Namaste all, and happy new year!
Here we are, at the dawn of a new year. This is a time that can be full of either possibility and excitement, or trepidation and overwhelm. Sometimes both at once! What determines whether we are able to create the life we yearn for or whether we fall into the pain of past ruts and bad habits? At one level, it’s our actions. But where do our actions come from? When you get right down to it, our thoughts create our actions, which generate the results we see around us. To put it another way, it is our consciousness that determines the life we end up leading.
As human beings, our consciousness is one of the most important and sacred attributes we have. A fundamental understanding of metaphysics and of psychology tells us that it is our consciousness that shapes our experience of life. Many of us have first-hand evidence to suggest that our thoughts outright create our reality. At the very least, studies have found that it is our thinking and attribution style that shapes our interpretation of the events and circumstances around us – and that this interpretation determines how we feel and behave in our lives.
This theory of interpretation and attribution is one of the predominant ideas around the psychological mechanism of depression. I have great respect for the many complexities that come to bare in depression, but to examine it through a simple model, in a depressed state of consciousness, the world, the self, and life at large are interpreted through a lens that promotes negative feelings. Those negative interpretations are very strong and appear to us as real, even if they aren’t the whole picture. We believe the world is dark because we are turning our attention towards all the evidence of darkness and none of the evidence of light. Thus, our interpretation and attribution shapes the reality we experience.
Within psychology, one of the most highly effective non-chemical treatments for depression is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is designed to help people change not the events in their lives but how they interpret and respond to them. The negative thought process is challenged to give rise to a more hopeful and empowered outlook on whatever the circumstances around us may be. Ultimately, the transformation that leads to wellbeing is not in the external stimuli itself, but in how we use our consciousness to relate to it.
So we know the importance of our consciousness in the realm of wellbeing. Yet still, the implementation of human ‘consciousness’ is usually ironically unconscious. As we experience and react to our lives, our thoughts often either flop along behind us in their well-worn groove of mutterings, or jump anxiously out ahead, projecting our past onto our future and screaming fears in our ears. One of the most common unconscious uses of consciousness by humanity, is that of looking for what’s wrong and not noticing what’s right. ‘What’s wrong with my relationship? What’s wrong with my career? What’s wrong with my waistline? What’s wrong with politics? What’s wrong with society? What’s wrong with me?!’
Our consciousness, like Google, is a wondrous and limitless field that can find anything we ask it to. But how are we using the search bar? What questions are we asking ourselves? If you say, ‘Brain, why is it that I can’t be happy?’ It will answer that question in a thousand disheartening ways. If you say ‘Brain, why is it that I can be happy’ It will be just as forthcoming – but a whole lot more helpful, empowering and inspiring!
Appreciative Inquiry is a methodology from the field of Positive Psychology that assists with this empowerment. It is the art of asking ourselves those questions that will lead to the discovery of all the strengths and resources we already have that could be utilised to create more happiness, fulfilment and success. Although it was originally created for the purpose of lifting and shifting companies and organisations, it is a strategy I have used in my personal life with great success. Essentially, it is a method for redirecting our consciousness from that which disempowers and prevents us from flourishing, to that which brings out our best self and experience of life around us. In my own life, I find that it lifts my perspective on my self and my potential, inspiring me about what's possible, and helping me to practically plan and build my future in a way that helps me actualise those exciting possibilities.
If you have a little time and a pen and paper, a sequence of questions you might like to try as we come into the new year is:
What factors contributed to being able to flourish in this way? (habits, friends/family, thinking processes, work, hobbies, environment, spiritual practice, self-care etc)
This process should generate a list of potential actions, ideas and solutions. Then it is up to you to find ways to implement them. It’s amazing that a simple shift in how we direct our conscious inquiry can have such a huge effect on our experience of life. We have the power to direct our thoughts, shaping our consciousness and thereby our reality. We only have to use it.
I hope you are inspired and empowered to create the most exciting, fabulous new year possible.
Loads of love and best wishes,