The Active Conscious
Jimmy Page moves his fingers on the guitar faster than any human brain is able to think, much less keep tabs on. How can he do this, and still know, be consciously aware of, having played a particular sequence correctly?
Do you recall being taught, a way back in grade school, that we humans use only ten percent of our brain capacity? If it wasn’t a case of bold reaction from a hapless teacher to a statistically improbable collection of ne’er do wells in the class of ’61, then our teacher may have been describing the operations of the human ‘active Conscious’ or, simply, the ‘Conscious’ – as opposed to the ‘sub-conscious’ – that portion of our brain-mind-psyche which is only ‘active’ when the ten percent is not. The ‘sub-conscious’ is articulated, therefore, in our ‘ninety-percent.’
Anything we consciously do is processed in our mind’s Conscious. That’s where the proverbial ‘ten percent’ of our brain’s capacity has its proper use. The ten percent is all that is needed to learn a new sequence of notes. Mr. Jimmy plays it over and over, at first slowly – at least for him. Very soon he is playing it at lightning speed because repetition hardwires the sequence into his brain at some deeper level, beneath (and/or above) the Conscious level, where it is being learned. Now that he’s got it, Jimmy only needs the ten-percent in order to form the intention of playing the sequence of notes and to maintain his focus while playing them. That’s it. Directing the focus of the active Conscious engages the ninety-percent; the ninety-percent directs the fingers and picking hand – perfectly and effortlessly – at least that’s how it appears to work out for Jimmy Page.
Now, the trick to performing at your best, regardless of the task or of your natural abilities, is to properly manage the focus of your active Conscious – thought by thought if necessary, and when you are overly stressed, it will become necessary. But do not worry; that’s ego’s job. It is crucial to our wellbeing and spiritual progress that our ego takes the job very seriously and does it well.
The ego is charged with operating the gateway to our active Conscious. That is its most important function. That is all it should be doing. If it is not paying attention, if it is just going through the motions and not being disciplined about it, if it is allowing your focus to wander away from what you are doing, or to divide itself among what you are doing and what you have to do later, say, then it is not doing its job. And it is a mission-critical function; gatekeeping fully determines the mind’s state. At any given moment, it is either open inwardly, allowing the passage of input originating only from inside the mind; or it is opened outwardly, receiving input from the outside, through the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, finger tips – the senses – and I am beginning to wonder, from the ‘greater universe.’
When our active Conscious is engaged with the inside, it is in ‘ego conscious mode;’ admitting the products of the mind’s own processing -thoughts of the past, where our regrets ‘live,’ and of the future, where our anxieties live; or it can be opened outwardly, away from ego and toward everything else –non-ego conscious mode – in the present– where we actually live and do things. When we direct our consciousness outward and away from our ‘selves,’ the active Conscious falls into alignment with the ninety-percent and we connect with the wherewithal of our Universe. We facilitate the processes of the active mind and enhance whatever we are doing, many times over, simply by maintaining our connection with ‘what is on the outside,’ even though no conscious effort, apart from maintaining our focus outward and away from the gap between our ears, is ever required of us.
In the present there is the absence of stress because we are neither worrying or regretting; we are doing. We are thinking what we are doing and nothing else. In the moment, consciously speaking, there are no attachments to outcomes -even though outcomes are important- and there is no past or future. The irony is, the less you are attached to an outcome while in the process of building an outcome, the more likely that outcome will be satisfactory, even to the ego; very likely more wonderful than ego is able to imagine. Put it this way, had the Maple Leafs of 2013 ascribed to this principle, the 3rd period meltdown against the Bruins could never have happened.
Once humankind sees ego for what it is and begins using it for its intended purpose, there will be no more constraints on what we are able to accomplish. We are, each of us, a leaf on the Tree of Life, with no ‘systemic’ limitations with respect to our ‘leafly’ purpose in existence; to wit: converting the Light of the universe into something material in word or in deed – creating as the Creator creates- opening yourself to Creation (the processes manifest in the Tree of Life). The corollary is, we impose these limits upon ourselves and upon on one another- that we are not, by nature, so-limited.
As a leaf, you are connected to the whole and are rendered as capable as the whole through a process called inheritance. Ego serves to differentiate one leaf from all the other leaves on the Tree. In this sense, ego functions as a virtual cell membrane that keeps our spirit from dissipating into randomly distributed photons of light. But we forfeit to the ego full mastery when we feel threatened, cheated, or denied; ego tends to give up on its responsibility as gatekeeper at a time when it is most critical – when we are under duress. Ego wants to run and hide; it becomes the active consciousness and we are now fully in reaction mode. Ego styles itself as a shield for our protection. The trouble is, the shield ego puts up is selective of the energies it allows into and out of the human soul. Ego tends to facilitate the passage of energies supporting its current ‘mood.’ It tends to reject all of those which do not. That is why, if you are depressed, you think, feel and do more of the things that will further entrench your depression; less of the things that are sure to lift you out of it.
Our egos are the containers for a zillion imperfections. We cannot fix them all, and we can spend our entire lives trying to and hardly getting anywhere. We could die with many regrets, although we don’t have to. We must not; because we will need our egos to navigate what comes after. But it needs to be healthy. It must continue to do what we need it to do in the here and now, in order to fully exist in the here and now: we need it to filter out energies that are negative and disintegrative and admit to the soul energies that are positive and inclusive. We will need to effect, en masse, a 180-degree consciousness inversion.
