I was cleaning my kitchen – a task that brings about as much happiness as being at the dentist. My head was throbbing from being in a hypoglycemic state because I hadn’t eaten anything in several hours.
Low blood sugar is so not cool.
Ignoring the obvious signs that my body had needs and instead, obeying the logic I had grown up with which stated that work comes first, I figured I would wait until I was finished doing my “chores” before finally replenishing my glucose levels.
That was when a thought appeared –
“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
Have to appreciate a Pink Floyd classic to bring me out of my trance and inspire a post.
Yep, that’s what it was.
And since I am no longer interested in being conditioned, now that I am aware of it anyway, I promptly made a sandwich because unless it’s driven by a blissful sense of enthusiasm – work no longer takes precedence over my well-being.
What does it mean to be conditioned?
According to Dictionary.com, the term “conditioned” (adj) means:
- Existing under or subject to conditions.
- Characterized by a predictable or consistent pattern of behavior or thought as a result of having been subjected to certain circumstances or conditions.
- Psychology . Proceeding from or dependent on a conditioning of the individual; learned; acquired: conditioned behavior patterns.
- Made suitable for a given purpose.
Now, in my opinion, I am going to say that all four definitions harmonize with one another and mean one thing…
More often than not, our behavior stems from a pattern of thoughts that have been embedded into our subconscious mind and run on autopilot. Therefore, we don’t always think as much as we are being thought.
If you’ve followed any of my work, you’ll know that I tend to harp a bit on the fact that from the moment we were born, our belief systems have been handed to us by our surroundings.
Whether the messages were good, bad or indifferent isn’t the issue because other people’s thoughts have been handed to them as well – as the generations and the stories they tell go back-a-ways…
Our Thoughts and Beliefs – Are They True?
Have you ever tried to stop the chatter that runs continuously in the back of your mind? Probably not – but if you’ve given it a fair shot, then it’s safe to say that it was tough – if not seemingly impossible.
Even thinking about not thinking is thinking.
So if you’ve attempted this and haven’t been terribly successful, don’t worry. Just take some time to practice.
And understand one thing…
I am NOT suggesting that you give up thinking – but to question the thoughts that run your life and make your decisions FOR YOU.
To learn to the difference between default and deliberate thought. To practice critical thinking and discernment as opposed to reacting to unquestioned ‘knowledge’.
Thinking is a useful tool when done intentionally and in the presence of truth. Programmed thoughts (aka – thoughts thinking you) aren’t necessarily based in truth – and this is where the work needs to be done.
The Conditioning Began When We Were VERY Young
From the time we were born until approximately around age six or so, our thoughts, beliefs, and opinions were formed by our surroundings. We weren’t able to construct a conscious thought at that age, so we absorbed what we were around and what we were taught.
By the time we were able to have conscious thoughts, the foundation beneath them had already been set.
Therefore, rather than allow ourselves to be fed information from a place of true emotional Intelligence, we continued to build our interpretation of ourselves and the world based on what was already in place.
This was the case for me, and it’s most likely the case for you as well.
I’d never bothered to question whether my beliefs or interpretations of things were true or not. I just accepted the so-called “truths” I had been taught – even though I was in a constant state of inner turmoil because of this thing called cognitive dissonance (when two conflicting ideas coincide in your mind).
It’s an uncomfortable way to exist, but this is the way it was growing up.
And since the option to question our thoughts wasn’t a popular topic (unlike Melrose Place) I accepted and became what I believed.
I’m thankful I’ve snapped out of that. These days, I prefer to remain in a state of neutrality. It’s the only way to observe life, but it took some time (and a lot of pain) for me to gain this understanding and start living this way.
I AM the witness to my life and all life. Without strong beliefs, I am free to observe “what is” without any preconceived notions tainting my perspective.
This is where the truth lies.
The Mind Unquestioned
A useful strategy to enable awareness is to make the conscious decision to question our thoughts. When we do this, it allows us to examine how we perceive our reality – and whether or not it’s based in truth.
- Do we believe the thought?
- Where did it come from?
- Does it make sense?
- Does this empower or disempower us?
- Do we even know who we are underneath our conditioning?
What would happen if we suddenly decided to detach from everything we were ever taught and instead, made the decision to re-examine things to see if it’s possible that we’ve been misled somewhere along the way – and that these misconceptions are ultimately controlling our lives?
Using my own example, I ignored my body when it gave me clear and obvious signs of hunger due to conditioning. Somewhere along the lines I “downloaded” and believed the concept that chores/work came before anything else – and this included basic survival needs.
The funny thing is, I don’t even remember where the idea originated from. I picked it up from somewhere. It took over 40 years of my life to realize it wasn’t true.
This made me wonder what else may be a fabrication of the truth.
Since then, it’s become clear that a lot of what I had carried around within me was fiction.
I know better now.
To release preconceived notions about life is tough. You sit there and wonder…
“If I was wrong about so many things, then what IS true?”
And here’s the kicker –
You may not get the answer right away.
I sure didn’t.
To sit and know that you no longer believe your beliefs, but don’t know what to replace them with is unsettling, disturbing and just weird.
But then I realized something.
If I had no answers, then I was free to continue to ask questions – a lot of them.
These questions didn’t lead to answers, but more questions. Better, more expansive ones.
I’ve been asking them ever since.
And because I no longer feel married to my prior belief systems, I get to date new concepts and ideas frequently.
I have a non-exclusive relationship with information.
And I like it this way.
Do it long enough and you’ll understand the true meaning of “keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.” ~ Casey Kasem
But to free your mind – to break the chains that bind you – this process is necessary.
It’s a way to die while you’re still alive.
Let that sink in.
Try This Out
Perhaps the next time you have a free moment, make the decision to quiet your mind and see what thoughts and beliefs may be running your life. Even if you’re only able to do it for a few seconds at a time.
In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle suggests asking yourself the question “I wonder what my next thought will be” as a means to becoming present. The intention itself will serve as a good starting place to begin to practice choosing awareness.
And, of course, the inspiration behind this post –
So What’s Next?
I’m not suggesting you believe anything I’ve said here. I don’t promote belief systems.
But perhaps, just allow the words to settle in for a bit and see if they have merit.
We’ve all been the recipients of information.
Some of it’s been authentic and contains gems of wisdom.
But quite a bit of what we’ve been taught over time is complete bullshit.
The wise one observes. Be an observer. That’s all I’m suggesting.
Do you question your thoughts? Do you wonder if what you’ve been taught is based on what’s true – what’s real…rather than what’s been handed down over time?
Want more bullshit-free wisdom? Check out my latest book “Streetwise Philosophy (A Bullshit-Free Approach to Spiritual Maturity).”
Grab your copy at any of these online retailers.