Human life is a gift. The human mind is a powerful tool we each have to create what we want with the gift of our human experience.
What sets a master craftsman apart is their expert use of the tools of their craft. To use the tool of your mind as an expert, you need to understand how it works and practice using the tool to gain control. Through my study and practice I have put together tools and a process to help you to practice using the tool of your mind to help you to practice using the tool of your mind every minute to improve your mastery.
Expert practical use of ideas such as mindfulness, meditation, visualization, and learning to choose with awareness and self-control will change your experience of life.
Many people go through life reacting to life’s situations then wondering why they find themselves in the same painful situations over and over again. Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry many people feel victimized and out of control. This process helps you get control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so you are empowered to be the master craftsman of your life.
The first step is getting to know yourself. You need to gain awareness of both the conscious and subconscious aspects of your mind. You need to know how your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors work together to create your experience. Once you have gained awareness, you get to choose what you want to create. Then, just as an athlete trains his body, you train your mind for control and mastery.
Change may not be easy but it is possible. You are the hero of your own adventure. If you become your best self, the world will be a better place. Your life is a terrible thing to waste.
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Looking Under the Hood — Getting to Know Yourself
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Joseph Campbell, well-known author, teacher, and scholar of mythology taught us about "The Hero's Journey." If you are reading this book, something inside you has prompted you to search for something better, something more wonderful, to experience a life greater than the life you are currently living. You, my friend, have heard "the hero's call to adventure."
Your hero's journey begins now. Throughout the journey you will meet not only dragons and evil wizards with whom you wage battle (your fears, limiting habits and false beliefs), you also will be given the guidance, the light sabers, the magical amulets and the armor (knowledge, love, and positive beliefs) you need to face these obstacles in order to change. Your soul will remain intact; you will fight your battles with integrity, honesty, and honor. You will journey inward to yourself to win the battle, to be your best self, to find your best life. The destination is your inner place of peace, calm, focused attention, and power. Refusing the call leads to its own set of problems: frustration, unsatisfying and painful relationships, sadness, and a lack of motivation, passion, love, and joy. You must take this journey yourself, no one can take this journey for you, but paradoxically, we all take this journey together. You are never alone. Others have faced loss, gain, temptation, salvation, death, resurrections and created happy and fulfilling lives. Though you are an individual, relationships with others are a critical factor of human life. What you are affects the whole, and the other individuals that are in your life affect you.
The thoughts, feelings, and memories that you are aware of are part of your conscious mind. It is impossible for your conscious mind to hold all of your memories, thoughts and experiences in the present moment. Your subconscious becomes the repository of the myriad thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and memories of significant and seemingly insignificant experiences that you have had since infancy. The memories of smells, colors, words, sounds, places, and textures are stored with an emotional charge. The smell of baking cookies may be a pleasant comforting reminder of a safe time for one person while it may bring up a memory of grief for a mother lost too soon for another.
As a child you did not always get to choose your experiences or the people that populated your life. You may not have had a safe adult in your life to help you process and make sense of the situations and relationships you were experiencing. The unprocessed, not understood experiences get stored in the subconscious in a raw state. Even some of your processed experiences may have been processed with the assistance of someone that may not have been a wise emotional guide, such as a parent that was an alcoholic or a parent that was still affected by their own unprocessed emotional disturbances. The contents of your subconscious affects your perspective of the events in your life, your behaviors, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs. Through this process, this journey, you will bring parts of your subconscious into your consciousness, to process, to heal and to change where necessary to improve the quality of your life, removing blocks and harmful, limiting subconscious information and beliefs.
Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, reminds us that throughout history philosophers and scholars have used analogies to understand the human mind. Plato used the symbol of a charioteer driving two horses. One horse is passion, the second horse is reason. One horse is white; the other chestnut. They are both horses, but they look very different.
Passion and reason do not always cooperate with each other nor do they always understand each other. When we think of passion we often think of romance and creativity. Passion lives under other names such as anxiety, fear, addiction, compulsiveness, and anger which describe some of our emotions that compete with reason.
The goal is to live a rich life, not afraid of your emotions, but having the courage to feel the full range of human emotion: love, grief, loss, compassion, joy, and longing for creative expression, but not to be controlled by emotion. To be a successful charioteer, you must keep both horses under control and going in the same direction, to set a goal you are passionate about and to use your intellect to accomplish the goal.
The first basic truth of Plato's metaphor for yourself is that you have two parts - a thinking and a feeling part. At times you may be in your thinking mind and you see an image or hear a sound and all of a sudden you feel a wave of emotion flow through your body that can change your posture and mood, or you feel the scalding wetness of a tear in the corner of your eye, or the tightening of your fist before you strike out in anger. In some instances, the emotion is so strong that you blurt out words and you have no idea of their origin. You may jump up and grab someone or hit someone without consulting your thinking mind. This emotional impulse may be essential for survival when you grab a child before he runs into the street or when you jump out of the way of an oncoming danger.
