The conscious mind is driven by the subconscious mind and creates boundaries and opposites: me versus you, us versus them, my country/race/religion/team/political party versus yours. This automatic perception is fostered by the brain’s intricate information and memory stores creating our sense of individuality, sense of separation and definition of self. In the gap we have the opportunity to catch hold of these automatic divisions the mind projects, and if we so choose, we can change them.
Why should we do this? Because this automatic process is the root of discord from a personal to a global scale. Almost every problem and challenge we see can be traced back to this. Are we to think a utopian existence is even possible, where we see cooperation and harmony? Or is it wiser to remain cynical; believing that there are greedy, self-serving individuals who will take advantage if we are not careful. This is a crucial question that we can only answer individually according to our own understanding.
In the fall/winter of 2015, two movies will debut: the first is a dramatization of the housing loan failure in ’08 that the banks essentially knew was coming, and many profited from, leading to the collapse of the world economy. The second is about the MD who sought to educate the public regarding the devastating after-effects of multiple head trauma experienced by the football players. This led to the eventual exposure of the NFL’s prior knowledge of the damage done to the player’s brains and the attempts to cover it up. Rather than getting angry at the banks, politicians and corporations we can appreciate and acknowledge the consciousness that is exposing these deceptions. The mindset at the root of the deceptions come from brain’s whose programming has ‘I-me-mine’ priorities. But the mindset that is exposing these deceptions is one that can change things – it is a consciousness of ‘waking up’.
We must be sensible, practical, as informed as possible and see to our welfare and the welfare of those around us. At the same time we can see to our enlightened inner consciousness – we can work with our inner awareness. The collective mind of humanity is influenced by our individual awareness and our thoughts, therefore cultivating our own depth of knowing can be one of the most important contributions to the uplifting of world consciousness.
If you have been practicing the gap exercise described in sutras 14/15, then you may have noticed the gap between thoughts – the pause when you are conscious-present and the possibilities therein. With continued practice the automatic and unconscious reaction patterns are neutralized and the trajectory of non-useful thoughts and emotions redirected. This produces not only a change in thinking and behavior but the corresponding change in the chemistry of the brain and body. As we become more conscious we can introduce questions to ourselves in the gap. These questions can give our decisions and interactions positive direction as we interject them into the pause.
A useful and easy to remember tool for inner questioning is often seen posted on social media as well as in inspirational literature. It is the acronym T.H.I.N.K. and is very appropriate for the gap. When we become conscious of the gap between thoughts we have the opportunity to really ‘think’ and not just to react. This exercise is used for our personal interactions with others and gives us the opportunity to practice being conscious and aware through communication. We use the acronym (THINK: true, helpful, inspirational, necessary, kind) to remind us to ask ourselves if we are being guided by each respective item as we interact with others.
T is for true.
Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say true?” Perhaps at times it is just a matter of qualifying what we are saying, such as, “in my opinion…” But other times we must look at the source of information we have accepted and determine if the source is in fact correct. Oftentimes information we have accepted as ‘facts’ are just other people’s opinions and not necessarily true. There are facts and then there are opinions. Learning to distinguish between the two can be all that is necessary.
H is for helpful.
Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say helpful?” Sometimes we can say too much. We can inadvertently subvert another person’s learning process by giving them directions or answers to questions they could benefit by learning themselves. At other times what we might intend as constructive criticism is taken as a dig or damaging to another’s self-worth.
I is for inspirational.
Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say inspirational?” Every day, at least one time, make it a conscious practice to uplift, encourage and inspire someone by telling them how much you sincerely appreciate them – anyone from the check-out person, to a loved one, fellow workers, or to random people you meet.
Also, without being pretentious or condescending, it can be a great gift to thank someone for teaching you how to be patient and tolerant especially if you do it with sincere gratitude. Both benefit.
N is for necessary.
Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say necessary?” Sometimes we may react out of our own anger, our own sense of ‘how things should be’, or sense of violation and this does not do any good and can end up being hurtful to another and actually create resistance. Sometimes it is better to just be quiet and to let others gain their own insight and awareness if indeed there is a transgression.
K is for kind.
Ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say kind?” Kindness should be the guiding compass for all we say and do. Kindness expressed goes on exponentially. It is contagious and it is not an exaggeration to say it changes lives. We do not know the downstream effects of our simple acts of kindness – it can be monumental.
Life is our Spiritual Practice
The lives we live, each and every interaction we have, is the test and opportunity for our spiritual growth and practice. The gap affords us a momentary pause, an opportunity to wake up and to change repetitive unconscious patterns and to ultimately fulfill our purpose for being here. As you use this acronym, over time you will no longer need to go through and remember each item, they will be consolidated as a whole into a natural guiding principle for all your interaction.