Our problem – and it is our eternal problem – is this: when we ‘die,’ we must take our egos with us -in order to go on being us; but ego also poses an obstruction to our transitioning into the ’next’ world. Ego cannot permit us to feel worthy, in our heart of hearts, of entry into ‘Heaven, ’because it manufactures too much guilt which is anchoring us -holding us back. To the human spirit, ego is the eggshell. In my own scriptural tradition, Jesus is quoted as saying we must lose the ‘self’ in order to find it; this being the condition of entry into Heaven. But Jesus is purported to say elsewhere: …be as little children, in order to qualify. Children have egos too; but by nature their egos are in balance with their non-ego. Unless this is yet another biblical self-contradiction that the prelates have chosen to ignore, ‘losing the self’ is not losing the self at all, but simply extending our consciousness beyond it. Perhaps it in fact is a scriptural mistranslation; that what the sages actually meant to say was, avoid getting lost in the self. If we remain as little children, we are still ‘young’ enough not to fear death; but rather to wonder at it. Since children cannot by any reasonable definition do evil, I expect that they themselves are admitted to Angeldom naturally, as a matter of course.
As for us adults,
What to do, what to do….?
I’m an old codger now, and it took this long to learn something very simple (in fact I only learned it the other day): it is not at all about killing your ego, or losing your ego, or any such thing. Remember, your ego does not get out much – in fact, it ‘lives’ and operates exclusively inside of your head. It doesn’t have much opportunity for learning, but it has all the time in the world to create – or miscreate – so long as you are giving it attention. It composites what it ‘knows’ (or rather, what it thinks it knows and accepts as fact) with what it ‘remembers’ of past experiences and with its expectations of future experience, in order to create. The product of your ego will inevitably contain subjective and objective components; the trouble is telling the difference between them: how much is subjective (the imagination combined with egoic manipulations of facts, memories, expectations) and how much is objective.
That’s where teaching the ego comes in. Remember that you need it, and it is, like Dyer says, the Child within. It’s worth the investment.
Simply put, for ego to learn enough to be of use to us after we enter through ‘death’s door,’ it needs to learn but one lesson: to let go control of the mind. Ego needs to cultivate faith in the belief that the creator has already equipped each of us with what is needed to survive; that focusing on understanding precisely how we are equipped and attempting to micromanage the process is tantamount to our ‘playing god’ with our own souls and spirits. The ego so positioned within the human psyche is self-defeating, not self-liberating.
The ego must accord mastery of these mysteries to the Universe of the Creator. It simply needs to give up on any concerns it might have to the contrary, that would motivate it to take things into its own hands. Our endowment with the ability to ‘survive and thrive’ has already been accomplished, before we departed the Garden. We simply need ego to focus on its intended purpose as the mind’s gatekeeper.
We must ‘live’ consciously, outside of our heads -inclusive of ego, but not beholden to it, and only in its proper capacity and measure. We must give the world around us at least one-half of our attention. We must, for the majority time, focus upon the world around us -seek to understand others, as the Prayer of St. Francis importunes; and stop wasting time and energy in the dubious pursuit of understanding from others.
The ego’s resistance to learning, to acknowledging what is, to letting go of the steering wheel, is the other side of the coin defining its purpose. Its purpose is to provide cohesion for the human spirit, anchoring it within the broader scheme of creation. We are spiritual beings become manifest in material form (the body) in order to effect a purpose here. That purpose is to create, framed within the superordinate guiding principle of leading humankind back to where we originated from – the Garden. For that to happen, we must focus beyond the egoic compulsion to hang on to things.
The individual human spirit, upon experiencing death, does not suddenly enter into freefall, but retains its cohesiveness and its attachment to Creation by means of our spiritual ‘umbilical cord.’ Our tethering to something greater should by now be apparent, because our minds are no longer confused and confounded by the distraction of ego and materialism. What underlies and is productive of the universe we experience is the Tree of Life.
When the baby emerges from the mother’s womb, the umbilical cord is severed; nevertheless, the relationship between mother and child continues -minus the physical tethering of the umbilical cord. It must be similar to that when we die: our spirit body emerges from the ‘placenta’ of our material body; separating from it. But spiritually, we maintain our connection with the Tree. The ego, if the spirit has made it this far, has learned to give up control over the mind, and be content that it need not do it all, or be perfect, or anything like that, because the important stuff, the big stuff, will happen anyway, as a matter of course, for the heart which is pure. Ego must decide what is of the heart and what is not and direct the mind’s focus accordingly; operate the gate as it were.
A very merry Christmas and happy new year to everybody.
[i] Do you recall the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” I wonder now how much of our court resources, our lawyer resources, and our policing resources are tied up with peoples’ issues about ‘names’ while the ‘sticks and stones’ stuff gets tossed out of court over excessive wait times?
[ii] Read the Toronto Star report on their investigation into Canada’s corporate tax regime. You can find it here: http://projects.thestar.com/canadas-corporations-pay-less-tax-than-you-think/index.html