The sudden emotion may be sexual arousal or attraction. This may be an ancient biological impulse to insure the survival of the species, an emotional need for bonding or a modern day addiction to pleasure seeking. The emotions of shame, guilt, embarrassment, disgust, self-doubt, and insecurity are psycho-social -- meaning they have their roots in your relationships and community.
It has been many decades since Sigmund Freud began his practice and much has been learned about the human psyche. Freud suggested that the human subconscious plays a major role in the development of your personality and the creation of your life. He suggested that our conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg.
Freud described the mind as the Id (the animal, impulsive, needs meeting part of the mind), the Ego (the I/me, personal identity center of the mind), and the Super-conscious (the part of the mind that tells you when you are doing something wrong, but can also encourage and support you).
Using a driver and carriage to illustrate this concept, the Id, the wild part of the mind that needs to be tamed in order to be useful is the horse. The Ego, controlling the horse and deciding the course of the carriage, is the driver. The Super-conscious is your father or mother in the back seat telling the driver - you - what you are doing wrong. We all have these and many other aspects of ourselves that have developed over our lifetimes.
What are the different aspects of yourself that you have developed and nurtured over your life time? What about your inner child? Is he/ she playful, creative and safe or is he/she anxious and fearful, lacking in confidence? Do you have an adult aspect that can be objective, calm and safe? Do you have a harsh critic, whose voice is a constant navigator? Do you have a caring compassionate mentor, an inner advocate who can encourage, support, and motivate you? Do you have a creative problem solver, who is calm but curious? Are you able to be a risk taker when a good opportunity comes along, or does your cautious security-seeker keep you from exploring possibilities?
These are a few of the possible facets of your personality. These aspects of your self can sometimes get out of balance and then hold you back or perhaps drive you to destruction.
What aspects of yourself currently have control? Perhaps your inner critic is abusive and makes you so anxious that you have a hard time learning or trying something new. Perhaps your inner child gets so restless that it becomes an unwise risk taker, thinking that you have nothing to lose when in reality you have much to lose.
You may not know or even recognize some of the aspects of yourself. There are subconscious aspects of yourself like computer programs that are constantly running but not showing up on your screen of conscious awareness. You may not realize that you can create, install, nurture and improve new aspects of yourself. Finding and strengthening existing, positive aspects of yourself or creating and installing new, positive aspects of yourself is possible and can be an exciting, rewarding adventure. I am going to share with you tools to help you uncover your subconscious thought patterns, change or correct the thought, emotion and behavior patterns that are limiting your experience of life, and create and install new, creative, productive thought, emotion and behavior patterns that will expand and improve the quality of your life.
Jonathan Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis, 2006), a contemporary psychologist, suggests a new metaphor of an elephant and rider as a symbol for the human mind. The elephant, he believes, is our subconscious, while our conscious mind is the tiny rider trying to control the elephant.
Training an elephant must be a daunting task. They are large, powerful, and willful. I recently rescued a year-old black lab, Grace. She's strong, smart, and willful. She had been running wild on the streets. I think she is capable of becoming a therapy dog but just getting her to settle down and follow commands has been difficult and frustrating. She is impulsive. Taking her for a walk on a leash was like a wrestling match. Every time she saw another dog, a rabbit, or a squirrel she would bolt, with my arm on the other end of the leash.
Grace and I attended dog training classes. I realized I had to get to know her, and she had to get to know me. I needed tools to communicate and train her. I needed to slow down and engage with her eye to eye. I needed to know precisely what I wanted and expected Grace to do. I needed to train myself as well as Grace.
Now, Grace and I are negotiating our learning curve. Although I've never trained an elephant, it seems to be a similar process.
Think about this: if your subconscious is like a powerful elephant, you need skills and tools 1) to get to know (your subconscious thought patterns, needs, wounds, fears, triggers and desires), to engage and to communicate with your friend, the elephant (your subconscious); 2) to learn what you subconsciously believe and expect of yourself (both positive and limiting) and of life; and 3) to train the elephant to cooperate with your conscious needs and desires. Your elephant is very powerful, but to get further down the road of life, your elephant must be properly trained.
Painting some word pictures is important and useful at this point. I want you to exercise your brain to imagine the sights, sounds and feelings of the different situations I am going to describe so that you can identify your own feelings and behaviors with that of the elephant and person relating with the elephant.
The first picture I want you to imagine is a wild, unmanageable elephant in a small village of thatched hut homes. The elephant is upset, perhaps hurt or even wounded. In its pain and fear the elephant has lost control, trampling houses, and destroying the village. The people who live in the village are terrified. Some of them are running away from the elephant, some are hiding, some are thinking about how they can stop the elephant.
Now, the elephant has created a catastrophe and is himself in danger. Have you ever damaged something precious with an impulsive act? Have you ever frightened or hurt people around you causing them to run or hide? Have you ever had others use force to get you under control? Or perhaps, you have been the person terrified and damaged by another person raging out of control.
