Awakening of the Human Being
Rose Henry interviews Peter Shepherd
Rose: I really enjoyed your book, Transforming the Mind, and will be sharing your words online with many of my clients. I'd like to ask your thoughts of what you call "awakening."
Peter: Thanks, Rose. Well, awakening isn't necessarily something esoteric, reserved for gurus or those who've done years of meditation. It's for all of us. Awakening is like simply, WAKING UP. When we wake up in the morning we suddenly have a new viewpoint and presence, instead of being absorbed unconsciously in our dreams. Similarly, when we awaken from our customary thinking mind, we find we can perceive our thoughts and feelings more objectively, from a perspective that's a little detached and free of our usual habits, fears and conditionings. This is called mindfulness, but actually it's more like no mind. This viewpoint is our true self, really, and it is peaceful, loving and caring.
Awakening is a progressive process that may continue throughout our life, as we let go of considerations that we had put in place to protect us, based on fears and beliefs that are no longer appropriate nor needed. We get insights here, and realizations there, ah-ha moments and expansions of our being. Then we encounter new challenges, and we make mistakes and learn from those errors - or we don't and have to try different approaches until eventually we get the insight we need. It's the game of life, the reason we're here. Indeed, it's our path of personal growth and we can always become more and more our true selves, connected and One with spiritual source, the universal consciousness that some call God.
Rose: We all have different belief systems, and trust the beliefs that work for our own sense of self. For example, from my belief system - if the brain is logic, and the heart is our emotional centre, I need to balance the two, to effectively find my balance. Peter, I'd like to hear your understanding and ask you to expand on the possible connections, from your point of view.
Peter: Our feelings and our thoughts - sometimes one leads the other. We feel scared and think, "Why is that?" Or we think, "Nobody cares about me" and we feel sad. It's a big mix-up. The brain is logic and illogic, it includes rationality and irrationality, beliefs and conditioning, intuition and inner knowing. Our heart-felt emotions may be loving or they may be fearful or hateful. The mind can lead the heart or vice-versa. We need to make some sense of this, as you say, to provide leadership, and in my opinion the part of us that we do best to make the leader is our higher self, the mindful perspective that is by its very nature, loving. That love is our best guide.
To make love our guide is a decision we can make. Unconditional love, that is, not based on judgments or qualifications, nor even liking or agreeing. I'm not speaking only of romantic love for one person, or familial love, but more generally - of caring, kindness, empathy and understanding for all persons, and certainly not forgetting ourselves.
Life is all about the decisions we make, good or bad. We can't go wrong with love as our guide, however sometimes we'll forget or be distracted or veer from that path and make inappropriate decisions. But all is not lost, it never is. These are the times we can learn from - and then return to our true selves, our true nature.
Rose: In this day and age, with us becoming runners, and trying to set the standards to prove to the outside world who we think we are, we lose the innocence of our child state, leaving our minds open for imagination to run wild. We become diluted by the thoughts and energies of those around us, and sometimes we lose our core essence. What are your thoughts on bringing our adult self back to the creation of opening up our imagination, and being at ease with ourselves once more?
Peter: For sure, from the moment we’re born we receive external influences, first from our parents, family and then teachers, friends and others, and not least TV and Internet, as well as books we read and newspapers. To add to that we have our personal interpretations of the information, directions and ideas we’ve received, and those interpretations are based on rationality and irrationality, influenced by our memories and emotional responses. Not least by our instincts, our human animal nature, and our higher needs, to belong, to express ourselves and create, to love and be of service, and to actualize our higher self, our human being.
So yes, our core essence tends to be buried. Sometimes we are best able to recover that essence in an environment that raises our vibration, like beautiful nature, inspiring music, a loving connection, and memories of times in the past when we truly found ourself. We can be inspired to be our true self by engaging in the creative process, expressing ourselves without control or influence from others, such as when writing, painting, cooking, exploring, making love, and discussing in open ended conversations. When we are truly being ourselves we feel at ease, with an inner peace.
On the Trans4mind site we have a free program called Raise your Vibration, which contains a series of meditations and exercises that you can practice regularly, and I’ve found this helps a lot. Accompanying that is Your Inner Truth, a personal journal to review your recent experiences and thoughts, with some really neat ways to determine the underlying truths, which amazingly enough, always align with your peaceful and loving inner nature.
Rose: Which brings me to ease and dis-ease, which are so important to finding our true balance. What are your thoughts? If our physical is sitting in dis-ease, it reflects back to us as physical ailments, trying to send our body messages to pay attention so that we may find our ease once more. Can you give me your thoughts on releasing these feelings of dis-ease to bring about our state of ease once more?
