Sunday, January 29, 2012

The True Self and Examining our Conditioning

Just yesterday, a friend and I were speaking over lunch about how each of us is subjected to forces which have the net result of conditioning us over the course of our life. We all experience it in one way or the other; in both grand and subtle ways.

We are conditioned to behave in a particular manner, depending upon a host of factors; our gender, race, culture, and socioeconomic status, among others. Oftentimes, we don't even realize that our actions, thoughts, and beliefs are in fact, a result of and reaction to our conditioning. We come to believe that we behave or think in a particular way because, "That's just the way I am," instead of digging deeper to understand the forces that created the thought or behavior within us.

But living consciously requires us to examine our thoughts, behaviors, and motivations. It requires that we evaluate the truth of who we are against the measuring stick of who we wish to be. And it requires that we become accountable for closing the gap between the two.

What would happen if we challenged our conditioning? What would it look like, and how would it feel, to rail against the notion of, "That's just the way I am," and forces ourselves to consciously examine why we behave and believe as we do?

I strongly believe this to be a worthy exercise. Along the way, I suspect we would learn much about our values and our true identity as it manifests at our root. It's important to ask the tough questions. Do we behave in a particular manner because we hold some distorted view that it's noble to do so? Or do we truly act according to our own personal values and beliefs? Have we taken the time to sort through our values to determine which are truly integrated into our being and which are artifacts left over from our upbringing and societal conditioning? Do we believe and behave as we do because it sits well with our soul, or because it was another's view of how we should behave?

I've said before that if we are open, we will become aware of road signs on our journey. One way to become aware of the role of conditioning in our lives is to be aware of our use of the word, "should." Recognize how often it's used and in what cases. This word is a caution sign of sorts. It very often signals a gap between who we truly are and the messages we have been supplied through our conditioning. If we pay attention to the use of the word, we can discover amazing insights into our inner life. Use the information wisely. It's a great springboard for further self-discovery.

It is my desire to examine every bit of my being. To understand, to grow, and to be aware of my effect upon others. One way that I've begun is by taking an inventory and considering the role of conditioning in my life. My hope is that you will do the same, and perhaps share your thoughts and insights.