To grow beyond the conditioning of our upbringing and, ultimately, hundreds of years of human conditioning, we have to be honest with ourselves and develop our ability of self-inquiry. If we can take a step back and ask ourselves how much our conditioning is running our lives, we can begin to move in a different direction. A direction that includes seeing ourselves as world citizens responsible for giving and helping those in need. This process leads us to interact with our inner feelings and our inner knowing. Our inner knowing can help us continue to face challenging feelings and develop our relationship to friendly mind. Friendly mind, honesty, and inquiry then become our cherished guides as we learn from our life experiences.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 30.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
So, one of the ways to really get warmed up is to be honest with yourself, with what unresolved situations, emotions, or issues with others that you need to contemplate.
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 life.
Robert Strock: (01:05)
I want to thank you again for joining us on Awareness That Heals: and Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges. And when I say that, uh, bringing heart and wisdom to life’s challenges, it almost sounds pat, but I can’t really think of much in terms of the way I was raised, in the way I experienced, most of us being raised that wasn’t really taught to us. So, I’m asking for you to try to hear that this is not for most of us, almost all of us, the dominant priority of our life. And really what’s being said here is I believe it makes no sense for you to be your best self and for you to bring your heart and wisdom to your challenges and to stay aware of your challenges on a regular basis. And to view that as a positive and not as a negative, keeping in mind it’s being aware of the challenges that allows you to be fluid, allows you to have a chance to move toward healing and well-being.
Robert Strock: (02:26)
Whereas without that awareness where we’re not accessible, or at least we’re in a candy bar, yeah. We’re somewhere that is not very fulfilling and inspiring or satisfying. And as we’ve seen worthy of repetition, that our wisdom and our inquiry, our friendly mind, all of them can travel with us. It makes me think of, Have Gun Will Travel. Like you can, you can, you can take it with you and taking it with you is like, I can’t think of any kind of a vitamin B shot that would be better than that. Right? Any, any kind of way of better taking care of ourselves to really know. We want to befriend ourselves to really know. We want to ask questions that will guide us to our best self and then to find our best self in words and suggestions, and to follow through with that before I go on, I’d like to, again, introduce Dave, who’s been my 50 year closest friend in so many ways that it’s impossible to really dignify them and also my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Thank you, same, back at you and these, uh, crucial and deep and important aspects of how we can deal with our challenges are, are something I really want to continue to get to with you now.
Robert Strock: (04:11)
Great. So, one of the ways to really get warmed up is to be honest with yourself, with what unresolved situations, emotions, or issues with others that you need to contemplate, where’s your most challenging relationship and what are the questions you need to ask yourself to deepen the support for you being your best self. If you have a relationship you don’t communicate at all and you need to, that would be a good example of a relationship where it’s hostile. That’d be a good example of a relationship where, where you are just withdrawn and had been withdrawn for ages. That might be a good example, might be a terrible example. Maybe they’d be abusive. Maybe you think they might be abusive, but you haven’t checked it out for five years. It may be worthwhile to have a phone call, but it’s important to stay aware as you’re warming up here to include people in your field and see where can it most improve. Where is it most difficult, where is it most challenging and most hurtful to you and very likely to them too. And this requires, and I’m gonna say the word three times, I’m not stuttering, practice, practice, practice. And what that means is this requires time.
Robert Strock: (05:50)
And the good news is you can do this while you’re living life. You can just simply live life in a way where you are serving yourself from your smartest place inside you or more accurately, you’re doing your best to try to, and there’s no free lunch. Insight is dangerous. If you think you understand what we’re talking about and you aren’t practicing on a daily basis and you think you really understand, and you’ve got it covered, you’re delusional. Nobody gets a free pass. If we aren’t asking the questions of how do I be my best self, you can use any kinds of other words. I don’t care about the words. It’s the meaning. If you aren’t attempting to wake yourself up to be who you can be almost by definition. It means psychologically you’re asleep and life is short, even though it appears to be long, life is very short.
