One of the most noble and worthwhile things any one of us can do is evaluate our unconsciousness and bring light to what’s driving darkness. But to do so, we have to realize we have a choice. We are conditioned, we are programmed, we are imbued with unsorted energy. Until we start to unpackage that, unravel what we think is inherent, question what we think is definite, we will find that it controls our lives.
And we call it “fate.”
Being human isn’t something we define well. Technically, it’s the characteristic of being; in other contexts, it’s the characteristic of being good. It only lightly brushes over the whole, though it says more of us than not: that what we are is consciousness, and that the only awareness we like to acknowledge is the one we’re okay with.
We don’t allow ourselves our humanness. We move toward the opposite of that — rote, mechanical motions of people who think and feel but rarely simultaneously. We say we’re aware, but are we? Are we are of what’s happening or are we aware that we’re aware? Are we only interested in the way things are happening for us, or are we noting how they’re happening in relation to us?
We do not break up our lives by years, really. We break them up by segments of ideas, segments that tend to be bound by and created from intermittent, sobering moments of awareness. This is what elicits change. Our perception of existence is subjective, one that we control, though we are taught that we don’t. We are living feigned ideas of what is, and the only time we go onto something else is when we do question, when we do realize things can be different. Our lives move by the nature of making the unconscious into awareness. In fact, it’s usually only in those moments that we are able to do anything at all to change and evolve and grow.
If you look around the room you’re sitting in, you realize it isn’t the same room you saw when you first walked in, however long ago. It looked differently. It felt differently. You shifted your perception of it completely subconsciously, and that was the experience you created. The glow of a certain light that was once romantic is now too bright, what was once spacious and new is now tired and normal, though these perceptions don’t have to shift negatively, and of course, they vary beyond a general physicality of a room, but you get the point. We all know what it’s like to look back on a certain period of time and feel as though we were in another life, because we were.
It’s not too often that we consider what changed though. Why things seem different now: heavier, harder, lighter, easier. The only time we can really see this at play is when we hit a proverbial rock bottom. When there’s no other choice but to change. Anyone who has ever been there can tell you that you don’t just hit the ground once. It’s not usually a one-time cataclysmic event that awakens and changes you. We don’t hit rock bottom, we reach the very ends of the illusions we can sustain. It’s not a place you arrive at once and then never again.
You keep hitting the ground until you realize where you are.
That turning point always has to be the same. The characteristic that defines our lowest low is not being in the throes of our darkest, seediest days and thoughts, it’s being aware of it for the first time. It’s calling your parents and saying you need help, it’s checking yourself in for treatment, it’s when you realize breaking down is more often breaking open and seeing what’s lingering beneath. As all things, our darkest hours function in duality, because it’s often through them that we see the turn to simple awareness. And that’s the point.
We stop seeing the problem with how the theoretical light glows, and start seeing that it is light, and that’s all it will ever be. It never meant anything more than the belief we assigned to it, though those beliefs were foundations, sounding boards, strings on which our thoughts and moments and actions vibrated and gave us the sound and reverberation of our experiences. They aren’t inescapable, but the nature of them is within our control.
For the approximately five of you who haven’t heard or seen or read it, in the commencement address he gave to Kenyon College in 2005, David Foster Wallace opened with a small anecdote about two fish swimming along when they meet an older fish, who says to them: “Morning boys, how’s the water?” They pass him and swim on for a bit, and then one young fish says to the other one: “What the hell is water?”
The point being: the most obvious realities are often the ones that are hardest to see, to understand, and of course, to talk about.
The aforementioned is probably one of them.
But the one to which Wallace is referring is the simple fact that we live perfunctory lives in which we rarely stop to realize that we can choose how we think — what we place value and meaning on, and mindset shapes everything, and mindset is a cultivated thing. We choose to think about how we think. We choose to become self-aware. We can either let ourselves be affected by something or question why we are. Dig down beneath. Shift, sift, become. Or not.
When we stop seeing circumstances as responsible for our internal state, all of a sudden, we don’t need to control them. Our happiness is not contingent, our peace is inherent. When we meet a block: tension in a relationship, anxiety in our everyday lives, we stop fighting over the symptoms and start addressing the causes. The roots. The roots of which will always lead us back to one thing: ourselves. And ourselves always lead us to a shift.
We don’t need suffering to grow. We suffer as a result of the lack of growth.
A lack of growth that usually encompasses only accepting what immediately and unconsciously feels “okay.” The truth is that “bad feelings” aren’t bad. If you didn’t have self-doubt, if you didn’t question, if you didn’t experience anxiety and sadness and depression and loss and pain, you wouldn’t be totally human. It’s the opposite of humanness that requires you to extrapolate the moment and put yourself in pain because you were never taught how to think and reassign value for yourself. The suffering of life is healthy. It’s not something to ward off, but it’s something that should make way for us to bring awareness to what it’s rooted in. It’s not about not feeling it, it’s about feeling through it and learning and growing.
Most things are at once sublime and beautiful. They tend to coexist. There are some beautiful things that are tragic and sad and yet we embrace them, we are open to them, we ride their tides and accept them. And then there are the sad things that elicit in us panic. Convince us we need to change. I myself never stopped suffering. I stopped seeing the suffering as a definitive. I started questioning why. What conditioning led me to feel a certain way. What element of my ego made me act in the manner that I did. It’s not that I never worry or infallibly analyze my feelings. It’s that above all else, I try.
Confronting a feeling once you discover the root comes down to sitting with it. Giving it air. It comes down to the most simple thing: let yourself be human. Becoming acquainted with your humanness. Sit with what’s not okay, and say it out loud so many times you render it funny and suddenly irrelevant. The things that we hide within hold the most power. The subconscious mind is many times stronger than the conscious one. Reclaim it by approaching it. If being human is consciousness, then the darker, heavier alternative is remaining unaware. And as anybody can tell you, things are always heavier when you hold them inside.