The reality we are all living with is this, that there is nothing wrong anywhere, that we each are perfect exactly as we are, that Life is compassion and peace, and there is nothing to be afraid of. The illusion most people are living within instead is the opposite: Life is an unkind, punishing force and we deserve to have bad things happen to us because there is something wrong with us and we are not the people we should be. The difference between the reality and the illusion is the story we are telling ourselves.
Have you noticed the narration that is going on all the time in the background, within your mind? Any time we are not present we are being told a story about our experience: what we like and don’t like, how we feel about things, what we should do or not do, and so on. We are being talked to nearly every moment of every day. This is the way conditioned mind steers us through life in order to meet it’s agendas at our expense: it talks us into believing in a “reality” that does not exist. One of the reasons it is so difficult to avoid being captured by this conditioned “self-talk” is that it uses the first person: “I” don’t want this or that, “I” have this or that opinion, and so on. It takes a great deal of awareness to recognize that this talk inside my own head is not “me thinking” (when it is unconscious), but is the social programming that attempts to take away from me the life I am here to live.
There is a great deal more to be said about this, but I’ll stop here so that we can accommodate the premise of the current thread in these blogs. (If you’d like more information let me know and I’ll send you some things I’ve written elsewhere). The premise is this, that society as a whole acts like an individual person and is driven by the same unconscious processes that we each are in our singular lives. How, then, does self-talk operate and what are its effects on the level of society?
We don’t have to look far to see the talk itself, of course. Within this organism that we call “society” self-talk plays out on the level of the media, social media, and so on. Everywhere we have pundits, journalists, researchers, activists, politicians, scientists, philosophers and others (including myself) writing essays, making speeches and videos, posting to Facebook and other places, and in every other way filling the air with words. These are the “thoughts” of the collective organism.
From the point of view of conditioned mind, the groovy thing about thought is that it can be used to dominate a person’s attention. If your attention is being controlled by conditioned mind then you are essentially helpless, as you are unable to make decisions for yourself, and instead will be blindly steered towards every sort of trouble that conditioned mind can put in front of you. Isn’t it interesting to consider this phenomenon on the level of society! Just as in the case of an individual person there is the assumption that we humans are in charge and are directing the communal conversation towards conscious ends—but what if that is not the case? What if we are being manipulated through the conversation as an entire species in ways we cannot see such that our efforts inevitably end in chaos, creulty, and the destruction of what we hold dear? What if we are just automatons, doing what we are programmed to do without realizing it?
I know this is almost too bizarre to consider—I’m afraid I sound like a doomsday preacher, or something—but I believe that this is exactly what is going on. From what I can see this explains everything. The only alternative explanation is that we are just bad people, and that’s not my experience at all. People are good; to get in touch with a person’s authentic nature is to see how inexpressibly beautiful they are, without exception. We are just unconscious.
Given that, what do we need to do?
On an individual level, the way to escape domination by conditioned mind is through awareness of the conversations going on between the ears. That’s where conditioning lives, and nowhere else. When I use the word “unconscious” I’m referring to the state in which a person is in that conversation, identified with the conversation, and unable to see that there is a conversation. The simple rule of thumb is this: if you can’t see it, you are it. If you can see it, however; if you are aware that there is a conversation happening and are observing the conversation instead of simply believing the conversation, then you are free of conditioned mind. In that place of awareness you can have your own thoughts, make your own decisions, and live your authentic life without interference from the programming. There’s an old Zen saying that goes, “Listen to everything, but believe nothing.” Such is the requirement of a free and happy life.
The same must be true on the level of society. The communal organism needs to disidentify; it needs to step out of the conversation, into a place where it can see the conversation and act from an authentic place. What if we could learn to do that? What if we as a species found the way and the willingness to step beyond conditioned mind, and act in accordance with Life instead? Can you imagine anything more magnificent? I believe this is possible. If we were all to do the work of awareness as individuals, in fact, I believe it would happen inevitably.
It always comes down to the same thing, doesn’t it? We just need to do the work, and we all need to do it. I suspect we don’t even need to be particularly successful doing the work: just the shift in priority that puts awareness, clarity, compassion, and authentic action above all other things would change the world. I predict that the time will come when we have the maturity as a species to take this step. I just hope I'm around to see it.