cranny of your life, you’re toast. No matter how present you are to the moment, no matter how much your awareness expands and deepens, no matter how congruent you are, no matter how adept you become at differentiating the there-and-then from the here-and-now, no matter how much of yourself you’re able to [re]claim, no matter the quality of your relationships, if you have not adopted surrender, humility, and gratitude into your life, you will have constructed an impressive house, but a house, nonetheless, built on quicksand.

Why are these three elements so fundamental to the art of living consciously? They are powerful antidotes for the most corrosive dynamics I know of--corrosive dynamics that eat away at your happiness and well-being. What are these corrosive dynamics? Willfulness, shame, grandiosity, and entitlement.

Surrender is the antidote for willfulness. Willfulness, quite simply, is the dis-ease of our times. However, you may not recognize it as such. Perhaps you think of yourself as a rugged individualist. One who can impose their will on any and all things. A person, who with enough effort, with enough persistence, with the mere invocation of your will and might, can transform yourself and any person who crosses your path. If that is true, you’re clearly a person who believes that the solution to all problems is mind over matter.

However, the only person you’re fooling is yourself. Perhaps you can shut yourself off from the rest of the world. Perhaps you can achieve what you set out to do. Perhaps you can influence more than your share of people on certain matters. But at what cost? What cost do you incur from controlling and micromanaging your life and the life of others? What cost do you incur by being the irresistible force trying to move the immovable object? What cost do you incur reflexively being oppositional towards any and all things that smack of authoritarianism? What cost do you incur waging your private battle with the substances and behaviors that have taken control of you and your life?

Surrendering, letting go, turning it over, releasing--these are the dynamics that enable you to successfully end the battles you’re waging in your life. Surrender is the path to being. Surrender is the path to harmony within yourself as well as the world at large. Surrender is the path to a clean and sober life--sober from all the behaviors that have sabotaged your emotional and spiritual well-being.

Humility is the antidote for shame and grandiosity. I think of shame and grandiosity as being much like the mirrors at a carnival that distort the image of who you really are. When you view yourself through the twin mirrors of shame and grandiosity you experience similar distortions.

What are the distortions that you experience? Grandiosity and shame reflect back to you that you’re either Lord of the Manor or Scum of the Earth. As you live in the energy of being either Lord of the Manor or Scum of the Earth, you’re separated from any connection to your authentic Self and your spiritual center. But there’s an antidote for the toxins of shame and grandiosity--a third mirror from which you can view a reflection of yourself without any distortions.

What is this distortion-free mirror? Humility! Humility is simply the acceptance of being human, the acceptance and integration of all the qualities that constitute one’s humanness. Humility, as an orientation towards yourself and life, is the middle ground from which you join the human race rather than hover above it in a hot air balloon, inflated by your grandiosity or grovel below it, drowning in a sea of your shame. Humility is the midpoint between all the extremes of who you are, it’s the bridge that unites those extremes and blends them into an integrated whole. Humility is the bridge you build to the human race, in spite of your imperfections, despite all of your grandness, and most importantly of all, because of your ordinariness. Ultimately, humility is being neither Lord of the Manor, nor Scum of the Earth, but Human Being, and as such, humility is the blend of each point on the compass of humanity.

Gratitude is the antidote for entitlement. Ah entitlement, the echo of that part of yourself that you so long ago experienced and have as yet, to let go of. Entitlement is the part of you that demands, not so much what you deserve, but what you believe that you’re owed. Entitlement is the voice in you that eggs you on, continually asserting the myth of your uniqueness. Entitlement is the basis for the claim you make of how special you are, deserving of treatment that reflects your specialness. Ultimately, entitlement is the license you take, the justification you assert in order that you may remain separate and apart from the mere mortals of this world.

Gratitude is the orientation towards yourself and life that transforms you from special and unique to grand but ordinary. You no longer approach life as if you’re owed something. You engage life by acknowledging the abundance that has been bestowed upon you. Lastly, gratitude, as an orientation towards life, places you amongst rather than at the center of the crowd.

There’s nothing more toxic to your emotional and spiritual well-being than willfulness, shame, grandiosity, and entitlement. There’s nothing more curative than surrender, humility, and gratitude. As you immerse your life in the art of living consciously, you’ll begin to acknowledge how strongly rooted willfulness, shame, grandiosity, and entitlement are in your life and, more importantly, you’ll discover how liberating your life can be once you begin to let go and experience the extraordinariness of who you are divorced from the influence of Ego.

Well, there you have it. That’s my take on the art of living consciously. I’ve outlined for you the principles of living consciously: experience the moment, examine what it is that you’re experiencing in each moment in order to expand and deepen your awareness, create a life of congruence between who you are, what you’re experiencing, and the choices that you make, separate the there-and-then from the here-and-now, [re]claim the disowned parts of who you are, create sacred relationships, and [re]connect to your spiritual center. Now, it’s up to you. Don’t stop at this point, for the art of living consciously is not a course in life to be learned. The art of living consciously is a lifetime of work to be enacted. You must take these principles and begin to live them! Let me warn you. You don’t get to pick and choose which principles are and which are not for you. You must utilize all of them, not just the ones you feel most comfortable with!

Do not put this pamphlet down, satisfied in the knowledge that you’ve learned something new or that you already knew much of what I discussed with you. If you took the time to read this pamphlet, then it’s likely that you’re searching for answers to problems that no amount of knowledge has helped you with up to this point in time. You must begin to take action on what it is that you do know! Without taking action, by living in the self-satisfaction of your current level of self-awareness, you’re condemning yourself to living your life in the current state of emotional and spiritual dis-ease you’re already experiencing.

Act! Act now! Get involved in some process of personal transformation that will empower you to live rather than merely teach you the principles of living consciously. Do the most difficult act you’ll ever perform--commit to yourself! Make yourself the priority in your life! Invest every last emotional resource you have in going beyond your current level of comfort to risk living your life rather than merely enduring it!

G.B.U.

Steve



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

 


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