As adults, virtually all of our actions are conditioned responses. That is, we generally react to whatever (stimulus) happens in our daily life in the same way each time. This is largely because we live in the same environment day after day, and nearly all of our daily activities are a pattern. We’re programmed to operate in a certain way within that pattern of daily life. We are a pattern. We’re conditioned.
When we are conditioned to do any particular action, our decision to choose that action nevertheless still can be a conscious one. This is the process:
- We perceive a stimulus;
- we think of what we will do in response to the stimulus (the conditioned response comes to mind first);
- we decide whether to do it or to pursue another response;
- we respond.
This takes very little time, and you don’t notice it until you decide to notice it.
When we think of the conditioned response, we can consciously choose not to give that response. Then we will think of another possible response, to which we can also choose yes or no. In this manner, we can take steps to liberate ourselves from conditioning and live more consciously.
Conditioning hardens and leads to living death. Liberation leads to real living: conscious living.
Conscious, waking life can be likened to a dream. We can experience both with varying degrees of consciousness. Some dreams we are hardly aware of, while others are vivid and rich in imagery and meaning. As we increase in consciousness, the waking dream which is our life becomes more vivid and real to us and we experience life more fully until, eventually, we recognize the dream of life for what it is and we become more and more able to influence the course of our life and our relationships with others in it.
Do you understand the significance of being able to determine to a large extent the course of your life and the nature of your relationships? It means that your life reflects your will: what you want to happen.
What does everybody want? Basically,
- to be happy and confident that everything is okay;
- to be their own master;
- to live more easily;
- to be sure that they’ll have what they need.
Anyone who wants these things and is determined to have them can have them; it only takes one step. There are a million first steps you could take, but here’s one:
observe yourself when you’re reacting to something.
It doesn’t matter what. Identify your conditioned/automatic response. Decide to do something else instead.
(Written in 2004 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)