Every year, most of us make new resolutions and set new goals to achieve. We’re constantly encouraged to strive for external success markers and status symbols. All things that can significantly impact how we live. But what about maximizing your quality of life? From previous episodes, we know the answer to this is — learning how to ask beneficial questions — inquiry.
Inquiry is when you begin asking yourself questions such as, “How can I take care of myself today?” Learning how to ask guiding questions can help you identify your most challenging emotions and feelings and help you move toward greater wisdom.
Think back to when you were a kid — asking questions was a natural part of your life. As you grew older, you were probably not supported to keep asking those questions. But finding this inquisitive nature within yourself again can lead you to your best self and help you live your best life. In case you need a refresher, Robert Strock takes you through the four stages of awareness:
- Awareness that you’re unaware: Although this might sound paradoxical, realizing that you’re not fully aware of what’s going on inside your mind and heart can give you the incentive to open your eyes to your feelings and emotions. This requires humility and honesty.
- Fleeting awareness: This is when you spontaneously gain moments of awareness about your feelings and your behavior, tiny nuggets of insights into yourself that aren’t sustained (yet).
- Stable, intellectual awareness: At this stage, you’re more in tune with what you feel and can also understand what others are going through in an intellectual way.
- Awareness that heals: This is when you can combine awareness with the motivation and intent to care and heal. In other words, you’re able to find and use your inquiry and wisdom to help yourself.
It can be challenging to turn inwards when society pushes us towards external validation. In this episode, Robert and Dave offer guidance on sharing your awareness and insight with others. Ensuring the timing is correct and that the other person is receptive to your suggestions is of utmost importance. Otherwise, what may be a genuine heartfelt wish may well be taken as an unkind and unwelcome judgment.
This journey toward your awareness, wisdom, guidance, and healing is not easy nor straightforward. You may come across parts of yourself you didn’t even know existed, and you may not like all of them. But challenging as it may be, when you start to care for these parts of yourself, you also get better at caring for others and the rest of the world.
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. For an exact quote or comment, please contact us.
Awareness That Heals, Episode 41.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
Um, how can I best take care of myself, and perhaps others, while I’m in this situation while I’m having these feelings, recognizing that just asking that question is literally a life-changer.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book, “Awareness That Heals: Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges,” to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring.
Robert Strock: (01:02)
I like to give you a very warm welcome again, to Awareness That Heals where we’re doing our best to bring heart and wisdom to our life challenges. Today, we’re going to continue to delve more deeply into wisdom-guidance. And as we’ve mentioned in prior episodes, this is not something that almost any of us have been taught, how to access this, whether at home, school, our religion, spiritual practices that we have, it requires individual contemplation and inquiry as a lifestyle to deepen its potential. And it’s not because we should do this, but it’s because it gives us at least a chance to really glimpse that the world around us isn’t necessarily what we want to emulate. I hope as you’re hearing that, that brings a slight smile to you. We need to think and be guided by our own intelligence, our sensitivity and caring. Our inquisitive nature can guide us to our best life and our best self. So, I’d like to start by introducing Dave, who is my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and my dear dear friend.
As always, um, I’m looking forward to going deeper into this particular subject and, and, uh, really appreciate the passion you bring to each one of these episodes. And I don’t comment on that often enough, uh, but knowing you as long as I have, uh, I just want to reflect back to you, uh, the passion you’re expressing and the passion I know you feel for all these decades.
Robert Strock: (03:03)
Thank you so much for that. So, we may start off by a contemplation where you ask yourself what’s the most common feeling or situation where you could use wisdom-guidance. And as always, when you’re asking a question about how you access either inquiry or wisdom-guidance, you need to start with the most challenging feeling or situation that you’re facing in your life today, or you’re anticipating is going to be coming in the very near future. And what would you say, maybe what would you do and what tone would you use in this challenging situation that would most inspire or support or connect you in a way that you most want to be? So, really identify, uh, challenging feeling that’s recurring maybe to do with illness. And something is very difficult to then lead you to a tone that isn’t ideal, or it may be your relationship, maybe your sex life, maybe your relationship to success, or wealth or money, maybe your relationship to compassion and how lacking you might feel, but whatever it is, let it be yours and drop into that.
