I consider one of the fundamental requirements for living a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life is to live consciously. What I mean by this is not being on autopilot. I could also describe this as being present, as having an awareness moment-to-moment of my thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
I’m not implying that one has to have a monk-like perfect awareness in order to live consciously and be happy. Naturally, being conscious and cultivating awareness is a process (as annoying as this may seem at times), and losing awareness is in itself a valuable experience that we can become conscious of.
Being conscious is not about knowing everything, being enlightened, or being perfect. It’s about being present and vulnerable enough to recognize when we make mistakes, to notice the intentions behind our actions, and to be open to discovery. Being conscious is about having a keen and sometimes child-like (not child-ish) sense of discovery.
And, perhaps most challenging, being conscious is about taking responsibility about all of our life experience (including all of our life experiences). taking responsibility, is awesome, empowering, and different from blame, and ultimately it’s about noticing what I am doing or not doing that is creating the life experience that I am having.
A brief story about a moment of consciousness I had just a few days ago:
It was a cool summer night in Florida with a nearly-full moon beaming down her gorgeous light upon my yard, as I was texting an old friend whom I had reconnected with moments prior. I was enjoying the connection so much - even though it was significantly past my bedtime - the interaction was nourishing to my heart and mind. I then became aware of feeling sad, even guilty, and I wasn’t sure why, it didn’t make sense to me at first, but knowing fully well that what I was feeling was real, I decided to take a deeper look at what was going on inside myself.
Step 1: Notice the inner discomfort, and feel the feelings.
I indirectly asked myself “what’s going on for me?” and became aware of this oh-so-subtle belief about this person, that they were evil, dark, and manipulative. I was shocked! This thought, was so well camouflaged into my reality that I didn’t even know I believed this about her! It wasn’t like “she’s evil. Oh yeah, definitely” or even “she’s manipulative. No she’s not!” It was so stealthy, so sneaky, this belief I had formed, I didn’t even realize there was a belief that I could question. It was part of “how the world is” for me.
Step 2: Pause to ask, “what is it I believe that's causing the discomfort/ feelings?”
As I write this I’m still thrilled that I noticed this belief because to me it signals a stepping into the next level of self-awareness. I feel like I’ve leveled up in my ability to live consciously in a more subtle, refined, and deeper way.
I feel inspired to share this because this process is representative of what I mean when I say that living consciously is a prerequisite for living happily. This isn’t by any means the first “heavy” judgment or belief I’ve found myself carrying, albeit the subtlest. And there’s no way in heck I could ever be happy if I didn’t endeavor to recognize these little sneaky, squirmy thoughts and stop them from propagating.
Step 3: Decide if you want to keep the thoughts causing the discomfort (sometimes you will want to), or if you want to think new thoughts and create a different experience.
There are things you believe you don’t even know you believe. I challenge you to discover them!