Friday, 17 August 2012

Present Awareness & the Conditioned Ego

I want to address some common misconceptions about the practice of present awareness, using a few paraphrased, generic statements – the bones of which have been expressed to me over the past year, in response to various blogs I’ve written.

Firstly, though, I’ll reaffirm that I firmly believe that there are no negatives to present awareness; that it releases us from emotional pain, fear, worry, anxiety, depression and a whole host of other mind-related issues and problems that are too common in our world, up to and including civil and global warfare.

Some people aren’t so convinced, to the point they will dismiss and argue against the concept from the outset, without investigating the potential benefits.

Human beings have been conditioned to become creatures of ego, through the manipulation of - amongst others - political, religious, corporate and media institutions.

If you disagree with that and would brush me off as a conspiracy theorist, here are a few questions for you to consider:
  • What makes a person racist? Did they come up with their cancerous belief system themselves, or were they taught it by others – their parents, their communities, etc.?
  • Why is there still such animosity against the gay community? Is this the product of individual experience, or is it in response to what religious institutions tell people is right and wrong, and which has seeped into society as a whole – even taken on board by those of a non-religious persuasion?
  • What drives millions of people to destroy each other during national and global conflicts? Is it that every person suddenly decided that they wanted an enemy, or were they told who their enemy was – often, under punishment of social isolation or even death if they disagreed?

So, although the thoughts and opinions in your head may well be your experience of life, they’re not necessarily the product of deduction in your own mind – in many cases, they’re enforced upon you through conditioning.

The above are extreme examples of the collective ego; our ‘pack mentality’, so to speak.

Here are four examples of how conditioning affects us, on a smaller scale:
  • A child is three times more likely to smoke if their parents smoke.
  • Girls are ten times more likely to be overweight if their parents are obese.
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely to commit domestic violence as an adult.
  • A child is more likely to experience depression if one of their parents suffered from depression. That risk doubles if both parents were depressed.

No parent wants their child to be an obese, depressed, spouse-beating smoker, but, just as they themselves have been unconsciously conditioned by their parents and society, they unconsciously pass on these flaws to their offspring.

There may be arguments on genetics, here, but even with a genetic predisposition to obesity, you still have to physically load the food into your mouth. You don’t gain weight from swallowing air.

Likewise, a predisposition to depression does not mean you will suffer from depression, but if your environmental conditioning is full of negativity, causing you self-doubt, low self-esteem and anxiety, you may very well become depressed.

What can we do about this?

The remedy to unconscious living is conscious living: i.e. present awareness, or mindfulness, or however you prefer to label it – it’s the same thing.

This is available to pretty much everyone, right now, and it’s free.

Which leads me to the first of those generic statements I mentioned at the start of this post:

“It’s easier said than done!”

Being happy and content is just about the easiest thing in the world, when you remember to look at life in a positive way – and this is something you already know how to do, instinctively, but which you’ve unlearned through conditioning.

What’s really, really, really hard is going through a severe bout of depression, when your ego has tricked you into giving it all your energy and your mind is consumed by negative, destructive, compulsive over-thinking.

The ‘easier said than done’ statement comes from your ego, because your ego doesn’t want you to be happy. It will put mental barriers in the way of that possibility, because it thrives on the suffering it causes both you and itself.

Ignore it. It’s an arse.

Rather than the pessimistic affirmation of “It’s easier said than done!”, charge your mind with positivity and say to yourself: “Yeah, I can do that!

What have you got to lose from studying, learning and living a live of present awareness?

Second statement:

“Living in the moment would mean abandoning my studies and not caring about my future. My whole life would collapse.”

Present awareness doesn’t mean that you float through life, in the moment, disregarding your ambitions and dreams.

Rather, you’ll find that those ambitions and dreams are more readily transmutable into intentions and plans, because once you flush all of the negative crap out of your head, you uncover a seemingly miraculous inner-energy well of creativity, and that floods the space where all that pointless debris you’d clung onto for decades used to be.

If you build a house, you build it in the moment. The placement of every brick, beam and frame is done in the physical, living moment – not three months ahead.

Maybe in three months, you’ll want to put a roof on it, and perhaps you’ll write up some designs and plans for what you want that roof to look like, but you’ll never get the chance to do that if you don’t keep building the walls, will you?

Your life won’t collapse by engaging in present awareness. You’ll be able to build it stronger than you ever thought you could.

Statement three:

“Letting go of my pain from the past would mean I don’t care. These things made me who I am and I don’t want to forget, or I wouldn’t be myself.”

I jumped off a wall when I was a young boy and landed on a stick that went through the join in my knee; I once stapled my thumb – the staple went right in and I had to pull it out; I stood on a nail that was sticking out of a plank of wood; I once pressed my finger against a car’s cigarette lighter to see if it was hot… and it scorched my fingerprint off…

I don’t jump off walls into bushes any more; I don’t staple myself; I am cautious about nails in planks of wood and I don’t put my fingers on things that I know will probably scorch me.

I do all of the above without feeling any pain.

How absurd would it be if I’d kept all of those things still sticking in me, or stuck onto my sizzling skin, for all these years?

Many of us learn valuable lessons from the episodes in our life that catalyse emotional pain (and remember that nobody can cause you emotional pain – that can only come from within, with your interpretation of their words and/or actions), but what most of us don’t seem to learn is that we need to let that pain go.

