You’ve heard about people who can sleep with their eyes open? Amazing, right? What about people who sleepwalk and do activities such as brush their teeth or make a sandwich while they’re still asleep? There’s another kind of sleep walking that’s more common, and more dangerous: Going through life unconsciously. Is this you?
I’m talking about that autopilot, dismissal of the present or apathetic “I just wanna get through the day/week/month” type of sleepwalking. At times, I haven’t even been aware of doing it. Now that I am, it’s a whole new world. (Thank you, Prem.)
The Urgency of Living Consciously
Average age of death in U.S.: 78.54 years. If you are lucky and live to be 80, you will have lived 29,200 days. How many days have you used up so far? It’s time to wake up to the incredible gift and treasure that YOUR life is – each and every day!
How Are You Being?
People often ask “How are you doing?” That’s nice. Truly. But we focus so much on what we are doing and less on how we are feeling – how we are being.
Our inner lives ultimately reflect our outer lives. We think before we create. But a lot of advice is given on how to use our thoughts, and imagination on creating what we want to manifest materially in the world. Yet, if we don’t focus on our inner lives and being happy within, what good is all that we manifest materially?
If our being is happy, then our doing becomes a joyful reflection of that and what we feel drawn to do and accomplish is driven by our hearts. When we do what we truly love, work becomes play, we enjoy and become better at what we do, and material rewards will come to say “Thank you”. What we put into the world, we get back. Ultimately, giving is getting. What are you giving yourself?
Are You Conscious of Your Thoughts?
I love a bumper sticker I’ve seen on a car. It read: “Don’t believe everything you think.”
It’s a great reminder of how thoughts and ideas are just that. Things that come to mind based on so many variables in our experiences. And our experiences and observations are subjective and selective. I like to think of this as being a passenger in a vehicle and only looking out the window on your side. What are we missing out on seeing from the window on the other side? Even if I turn my head to look out the other side, I’m now missing what was on my side. We just can’t see and know everything. The more we learn the more we realize that there’s so little we know.
But what we DO know is that we have all of these thoughts in our heads, and we can decide what we choose to think. Why not think in a way that elevates your life and those around you?
Elevating Conscious Thoughts
The words in our heads are either loving or negative. What percentage of your “self-talk” is positive and what percentage is negative? You may not even be aware of the amount of negative, limiting or counter-productive thoughts in your head every day.
Once you start observing your thoughts, don’t get stressed over trying to get rid of all of the negative thoughts – they are sneaky, and will creep in from time to time despite your best efforts. It’s good to recognize the most pervasive negative thoughts and simply replace them with postitive ones.
Example 1: “Oh, that was so dumb” Replace with: “Oh, that’s funny/interesting/different!”
Example 2: “I keep trying and I just can’t…” Replace with: “Ah, how strong of me to keep putting effort towards what I want. Let’s try a new approach.”
Example 3: “I hate…about myself.” Replace with: “I’m the most beautiful me there has ever been or ever will be.”
Another way to deal a negative thought: Stand up to it! Remember, you’re the boss. Say “Hey! What are you doing in my head? You’re a negative thought and I’m only hiring positive ones. Sorry. Bye bye.”
I try to catch myself when I say things like “I should be doing this” or “I should be doing that”. Why is “should” negative? Because it’s reprimanding yourself for things you’re not doing but think they are the “correct “ things to do according to your own intellectual reasoning or according to what you’ve been told by others. The problem with this is that tension is created within you (a push to do something and at the same time a pull away from doing it).
Sometimes “should” can also be a placebo – a pill that has no intrinsic potency, but may psychologically dull your pain. (Or if you berate yourself, it could be akin to self-flagellation…but I digress.) You feel a little better by acknowledging that you know something that would be good/useful/prudent to do, but at the same time, you’re not actually doing anything to produce a result.
The solution is to eliminate “should”. First decide, being absolutely honest with yourself, if you really want to do a thing or not. If the answer is “Yes”, then look at what the obstacle is. Is it fear, a feeling of being overwhelmed or tired? Getting to the root of the issue means that you can now take steps to overcome it.
For example, you think: “I really should get to the gym” but you don’t go. Perhaps the issue is really that you feel you will be judged by others at the gym because you’re carrying some extra pounds.
Now, you can first decide if you really want to lose weight. Many people are actually quite happy with a few pounds more then the media says is attractive (if you need to lose pounds for health – that’s another issue). So don’t pressure yourself. Enjoy your choice!
However, if you want to lose weight but feel shy going to the gym, think of ways to counteract that, so you can achieve what you want. You could go to a gym at off-peak hours, start with exercise videos at home until you feel more comfortable and the urge to expand your exercise becomes greater than your fear of what you think people will think. (A lot of people will be thinking “Good for you!”) Or you could start with swim/aquatic classes so your body is submerged during the class. You could also call the gym and ask for exercise classes that have people your size in them (if that makes you uncomfortable – ask for “beginner” classes).
Rewording Self-Talk Gets Rewards
What to do when you hear yourself saying “I should…”?
Try saying this instead: “I want to…”
Next, decide how you will: “I will…”
Include “when”. Be specific, not “When I get a chance” (haha). It could be “When I get home tonight”, but a time or time frame is best: At 6 pm or from 6 pm to 7pm.
For those who balk at exact times (some people feel too constrained), you could try looking at a time not as something pinning you down but a date with an activity to empower you, and create a better experience in your life.
If there’s a task that seems daunting, remember that a meal is eaten one bite at a time. Do you sit down to a meal and focus on having a clean plate? Or do you sit down and look forward to enjoying each bite of it?
The same thing with any project/learning/studies/activity you want to do (not ”should” do”). Assign a specific time to take a bite out of that task. Remind yourself that you’re doing the task because you WANT to do it. Keep chipping away regularly and you’ll find that it gets done faster and more happily than expected. This is how I wrote my first book. What seemed daunting, became a joy as each day I committed to writing a specific number of words – without trying to be perfect or focussing on how far I had to go. I found joy in those moments, that day.
So we know we want to do something, does it matter why?
If why we’re doing something aligns with adding meaning, joy or love to our lives, then it’s a greater motivator than “Other people do it” or “I don’t know what else to do” etc. Why are you doing the things in life you’re doing?
Being conscious of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, brings lucidity to your life.
Sleepwalking through life is going to feel like so much time has been wasted and that won’t make you happy. Some people say you shouldn’t have regrets! Really? I believe in not wallowing in regret and wasting precious time being miserable in the present – but if regret is seen as simple awareness of how you don’t want to be or don’t want to live your life then it’s actually a valuable insight and motivator.
We do what we do for the reason we gave ourselves at the time. When we gain new understanding, we make different choices.
- Work with what you know now!
- Work on your relationship with yourself and with others for rewards that go beyond material gain.
- Do what you can with what resources/skills/mentors you have available to you now.
- Don’t dwell on the past or future, dwell in the present.
You only know you have today, for sure. Awaken to each moment of it. This is a way to live with 20/20 vision.