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Choice Point

By Thea Iberall

Last week, I shared a reflection about a theory by a Princeton psychologist that people's minds 4,000 years ago were different than ours, that those people weren't aware of themselves because they didn't have our conscious ability to introspect. They had no empathy for others because they couldn’t recognize or share thoughts. In that preconscious state, when they had a decision to make, they would hear a voice telling them what to do. And they would obey because they were compelled to obey. But at some point, over hundreds of years, those ancient minds crossed a tipping point. And a little window opened into a new way to thinking: introspection, consciousness. We began to empathize with others, experience another’s point of view. Using introspection, we maintain an interior monologue of an "I" talking with "me". We can say things like I'm mad at myself or I’m not myself.

I’ve been thinking more about this ability to be introspective. It’s been around for thousands of years. It seems like a permanent fixture of my brain, like my ability to see or to speak. But what if it isn’t? What if humanity is at a choice point, a fork in the road where we have to choose between two different paths? What does that mean to me personally?

Within my brain is the remnants of that ancient mind. Every day of my life I have been told to obey and to follow the rules. I’ve been told by my parents, my teachers, by the police, by my rabbi. Obey the rules, obey the laws, drive on the right side of the road. Don’t kill or rob. Get married, settle down, have kids. I've been told what to buy, how to live, what to think. I’ve been told what to wear, what new thing to believe. Television manipulates me. Friends judge me. Religious leaders keep me in line. I’ve toed the line in order to get good grades, good jobs, promotions, relationships. Every voice in my environment distracts me and I’m compelled to listen to what others tell me to do. I am pliable because that ancient mind still exists in me.

But there is a superconscious state that seems to be emerging in some people. I used to live with an anxiety-ridden artist and I could always tell when she was reading a book. I didn’t need my five senses to know it. I could just feel the whole house settling down into peace. How I did that, I have no idea. How to describe it, I have no vocabulary. Shirley and other psychic mediums do this with ease, feeling others energy and emotions, and they connect to the world of spirits. It’s a state of super-introspection where one is not only able to materialize a me into self, but can materialize community into self. It’s all so new. It’s the opposite of that ancient mind.

How do I choose which road to take between following my ancient preconscious mind or embracing a new superconscious state? It takes a lot of work to stay out of my ancient preconscious mind. I’ve been trained and attuned to listen and to obey. But at a point in my life when my life was no longer working for me, I found a few principles to live by, like one day at a time and the four agreements. Slowly, these principles have superseded all voices.

But it also takes work to move into my superconscious mind. Through meditation, I work at expanding my sensory perception and focusing on a heart-centered consciousness. The more I focus on empathy, the more I move into my superconscious mind. Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another, whether the other is a person, an animal, or even a fictional character. Surveys indicate that empathy is on the decline. We cannot establish relationships and behave compassionately without it.

We are at a turning point, either to fall back into our preconscious minds the way voices in our environment want us to or else to expand into our superconscious minds. I know the answer for me. I set my intentions to tune out the barrage of noise so that I can focus on empathy and a heart-centered superconsciousness.

We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are

when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved,

and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed

and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world

but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold

and the car handle feels wet

and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being,

soft and unrepeatable.

Participants’ reflections:

  • I want to thank you so much for the writing today. I feel like I got a glimpse into something very important. When you were speaking about the superconsciousness and this change we might be going through in this time of transformation, in our group for the last few weeks we’ve been talking about the edge and the rim, and looking at life and the choices we make during those times. I feel like I or we might be on a cusp of relating to that consciousness in a new way as we move forward in our lives after the pandemic. I heard someone speak of the space they are in in the joy of multiple meditations. I am wondering for myself if this is not a time in which we are really to let that space of living, that way of being, guide us in the choices that are in front of us. And in my life choices in how I will make a living. Not going back to the old but really letting that still place of new awareness drive everything. That is a true letting go of the old way letting the external drive us bringing our internal forward. It was so thought-provoking. I didn’t want to come out of the meditative state because I’m still in the question. I thank you for the writing today.