Robert Strock: (06:58)
So, the sooner you take it to heart, take it seriously to want to cultivate these crucial elements of inquiry and wisdom friendly mind, the sooner you have a chance of not being a blind follower to our conditioning. And I would take it as far as saying that our conditioning is, is actually a cult, our conditioning is so warped that it believes it’s natural to have wars natural to have billions and billions of dollars spent on defense departments, natural to not give opportunities to the poor, natural not to really be devoted to caring for our planet when it might be dying. So, it requires practice. What is my best self. And even if you don’t agree with anything I say, or just said, I think you’ll agree that you want to be your best self. And if you’re this far in the program, you don’t want to be your best self, you must be a masochist.
Something you just said provoked, uh, and then further provoked by what you said right after, uh, a pattern I have, uh, which is to say, because in general, I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, uh, to a fault meaning in a, in a, not in a cruel way, but even in an honest way. I have found myself in the past in relationships where looking would imply that that relationship wasn’t working and therefore to be honest, really honest would cause somebody else pain and so easier to put my head in the sand. And then as you fast forward to what you said after that, what do I do? You know, how I, how do I really feel like more than an ant in a hive when it comes to these huge issues like global warming and poverty and homelessness. And it becomes easier sometimes to turn away because it feels overwhelming. Again, my conditioning, take care of myself, look close in and not really reach out.
Robert Strock: (09:21)
That’s the question of this lifetime for everybody in the world. That’s my view. And unfortunately, an overwhelming percentage of people are in that place. And frankly, The Missing Conversation is designed to try to shake people up in a good way, not to shake people up, but to actually shake, go through the shakeup and get to another place. But you’re pointing out something that’s very important, which is that we tell ourselves we’re living our best life. When we’ve left out the rest of the world, we’ve left out people that are dying because they don’t have enough food. And we don’t even think it’s worth, if we have let’s say some wealth, we only think it’s worth more than a quarter of a percent of our money. And so, it requires, as I said before, but now you’re provoking even a different level of this. It requires a level of not only honesty, but it requires a wisdom-development that has some compassion, because if compassion isn’t developed, then that question is not going to really come out.
Robert Strock: (10:46)
So, then the question that would be much more realistic because we don’t want to beat ourselves up for not having enough compassion is what’s in the way of living more from my compassion? And the answer, which is the crucial thing is you have thousands of years of conditioning, so it would be heroic not to have your head in the sand. And it requires really breaking, not only the conditioning you had from your parents, but 50 generations before that a hundred generations before that, 50,000 years of that, where it’s about me, it’s about me hunting and gathering that, me doing that for my family. And I’m a hero.
Robert Strock: (11:41)
And so, it requires an awareness of otherness and how much we’re devoted to ourselves and those we love and we’re not devoted to others. And the reason is that’s what we were taught was perfect. That was an A+, you’re living as an A+, you know, maybe A++, you know, cause you, you are also giving beyond that. Most people need to do a real inquiry of, am I balanced relative to how much I care about myself and my family and those I love and the world that is in dire shape and poverty that is so wide. Am I really living my best life? If I don’t recognize that they are a part of me and I can’t help but think of the COVID virus, which is kind of brilliant in a way, the way that it comes together there, which is we don’t take care of India and India gets the COVID virus, it’s going to come back and get us. It’s the same thing as not taking care of the poor class and inviting in terrorism. It’s like we have to see that our conditioning isn’t okay for 2021.
Robert Strock: (13:20)
And we have to be honest enough and aware enough to realize we aren’t who we are conditioned to be. Some of us at one level, of course we are who we are conditioned to be, but we are also another level, which is the capacity to be independent from our conditioning. And to think for ourselves, to decide for ourselves, what our priorities are. So, for some people, this conversation is just going to be just a bummer, just a complete bummer for other people. It’s going to be, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s inspiring. It’s going to be hopeful. And it’s also going to be depressing too, because you’re going to see that the majority of the world isn’t seeing the disaster we’re in and we need to work on not being negative toward them, but staying with our intention to support survival of the planet and survival of those that can survive. And not by just giving it away, but optimizing it being used wisely.
