Conditioning is psychological training to think and act in certain ways. It’s something we’ve inherited from our ancestors, over millions of years. Conditioning is what we’ve been told to do – by parents, teachers, and so-called experts.
Some conditioning is helpful – like learning to eat and drink – to brush our teeth and stop for a red light. This conditioning creates no conflict.
Some conditioning is harmful – like being taught to believe that some people are better than others. This conditioning creates conflict.
There are three forms of conditioning:
We are biologically conditioned to need food, water and sleep. This is helpful conditioning we do not have to think about. We are born with it.
Getting our bodies in shape takes work. We have to condition our bodies by exercising. Once our muscles are conditioned, exercises get easier, sometimes even effortless.
This is conditioning of the mind – behavior taught over and over until it becomes a habit. We think about it when we first learn it; then hardly at all — like stopping for a red light.
Zombie Zone vs. Enlightened Zone
We all have a Zombie Zone – a mindless, habitual place we go to sometimes when we’re afraid of something – it’s almost as if we are sleepwalking and aren’t really ourselves.
We also all have an Enlightened Zone – a place in our brain that is open to everything and everyone around us, and tends to see similarities rather than differences.
For those of us who sometimes practice ethnocentrism – believing that one ethnic group is superior to any other – that’s a time we are in our Zombie Zone.
Since we have not experienced everything there is to experience in the world, we are ALL ethnocentric!
This could be the reason for our lack of understanding of cultures different from our own.
Understanding Requires Awareness
It’s helpful to question everything!
The battles you fight – with yourself as well as with others – don’t need to happen if you ask questions and learn more about your thoughts, feelings and actions — as they happen!
The key is to be aware of destructive conditioned thinking — as it arises – right in the moment.
And when it does arise, it can be undone by NOT acting on it!
Experience is based on what’s happening to you right here, right now, in the moment. It can be an exciting moment, or a scary one. When something happens in the moment, you gain insight, by looking inside yourself – like this:
- “I see what my brain is doing! It’s making me want to fight. The not wanting to fight can stop it by not acting on it.”
- In the moment, when we need to act, rather than re-act, INSIGHT is what helps us survive. Insight is immediate! It can help disperse any conflict-ridden situation that comes from a conditioned reaction.
- It can come up with intelligent action – in the moment. “I see why that person is angry. I understand it, but I will not fight back.”
Every day we get the opportunity to face a challenge — an invitation to the mystery of doing something new. This dares us to face what lies before us and to participate in a new adventure.
Once new and different possibilities fill our minds, we begin to make discoveries — sometimes surprising ones — that come simply from looking closely at the world around us.
Our discoveries lead us to new awareness — things we’ve not been aware of before. Our sharpened minds fill with new questions — sometimes questions that have no immediate answers. Some of the most exciting questions are not always answerable — they give us the opportunity to explore what they are pointing to.
In a nanosecond (one-billionth of a second!) we can find ourselves in the middle of an in-the-moment experience.
Understanding what makes us react instead of act is what AWARENESS is all about.
“Acting based on awareness is going to be better than re-acting based on someone else’s thoughts!”
I need ONGOING AWARNESS of how my thoughts have created or sustained a conflict.
So, I have to keep on BEING AWARE!
Awareness Right Now vs. Living in the Past
Living in the past is like living inside a still life painting. Everything may look beautiful or comfortable, but everything is stagnant.
Every day there are news reports of people who continue to fight, sometimes for years, over something that happened in the past. Why do we humans do that?
People of a certain group would say this is the work of freedom fighters. People of dominant countries would say that this is the work of terrorists. What do YOU say?
Both “freedom fighters” and “terrorists” are afraid of something.
We, in our own lives, are like them – we feel threatened in some way and believe that we have to fight to survive – just as cave creatures felt when they would encounter a saber-toothed tiger.
Their fight was physical! In today’s world, our fights tend to be psychological.
What we all want is a bully-free zone, where there is no conflict, no fighting, no war.
Actually, that bully-free place does exist – or can exist. That place is inside your mind.
We need to: Look at conflict as soon as it arises! Pay attention to it in the moment! Do not react out of it.
We All Look the Same
Words or actions we may perceive as “wrong” in our culture may be perceived as “right” in another culture.”
When we look at people through the eyes of peace — eyes free of conditioning — we all look the same.
- We are biologically programmed to survive. It is an instinct.
- We join groups we believe will protect us and ensure our survival – clubs, community groups.
- We create enemies because we think doing so protects us.
But creating an enemy is an evolutionary error in the way our brain has been hardwired for survival!
Our brain did this a long, long time ago, because it thought that it needed to do this for its continued existence. There was just so much foodstuff for one group, so anyone from another group would take what the other group needed for its survival.
So “they” — the other group — became a competitor and therefore an enemy for what “we” — our group — needed to have in order to survive.
The need to create “an enemy” has been conditioned into our brain for so long that our brain still thinks it IS necessary.
Enemies exist only when we keep creating them out of the mistaken notion that they are necessary for our survival.
In today’s world, creating enemies THREATENS our survival!
We can change this! This can change if we become aware of it in our selves!
Utilizing our “insight” — we look within — and we see the conditioned thinking that keeps our mind-set locked in place.
If we were born to bully and have been hardwired for war – with combat actually in our genes – how can we change this?
Genes are units of heredity in our bodies that normally reside on a stretch of DNA. They create a code of who and what we are.
Genes in Our DNA
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that do not involve alterations to our genetic code, but still get passed down to at least one successive generation.
What this means is that what’s encoded in your genes can change due to certain things that go on in your life.
Every organism, including humans, has a genome that contains all the biological information needed to build and maintain a living example of that organism.
The biological information contained in a genome is encoded in its DNA, and divided into units called genes.
An “epigenome” sits on top of each genome in the body, and these epigenetic marks tell our genes to switch on or off.
So, the question is: Is it possible that an epigenetic mark can switch off the “combat” gene?
If environmental factors such as diet, stress and prenatal nutrition can leave marks on our genes that are passed from one generation to the next – can fear of “the enemy” be passed from one generation to another?
Is it possible that an intelligent education — one that questions our conditioning, both biologically and psychologically — can be created that stimulates a genetic change in our deeply held pattern for violence and war?
Can the brain heal itself through awareness of its deep-seated fears?
Could this mean that because of epigenetics, people’s memory could be improved – from one generation to the next?
Could our brain light up with insight as a more intelligent environment is created in the world that would alter our deeply engrained pattern for violence and war?