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The Art of Living Consciously

The Art of Living Consciously

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Published by nikkiidaniels

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Published by: nikkiidaniels on Jun 11, 2012
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04/29/2014

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TM
Philosophers
Notes
More Wisdom in Less Time
Brian Johnson’s 
“Whether our focus is on preserving and strengthening family ties in a world of increasingly unstable human relationships, or on gaining access to a decent job, oron growing and evolving as a person, or on guiding a company through the stormy 
seas of a ercely competitive global marketplace—whether our goals are material,emotional, or spiritual—the price of success is the same: consciousness; thinking;learning. To be asleep at the wheel—to rely only on the known, the familiar, theautomatized—is to invite disaster. We have entered the mind millennium. This book is a wake-up call.”
~ Nathaniel Branden from
The Art of Living Consciously
 As I mentioned in my Note on
The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem
, Nathaniel Branden is one of my 
favorite authors/teachers and he’s *easily* one of the most ercely intelligent individuals I’ve
studied.
Uninchingly advocating the power of personal integrity and sound reasoning, Branden writes
 with a force and lucidity that deeply inspires me.
I originally got this book for its nal section where he challenges the New Age culture’s fetish
 with renouncing/transcending/dissolving the ego as I’ve always found something missing inthe typical mystical perspective on the role of ego in a healthy life. I’m a huge fan of Branden’sperspective on this subject. We’ll touch on a few of his ideas in the second half of the Note. If 
 you, too, have an allergy to how many “mystics” approach the ego, I think you’ll dig the book for
that chapter alone.
 And, the rest of the book is pretty awesome as well. For now, let’s kick this party off with some
 basic principles to living more consciously!
ENDING THE EVASION
“One of the most common forms in which people confront contradictions in everyday life is
 when their ofcial view of themselves (their self-concept) clashes with some aspect of their behavior. In such a situation, they have three alternatives:They can revise their self-concept.
They can change their behavior.Or they can evade the contradiction.
The third option seems the most popular, perhaps because options one and two can be difcult.In such cases, the motive is to protect the evaders’ self-esteem, or their pretense of it. But in factthey undermine self-esteem, because at a deeper level they know what they are doing. Evasionmay deceive the subconscious mind. Somewhere there is knowledge: I am at odds with reality; Ihold myself together by avoidance and denial.”
The Art of Living Consciously 
The Power of Awareness to Transform Everyday Life
BY NATHANIEL BRANDEN · FIRESIDE © 1997 · 256 PAGES
THE BIG IDEAS
Ending the Evasion
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Defensiveness
--> Eagerness.
Do More of What Works
Less of what doesn’t.
Being Present
Within a context.
Spirituality =
 A summons to rise.
Be Nice to Your “Self”
 Your ego is your friend.
Our Noblest Goal
Is to realize the best within ourselves.
1
Philosophers
Notes
|
 
The Art of Living Consciously
 “Like a light that can beturned brighter or dimmer,consciousness exists on a continuum.” 
~ Nathaniel Branden
 
One of the rst principles of living consciously is to become aware of the contradictions that exist
 between our values and behaviors.
 Although we may *think* we can get away with evading the fact that what we say is importantto us is not what we actually do, we can’t. Period. When we’re out of integrity like that, there’sa part of us that knows we are, as Branden says, “at odds with reality.” And that’s never a good
idea.The solution?To become more conscious. To be more honest about who we are and to change our behavior sothat it’s in integrity with our values. THAT is where it’s at.
Branden continues by saying: “Living consciously reects the conviction that sight is preferableto blindness; that respect for the facts of reality yields more satisfying results than deanceof the facts of reality; that evasion does not make the unreal real or the real unreal; that I am better served by correcting my mistakes than by pretending they do not exist; and that the moreconscious I am of facts bearing on my life and goals, the more wisely and effectively I can act.”Reminds me of Aldous Huxley’s wisdom:
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” 
 And, Rumi’s mojo:
“The sword of reality is the saint’s protection.” 
How ‘bout
you
?
 What do you do when you notice your behavior is not matching up with your stated values—
 whether that’s creating consistently, being truly present with your family or whatever?Do you evade the truth?
Or do you have the courage to modify your self-concept or change your behavior so you’re in
integrity?Here’s to wielding the sword of reality and living more and more consciously!
DEFENSIVENESS —> EAGERNESS
“The practice of living consciously entails an openness to evidence that might suggest an error
in one’s thinking—and a willingness to correct such an error. It is the opposite of self-defensive
mental rigidity. Defensiveness is unconsciousness protecting itself. If we are invested in the
fallacious notion that we must never make a mistake or that it is a reection on our worthto admit an error, then we are driven to shrink our awareness—to induce blindness. Livingconsciously (and authentic self-esteem) requires eagerness to discover one’s errors and candorabout admitting them. The underlying premise of this attitude is: I do not treat reality as anantagonist.”
Love that awesomeness on embracing reality. Are
you
defensive?
 As Branden says, we’ve gotta know that
“Defensiveness is unconsciousness protecting itself.” 
One of the best ways to deal with defensiveness? Embrace mistakes. We’ve gotta know that we’re not perfect, we’re NEVER going to be perfect and that the *only* way we’re going to move
toward our ideals is by eagerly discovering our errors, admitting them and correcting them.
It’s amazing how many different teachers talk about this in different ways.
Maslow tells us there are no perfect human beings. Great peeps, sure. But perfect? Not so much.
The healthiest among us (those he calls “self-actualizers”) get this. In his always inspiring words(which I deliberately come back to again and again for my benet and yours! :) he says:
“Thereare no perfect human beings! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact,
2
Philosophers
Notes
|
 