Robert Strock: (04:43)
Ah, yes, this is where I’m emotionally challenged. And yes, this is a situation where it challenges me and then you’re looking at would be the question I’d want to ask myself, which would be something like, how can I best take care of myself and perhaps others while I’m in this situation while I’m having these feelings, recognizing that, just asking that question is literally a life-changer, especially if you take it to heart. And also even more so, or really it brings it to the depth of significance when you listen for the guidance that you’re giving yourself, and you’re motivated to implement it.
Again, I want to ask you, uh, to amplify this and really what I’m relating to is as a listener, hearing words, just hearing words and how to really hear the passion and, and the, and really the experience you have in the meaning of the words you’re saying and how it’s impacted the people throughout your life, because it’s not just words.
Robert Strock: (06:13)
Well, thank you for that encouragement. I really appreciate it. So, one way of saying it is the way we’ve been raised is in general, almost idiotic, we’ve been raised in a culture where, what matters is success, living a nice lifestyle, looking pretty or handsome, having some power, getting to go on good vacations, living in a nice house and our quality of life doesn’t really matter that much. We weren’t taught quality of life mattered. Now, if that isn’t a verge of insanity, what is? And so, these words, as you’re saying, are really designed to have a seismic shift in what matters. We were taught these other goals are the dream that we’re, we’re supposed to be pursuing, but this is a dream that is asking us to go inside and ask ourselves what really matters. Doesn’t it matter whether I find a smarter, wiser, intelligent place inside me?
Robert Strock: (07:36)
And if I ask myself questions about my quality of life, or are we just okay to just dream and just follow what we’ve been taught? And if we look really closely, isn’t it obvious in most cases, the people that we’re taught from haven’t really pursued a life of deep fulfillment or deep inspiration, but they’ve been caught in a sense of normalcy, not because they’re bad, but just because they’re normal. And they’re just following the program, it’s like 3,000 tape recorders in a row. Everybody’s tape recording the prior generation and replicating it for Xerox copies over and over and over again. But what we’re attempting to do here is face our inner experience and then maximize the potential of what we can guide ourselves toward and then live it. It’s like being on the basketball court and the coaches saying, implement a play, really do this.
Robert Strock: (08:44)
It’s not enough just to know exactly the X’s and O’s as to where you should move, you got to wake up and really move your legs and move your heart and move your mind and really pay attention. So, yes, this really is asking for a bit of a lobotomy relative to our conditioning. And it’s so much more than words. It’s really a, it’s like a horn, it’s like a big banging of drums of saying, come on, come on. Don’t just keep following the way you’ve been programmed, look and see, does it make sense that you yourself have wisdom that you haven’t probably used as the central driver of your life? And it needs to be that in order to potentiate the quality of life, rather than just follow the dreams that we’ve been led into.
As you say that, and I really, really purchase [unintelligible] the energy I felt from you, as you said it, I, I am hearkening back to the very, very beginning of the Awareness That Heals episodes and the dream being unaware, and, and the, and the movement through the stages of awareness. And can you remind us of that? Because it seems to me that part of what is missing, if you’re just hearing this and listening to this, as words is really seeing the potential for where you are in those stages of awareness and how you move forward.
Robert Strock: (10:31)
Sure. And thanks for the reminder to do that. I think it’s a good idea for us to do that a pretty regular basis go back to other sections and not assume that anyone listening has retained it, maybe not even heard it. So, the first stage is being aware that we’re unaware. Now that might sound simple again in words, but that means that we’re starting to tune into the fact that as scientists have pointed out we’re at least 95% unconscious, and if we think we’re conscious, if we think we know what we’re doing and why we’re doing what we’re doing, we’re dangerous. And it’s a great reason why we can see the world is where it is with war and global warming and terrorism and greed, and the lack of trust in the division that we’re facing. So, being aware that we’re unaware is the first stage of awareness is a humility and honesty that it requires.
Robert Strock: (11:36)
And that can be the really bad news. One could hear that as a criticism, but it’s actually meant to be an inspiration. Oh, I’m unaware. And I had a chance to spend this life becoming aware. So, the second stage of awareness is a fleeting awareness. One where it fleets in and out where we’ll have a flash on, oh, I’m unaware, or will have a flash on, oh, I was really angry, but I’m not paying attention to it. Well, I don’t want to have to face that. So, I’m not going to face it anymore. Or, oh, I would really love to make love in this way, but I don’t want to stay with that because that could upset my lover or op, you know, what, the way I deal with my money is going to help. I’m actually part of the world going down because I’m so selfish.
