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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd



Habits to Observe

How do you become conscious of your Self? Direct conscious effort is necessary. You become conscious by just for a moment "waking up", and by asking yourself:

  • "What am I feeling?"
  • "How do my feelings relate to what I am thinking?"
  • "How do my feelings relate to what I am doing?"
  • "Am I behaving rationally?"

These questions expose those painful or self-defeating emotions that actually relate to self-talk, i.e. negative compulsive (though Preconscious) thinking, and result in behavior that may be irrational in the present circumstances.

Asking these questions will make you temporarily conscious, but probably you will not be able to keep this state, your mind will become absorbed in something else and you will forget yourself. As you persist in in this kind of observation, however, your moments of consciousness as Self will become increasingly longer.

What do you observe? Begin by watching your actions, reactions, responses and behavior. Be aware that you are like "another person" - the awakened Self - looking at your human mind in operation. At first this will be very difficult to do but as you practice, it will become progressively easier and automatic.

Continue by observing your posture, listen to your speech, observe how much you talk, listen to the tone of your voice, i.e. the "way" you say something. Just be an interested observer of the habit patterns of your mind.

Observe how you automatically assume certain attitudes with some people, and different attitudes with others, i.e. how you unconsciously switch identities and play different roles with different people and in different situations. Watch all of your emotions, observe your mind wandering aimlessly in pure fantasy. Observe how certain words by certain people trigger reactions in you that you cannot control.

Watch your defense mechanisms, your justifications, your rationalizations, your pet superstitions, your favourite criticisms, and so forth. You are now starting to become conscious of your unconsciousness, and thereby bringing it into consciousness.

“Many people are controlled by the expression of negative emotions. But negative emotions are purely mechanical - done without awareness or consciousness - and serve no useful purpose whatsoever.”
Normally people erroneously assume that they are constantly one and the same person. However, as you begin to observe yourself, you find this is not true. You assume many different "I"s and each "I" manifests itself as a role that you play corresponding to one set of conditions, i.e. you assume different roles with different people and in different circumstances. One role with your parents, another with your children, a loved one, at the corner store, at the theatre, in sports, under stress, when threatened, when praised, when jilted, and so on. You seldom, if ever, notice these differences or how you pass from one role to another.

The change of roles or "personality masks" is usually controlled by circumstances, rather than you self-determinedly choosing an appropriate way of being. It is the unconsciousness or compulsion that we are trying to expose. Freely adopting appropriate ways of being, for example, to match the reality of the people you are with, is a necessary social skill and all part of the fun and variety of life.

The illusion of "oneness" or belief that you are always the same is created by always having the sensation of one physical body, the same name, the same physical habits and so forth. And by always assuming that the identity you adopt is "right", they are all "right" identities and therefore always subjectively the same "me".

By self-observation, you will catch yourself lying. Lying occurs when you pretend to know something when in actuality you do not. People pretend to possess all kinds of knowledge: about themselves, about God, about life and death, about the universe, about evolution, about politics, about sex, about everything. In fact, people do not even know who or what they are.

Even when he has no choice and is controlled in life like "a reed in the wind", a person will lie to himself that he is self-willed, knows himself and is in control of his destiny. You imagine these things to please yourself, and shortly after you begin to believe it.

As you self-observe, you find that you identify with everything - you emotionalise 24 hours a day. Some people take pride in their irritability, anger or worry. It is extremely difficult to perceive that you actually enjoy negative emotions. Books, movies, TV and popular songs glorify negative emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, boredom, disgust, irritation, hatred, jealousy, suspicion, self-pity, sympathy, depression, etc. Many people are controlled by the expression of negative emotions. But negative emotions are purely mechanical - done without awareness or consciousness - and serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

Negative emotions and all habit patterns require "identification" or they cease to exist. Thus when you cease to identify, i.e. by self-observation you recognize that you are adopting a certain way of being, your habits will drop away - they have been exposed, i.e. you have differentiated yourself from them.

Habits cannot be stopped by willpower, they can only be erased by self-knowledge. Religious doctrines like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule are therefore quite impossible for the normal human being to follow. Habits of mechanicalness will always cause people to violate codes of law and moral rules. Only self-knowledge can direct you to living the "right life" and you will not need written rules, codes or commandments, you will function intuitively and spontaneously. This is true freedom without license.

Even the mass murderer is a confused but basically good Being, unfortunately at the effect of a huge mass of inappropriate conditioning. All people, deep down in their basic spiritual essence, are good natured - doing their best and wanting to love and be loved, to create and communicate. But we are not just our spiritual selves, we are human beings and we are intimately linked with bodies that, like animals, have tribal, territorial and aggressive instincts and gender patterns. Plus we are equally intimately linked with our families and our culture, which teach us from birth many and particular ways of being. And then we are tied in with our minds, all of our individual experience and learning, which inevitably contains many fixed beliefs and irrational conclusions as a result of trauma and false data picked up in the process of the effort to survive. Transforming the Mind is about unpicking this tangle so that we can recover our essential freedom.

A major self-imposed problem is to identify with objects (including people) and in turn become "possessed" by them. Since things wear out, decay and die, a person becomes bereaved whenever he loses the objects of his affection. This goes further, he begins to regard himself as a "thing" that must eventually wear out, decay and die. Unfortunately religions do nothing to reverse this macabre compulsion. They preach that "death" is the reward of life. This is not true; furthermore it is schizophrenic, the beginning of insanity.

Identification with people occurs when you constantly worry what people will think about you, if you are liked or disliked, what someone else will do or say in a given situation, and so on. This can quickly become an obsession of worry, doubt, suspicion, blame, resentment and guilt feelings. Irrational emotion of this sort is the main factor that keeps the spiritual Being attached and unaware in a fixed identification with the human composite personality.

A primary cause of identification occurs when a bad action is deliberately or accidentally committed, or a good deed omitted, and the resulting sympathy causes an identification with the victim. The compulsion to make self right, then causes a reversal of this, and the victim is made wrong, and the act is considered deserved. This is the bad action-justification sequence. But the sympathy identification, though suppressed, continues to have effect subconsciously.

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