Robert Strock: (14:41)
And so that’s the kind of question that the saying, well, I’m taking care of myself and let’s say, you’re in that situation. I’m taking care of my, and I’m being generous. And I think generous enough, that’s the kind of question we need to die with. We need to, if, if we’re fortunate in that way, anyone that’s not asking that question from my vantage point is missing the most important elegant question that we could ask ourselves, because to overly trust ourselves is a terrible danger. I know I don’t trust myself, yet. I know I’ve changed five times in the last five years, my relationship to money and my relationship to that answer. And I know I see my conditioning would not have taken me where I am. So, we need to see the innocence of the millennia of conditioning. And we also need to see the predictable destruction it was going to have because other than a lot of indigenous tribes, and I’m sure there’s an odd country, here, there that I’ve never heard of, but not a powerful one. We see that we haven’t been taught to ask this question. So, we have to be exposed to it. Or some people are just born into this world and they naturally feel that way, but that’s, that’s not very common. So, I think the real key is an innocent witnessing of your own conditioning and asking yourself, how much is this still running me? And how much is it running me in a way that I really don’t agree with anymore as my own independent wise agent for myself.
Just to amplify that one more step, if you would. The thing that happens to me as the, the, the conversation itself, and this really is about Awareness That Heals in my personal life and about if you will, The Missing Conversation relative to the world is that looking is really uncomfortable. Looking implies, changes that I feel my conditioning doesn’t want to let me make.
Robert Strock: (17:16)
It’s hard. Yeah. Thank you. Um, I think for the first many levels, it’s really, really, really, almost impossible because you feel like such a sense of failure. You feel like you’ve wasted so much time. You feel like you’d be risking things. You feel like you’d be betraying. If you made the changes, you also feel like a selfish schmuck for, for, for having, having as much as you do and not giving more of the way to how you’re in a double bind, a terrible double bind, and yes, it’s agony. And that is the price that those that are fortunate enough to have that dilemma are unfortunate enough to have that dilemma. And they have to go through the, they have to go through the agony for an extended period of time. And I can say, I think once you’ve done that for a decade or so, it does shift to a joy and a gratitude, but that’s not something to jump to or that you can jump to.
Robert Strock: (18:29)
You’ve got to be in the agony for a long time to make an inch of a change, to make a $10 bill change. Now to spend two hours helping somebody, rather than not helping somebody or whatever you can do. So, the agony reminds me of what I’ve described in other episodes of the first 10 years is after I had my kidney transplant, it’s like the deeper the agony, the more, and the more you still inquire, the bigger you are a hero, and you will not feel that way. I did not feel that way. I did not feel heroic in the slightest. I knew it that I was that when I was trying hard and I was absolutely the most depressed, anxious, exhausted, wasted, I was more unhappy than every client I saw, but I knew that wisdom, wisdom was what mattered. So,I was able to guide myself with wisdom, but it didn’t make me feel better.
Robert Strock: (19:37)
So, I had to go through a whole decade of doing what I could and feeling like shit. And there’s an inner knowing that knows that agony has great dignity and you can’t feel the dignity. So, you’ve got to respond from an inner knowing at first, you can’t respond from feeling, because the feeling, the agony will make you want to put your head in the sand or get angry at anybody else’s saying to do anything else, or you’ll feel like they’re pressuring, or they’re arrogant to tell you what to do. And so, it’s really, really important to recognize that the more pivotal the change that you’re contemplating, the more agony suffering, depression, hopelessness, self-doubt will arise. And the key is to keep going and to have the trust that when you’re searching for your truth, that your inner knowing is the guide, not your inner feeling, but your inner knowing.
