When we are not living consciously we run the risk of making choices that we don’t realize are choices – on autopilot. We become victims of our own conditioning. Unconscious living makes us susceptible to making choices for the wrong reasons – without checking our motives. Exhaustive research reveals that about 96% of humanity does not even realize that this is an issue, which is to say that 96% of humanity is sleepwalking. Fewer realize that present moment conscious awareness is the single most important factor of success in life – whatever success means to each of us. Our lives are enjoyable and rewarding to extent that we are present in it. Being present means being aware in the moment as our thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, and/or events unfold throughout our day enabling us to check-in with ourselves:
• We might ask ourselves, “Is this train of thought life-affirming, loving, in-line with my goals, worthy of me and suitable for me to share without shame?”
• We can pay attention to our IGS (my Internal Guidance System) noticing feelings of constriction or expansion within?
• Am I acting according to what I have said and what I think?
• Is this really my thought or am I being a parrot?
• Is this thought true? Is it valid? Is this a belief?
• Do this person’s action match up with their words?
• Does this thought or action help me or hinder my progress?
• Why I am thinking, saying or doing this?
• Am I paying attention?
• Am I hearing what I want to hear instead of what is really being said?
• What was I thinking before I did this?
• Should I acknowledge what I just saw, heard, said, and/or did?
These are just a few examples of the type of insight available to one who is practicing present moment awareness. Insight is awareness of and attention to one’s inner vision. Insight grants us every advantage to create the life of our dreams. Life is not happening to us. It is happening from us. Life is lived from the inside → out. The observable world that each one of us experiences (‘outsight’) is the result of our prolonged, habitual focus and the quality of that attention – interpretation of what we are experiencing.
When we intentionally choose our attitude each moment, and when we decide where to direct our attention & energy each moment, we choose the experiences that ensue. People, who do not know this, keep observing and reacting to circumstances (aka: the result) with little or no sense of our responsibility for them. Unable to improve their circumstances permanently at the level of cause, they spin out in a continuous feedback loop.
One of my clients described a scenario that illustrates this quite well. She told me that her husband is making her crazy. She can no longer sit with him at their son’s basketball games. He is aggressive at best and often downright abusive. He directs his negativity toward their son, his coach, the referees, the other players on his team, the other team, the other parents, and so on. The tension comes home with them and has often led to family drama that continues for days. The father is mad at the son for ‘underperforming;’ the son is mad at the father for the abuse; the wife is mad at the husband for once again disrupting the family; the husband is mad at the wife for not supporting him, etc.
In this scenario the father keeps focusing on what the son did wrong. The son keeps focusing on his father’s anger. The wife keeps focusing on the pain this causing everyone. She told me, “Yesterday, I screamed at him asking him how he could be so stupid. Did it ever occur to him that he has done this for 13 years and it has not improved the situation one bit? The same thing keeps happening over and over!” I asked her if she has chastised him for as long. She flushed. I got my answer.
If we keep looking at the result of negative thinking we will keep seeing things we do not like: If she could begin to change her inner dialogue to predispose her to the solution, little by little things would evolve more favorably. If she could inspire her husband to change his perception and inner dialogue, things would have to change for the better very quickly. The burden of stress their son carries would evaporate and his performance would be affected measurably. All the evidence we need about stress blocking us from the zone is demonstrated for all to see by Tiger Woods. More importantly, the long-rage impact of support and encouragement instead of disapproval and disappointment is obvious.
The cost of sleepwalking is devastating and the benefits of remaining alert in the present moment are so magnificent that everyone’s main goal should be learning to stay present and think constructively.