The Art of Living Consciously
 “We undermine our self-esteem when we persist in our contradictions, becauseat a deeper level we knowwhat we are doing.” 
~ Nathaniel Branden
 “In aligning ourselves with reality as best weunderstand it, we optimizeour chances for success.” 
~ Nathaniel Branden
 
great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers... even if theyare uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be
boring, irritating, petulant, selsh, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with humannature, we must rst give up our illusions about it.” 
I nearly always follow that quote up with Rumi’s goodness so here we go:
“There is no worsesickness for the soul, o you who are proud, than this pretense of perfection.” 
 And, Tal Ben-Shahar, who has been greatly inuenced by Branden, makes the distinction between the optimalist (who embraces reality and knows he’ll never be perfect!) and theperfectionist (who denies reality and chases an impossible ideal of mistake-free perfectionism)as he advises us:
“Perfectionism and optimalism are not distinct ways of being, an either-orchoice, but rather they coexist in each person. And while we can move from perfectionismtoward optimalism, we never fully leave perfectionism behind and never fully reachoptimalism ahead. The optimalism ideal is not a distant shore to be reached but a distant starthat guides us and can never be reached. As Carl Rogers pointed out, ‘The good life is a process,not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”’ 
Embracing our imperfections is an *incredibly* liberating practice. Let’s take all that energy 
 we’ve been wasting protecting our unconscious selves and channel it into embracing our
shortcomings. I’ve got a lot of work to do on this, but so far the returns are stunning.
DO MORE OF WHAT WORKS, LESS OF WHAT DOESN’T
“One of the meanings of living consciously is: Pay attention to what works, and do more of it,and try to understand the principles involved. And also: Pay attention to what doesn’t work,
and stop doing it 
.”That makes it pretty simply, eh?It’s almost funny how hard we can make all this living consciously business. But at the heart of it, doesn’t it really just come down to doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t?Is it REALLY that complicated? Of course, to pay attention to what works and to understand theprinciples involved requires that we slow down and actually pay attention (aka live consciously).
So, let’s slow down for a moment.
 What do you do that really works for you? The stuff that, when you do it, helps your life ow 
smoothly?
For me it’s waking up early (after a full night of sleep), meditating, eating well, reecting on my life’s vision and that day’s activities, creating consistently (aka working hard), exercising andappreciating my Wife. (As you know by now, b/c I say this all the time. Again, it’s deliberate. :)If I focus on those things my life ows remarkably smoothly. If I don’t, it doesn’t. It’s really not
that complicated.How about
you
? What do you do that really works for you? And, what do you do that *doesn’t* work for you?For me, it’s checking email before I create, not eating enough, and not exercising. (It’sinteresting to note, btw, that the bad stuff tends to crop up when I’m not doing the good stuff.) Again. Back to you.Let’s really bring this home with two of my favorite questions that I tend to come back to you when I’m feeling overwhelmed as it’s one of the most powerful ways I know how to get myself  balanced:
 What’s the #1 thing you could start doing consistently that would have
the
most positive impact
3
Philosophers
Notes
|
The Art of Living Consciously
 “When we are frightened,we typically pull energy *in* to our center, seeingless, hearing less—shrinkingconsciousness precisely when we need to *expand*it.” 
~ Nathaniel Branden
 “The most momentous leaps of growth commonly have as their springboard fairly modest first steps.” 
~ Nathaniel Branden
 “Doing more of whatdoesn’t work doesn’t work.” 
~ Nathaniel Branden

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