Robert Strock: (12:25)
What I got to zip out of that. So, the fleeting awareness gives us insights into what ways we could be to actually be more alive and have a more fulfilling life or ways that we’re off, that we need to wake up to, but we can’t afford to stay with it because it would be too disruptive to our lives. And then the third level of awareness is one where we have a stable intellectual awareness where we see something, or we see most things depending on the person, quite stable intellectually. And that’s the place where actually it’s both really helpful to stabilize, but it’s also dangerous because we frequently think, because we see where we are. We think we’re aware in the sense of we now know how to move with our lives, but actually that awareness is just frequently as it starts off from the head.
Robert Strock: (13:24)
And so, it’s a most dangerous state of awareness because it can be confused as a healing awareness. So, it just sees things, but it isn’t necessarily motivated to do anything about it. And then the fourth level of awareness, which is really the awareness that heals, it is really the kind of core tenants that the book is about is that we need to have an intention to heal while we’re aware of where we are. So, if we’re angry, we might say, oh, I’m aware, I’m angry. Cool. If I was on third level of awareness and I’m aware I’m angry while I’m dumping my anger on my partner, well that doesn’t have an intention to heal. So, for aware that we’re angry, we’ll kind of have a flash that’s going to say, and hopefully a sustaining flash, that’s going to say, you know what, you’re dangerous right now.
Robert Strock: (14:20)
You’re dangerous. Could you be, could be dumping your load on whoever’s next to you, probably more often than not your partner. And that awareness with the intention to heal is really healing. Awareness is really the awareness that heals. So, the foundation of everything is going through those four layers and seeing how critical they are to be able to move forward with all the past to implement those, like using friendly mind, like using inquiry, like using wisdom-guidance, and as when we dealing with using our feelings to discover our needs and how to actually work with our anger in a way that is going to create more peace than destruction. And also when we’re really critical with ourselves, how we can move towards self-compassion, these are all vehicles to be able to help us use that fourth stage of awareness and implement.
Thank you for that. And it, it, um, reminds me and I, it’s possible because it’s been so many months that I shared this personal story of a time in my college senior year. And my intention was that I was going to either go to law school or go to business school. And, and I found myself in an elective psychology class, and the professor had a 24 hour marathon. And in that marathon, uh, people were sharing as psychological encounter groups. At that time, they were called, uh, parts of their life, they were talking about it openly. And when it came to my turn, I had nothing. And I was used to being just kind of a nice guy going along. I, you know, not really as I was in that certainly solidly in the unaware of my unawareness stage for sure. And it was such a jolt.
And, and what I want to reflect back to you as you were talking is how hard it is to turn inward at those times, how much difficulty I had in accepting that. No, um, there’s a, there’s a lot of people out there that are talking about areas. I never even touched, fantasized about, imagined, uh, heard, shared from people that were my friends at that time in my life. And lo and behold, as I looked in, whereas I was pushed to look inward. I found there’s a lot of stuff in there I didn’t like, and it’s hard. And even as you say, unaware of the unawareness and going to fleeting awareness, I just want to make it clear. These are, these are challenging things that ultimately yeah, they, they, they eventually get to the payoff of the awareness that is healing, but boy, it was a tough, tough journey.
Robert Strock: (17:26)
Yeah. I mean, what you’re really pointing to is that we’re going to be reinforced to be normal in virtually every direction that we look, whether it’s on TV or a movie or our friends or, or school, we’re not going to be reinforced to look inside and ask ourselves, how can I be my best self or how can I find guidance that will steer me for my day that I can really use, this is not, even though it sounds like common sense, and you may hear this just for a half an hour. If you don’t take it with you, if you don’t really, really take it with you, it will be just words. And it is a form of evolution where instead of staying in a dream of a fairytale life for 80 years or 70 years or 90 years, and you’re not really asking yourself, how can it be a significant life for me, not following somebody else’s standards, but going inside and asking yourself that.
