Open Mind and Insert Careful Thought!
This is one of the most crucial questions that we can answer as we develop the path to wherever we want to go. At one level, we may all assert that we are, indeed, in charge of our own lives. On the other hand, however, there are some disturbing reports that can cast bothersome doubt upon our certainties.
First, of course, there was all that ancient (but valid) stuff about Pavlov and his dogs. Those dogs had flavorful meat powder placed on their tongues, which caused them to salivate, at the same time that a bell was rung. Before long they began to salivate as soon as they heard the bell. "Proof," we are told, that as we learn to associate A with B, then we are likely to respond to B in the same way that we would respond to A. All true, and the basis of behavioral psychology--it works with people as well as with dogs.
An example of how this might apply in real life comes from a memory of a job that I had very soon after settling in the US. One of the women in the department closely resembled someone I had worked with in the past, and who had caused me some difficulties when I was promoted to a position that she had coveted. So, going back to Pavlov, I came to associate people who looked like her with my experience of hostility and back-stabbing. Thus it was very difficult for me to respond to this new colleague, in a new country, with total neutrality. You have probably had a similar experience somewhere. We hear of a child who physically resembles an despised ex-spouse, to whom the other parent begins to respond as to the spouse, particularly if the child is of the same gender.
There are many ways in which we have built up associations over time, and which can only too easily affect our judgment, and hence our behavior, in the here and now even when they are quite irrelevant to the present situation. Such situations can affect both personal and business lives. A corporate officer can be as affected by them in his/her dealings with other businesses, and with subordinates, as can anyone else, sometimes with even more catastrophic results for many more people.
Then we decide to put the past behind us, but read that what is advertised on TV is likely to influence what we reach for in the refrigerator when we go for a snack five minutes later. Darn it, and I thought it was because I liked whatever it was that I reached for! Are we being manipulated by the media? By anything and anyone in our environment? Yes indeed, this can happen... if we choose to allow it.
However, it is also a fact that we do have the ability to check with ourselves before we make the response that would be the result of manipulation. Perhaps, indeed, our initial response to the TV commercial is to reach for a particular kind of soft drink. However, we are thinking human beings--or, at least, we are capable of being thinking human beings--and we are able to check within, to ask ourselves if we really WANT to reach for it. Is it a part of our plan for good nutrition? And, much as the advertisers may dislike it, we are capable of saying "No."
The point is that there is a gap between the stimulus--the message that we receive--and the response--what we do about it. We CAN insert conscious awareness into that gap and change the initial response.
While I am using the easily obvious example of television advertising, the same thing applies in all areas of our lives. The rising tide of violence throughout most of the world is based largely on unthinking response, on failure to insert thought into the gap between stimulus and response. The young man who shoots another on a city street may later say that he had no choice because "He made me shoot him." What he means is that there was some kind of provocation, intended or otherwise, which triggered in him a violent response, and he did not take the time to insert thought into the gap. He allowed the response to take over.
Nations do the same thing. In many parts of the world where there is ongoing violence, the original events are lost in history, and each act of violence is blamed on the preceding act of the other side in an ongoing cycle of escalating tragedy of the kind we are seeing today.
I do not profess to attempt to influence world events. However, each individual reader can influence his or her own behavior. When you feel yourself about to make an immediate and almost unthinking response to some outside event, you can take pause. You can ask yourself whether it is indeed your intention to allow your behavior to be dictated by something outside of yourself. Is it your intention to be a Pavlov's puppy? Or is it in your best interests to pause, open mind, and insert careful thought into that momentary gap between the outside stimulus and the reaction that is stirring within you? If you allow the response, will you ever be able to take it back? What will it change in your life? Is this where you want to go? Who is in charge of your life?
Present Moment Awareness, by Shannon Duncan
"This extraordinary book takes you by the hand and guides you through the process of not only developing a deeper understanding of what value lies in present moment awareness, but also shows you, in an evolving succession of concepts, examples and exercises, the ways in which we often lose sight of it. In these pages you will learn not just the principles behind present moment awareness, but simple, practical ways to apply those principles and increase your enjoyment of every day."
Awareness : A De Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words by Anthony De Mello, J. Francis Stroud (Editor) "This is your wake-up call! You may not have even realized you were sleepwalking. Most of us are most of the time. Awareness is an eye-opener. It's Anthony de Mello telling you gently but firmly, "It's time to get up now".--Charles Osgood of The Osgood File.
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