On Beyond Unconscious Habits
What is the unconscious? How can we free ourselves from “bad” habits, and be more successful (however you define that) in life? These questions, which are interrelated, came up from a reader.
For the purposes of this essay, and what we are about on this website, which is a direct path for freeing oneself from “mind” and being happy, at peace, loving, creative, active, productive human beings—our best selves in other words—we are going to define “unconscious” as the following: generally what is meant are things that go on automatically, mechanically, that do not seem to be under our willful control. There is a “good”, useful aspect to this, as well as a deeply beautiful aspect, as well as a destructive or unhappy and unhealthy aspect. On the useful side, we don’t have to think about beating our heart, circulating the blood or the functioning of our livers. We don’t have to be consciously intending the neurons in the brain to fire appropriately. We (as universal intelligence) got all this going a long time ago and set the system on automatic. Thank God for that!
The deeply beautiful aspect is what you could call intuition, the spark of the divine, the light from above, the immediate knowing, the “out of the blue” ideas, creativity, the remarkable serendipitous events – no one knows (the limited mind doesn’t know) where intuition or serendipity come from. It cannot be forced, as we are inherently free. It is not limited by the human mind of brain-computer that repeats the past the way mechanical processes that we can simulate on computers or with AI are limited. It is unaccounted for by any theories, scientific, spiritual, or in between (and believe me, I have delved into the best of them for decades, and studied with the greatest philosophers on the planet, in academia and outside of it). It comes “from the source” in the same way that all experience does.
Despite it’s ultimate mystery, its inability to be forced or pinned down, it is eminently worth exploring what this source is, the qualities, habits and directions we can allow and foster within ourselves (as we are doing here and on this site) to be more intuitive, connected, alive, creative, truly intelligent, moment to moment…
There are other aspects of what we term “unconscious” that are not as good, pleasant or useful: the “negative” reactions, the awkward, the inappropriate, and the downright destructive habits that we wish were not there. The addictions to substances, activities, people (or anything) that cause us to suffer. The angry or hateful reactions. The depressive reactions. The Apathy greed, fear, lust, anger, pride, and so on. Call these our “limitations”: self-limiting patterns or stuck energy.
In short we have habits that we want to keep, and ones we would do better to replace or let go of entirely. A habit or tendency is a pattern that repeats itself. If we are “running on automatic”, there are useful and non-intelligent habits that help run the body and with daily living: we want to be able to remember how to tie our shoes, or be able to drive when we get in the car without having to think of every move of the feet or hands. Memory and habits can be practical, or can be inhibiting to positive and successful living.
If we are trying to solve a problem or discomfort, with a colleague or in a relationship, resolve a business issue, fix a automobile problem that seems intractable, and feel stuck, or it is a seemingly very large life problem (“should I get divorced?” “Should I send my son to a different school where he’ll get along better?” “how can I quit drinking alcohol?”…), or we want to create some new art that is not just a crafty variation on what has been done before, then memory and habit can get in the way. We need to see things fresh, from newness and intelligence: not as the robot that repeats from a program, but as the very essence of being human and loving, with clarity and harmony. From such grace we will, or can (if allowed), at some point know what to say to our colleague or friend or partner or lover; at some point, it will occur to us from the freshness of that right-brain, wholistic dimension, from “out of the blue”; a solution will download from a vertical dimension, a new feeling, a vision for an art piece or a new story, or a new business. We will know the answer intuitively. We will have a feeling-ness of what is the right thing to do.
These intuitive solutions and ideas cannot be programmed or decided ahead of time. It happens in the Now, from the open space of freedom, possibility and infinite potential that is bigger than the seeming “me”. Science is just barely beginning to look at this dimension as it probes into the deepest reaches of quantum mechanics, and finds a timeless dimension of reality where separation between objects is seen as just a human idea. It is the forefront of consciousness research, as we looks towards the extraordinary play of Life in our experience as human beings in an extraordinary universe.
We can form new habits, and those new habits can be more attuned to this new habit-freeness. It may seem paradoxical to have a “habit” of creativity which is free from habit, but I can assure you that such a thing is possible.
More broadly, how does one be highly creative — perhaps in several different areas — in other words be totally free to do what we want, like an innocent child as it were, and still be harmonious with society and its economic and social demands? (This has been and will continue to be explored on this website, in essays and books).
Of course you may be reading, waiting for The Answer, the magic bullet that will erase all the bad habits and make us whole again, set us on the right path to Freedom with a capital “f”, and super success and ultimate love… We want solutions, techniques, something to grab onto and use. That is totally understandable and in fact can help aim us towards the answers we need and want. Here are some keys:
What we need is a direction, an aim. We want to point the ship on the correct heading. We want to stop (the habits) of being what we are not – unconscious, stupid, habitual, maladaptive, resisting, etc – and towards what we are: hay, intelligent, and true to out truest nature, flowing with the Tao.
In service to that (and please don’t take the word “service” lightly, as it is helpful going beyond oneself) we can do these things:
Work on oneself, aim towards Growth. Don’t blame or look for causes (out there or in here), or be any kind of victim whatsoever, but see that you want to make a change, fix a problem, have something be different. Be totally and completely honest with yourself. Welcome that wanting to change or fix or solve or resolve something. There is a thought and a feeling or energy to it. It is the energy of wanting.
This will be a brief introduction to the topic of wanting, but will serve as a launching point. This is a topic (along with intention) worth exploring further, in future essays or online gatherings.