Robert Strock: (18:35)
And when you really get it, if you really get it, it is not a pressure. It is not a should, it is a gift to be able to give, be given an option, to utilize the best parts of yourself for this life. And have it be an inspiration that you yourself can guide yourself toward. But yes, you’re right. It is very hard because all the influencing tendencies are to go to the outside world, to, to go to the outside goals and not to really tune into that. So, it’s hard, especially at the beginning when you’re making the turn, but the paradox of how much easier life is once you get on this road and you start following this road, then it becomes obvious that it’s easier than the other life. But when you’re in that transition, what you’re seeing is, oh, I’m not doing this.
Robert Strock: (19:37)
Oh shit, I’m not doing that. Oh man. I don’t know if I want to keep doing that. I’m feeling embarrassed. Wow. What a dumbo, I am to be doing this and doing that. Yeah. At the beginning, you’re feeling like, wow, I just, I’m checked out. I’m not thinking about anything important. I’m not asking myself any important questions. So, it does require a lot of humility and honesty and perseverance encouraged to stay with it. So yeah, absolutely. It’s very, very hard. It’s beginning in the middle, but even at the beginning, if you catch it, it can be, oh, somewhere. I knew that must’ve been more potential to this life than the one that I was being raised into. And almost all of us as children had these flashes of really just what life’s about. I thought it must be about love or, or being nice to each other, but each in our own ways, gradually that got whittled away.
Robert Strock: (20:34)
And by the time we’re sometimes two, sometimes six, eight, it’s usually conditioned out of us. So, we’re really going back to an original urge to want to be melted and close as we were as infants. But then it got identified as, oh, I guess it’s only mommy and daddy. It’s not, not the other people in the world, which is part of the dream. Part of the dream is, oh, it’s about family. It’s not about anybody else. Or, it’s just about my relationship with my mother or my brother. And even that requires wisdom to optimize how you can be close to them. So, it’s not to negate the importance of family relationships. Of course they’re important. It’s just, they’re not the be all and end all of life. So, in another place that would be worthwhile to introspect, to take a look inside would be, have you noticed friends around you, family members around you, maybe people you work with where you can see that they’re lacking wisdom and can you see what it is, where they’re stepping on their own feet, where they’re shooting themselves, you know, without being aware of it, it might be a tone of voice or using it.
Robert Strock: (21:57)
It might be a way they’re withdrawing. It might be that they’re really, really sad or they don’t sleep at night and they didn’t think about going to the doctor. But can you think of the person around you that is most needing a simple, let’s call it an internal chiropractic adjustment, you know, like an adjustment to some kind of way of turning in and asking themselves the question of how could I better take care of myself or how could I better take care of my relationship with someone the way you yourself can see us and then you can start to gravitate. Well, if I was going to use my wisdom and turn it toward them, what would I say to them, ask myself, what would I say to them? And how would I say it? And what would the timing be of how I would say it?
Robert Strock: (22:54)
So, see if you can identify that one person and maybe give yourself a reminder that you may want to visit that and make sure the timing is right. And if you’re going to do that, it’s always a good idea to start it with, would you mind if I offered you a suggestion rather than just diving in and assuming that the person wants, what you, what you see? So, it’s so helpful to be asking yourself the internal question of how can I best take care of myself? How can I best bring wisdom and caring and inspiration to my life? And also how can I support those that I love around me.
I just want to make sure that the point you just made and especially knowing the process in your life and, and the number of times you’ve perceived issues in those around you and shared what you felt at the time and certainly was, but was experienced by you as a gift of awareness of something you’re seeing in them and how it wasn’t received that way? And they, that the ways that works and the, and the subtleties, and sometimes the overt resistance of what the hell are you judging me for, or a variety of things that can come back at you. If two things, one is the skillful approach and the other one is maybe even the, the perception that is not the right time. It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard to gauge all that.
Robert Strock: (24:30)
Well, it’s not only hard to gauge all of that, which is for sure true. But even if you do gauge it all exactly right, except for the fact that the person actually doesn’t want to be growing this, but they didn’t want to stop their anger. They liked their anger. They don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t bitch at their husband, or, or scream at their wife, or they don’t see why they, it makes sense to face global warming and consider what life changes they may want to make. They may have a fair amount of money and they may think it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s destined for my kids only. It doesn’t matter that it’s gonna affect the global warming. Or if they don’t have money, they may not like the suggestion that you need to develop a bit more discipline and focus and not be complaining about people that are better off and selfish and corrupt.