Robert Strock: (20:48)
So, that has to be the center. So I saw from my own personal experience at that time, and from clients that I see all the time, that being very sensitive to your emotional feelings only takes you so far because we think we can get fixated. We do get fixated on the feelings and we think, well, I’m aware of what I’m feeling and I’m sharing what I’m feeling. And what else do you expect me to do? So, you know, you’re fixated, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, a competition, insecurity, and that being aware of it is golden. The fixation is in jail. And so, we need to add that question of how can I best care for myself or tolerate where I am when I’m in this deep, deep suffering. And that question itself needs to be as important to you that inner knowing needs to guide you. That wisdom needs to guide you to say, this is actually more important, but maybe you’ll say as important as the feeling itself, even though it absolutely doesn’t feel like it, it actually feels like an alien maybe, even trying to rape you, one way it feels like an invasion?
Robert Strock: (22:16)
No, it probably even feels hostile when it first comes in like a should like a bad parent, you know, with a, with a, you know, a rule that’s ready to hit you if you don’t do it, but then you need to hopefully at least make that neutral saying, I know this is agonizing, good for you that you’re facing this agonizing. I know you can’t feel me when I say good for you, but I know you can hear me. And I hope you hear it from your inner knowing that knows that you’re doing the heroic thing to do, which is to face your biggest challenge and keep asking the question of how you can best take care of it and then how you can guide yourself. So again, it’s important that you find your own biggest challenge, whether it’s professional, whether you need to make a next move, whether it’s communication, keep focusing, don’t lose focus, make a note to yourself, write it down.
Robert Strock: (23:23)
This is the biggest challenge and be on the alert for oversimplification. Like I really should change careers. And you don’t recognize if you take the risk, you might be homeless, you know, but don’t stop asking the question because you might come up with a little kernel that only take an hour, an hour a day that you can do. Or it might be that your biggest fear with your relationship, if you ask the question and like you mentioned earlier, Dave, that if you ask the question and you communicate more, you might break up the relationship. But then you have to look, then you get to look at, is this fear or is this fear enhanced by the fact that I’m not confident that I can do it gently, I might do it critically. And then you go, oh, good. I found out I need to do it really gently.
Robert Strock: (24:19)
Or maybe I even need to say, I want to ask you if you’re open right now to go into an area that I’ve avoided, because I’ve been concerned. And by recognizing you can be that permissive and let her say, no, the odds are better. It’s not going to be crippling. Or maybe you can find a way to begin it and not go all the way through and throw the kitchen sink at her, whoever that her is. So, as we shared earlier, but again, worthy of repetition confusion in the area we’re just talking about, or in general can never be visited enough with a good attitude, with a friendly mind with inquiry. It’s one of our biggest allies and we need to congratulate ourselves that we’re deep enough and aware enough in our confusion every time we’re there. And I don’t mean just a token, congratulations, I mean, it might be congratulations, I’m sorry, you can’t feel it.
Robert Strock: (25:34)
That’s the least. Every time we’re with a challenge, we need to encourage ourselves, support ourselves in that. And if we don’t have that positive attitudes for ourselves, and we have a tendency to have a negative attitude toward ourselves and we’re in confusion, there’s no, no reason to even go there. It’s like a masochism. The whole point is to really see what’s possible. Sometimes it might be acceptance and sometimes it might be perseverance. So that congratulations and encouragement is crucial. And confusion is a sign of growing trust. It’s a sign of growing confidence, it’s a sign of humility, it’s a sign of inspiration and that isn’t how we were raised. So, that’s why it’s so important to say, I congratulate you for thinking for yourself, not blindly reacting against what you were taught and not blindly being a cult follower of what you were taught. So, my wish for everyone is they see the benefits of truly taking on something equivalent to friendly mind or friendly mind, same for inquiry and the same for wisdom, so that you can really guide your life and learn from your life experiences that you’ve had so far. Thanks so much for really listening to this very contrarian way of living and being from what we were taught.
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