Peter: Yes, if we are stressed and far from at ease, that can have a harmful effect on our body, especially the immune system. We need to let go of the influences that cause us to be stressed, or which exaggerate the natural stresses that are part and parcel of life. Very often these influences are suppressed. They may be past decisions that affect us negatively, but they result from painful experiences that we don’t like to recall, so the memories and accompanying feelings are suppressed. However the decisions remain in place and in use, even though they are no longer appropriate to our present circumstances. If we can open up to such feelings, and the memories and beliefs that followed, then we can let them go, release them and be ourselves again in the present, without those stressful influences.
Stress and conflict is also caused by inappropriate messages we have taken onboard from our upbringing, our education, and the everyday misinformation and lies we are exposed to. So always we need to be willing to review our beliefs, to think differently, to be open minded. The motto of Trans4mind is “Minds, like parachutes, function better when open.”
Rose: Self-worth and values are also creating problems in today's society. What are your thoughts on these walls of dense energy that sit within our bodies, that should be worked through or worked on, to release these stresses and expectations and to bring the sense that "I am enough" back into our own belief system?
Peter: It’s easy to adopt values that enable us to fit in with our peer groups, at home, school or work. To follow fashions, to enable us to feel we are the same as others and therefore good enough. But when we know these are lies, not what we really believe or like, then we also know that we are letting down our integrity, and then we actually feel less of ourselves. When we act on such lies and follow the group, abnegating our personal responsibility, then we can look back at what we’ve done and really feel ashamed. So we need to do better than that.
Rose: I enjoyed your words on the various factors of the brain arousal. This is very important in today's world and does help identify how we tend to deal with issues or circumstances surrounding us. What more can you share with us, Peter, from your personal point of view, about building a new model of experience? Is it through trial and error? Can we choose to change? And why do we sometimes get caught in a loop? Is this because we haven't quite learned from the experience so we keep redoing it?
Peter: Sure, we keep making the same mistakes until we can look more objectively at what we’re doing, drop the ego barrier we erect to always be right, and only then can we learn and move forward in a more enlightened way. But this requires being awake and mindful. Very often we are half asleep, operating on automatic, everything taken for granted, caught in a loop as you say.
Rose: I did enjoy the quote from Robert Heinlein ... what then would your thoughts be on our survival? Is life survival of the fittest? Should we delve into our past to release and to choose to change?
Peter: Heinlein said people should be able to do many things, have multiple skills and wide ranging knowledge. Specialization is for insects, he said. Just pressing on, within our little niche, is hardly a recipe for success. It’s the opposite of the mindset required to be creative, to invent new and better ways of doing things, to see new connections and possibilities. But we tend to be like that, with specialization the rule even from our school days and especially at work. However conforming to steer clear of arguments is a downhill path. I think life can go beyond being survival of the fittest and become more like adventures for the open minded.
Rose: Many times a group of people remember the same situation differently. So what are the most important lessons that we we can understand from memory? Is it the Recall Something Procedure that you mentioned where we can remove the barriers? Many of us call it cord cutting or releasing what no longer serves us. So it would be lovely to get your understanding on that.
Peter: One thing that happens over time is building a wall between our conscious logical mind, the verbal left brain, and the subconscious experiential mind of the pictorial right brain. This happens because of painful past experiences and the more it occurs, the less access we have to the positive attributes of right brain thinking - understanding the relationship between things, empathy and compassion, having new intuitive insight, and being in touch with the inner knowing of the higher self that is not initially expressed in words. The procedure you mentioned helps with breaking down that barrier, as does the process of Releasing the barriers we build against past memories.
Rose: I really enjoyed the exercises that you wrote. The Zen Memory exercise was helpful, as a tool to improve our sensory abilities. So what are your thoughts on retaining memories that don't assist us in the present moment?
Peter: The Zen Memory Exercise is simply to go over, in your mind, the precise events of the last hour, paying attention to all the sensory modalities: sight, sound, smell, emotions, touch, movement. Get as much detail as you can, creating a multi-media film in your mind. Then go over it again, filling in the gaps, until you have as complete a picture of the last hour as possible. Done regularly, this helps to get your perceptions wide open and for you to be fully conscious in the here-and-now.
Rose: The Release Technique could be a useful tool in our mindful toolbox.
Peter: Yes, for sure. Like the Zen technique, it helps you to be fully present in the now rather than a lot of your energy being used subconsciously to resist the past. This is a summary of the procedure:
- Step One: First think of some problem area in life - it may be a relationship with a loved one; it might be your job, a health problem or a worry. Or it might simply be the feeling that you are experiencing now.