Robert Strock: (25:29)
So yeah, I personally have been a target really, since I was 18 of, of making suggestions, doing the best I could, to say it in the best way I knew how, but I would call it collateral damage, but that’s too much associated with people that die on the side. Um, so I would say it’s something that it really does hurt deeply to have someone believe that when you’re expressing your kindest wish for them, and they’re hearing it as a judgment, but it’s, but one of the things that’s really important for any of us that are moving in this direction is the more we become aware of ourselves, the more we are living a life that’s different than the mainstream. And the more we try to share it with people, and let’s say gamble with others that are not our closest friends, the more likely it is that we’re going to be perceived as a judge, rather than someone who’s going to offer some alternative.
Robert Strock: (26:34)
And so, we need to be, it’s like a chess move. We need to be ready for the second round where you, where you’re saying, oh I’m so sorry that you’re hearing me as judging you. I truly am not meaning it that way. And then you might get back, well it sure comes out that way, you sure could fool me. And sometimes you need to say, I’m sorry. And then just back away at that point, because it’s very clear that you made an erring assessment of either the timing or the receptivity on the part of the person. And sometimes it might be, well, I’m sorry that that’s how you’re experiencing it. I’ll, I’ll wait for you to ask me from now on, if that’s the way you want it. Is that the way you want it for me before I volunteer? And they might say, no, I just don’t want you to do it the way you did it, say, well, okay, well, I actually think I’m doing it the best way.
Robert Strock: (27:29)
I know how to do it, but if that’s how you’re hearing me, I just want you to know I’m probably going to be very cautious with you from now on, unless you invite me and that’s appropriate, you know, everybody has a right to set their own boundaries, but, but you’re, you’re so right and pointing out that not only for me, but for, I have several clients where they’re in the same situation and I refer to it as once you become a practitioner of really having this go on hour after hour after hour during the day, and you’re enjoying it and you go out to a group of people or a person that’s out of, outside of your group of people, and you say something that you need to see yourself as nuclear. And we, I have sort of a code word with a number of people where you’ve got to recognize your nuclear.
Robert Strock: (28:19)
So, you’d better be damn sensitive if you’re going to take any gambles and you better start off with a nibble and not, not with a bite. Uh, and if that nibble, you got smacked in the face, you gotta be prepared to go through that routine that I expressed before, where you’re really saying it’s not my intention. That’s not the way I mean for it to be. And if you get three strikes, you’re out, I think, I think that’s kind of it unless you’re invited back in. So, it is so important that we recognize that we’re talking about a very different way of living, where you yourself, through inquiring, what is my best life?
Robert Strock: (29:04)
What guidance would I give myself to really live the life day to day? Maybe I plan for the next year, cause I have to plan which school to go to where I have to plan which job opportunity to change or what, how I handle my relationship over the next year. But basically one where we’re really guiding ourselves from our internal voice. It’s really a different world. And frankly, when we’re really doing it, the world becomes smaller because almost invariably, when we really start to care for ourselves, it’s paradoxical and inclusive where we start to care more and more for the world. So, my wish for all of us is we see this, not as anything like a demand, even if I’m passionate, it doesn’t, it’s not meant to be pushing on you. It’s meant to be really expressing how impactful it has been, how grateful I am to have really been guided by a couple of key people in my life to ask these questions.
Robert Strock: (30:13)
And they were wise enough not to tell me what to do. This is where you get to say something. It reminds me of an old commercial that I’ve referred to once or twice where it says mother, please, I’d rather do it myself. You know, where you really, you don’t want mom to tell you what to do. You don’t want Robert to tell you what to do, but this isn’t about Robert telling you that you should be wise. This is about an invitation for you to choose. If it makes sense to you to ask yourself questions that you weren’t guided to do so that you can guide your own life. And that could lead you to a richness and an individuality and a range of options that will best serve your life. And almost inevitably, if you serve your own life, well, it’s going to lead to really supporting those around you as well. So, that’s my wish. That’s my prayer. And I thank you for your attention.
Join The Conversation
Thanks for listening to Awareness That Heals. Please click subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode. If you love the podcast, the best way to help spread the word is to rate and review the show. This helps other listeners, like you, find this podcast. We’re deeply grateful you’re here and that we have found each other. We encourage you to download our Introspective Guides at awarenessthatheals.org; they will be helpful to you while listening to our podcast.
Visit our podcast archive page