reality is the interval between two thoughts.
- jiddu krishnamurthi
in the previous exercise we dealt with the 'threatened part'. in this exercise we shall deal with the 'conditioned part'.
understanding the ways of mind is a journey into true awareness and understanding. it is done through a process of being mindful or observant. it is not an intellectual exercise or sophistry of thought. observation is the key activity. but the moment one begins to walk on this path, defenses come up. to cope with fear or to find security the mind puts up defenses. imitating what gives some sense of security to others that one perceives as living secure, is one prominent defensive mechanism. another prominent method of feeling a sense of security and overcome fear is to submit to authority, not through coercion, but because one is persuaded and conditioned to believe such a submission is the only option.
though it requires suspending reasoning, judgment, evaluation, accepting half-truths and sometimes even lies - conditioning is a major part of our lives. when we understand how the conditioned mind responds to situations, how it functions - then one begins to unravel the path to experiencing freedom. since mind is a play-field of memories of histories, stories, myths, legends, experiences, meaning-making, association, culture, tradition, socialization, learning and unlearning - it needs to be observed with great attention.
step 1: relax. breathe consciously. be aware of your surrounding, then focus on your breathing and travel within. focus on being in the field of mind, you are merely observing and taking note. observe what thoughts occupy your mind now.
step 2: scan for images, visions of episodes where you responded to a situation of threat, fearfulness by submitting to authority and accepting whatever they felt is the appropriate response, and regretting later for the authority figure committed excesses or had committed grave atrocities.
step 3: did you hear your own inner voice, however feeble or uncertain it was, that spoke through the cloak of conditioning and appealed to your heart and reason? what is that voice? is that conscience? is that our reasoning self? is it a reflection of inner conflict that happens when we try to put a particular episode into a compartment, but it does not seem to fit in there. we may try to use all the powers of reason to justify why it needs to be classified in a certain way, but deep down an awakened part of us tell us the truth, that it is our coping mechanism and not a choice made in freedom and fairness.
step 4: now can we move from just one such episode and scan our memory for such patterns where our responses to situations are coming more from the conditioned part of our self, than the free and fair part. can we track like a hunter in pursuit of the prey, the footprints of episodes that made us aware of such patterns in our responses? what do these episodes teach to us about ourselves? what are we conditioned by?
step 5: can we now focus on what are the things that we initially learned to be true, but later began to question? what are some things that we un-learned, because our experience was different from the conditioning material?
step 6: who are the prominent authority figures in your life, in your life in society, the world? have you seen them use mechanisms for conditioning peoples mind when faced with a complex situation? who are some figures whom you once admired but later on came to know about the more negative side which caused you to reassess how you see and place them?
step 7: is there a part of you which indulged in perpetuating myths and stories about events and episodes for the benefit of feeling secure or overcoming fear, failure or defeat? can we remember times in which we used this process of conditioning others to our advantage? is there a part that broke through clouds of defensiveness, that dissented within and caught your attention? what was that part trying to say?
step 8: can we now share and listen to each other what we have tracked through scanning our memories of own life experiences? is conditioning a phenomenon that can be clearly talked about? is conditioning widespread? are we conditioned to view certain issues in certain ways? who is behind and benefiting from such conditioned responses from us? who is winning, who is losing out if the conditioned responses are sustained? what does that do to us? do we become accomplices in manufacturing opinions and consent? what do we stand to lose in the long term?
step 9: what has the reflection, sharing and listening taught us about conditioned self? how big a part does the conditioned self play in our functioning and responses? how does becoming aware of our conditioned self help us in dialog and reconciliation efforts? can we assume that some of the responses, reactions and functioning of the other is based on their conditioning? is it possible in the dialog process to put aside one's conditioning and have genuine interaction and exchanges? how can we create and facilitate such spaces? what impact does this kind of awareness have on how we relate with others?