While the root of the feeling of wanting, of dissatisfaction of lack, can ultimately be traced to deep-seated beliefs and habits of thought and feeling of separation—believing and feeling to be a separate entity—the intellectual understanding of this fact is almost always not enough to dissolve it. Many methods have been devised by teachers over the years and centuries to bring to light these unconscious patterns. In the East they are called samskaras and vasanas (psychological imprints left in the subconscious by our daily experiences – conscious or unconscious, desirable or undesirable; a behavioral tendency or karmic imprint which influences the present behavior of a person), and various yoga and meditation practices have evolved to address them. What I will suggest is a very direct approach, with as little conceptual baggage as possible. It is an exploration of feelings in the energetic sense—what has been called the “energy body”—by a very open process of allowing these feelings to show themselves and evolve in awareness, and truly felt and loved, in the benevolent observing consciousness. One simply allows all the arise, and by this loving and welcoming attention, they are not held onto or described but simply seen consciously. IN this very process the light of Being will dissolve them. Why? Because they are not real, ultimately. And intelligence knows and sees this, and will be able to laugh and smile, or weep sweet sad tears of joy as one waves goodbye to old friends. They were in fact “decisions”, to put it crudely, old and forgotten. They have outlived their usefulness.
What are doing here could be called self-improvement or self-help, but it really goes beyond that. It is a recognition and re-defining of the self, that paradoxically both dissolves the old, stagnant sense of self, and at the same time allows an authentic, alive sense of self to Be, emerge, to flower, both in essence and in action. In essence, nothing needs to done, since what is is what Is (Truth, Beingness, Goodness) but it has been hidden as the “open secret”; but what can be done is whatever is appropriate within oneself to rid ourselves, to free ourselves of the limitations. This can be in the moment when there is a seeming lack, or anytime we are inspired to inquire into our true nature, that is, who or what we are in reality. It can mean a redefining to ourselves of what “reality” is, and the stories that have been told and what has been believe, as well as the deep-seated habits of feeling and thinking. It is simple but not always easy.
The topic of the ways to approach wanting will be dealt with further in coming articles. But briefly here are two methods:
One way to go is to “demonstrate” in one’s life via the letting go of a limitation and allowing the kind of experience in one’s life to happen (such as a relationships one wants, or a new car, or a financial outcome). However, this is not the personal think-and-make it happen of New Age circles, but a seeing and knowing impersonally of what Is the case, in intelligence and love, and seeing that it comes about in one’s life (I” have had this experience). This method has been called “releasing” or the “Sedona Method”. This is a way to become more and more free.
Another way is to go directly to freedom as it were, not by demonstrating to oneself in the world, but simply and totally dissolving the wanting, the barriers to love (what we really want, ultimately), internally. This can seem hard to do, given all the resistances and ingrained habit patterns, but can also be incredibly freeing and joyful. I have also experienced this “path”.
Whatever path works for you in the moment, is your path. No one can determine it for you, and no path is so pre-determined and known ahead of time, such that we can enlighten the whole race of humanity, otherwise it would have happened long ago. This world is a playground of ignorance (unawareness) as it were. It’s your call. It’s your life. This brings us to the topic of intention.
The topic of intention is a big one, and very important. I can only begin to touch on it here by saying, for the topic of this essay, concerning habits and freeing oneself from unconscious patterns (that don’t serve the whole), that a clarity of intention is paramount. Many people will say, for example, “Yes I want to be free and happy and affluent” but yet not really want it. Why? Because at some level they are holding on for dear life to what they fear to let go of, or fear what will happen if they let go. This is a natural tendency. This is part of the reason that repetition of new patterns, that on-going reminders of who and what we are, and the incredible potential that lies within us, are necessary. We need inertia is it were, to break free of the past conditioning, and often and ongoing effort (or seeming effort) to do it, to dissolve bit by bit, “that which we are not”. This is why is is said that the difference between some students who are able to experience a shared presence, that the prime factor is the willingness, and not some external factor (such as the physical presence of a teacher).
The real meaning of “practice” is not simply the laying down of new skills, or mechanical repetition, but that living sense of interest and love for something, inherent to it, and not just for a future payoff—an objective agenda or goal—or trying to get rid of what we dislike. Just like giving with the idea of getting something back for or small self, which is conditional and not heart-felt and real, the enthusiasm of interest has to be heart-felt. The deepest and most authentic intention then is to be what we are, and that “will” has an infinite patience and knowingness. We can experience the fruits of this either externally (demonstrated) or internally as a sense of innocence, freedom, spontaneity, intuitive intelligence, loving actions and feeling, creativity, and so forth.
Some Brief Notes on Society and Intention
If harmony is real—the deep harmony and love-with-no-opposite of the sages—then worrying about society is a distraction in a sense. It can be an excuse for not taking full responsibility for our lives, a life of conscious intention. The disharmony in society, or our perceived disharmony with it, are to be noticed, but transcended. More to the point, one’s own disharmony: the seeming conflict or resistance within. What attitudes, fears, “anti-” feelings and beliefs are left over? What judgements and heaviness? What sadness, grief, disgust, etc.? These need to be seen, transmuted, released. These unconscious (or even consciously held on to) feelings and beliefs are buried that do not serve our higher or better functioning, our service as an instrument of “It”: call it our higher self, the True Self, the divine, the invisible unity of Reality, the right brain attunement to the ocean of knowledge (in religious language it was called God’s will), the reality of universal intelligence or Consciousness with the qualities love, truth, beauty goodness … it does not matter what names or concepts we use, as long as they inspire us and are useful towards a happier and more fulfilling life, full of abundance, peace, connectedness, fun…
What is required? For many of us, at some point an experience of surrender, of grace, and sense of humility and gratitude of life and love of what Is.
… to be continued. The Endless Journey!
It’s interesting and reassuring to see parallels with other views and systems that correspond to the non-dual traditions as well as spiritual psychology fields (such as The Three Principles Psychology). For example, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and mindfulness practices try to re-wire the brain or the mental habits, including unconscious ones (although seen from a more personal or material-based view rather than a non-dual reality view):