Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Gain Clarity by Climbing Your Ladder of Consciousness

As we navigate through the ups and downs of our day, far too often we find the mind churning, turning, and blurring. Clarity and insights become strangers as stress drains energy and blocks access to creativity and wisdom.

What is the antidote? What simple actions - or non-actions - will bring us greater peace of mind, insights, and clarity?

The Ladder of Consciousness:

One secret lies in choosing to become aware of our thinking. I'm not talking about the "content" of our thoughts. Rather, we are best served when our conscious awareness rises above the content of thought and the emotions they generate. 

When we watch our thoughts float by without judgment we are climbing the ladder of consciousness for a grander, more expansive view. This is the purpose of mindful meditation. 

There are many rungs on our consciousness ladder. Like it's physical counterpart, we want to ensure our consciousness ladder is well maintained, firmly set, and ready to serve us.

Climbing the Consciousness Ladder Rung by Rung:

On the ladder's first rung, we are consumed in thought. There is no space, no awareness of anything but the content of a given thought and the attendant emotions that often overwhelm us as one disempowering thought is replaced with another. We are "lost in thought" and each moment feels like a never-ending struggle.

As we step up to the second rung, we are slightly more aware that there is a "Me" separate and distinct from thought and feeling. On this rung of the ladder, we still get lost in thought, but we're able to "wake up" more frequently to the reality that - while we have thoughts and emotions - we are not our thoughts and emotions. On this rung, we have greater access to creativity and problem-solving skills because we can take a step away from a given situation and gain greater perspective.

On the ladder's third rung we begin to realize a powerful truth: It is only when the mind is quiet that new thinking and insights can emerge into conscious awareness. At this level, the quiet mind seems to occur randomly. 

We're surprised when a new, fresh creative solution to a problem we've been wrestling with emerges. We're delighted with the new insight that came when we were driving, taking a shower, or strolling leisurely enjoying a warm spring day. 

It's Only a Thought:

When stepping up to the fourth rung, we are - paradoxically - taking more control by letting go of effort and struggle. It's at this level we realize not only that we are not our thoughts, but our thoughts are - well - just thoughts. They aren't "true" in any objective sense. Thoughts flow; they emerge, they peak, and they dissolve to be replaced by other thoughts...and then more thoughts through time. One by one thoughts go marching along.

At this level, we frequently have the expanded awareness to recognize and say, "It's only a thought"

Discovering Your Quiet Mind:

In the moments following that "It's only a thought" statement, the thought dissolves and we enter into the realm of quiet mind, that open, expansive awareness that is the superhighway to intuition and wisdom. It's when the mind is quiet that deep wisdom moves us to informed action that is "just right" for the moment and situation at hand. 

The ladder of consciousness continues upward to even higher levels, but it is on the fourth rung where clarity begins to serve us with consistency and power.

Practice That Allows You to Climb Your Consciousness Ladder:

Let me suggest a simple, powerful practice that will help you easily climb your consciousness ladder.

Sit for five minutes and simply pay attention to your thoughts and the feelings those thoughts create. Just notice. Your mind will wander, but as soon as you notice you're no longer aware of your thoughts from a place of detachment, return attention to noticing the flow of thoughts.

After five minutes or so, you'll find yourself in a relaxed state of calm awareness. Now, for the next five minutes as thoughts flow, be an observer. As you notice each thought, say, "It's only a thought". 

Observe what happens. Thoughts simply dissolve. Your mind quiets even more. You are now in a state of awareness where fresh insights, deep knowing, and wisdom live and thrive. 

As you practice this conscious-raising method for a few days, you'll find it easier to enter that observer state of mind as you go about your day. Your stress will drop, your sense of peace will grow, and your ability to spontaneously experience fresh, creative thinking leading to informed action will become a life enriching habit. Life becomes a more joyous experience in every way.

The cosmic joke is this joyful playground is always teeming with freshness, positive feelings, and wisdom. It's only when the mind chatter is quiet, that we can perceive what is always there, waiting patiently to serve.

With light, love, and blessings,

Steve

photo 
Stephen Carter
Stress Solutions, LLC
    

Important Note: This and all other postings to this blog are for informational purposes only. This and all other posts are not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise recommend any treatment for any medical or psychological condition. Anyone using any of the information contained in this or any other posting on this website does so at his or her own risk. You are urged to seek competent medical consultations with appropriate licensed medical professionals for any and all medical, psychological, or physical conditions.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Let Your Inner Baby Guide You to Greater Happiness and Learning

Photo Credit: Amanda Mills
Innovative research from Johns Hopkins University finds that infants have innate knowledge about the world and that knowledge creates expectations about how objects should behave. 
One surprising finding from this research is that when babies' expectations are defied, they are far more likely to learn. Simply stated, babies learn best when their expectations are defied.

In contrast to a baby's natural response of being curious and attentive to objects and situations that defy expectations, most adults finding themselves in similar situations are triggered toward negative emotional reactions such as anger, frustration, or overwhelm. In the presence of these negative emotions and reactions, our ability to explore and learn is severely restricted or eliminated totally.

Choosing a Different Response:

I suggest we choose a different response when objects, people, or situations don't behave as we expect them to. Choose to follow the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu when he said,

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."


Rather than resisting what is, become curious. Let the spirit of lightness and wonder replace frustration. You'll experience far more happiness and learning will occur spontaneously because you are in alignment with the natural order of life.

To learn more about this innovative research that highlights the role novelty and expectation plays in a baby's learning, watch this YouTube video from John Hopkins University:



















Steve

photo 
Stephen Carter
Stress Solutions, LLC
    

Important Note: This and all other postings to this blog are for informational purposes only. This and all other posts are not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise recommend any treatment for any medical or psychological condition. Anyone using any of the information contained in this or any other posting on this website does so at his or her own risk. You are urged to seek competent medical consultations with appropriate licensed medical professionals for any and all medical, psychological, or physical conditions.


Resource References:


Abstract of article published in the journal, "Science": http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6230/91.abstract