What does living consciously mean to you? If I asked 20 different people what it means to live a conscious life, I’m sure I’d get twenty different answers.
One person might say living consciously is living simply and leaving a light footprint on the Earth; another would say it’s about being mindful in all our relationships; another would put their focus on being authentic and expressing their truth; and yet another would emphasize living their passion and giving their unique gifts to the collective well being.
You see, to a certain extent it depends where we’re starting from and there’s room for all our differences. For me, there’s a central core to living consciously and a very important aspect is the freedom to choose. We don’t always have a choice about what life throws at us but we do always have a choice about how we respond to life in each moment, and these moment to moment choices create our experience, here and now and in the future.
To put it very simply, we either make unconscious choices or we can make conscious choices. Unconscious choices come from our conditioned mind, they’re habitual and they give us more of what we’ve had before. This may be a certain level of comfort or a quick fix as provided by comfort foods or a glass of wine for example, or it may be a repetition of old drama which keeps us stuck in familiar misery. We repeat these unconscious choices over and over until we start to wake up and become more conscious.
Conscious choices bring our thoughts and actions into alignment with our authentic values; with what will ultimately bring us real satisfaction and fulfillment. Conscious choices lead to learning, growth, and the opportunity to create something new and fresh.
Let me give you an example. This week I met a young man; his relationship with his partner of several years had become so difficult for both of them, they had decided to part. He was very angry; the immediate pain of losing this relationship was stirring up old childhood pain of feeling abandoned by his parents and he wanted to hurt himself and punish his parents, his partner and his child. Luckily, he made a conscious choice and sought out his long term friend and mentor who encouraged him to see the situation as a new beginning, full of opportunities.
If he wants to free himself from this unconscious pattern of feeling abandoned and wanting to punish he will need to make not just one but many conscious choices, every day. These deeply engrained patterns do not easily go away, as we all know. But knowing that we have a choice immediately frees us from being a victim of our past. It may not be easy to change old patterns but it is possible.
Relationships are the mirrors in which we can see our conditioned limiting patterns most clearly. When things don’t work out in a relationship or we feel hurt, it’s human nature to blame the other person. If only they would change, then everything would be OK, right? But actually it’s much more empowering to see everything that happens in all your relationships as information about you and how you can be different. Then the power and the responsibility is in your hands. You cease to be the victim of other’s behavior and become the leader in your own life. This is freedom!