Week 4: What it means to live a conscious life
When I wrote my master thesis in 2017 about the role of self-awareness in leadership development programmes, something profound happened. Something that goes beyond the academic experience of writing a thesis. I found my way into conscious living. What exactly led to this shift in my life? I can’t boil it down to one factor, to be honest. It could be the empowering and liberating way I got raised by parents who immersed in spiritual and therapeutical work for many decades; the first encounter with meditation; my first coaching experiences; or just my genuine curiosity to try new things. In retrospect, it was probably a mix of it. Since then, conscious living plays a crucial role in my life, and I have been diving deeper into the subject both in my personal and professional life.
So what does conscious living mean?
Essentially, consciousness is bringing awareness to every aspect of our lives. There are thousands of possibilities each day to practice conscious living. From choosing the breakfast, dealing with your first thoughts, the goals you set for the day, the first conversation you have. The feelings that arose throughout the day. The choices you made or not made. All of this can be an indication about yourself, about the way you live. And then you can evaluate, is this in line with how I want to live? Who I choose to be? And am I treating myself how I want to treat myself? Is it kind? Is it harsh? How do I cope with challenges? What are my stressors? Asking all these questions will eventually bring you further in your level of awareness.
What can conscious living bring to your life, and beyond?
Eventually, the more I asked these kinds of questions, the better I can formulate my intentions, articulate my needs and boundaries. One example was the process of becoming a vegetarian. For many years, I was aware that the way animals are treated in mass productions does not match my value of respect and love for the environment. But only the constant reflection and intention setting helped me to align my actions with these values, which ultimately led to the decision to stop eating meat. It’s asking yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing: looking at the roots from which you are actions are coming. Besides the alignment of my values and actions, here are my top three of profound changes (sorry had to limit it), thanks to conscious living:
- Saying “No”. Saying no has become an act of radical self-love. Before saying yes to something, I start checking in with my inner being. Is this really what I want? Is this providing what I need right now?
- Focus on what I have. Gratitude has become a central attitude and lifestyle. In moments of frustration, I remind myself of all the beauty and richness of what life has offered me. All the deep connections and friendships that I am blessed with.
- Trusting that things will turn out to be good. Even in the darkest places of my life, I knew, that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I trusted in my resilience, and that there is something bigger than myself at this moment, that wants me to learn a valuable lesson.
Don’t do it alone!
A wise African proverb goes “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The same principle applies to conscious living. Well, you could jump all in by locking your room and stay silent for a few days, waiting for the enlightening “aha” moment to occur. But I do recommend working with people you trust, who inspire you, who bring the best and worse out in you. Who challenge you. I am blessed having had many profound mentors and important figures in my life, who came to the right moment in time. I learned from their biography, from their teachings, and their presence.
Why do we desperately need conscious living?
Let’s face it, we live in a world with many challenges created by the so-called “smartest” animal on this planet – “homo sapiens”. How can it be that despite our advanced technological and economic systems, we still see drastic poverty, illiteracy, devastating air pollution, careless production systems, and a rise of mental illnesses? I do think one reason is the fact that most of us live very unconsciously. Meaning that we are directed by our subconscious mind, which can be compared to an autopilot that runs 24/7. Living consciously means to observe this programme, and start changing our behavior patterns bit by bit according to our true nature. Until the moment we come in line with our values, without being controlled by a system that manipulates and distorts our vision. As such, we would ask more critical questions about toxic leaders, and businesses who harm our planet, our future, and our wellbeing. And I do think each one of us can make a change by starting to live more consciously and mindful with ourselves and the world around us.
Now I am curious: How do you define conscious living? What has helped you to put the switch on, and bring more awareness into your day-to-day life?
Literature that inspired me to live more consciously (in random order)
- Siddharta, by Herman Hesse
- Search inside yourself, Chade-Meng Tan
- Man’s search for meaning, by Viktor Frankl
- Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman
- A hidden wholeness, Parker Palmer
- 1984, George Orwell
Internet sources on conscious living