Without that process of acceptance, forgiveness and closure, it would be like me keeping that stick in my knee… trying to struggle through life, bearing the agony, the wound septic and never healing…

Don’t let your ego drag you into the past to justify the misery of your unconscious existence, when the past is nothing but electrical patterns in your brain.

Consider… if you could let go of all your negativity, distrust, anxiety, sadness, fear, and so on, and so on…

… and if you could live with contentment, in peace, with frequent bouts of joy and happiness…

… do you think your life would be a better or worse experience?

You have something so powerful inside you… and if you haven’t found it yet, but you want to find it, you will.

The truth is you could have it right now.


  1. I don't think I've read any of your blogs that I didn't agree with.

  2. it was happened to me ... I has ascribed to my mom all of my emotional tragedy and now I realized that she needed further explanation than I ,daily exercise of forgiveness made ​​me understand that: the biggest blessed is the forgiver, and not the forgiven.
    Today I'm free from the ties of the past ,having life "MAGNIFIQUE"..

  3. Great article Les and very true.

    Paulina aka Angelina Light

  4. Ouch! My sister did the same thing, stepped on a nail stuck to a plank. This is the first post of yours I've read and I don't even know how I got here lol. I really needed to hear those words though. I agree with you on parenting and government affects on us, and really think it's important for us to look at ourselves and see what beliefs we're holding on to. What's written on the window you're looking through?

  5. Wonderfully written; well said! I was just mentioning to someone that you can be *very* in the monent while writing your calendar out for the future :) I love that you compare physical past hurts to emotional/mental past hurts, and letting them go in the same way. Blessings and thanks to you for providing thought-provoking blogs.

  6. What a beautiful post. Very inspiring. It is true if we want more for our child we need to be more. Thank you so much.

  7. Sometimes I think that my life would be a better experience,sometimes I think that my life would be a worse experience:(

  8. You do a good job of expressing the importance of the self in depression. Understanding how our own minds, rather than our environment, is at the root of our psychology does help us understand how to overcome the past.

    If I may be so bold, I'd like to offer a little caveat to you, "Daily Rental House in Turkey": your past is over. I didn't really get my act together until I was twenty-seven, and I've suffered in ways I don't intend to share on somebody else's blog. We all have. Tied to Les's point is the idea that our own sufferings are never worth more than others', they just effect us more, and only if we allow them.

    It's all about pulling up our socks, and the amazing thing is, it is as easy as it sounds. It's just that starting is the hard part. Name a depressing life situation and I've had three our of five. Name a crappy job and I've had nine out of ten, but I recently pulled my life together. I'm now an author, a dream I held since childhood. I write a reasonably popular blog about becoming a writer. I wonder if you'd like my post about the Ancient Greek concept of Arete:

    The main point I'm making here is that dreams don't come to those who wait, and that includes fighting one's way out of depression.

  9. That is great and inspiring, however, Im my forties and something I have observed that there once was a time that when somebody had a failed relationship, or a frustrating relation at work, it was normal to feell sad, and even allow yourself to cry. Nowadays, nobody is allowed to cry, nobody gets sad, people are depressed instead, and depression is bad, no matter if you have miss your beloved one, no matter if you had a real bad time at work, it doesn´t matter, life in this world of 2012 and ahead, does not accept more then one minute of you not being a smilling fellow and inspiring soul....

  10. I dont' mind "easier said than done" in my mind. Because I do it anyway and then I feel extra awesome because I did something that was easier said than done. :-) It's crazy how negativity builds in our minds though, we really have to be mindful of it if we hope to really change. I agree!

  11. We connected on Twitter. Nice to meet a kindred spirit! I love what you're doing, it's great and important work. I love to hear about this topic from different point of views, it brings dept to mine.

  12. I really like reading this as it gives me much to think about. I'm wondering what has influenced you to arrive at this idea of "present awareness?" I haven't heard of this before and I'd like to read more about it to really get a grasp on it. This could be very helpful to me as this is something that I've been thinking about for the past few weeks, but couldn't quite put my finger on to express.

    Thank you for your time and kindest regards.

  13. Lessons and learning's in life is striving forwards from the past. I wonder at times... how weak I've felt and laughs I've shared, friendship... kith and kin, keeps the soul warm with a hug. A lot in life is circumstantial choices with a knock on effect, knocking on your door. Life is a deep breath and sharing a smile with some small something is a blessing.

  14. It's a beautiful picture, "there are no negatives to present awareness; that it releases us from emotional pain,". Life is not so simple and when we get there it's such a peaceful place.

  15. you are sp good.nice blog.:)

  16. Renee Dwarkadas4 March 2013 at 09:38

    Some sadness some gladness...a balance, if we are busy enough there's not much time for depression...and sometimes sadness helps us to emote and create, maybe it's a gift.Anyways you write amazing things which ring true.In India we have less depression except among the affluent because the rest are busy with their lives and the old have Ashrams and mantras and religion to contend and compete with...

  17. Awesome article. I just finished christopher germers book and am in the miffle of one of jon kabit-zinn's as well. Mindfullness simply makes sense. Germers guided meditations are great as are tara brach's. Hoe something so simple can change your life is very profound.

    Eric Gahagan

  18. Savoring. Ahhhh. Okay, time to engage what comes along next. I am happy that your post came across my path today.

    Beautiful, Les!

  19. Thanks Les! I'm thinkin I'll read more of your stuff now. LOL. I think I've been following you for several years too!