The second picture is of a person who has befriended the elephant. This person has calmed the elephant to protect the village and the elephant. The elephant is listening but still fearful, unsure, and on the edge of another outburst.
Do you have a person you can talk with when you are upset who can calm you down? Have you ever been the person who can help calm or comfort another person when she is upset? Can you recognize an aspect of yourself that can calm down the raging, fearful aspect of yourself when you are upset?
The third picture is of the person coming closer, focusing attention, comforting the elephant, stroking the large elephant, helping to heal the wounds and easing the pain for the elephant. Soon the person is able to climb up on the elephant's shoulders, but the elephant is standing crosswise in the road and not moving.
The person continues to patiently, lovingly communicate with the elephant, getting to know the elephant's likes and fears, creating a safe place for the elephant to be himself. Soon the person knows what frightens the elephant to the point of losing control and causing damage, or what motivates and inspires the elephant.
The elephant trusts the person, looks to the person to meet its needs, understands what the person is asking him to do, and loves to cooperate with his new friend. Soon the person has taught the elephant to take direction, do tasks, and even perform a few tricks. The elephant is able to trust and love the person. The life of the person and the elephant is easier, richer, and more pleasant because of their cooperative relationship.
A second set of images is of an elephant that is so wounded, fearful, and afraid that he is frozen, unable to move ahead, unable to trust anyone, or even life. You need to comfort and encourage this elephant as well as the elephant that is raging.
Because of trauma, neglect, or abuse this elephant is unable to live a full, rewarding life. Not only does this elephant suffer, but this elephant's spouse, children, friends, neighbors, and co-workers suffer as well because they do not get to interact with a healthy fully alive elephant. When you are depressed or suffering from anxiety, others around you are affected. If you or a friend or someone in your family is suffering from an addiction to food, alcohol, drugs, sex or gambling, you are all affected and suffer in your own individual ways.
It is hard, if not impossible for someone who is suffering to engage in a positive relationship with anyone else. The other person in the relationship is not getting the love and affection he needs and desires. Relationship needs are not being met. The other person in the relationship is not able to feel secure, safe, and loved. He is unable to trust or to develop trust with others. They begin to experience symptoms of their own unmet needs.
Perhaps you started life as the other person in a relationship with someone who was hurting and now you have hurts and wounds of your own. Perhaps now you are passing on your hurts and wounds to those around you. This passing of hurt from generation to generation is something that none of us consciously choose to perpetuate.
Some elephants have been sad, lonely, angry, poor, and lacking in self-confidence for so long it is hard for them to even imagine how to feel anything different. They believe (perhaps at a subconscious level) that they aren't good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. They believe erroneous thoughts and feelings about themselves and others. The circuits in their brains have been hard-wired to shut down a happy, hopeful or positive thought and to light up the old habitual thoughts of doubt and fear. Their brains actually need new systems and pathways built for them to experience a new state of mind. This construction project is very attainable but it takes time and practice.
The goal of this book is to help you gain awareness and knowledge of your inner elephant; your thoughts and feelings to be able to harness your inner power to reconstruct your brain circuits, to create new pathways to experience new responses to life situations so you can create for yourself a life that is easier, richer, and more pleasant.
Within you are both the wounded, fearful and needy elephant (your subconscious mind), and the person with the ability to heal and train the elephant (your conscious mind).
Have you ever set a goal? Did you successfully accomplish your goal? Perhaps you sabotaged yourself. What could be the reason? Did a subconscious elephantine fear or wound become a success obstacle?
Have you ever created permanent damage while suffering from a subconscious, automatic reaction to a stressful situation?
As you examine, observe and get to know the skin, muscles, and bones of your subconscious elephant, you need to integrate these parts of your subconscious into your life. When you peek into your subconscious life, you become aware of your psychic wounds and traumas that need healing.
What is going on inside of you is more powerful than what is going on outside of you.
When you begin to examine and expose your subconscious beliefs, you begin to ask these questions: Are these beliefs true today? Where did I learn these beliefs? Who taught me these attitudes and beliefs? Was that person or situation a reliable, trustworthy source of beliefs that are still affecting my life? Are these beliefs beneficial in my life today?
Carl Jung, a psychiatrist and colleague of Sigmund Freud, emphasized the importance of examining the contents of our subconscious to uncover what Jung called the "shadow self."
Excerpted from "Tools for Creating a Life You Love"
Copyright © 2017 Colleen Ann Nilson.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Looking Under the Hood — Getting to Know Yourself, 1,
Mindfulness Report – Thought Processing and Replacement, 77,
Working on a Dream, 105,
Confidence, Trust, and Faith, 137,
Love, the Power to Choose and Enthusiasm, 147,
Mindfully Connecting in Relationships, 151,
Conscious Connection with Divine Energy, 187,
About The Author, 223,