  • What reverberated in my chest was yes, I am living in the question. The question shifts and changes. I just have to show up and ask and breathe and listen and make peace with my ego so that it isn’t running the show. And try to figure out how to connect those. Sometimes the path gives a choice of going with being present or is it my ego saying this is my path. I resonated with the point that this is a jumping off point, a precipice. And I believe what we do here matters, each one of us, however we choose to contribute to the light of this circle and in our community and the world. It matters. Thank you for being here for us.

  • Thank you. Really meaningful, powerful reading. What came up for me were labyrinths. Labyrinths have been coming up this week in a variety of ways. I’ve done a lot of building and walking. I’ve done a lot of labyrinth work. Your reading brought me to the labyrinth, a way for me to open up, to be open to that space you’re talking about and that transition. I wanted to share that. Labyrinths are a tool or energy that is calling me. Labyrinths bring us into ourselves.

  • This was so neat. When I meditate, often I will see colors, beautiful colors. Normally, I come away from them and try not to get absorbed by them. Today, I didn’t do that. The colors were amazing, beautiful purples and greens and a crimson. I stayed with the colors and it was an incredible, comforting spot to be in.

  • I hear the words compassion and empathy a lot these last few days. I saw a talk by the Dalai Lama where he was answering questions by a group of Russian students. One student said they’ve been going into the community to help people alone and at risk. They are risking their lives because of Covid. The question was whether they should be doing this, should they be risking their lives. The Dalai Lama said yes, it was compassion. He kept going back to his heart. That’s the basis, compassion, heart, love. I’m struggling with the lack of compassion for certain people in my life and how I resist having compassion. I’m struggling with that. I want to be on the cusp but I don’t feel like I am. I ask for your prayers to help me get past this stumbling block.

  • Thank you for sharing that. I know for me, I hated my father all my life. I learned from my sponsor to not listen to him directly, but use a triangle. Every communication with him would not be direct; instead, I’d send my words up the triangle through my Higher Power, and I would listen to him along the triangle through my Higher Power. It helped me hear him in a whole different way. I also listened through my heart instead of my ears. It changed things for me, so that I could learn how he was without my anger between us.

  • This is bringing up a lot for me. Thank you all for everything you’ve said. I grew up hearing my father say ‘do the right thing, do the right thing.’ I brought up my children with that message. I am at a point of my life where doing the right thing doesn’t have the same connotation anymore. When I’m doing the right thing, am I doing the right thing for myself? Right now, I’m going through this thing where I’m wondering if I’m being compassionate for someone else at the expense of myself. It becomes an issue of being compassionate for someone else at the same time being compassionate for myself. I struggle with that because often I am other directed and it’s more important how someone else is going to feel in a situation. Lately, I’ve really had to look at that. When I feel like I’m not being compassionate, I feel like I’m being a bad person. I want to be authentic to how I’m feeling rather than doing something that’s not authentic. It’s a real struggle. Food for thought.

  • It is about not being a doormat. Being compassionate, but not a compassionate doormat. It’s about taking care of myself. If I’m not centered, my job is to get centered. And if I am centered, my job is to do service for others and do my creative work. It’s about being clear about that. I get into it with my spouse sometimes where we want to take care of each other, but sometimes, one of us has to step back and say I can’t help you at the moment. And it’s a good thing.

  • Thank you for the reading and everyone for the comments. What surfaced for me, going through this transition in my life and taking over the primary responsibility for our move, has put me in a challenged stressful place. I recently recognized I’m flooded with tears inside of me and haven’t let them come out. It’s about compassion. I want to be compassionate with others but I want to take care of my needs. It’s about getting through that idea of selfishness. Being there for someone else. It doesn’t work for the person and it doesn’t work for me. I feel like each day I’ve been less quiet in terms of what I share here. I think it’s because I’m really plugging into the experience of the 15 minutes of meditation to see what is important to me to emerge as opposed to how can I respond to the reading. That’s what I wanted to share.

  • I have been impressed and excited reading about the big infrastructure package. The underlying theme is about the common good versus individual enrichment. I see the potential of going back to the spirit of we are all in this together.

  • This does have to do with empathy and compassion, it is true.

  • Thank you for joining in on this journey into our consciousness and superconsciousness and our empathy states. I hope you think about empathy today and how it impacts your life and other people around you. I hope you all have a gentle, blessed day and that you are empathetic and compassionate with yourselves as well as everyone you come into contact with today.

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