Week One: Conscious Mind
Your conscious mind is the layer of the intellectual mind that you are aware of and work with objectively. It is where you collect novel information from all senses and generate thoughts for analysis and decision making. The state of your conscious mind defines your ability to focus on a single matter and solve problems. As such, this layer is where you learn to explore and expand concentration techniques. This is the most commonly known layer of the mind, simply because of its importance for mental tasks and professional responsibilities. Unfortunately, that is also why this layer of mind is often overworked and occasionally abused.
Imagine owning an advanced computer or generator. One day you decided to turn in on and set it to maximum output, and then never turn it off again, even for maintenance. If the machine were designed properly, then you would expect its self-protection mechanisms to shield it from overwork. In the best case, those mechanisms will protect the computer by slowing it down, reducing power, or rejecting input. Without relief, the machine’s output may become inaccurate or improper as it loses its ability to perform at peak capacity. In this state, the machine would no longer appear capable of performing its duties. Knowing the story, we see that the computer has the ability to perform to its highest promised potential, but misuse and the lack of maintenance have exhausted its envisioned abilities.
The human conscious mind in childhood is an advanced mind. As we mature, in addition to growing the distractive habit of “multitasking” (which reduces the machine’s efficiency through a constant switching of gears), we can begin to lose or forget our advanced mental abilities. The conscious mind’s required maintenance includes concentration, positive contemplation, free creativity, and critical thinking. Without being renewed by these activities, the conscious mind can no longer experience the full spectrum of awareness that it once did. Though we enjoyed this fuller, deeper conscious experience as children, it has since been filtered by other layers of the mind and their (often inadvertently) activated protection mechanisms. Fortunately, you have within you the ability to return your conscious mind to balance, once again experiencing the state of childlike wonder, spontaneity, and expressiveness. The practices in this chapter support both the maintenance of your mental machine and the resting of its protection mechanisms.
To begin rejuvenating your conscious mind and to reward yourself for traveling the path you faced in Chapter One, you are welcomed to practice the following activity for at least a week.
On the first day of this week’s practice, begin by spending at least 20 minutes contemplating your favorite activities: those you have truly enjoyed throughout your life and those you want to pursue more deeply. These are the types of activities that involve your attention such that you normally cannot combine them with other activities. Your actions during these activities should require your full concentration, demanding innovation and intellectual involvement. These activities could include reading books, researching a subject of interest, writing, coloring, painting, sculpting, cooking, playing an instrument, singing, woodworking, creating with building toys, manual or computer-aided design, or playing chess and other concentration games—anything you enjoy that holds your attention and interest. If you find yourself interested in learning something new, then you are welcome to consider that subject, too.
List all relevant activities in your Development Log. Do not list activities that you use to distract yourself from life but do not deeply enjoy.
After listing your favorite activities in your development log, choose one that can maintain your focus for at least 20 minutes every day. Set aside this time then participate in your chosen activity every day.
Unlike other practice methods, focus on the quantity of your practice more than the quality of it. Let yourself enjoy your practice entirely and repeat it daily without focusing on the results or product of your work. Consistency is the key to this exercise. Your mind is programmed to achieve its highest quality of concentration by repeating a focus-based activity over and over again. Try to stick with the same activity through the whole week unless you find that you begin “going through the motions” instead of focusing deeply.
You don’t have to share the result of your daily activity with anyone else. There is no audience or judgment involved. However, if you are curious about your concentration progress, you may review your dated daily practice record—but only after you have spent at least a week on this exercise.
Duration and Frequency:
Participate in your chosen activity for at least 20 minutes and continue for as long as you can maintain focus, up to two hours.
Practice once a day for at least one week and up to two weeks.