- Step Two: Identify your feeling. What word comes to mind?
- Step Three: What do you really feel? Open yourself up, become aware of the physical sensations attached to the feeling and focus on them.
- Step Four: Deliberately create it. Let your feeling inhabit your entire body and mind. If the feeling is a grief feeling, you may break into tears; if it is anger, you may feel your blood begin to boil. That's good - now is the time to feel the feeling.
- Step Five: Become aware of the difference between your Self - YOU - and what that Self is FEELING. When the feeling is fully experienced and accepted, there will at some point be a clear sensation that your feeling is not you, it's something you've been creating, so it would be possible to let go of the feeling.
If you do not feel that it is possible to let the feeling go, feel it some more. Sooner or later you will reach a point where you can truthfully answer: "Yes, I could let this feeling go".
- Step Six: Spot the underlying thought, assumption, decision or intention that has been driving your emotions. See if it is appropriate in interpreting your current circumstances, even though it may have seemed appropriate in the past. What do you learn from this?
The most vital aspect of this process is the learning of life lessons. Unless you recognize what you are to learn from your negative emotions, they will not release permanently, because they will have to regenerate again until the lesson is learned once and for all. After all, the very nature of negative emotions is a message to you -- letting you know that something needs to be learned.
- Step Seven: Let the feeling go, simply release it, if you haven't done so spontaneously. It feels good to let it go - all the built-up energy that has been held in the body is released. There is a sudden decrease in physical and nervous tension. You will feel more relaxed, calm, and centered.
Rose: Acceptance is such a deep meaning emotion. What are your thoughts on self-acceptance and how to realize that self-acceptance is so important to finding contentment in our life?
Peter: Acceptance means to recognize something is the way that it is, that it’s OK to be that way. Not necessarily that you think that’s the best it could be, nor to agree necessarily, but you’re not denying, you’re willing to work forward from here. So if you can accept yourself as you are, you are set up to progress. If you are in denial, it’s not a place from which you can learn or grow.
Rose: Intention, goals and destination are all covered in different sections of your book. Is this possibly the key to finding our contentment in the present moment?
Peter: Yes, because we need to have something to aim for, to work toward, that excites us. To create something we will be proud of. And it’s making that happen that makes us content. There’s at least as much pleasure from the journey as reaching the destination.
Rose: So to conclude, can you offer an overview on what your hopes are for what people will take from your book, which I think is excellent, and how it can change their lives?
Peter: Both from this book and from the Trans4mind site as a whole, with all its resources intended to meet every need, I’m doing my best to pass along the lessons and insights that many great writers have shared, and that have already helped me develop a coherent model of the way life works and how we can best apply this understanding to live the happiest life possible. By applying this model, I’ve been able to progress greatly in my personal life. Really, no comparison, before and after. Also it’s important to remember that happiness arrives not just from our personal success and pleasure in our relationships, but equally from the contribution we can make to the lives of others, through loving service. That’s what really brings us the greatest contentment.
Rose: What was your purpose when you created this lovely book, filled with really great guidance and advice?
Peter: When I put the materials together, it was for my own use, to try and integrate the best of all that I’d learned of philosophy, psychology and spirituality combined with my own insights - to make a coherent picture that I could remember and apply. When it was finished, I thought that hey, others may benefit from this too, so I made it freely available on the Internet. It turned out to be what many were looking for and that encouraged me to make it the basis of the Trans4mind website, with many further resources added over the years. I’ve had enough positive feedback to know that this journey has been worthwhile - and I trust there is much more still to achieve.
Rose: I enjoyed your ability to explore all the factors relating to our physical journey, and you've covered so much more information than just that in your book. And I'd really like to say "thank you" and it was received and accepted with gratitude, and will be forwarded with that same feeling in mind. Thank you for your time.
Peter: I really appreciate your interest, Rose, and how you’ve understood the principles I was trying to get across in this book so well. And I wish you every success in your own amazing journey coming up ahead!
Read a translation of this page in Urdu by Ahsan Soomro
This is something Peter put together that is close to his heart. It's a free daily meditation program to help you make the state of unconditional love an integrated part of your life, which is key to lasting joy and fulfillment.
Plus check out Your Inner Truth, a phenomenal range of journaling tools to help you find the truth of your situation. You may feel stressed, or confused, there may be a lot going on and choices to make that seem a bit overwhelming. Or you may simply need time with yourself, to decide what is it you really want... and just who are you, really?