For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction. – Cynthia Occelli
From the moment of conception, we as human beings begin the lifelong process of cultivating our own unique sense of self. It starts when we are young, hardly aware of anything, only able to wander the external world for clues as to who we are and why we’re here. Early on in life, the external world literally begins to define us: The city we grew up in, the knowledge we’re fed and told to believe, the positive or negative connections we encounter with other life, and even the socially acceptable norms we are all secretly bound to abide by. This mosaic of forces and experiences intertwines and molds until eventually it hardens into some type of coherent perspective of reality that comes to outline our personality, belief systems, and even our soul; the very core essence of our being. There is however, one fundamental problem that arises: we as human beings are barely conscious, let alone self-aware, until much later into high school or even college and beyond. At the same time, we are urged to define what it is that we are. This begs the question: If we are at a primitive consciousness while we’re forming our own sense of self, is the image we create just a product of the environment, or is it who we truly are?
Consciousness can be simply defined as awareness. The more aware one becomes, the more one’s consciousness starts to expand and grow. In the beginning of our childhood, we are unaware sponges, picking up everything we see from the external environment and evaluating it by associating good or bad feelings coupled with positive or negative reinforcements from authority/peer figures. In other words, we are essentially computer hard drives downloading programs from the external world and filing it somewhere in our brain based on whether it feels good and whether our version of society accepts it. Subconscious thought patterns and belief systems begin to emerge and take form shaping this image of our self; all this during a time in which we are very much a primitively conscious being.
Many of us feel the presence of strong external forces such as cultural pressure, parental/authoritarian pressure, or collective pressures from society at large, and actively buy all the way in to this image that the external world has outlined for us. We begin to believe that this image of labels, expectations, and separateness is real and that this is what we are. Far too often we never even take a step back and start to examine our lives from an outside perspective, ignoring bias, peer pressure, and judgment. We never contemplated that we might have downloaded faulty software and that this image is just a false reality created by faulty environmental programming that wasn’t designed to fit our distinctive specifications. Sadly though, far too many of us become victims to these images and fall right into the trap that is our comfort zone. Far too scared to venture away from the majority, our comfort zone becomes our secret prison. Stuck in this secret prison, our lives become nothing more than a schedule of endless routines over and over just to get by and feel safe. As this routine goes on longer and longer, our awareness locks in and freezes as our mind begins to close, making the walls thicker and boundaries more complex making sure no new stimuli are able to penetrate in unfiltered. We begin to feel stuck and we don’t know why.
Growth happens when something increases in size. Life is not only able to grow physically, but more importantly it’s able to grow in consciousness, or in other words self-awareness. To do this, only one thing is required: that we step outside our comfort zone and into the realm of the unknown with an open mind. Beginning a journey down this path is far from easy. If it were, we would all be fully conscious, enlightened beings. As spiritual guru Ralph Smart once pointed out,
“Going out of your comfort zone is like jumping into a cold shower.”
This makes many of us very nervous and scared because there is an element of discomfort to it. However, once we jump in with an open mind, it becomes invigorating, almost seeming to awaken the soul. In a strictly scientific sense, the more new experiences and bits of knowledge we acquire with an open mind,the more neural connections our brain makes as new neurons awaken and start to fire that were previously asleep or disconnected. Likewise, the more we escape our secret prison, the less hardened our mind becomes as our defense mechanisms begin to evaporate, faulty neural pathways begin to rewrite, and our mind starts to open up to new possible connections. This is known as neural plasticity, as our brain is not a static organ, but can change and grow throughout its lifetime.
To many of us, this is a very scary proposition. We have invested massive amounts of time and energy into this image of our self and changing this late in the game is thought of as embarrassing. No one likes to admit they were wrong and when one has all their chips invested in a specific image, changing is not only emotionally painful, but requires sacrifice, sometimes even financially. Just as someone who has never worked out will want to remain lazy, someone who has had the same belief system their entire life and built a life supporting it, will be very against opening it up for change. This is where our ego comes into play, as it puts up the strongest form of resistance to change that we have. The ego is the reptilian part of the brain that thinks it knows it all and wants to control everything. Instead of allowing life to run through you, the ego wants to impose its will upon reality. It has expectations that it needs to adhere to and only thinks about itself, no one else. Therefor, the ego is far from thrilled when a new experience puts into question everything it had planned. New experience can bring the ego back down to earth quickly, so instantly we perceive it as a threat to us. The ego is therefore, a defense mechanism towards protecting us from being vulnerable, for when we’re vulnerable we open ourselves up to the possibility of psychological and emotional pain. This is why we see everyone wearing masks all day, this is why greed and money rule the country, and this is why many of us are not happy. We have for too long let the ego run the show while the heart takes a back seat. We see this rampant throughout the world today, as we have built a system from faulty programming based on our collective belief in the ego, with a defense mechanism in place that’s too strong to allow us to be vulnerable enough to admit we were mistaken. We know it deep down in our hearts. We had the game all wrong!
