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Regaining Consciousness

How is consciousness the bedrock of personal development? What are the key steps toward regaining consciousness of our lives?

In this article, I attempt to answer these important but often difficult questions. I then share 5 fundamentals on Regaining Consciousness, as laid out by psychology blogger Sam Spurlin. These fundamentals aim to cultivate a higher state of awareness toward key areas of our life, such as our values, health, work, thinking, and relationships.

Consciousness is the bedrock of your personal development.

Consciousness is more than just a passing thought, feeling, memory, or imagination, but the underlying awareness that permeates every experience you’ll ever have.

In order to define consciousness, it helps to first think of it as a spectrum of awareness.

On one end of the spectrum, there are lower levels of consciousness, including being distracted, lazy or bored. Usually in these states, we maintain some awareness of our environment, but not very much. We can probably get a lot of tedious chores done while being distracted or bored, but this isn’t the optimal state you want to be in when trying to achieve a big or meaningful goal.

The very lowest levels of consciousness are states like drug intoxication, sleep, or a coma, where we actually aren’t conscious at all – but unconscious. Most of the time we don’t get anything productive or creative done in these states (mostly because “you” aren’t actually around when you’re unconscious).

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are very high states of consciousness, like mindfulness and flow. These are states of mind where an individual is highly attentive and engaged with their environment, often interacting with it in very skillful and sophisticated ways (like a painter working on their masterpiece, a baseball player pitching a perfect game, or a life-long businessman pitching a big sale).

Unlike lower levels of consciousness, higher levels of consciousness are very optimal for goal-achieving and success in virtually any domain of life. This is because higher levels of consciousness always include supreme focus and discipline.

What I want you to understand is that, ultimately, the level of consciousness we cultivate throughout our day is the most fundamental components to our well-being and success. Personal development without conscious living is simply impossible – the more aware we are of ourselves and our environment, the more power and control we have to change it.

5 Steps Toward Regaining Consciousness

Sam Spurlin writes about Regaining Consciousness in his insightful e-book. The lessons covered are intuitive and thought-provoking, but also widely applicable to cultivating consciousness toward different (and often underestimated) areas in our life.

It reminds me of a more “contemporary” version of the popular Mindfulness in Plain English, because it’s primary focus is how to practice healthy consciousness throughout our daily activities (even with common things like eating and exercise) – not just during meditation.

Sam understands that cultivating consciousness is not just for Zen monks camping out in some cave, but something that can also be applied to the “American way” of living too. This means we can work on regaining consciousness even with a 9-5 job, bills to pay, and a family to take care of.

In the book there are 5 crucial steps laid out that anyone can follow to facilitate conscious living. I’m going to summarize each step here, but if you really want to read more about each one, I recommend you check out his book for yourself. I honestly couldn’t put it down when I first started it.

Find your values.

Going through life without a clear sense of our values and goals is a sure-fire way to not find happiness. Many people live their lives aimlessly and unconsciously (like a puppet on strings), without ever introspecting and asking themselves, “What do I really want in life? What direction do I want to go in?” To cultivate more consciousness toward our values in life, Sam suggests:

  • Make a list of core values and narrow it down to your top 3-5. Imagine what your life would be like if you acted in accordance with these values.
  • Don’t chase other people’s dreams – question the values you learn from authority figures, the media, TV, and pop culture.
  • Listen to your heart and mind above all else. Do what you honestly think is right.
  • Have priorities. Sure, you may value playing video games, but is it more important than taking care of your family or studying for school or doing something more creative like writing a song? It’s up to you.

Take control of your health.

Consciousness toward our health is absolutely crucial for physical and mental well-being. Everyday we make decisions that have to do with our bodies: what we choose to consume, and what kind of physical activities we choose to partake in. The more aware we are of what we eat and how much exercise we get, the better off our health will be. Sam suggests we:

  • Make small and deliberate decisions to be healthier. Start by cutting down soda intake and replacing it with water. Or try just going for a short walk every morning. Start with little things and build from there.
  • Be a conscious eater. When you eat, don’t distract yourself by reading the paper or surfing the internet. Instead, pay very close attention to how the food tastes and how your body is reacting to it.
  • Tune into your body during physical exercise. For example, while running pay close attention to the mechanics of your legs/body, the motions of your breathing, and any other pain/aches/sensations in your body that you may be experiencing. Think of any physical activity as a way of meditating – and your body is the object of your meditation.
  • Learn from the wisdom of your body. Our body is always sending us signals on it’s condition (like when you are hungry, when you need to use the restroom, when you tore a muscle, etc.) The more we are aware of these signals, the better we can respond to our body’s needs. You’d probably be surprised on just how much you can learn from your body if you listen to it.

Doing work that matters.

Next to our health, one of the biggest factors in achieving happiness is doing meaningful work with our lives. A dead-end job that doesn’t align with our values can feel like a curse. Instead of inspiring us and motivating us, it drains us of our energy and leaves us feeling empty inside. On the other hand, a meaningful job that actually matters to us is drastically more fulfilling. Here’s what Sam recommends we do:

  • Re-evaluate your current job. What do you like about it (if anything)? What purpose do you fulfill? Does it align with your values?
  • If you aren’t happy with your job, begin searching for alternative career paths that you find more fulfilling. In the book, Sam mentions how he used to be a teacher (and he liked his job), but becoming self-employed aligned with more of his values and interests, so he made the switch.
  • Pay attention to activities that put you into a state of engagement and flow. Very often these passions of yours can point you in the right direction when choosing a job or career.
  • A big goal in my personal life is to find work that I love but also serves an important function in improving society.

Master your mind with conscious thinking.

A big part of Regaining Consciousness is taking more control over our education, thoughts, beliefs, and perspective. Throughout the guide, Sam asks us to challenge our old assumptions and beliefs, accept our ignorance about certain topics, and willingly seek to improve our knowledge and attitude about the world. He recommends you:

  • Acknowledge that you have a limited perspective. You don’t know everything, so don’t be stubborn and act like you do.
  • Try to look beyond any biases or prejudices you may have by looking at new information as neutrally as possible.
  • Become an active learner. Choose a topic that has always fascinated you, go to the library, and then take out a few books on it. Read up on it and share what you learned with others.
  • Go “Wikipedia surfing.” Go to an article, read through, it and click on any links that interest you. Keep continuing the process until you feel you have learned something new and interesting that you didn’t know before.
  • Always maintain a healthy curiosity and willingness to learn. We don’t stop being students after we graduate high school or college.
  • Listen to everyone’s views. Respect that other people may have different experiences, knowledge, and beliefs than you do. Ignore the trap of having to label everything “right” or “wrong.”

Nurturing conscious relationships.

One of the most important steps toward conscious living is becoming more aware of the relationships that make up our world. For some of us, we may cling onto toxic relationships that end up hurting both ourselves and the other person. For others, we may have trouble cultivating meaningful relationships. In both cases, cultivating higher consciousness is crucial. Some of Sam’s suggestions include:

  • Recognize the “vampires” in your life. These are people who are always being negative and sucking the energy out of you. They are the buzz-kill to every party and the rain to every parade. Stay far away from them. They are miserable – and they expect you to be miserable too.
  • Associate with “vampire slayers.” Vampire slayers are people who crush negativity in their lives. Instead of draining you of energy, they empower and motivate you. They encourage you to pursue your values and goals, and they are always around to lend a helping hand when you need it.
  • The essential rule of cultivating conscious relationships is to invest positive energy into the relationships that are valuable to us, and let the one’s that aren’t valuable fizzle out. Although it may be painful to get rid of old friends, it is sometimes the necessary thing to do.

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