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Consciously conscious about our unconsciousness

Consciousness is not always the answer

"Follow the path and the path will lead your way". 

Consciousness is a word that has been receiving a lot of attention lately within various contexts. The idea of making conscious decisions –  about whom you spend your time with, where you spend your time, the food you consume and the products and services you buy – enjoys a good reputation. In addition, consciousness is a common theme of many spiritual advocates.

 Admittedly, I like to use this word myself and take pride in making a conscious effort, being a conscious citizen and expanding my consciousness through meditation practice and other habits. Most of my habits that I attribute to heightened consciousness had a notably positive impact on my well-being. For example, becoming aware of the people and activities in my life that spark the most joy, paying more attention to nature’s tiny details, spending less money or granting myself more “me time”. I found myself under the impression that consciousness is my guide to making the right decisions. However, I also realized that consciousness is not always the answer. While conscious decisions are often praised, they are also burdened by the act of over-thinking. I sometimes listen to self-development experts give advice that we should re-evaluate each decision before acting on it. Moreover, asking yourself “do I really need X or will Y really make me happy?” may indeed be helpful at times, yet it can also add unnecessary commotion. I can see why putting more thought into a decision can increase the feeling that the decision is right. Nonetheless I believe life does not always grant us the time or circumstance to think of all possible beneficial and harmful outcomes.

 Not only can we not be certain of the outcome, but these over-scrutinizing tendencies can be misleading and may distract us from the bigger picture. Let me give you a concrete example. I feel inspired by the idea of reducing my ecological footprint and improving my lifestyle in a way that minimizes  waste production. I was listening to an interview in which the interviewee said she always asks herself multiple questions before buying anything (packaged) in order to validate her decision. I noticed that the line between “doing good” and over-analysing is remarkably thin. Furthermore, as much as we may think we can, we can not be conscious about everything. What adds complexity to our decision making process nowadays is the abundance of conflicting information coupled with the desire for open discourse while receiving and giving tolerance. And let’s not lose sight of the ongoing fight for time-saving. LIfe offers a plethora of experiences, options and unanswered questions.

I am still glad to see people increasing their consciousness in all spheres. And I encourage all people that belittle consciousness as merely a trend to re-evaluate their stigma towards it. Personally, I would rather see people making each decision consciously than not giving decisions any thought. But if I assume that I do not have to choose between the two options,I picture a life of congruence that invites crucial, conscious deicions within a pragmatic frame.

 I strongly believe that taking conscious decisions in life can feel very fulfilling and may avoid adhoc impulses that lead to negative outcomes. Yet it’s crucial for each of us to figure out the right balance for ourselves. What feels empowering to one, may feel restrictive or overwhelming to another. The perfect need not get in the way of the good, and similairly, living consciously need not get in the way of living.  

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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