Yet, is there another way? Are we just victims to this faulty programming destined to rot in these secret prisons as we destroy the only planet we have, or can we actually change it?
Going out of one’s comfort zone can be done many ways, all of which are different journeys, but lead towards similar destinations. Probably the most exciting way to do this is simply by traveling. I’m not talking about going to Cancun, Mexico with 2 huge bags packed for an all-inclusive resort where the idea of expanding one’s awareness in the comfort of a pampered bubble is just silly. That is just entertainment and relaxation, both of which are not necessarily bad, but will probably not challenge you. I’m talking about taking an open-minded journey into a completely new environment with different cultural traditions, ways of thinking, and languages all of which put into question one’s own view of reality. Entrenching one’s self in a new world not only stimulates growth by bearing witness to alternative pathways to life, but it fosters compassion, as we see love in it’s many different forms. Another powerful tool that can be used to expand ones comfort zone is through the proper use of organic psychedelic substances and herbs. Though no one is telling anyone to go out and have a crazy drug experience, the evidence is there through multiple studies and plenty of first hand witnesses including many indigenous cultures since ancient times. The proper use of psychedelic substances and herbs can open the mind and expand one’s consciousness if one goes into it with the right intentions. It’s when one goes in with the wrong intentions, wrong setting, or a closed mind, that one experiences a bad trip. This is nothing more than the ego losing control and panicking, as it doesn’t know what to do now that its power has been stripped. Finally, meditation, yoga, exercise, and simply reading can allow one to temporarily separate from the ego, allowing ones mind access to new thoughts, un-thought of athleticism, and a new expanded awareness.
As we begin to actively travel further and further outside of our comfort zone and into the great abyss, layers of conditioned programming imparted on us since conception and supported by the ego begin to peel away. We start to question our ego: is this real or is this all just an illusion? If we stay persistent, we eventually come to a point in which we are completely naked, all programming is stripped away and we are in fact egoless. No longer can we pin our self down to anything concrete, for we feel no separation anymore, there is only oneness. In this moment, we are multi-dimensional, absent of boundaries and labels, free to take on any form that we want. It is then, after we have completely stripped away our ego, that we can allow the heart to take control of the steering wheel while the ego takes the passenger seat. We let go of the image our ego has created and instead allow the purest authenticity of our being to pour from our heart.
The trick is that we don’t have to do anything special at all. We are all already born different, so we don’t need to look towards the external world to define and differentiate us. Instead, we must define from within, embracing who we truly are. Stripped down, we are infinite consciousness bound to an exclusive physical body and experienced through the realm of the five senses for only the briefest of moments in time. Yet on a deeper level, we are all part of a continuously evolving universe in which everything is interconnected by the same life force. It is when we tap into the frequency of this life force that our natural-born uniqueness is able to shine through with love in the purest of forms. Unbound by judgment, expectations, and most importantly control, the mask comes completely off, and our heart becomes open and vulnerable to the flow of infinite consciousness. Only through cleansing the mind of faulty external programing can one begin to access the heart; a portal in which all life is interconnected and bound together by the energy of love. The heart is the key to unlocking other higher states of consciousness in which we all have access to, for God is within us all. It’s a mind, heart, body, soul and spirit bridge that is experienced as nothing more than an imperfect state of being in which the purest authenticity of one’s self aims to stay symbiotically aligned with the purest essence of everything else in the universe. In this state, there is no separation, for you are everything and everything is you. This state of being I believe to be… Enlightenment.
I just wanted to take a brief moment and thank Ralph Smart for taking some of what I already knew and enhancing my understanding of it. I encourage anyone who enjoyed this article to check out his YouTube channel, Infinite Waters, along with his website. His daily videos have been a positive and inspiring way to start the day.