Knowing Our Conscious Core
…and the One Simple Act that Leads Us to It
On Just Being presents a comprehensive, focused strategy for personal growth and explores the vital link between personal development and sociopolitical change. The cornerstone of the view of life that informs this effort can be simply stated:
Human beings are fundamentally good at heart – innately curious, loving and brave – and the world is predominantly nurturing and benevolent.
This premise can seem naively idealistic when viewed with justifiable skepticism, my own included. But I have become convinced that life could not sustain itself, even for an instant, were goodness not at the core of our very existence. I now see this as self-evident.
Yet problems and hardships are the stuff of life, and tragedy, cruelty and malevolence have always been pervasive in our world. So even if we accept that we are good by nature, it is painfully obvious that this intrinsic goodness is often well beyond our reach.
The most constructive attitude we can hold is to see life as a grand adventure and view each problem and crisis as an opportunity to remember, summon and strengthen our core of goodness. The more difficult the challenge before us, the greater the achievable result.
The heart of the strategy for personal development presented here is to discover and know the center of our being – our Conscious Core – and to learn to perform a specific shift of attention – One Simple Act – that helps us move closer to our core strength and goodness in any situation.
A Life-Changing Quest
The benefits of becoming familiar with my Conscious Core and training myself to execute the One Simple Act are profound.
When I am connected to my Conscious Core:
- I can think more clearly and imaginatively and act more skillfully and appropriately. Unbound by habitual and obsessive thinking, my potential choices widen and I can direct my attention where I choose
- I enjoy life’s pleasure more deeply as my senses enliven and the world around and within me becomes more vivid. By choosing to feel distress in my body rather than ruminating about it or trying to avoid it, suffering becomes more bearable, even meaningful and revealing.
- Accessing my deeper sources of knowing, I am less susceptible to emotion-triggering speech and all forms of disinformation. I am more stable in the midst of turbulence and adversity.
- I recognize the Conscious Core in my fellow human beings and realize that my personal agency exists within a complex web of interdependent relationships.
- I am less caught up in and identified with my thoughts, feelings and actions, enabling me to deal more effectively with difficult emotions, both in myself and others.
- I engage people more confidently and compassionately, including strangers and even antagonists. I become more capable of participating in genuine dialogue and creative conflict resolution.
Knowing and connecting to your Conscious Core is neither a panacea nor easy to accomplish. It will not make your life trouble-free or eradicate difficulties and tragedies. But if you embrace the challenge of knowing the center of your being and acquiring the ability to execute the simple yet radical attentional act that connects you to your core, you will equip yourself to successfully navigate any troubled waters as you undertake a transformative journey.
One Simple Act
The quest to know my Conscious Core is a multifaceted lifelong effort, yet a simple act of consciousness can initiate the process of connecting to my core in any given moment. This One Simple Act is implemented instantaneously and may last only a second or two, or it might continue for 10 seconds, 20 seconds, a minute – even indefinitely
Its purpose is to move me closer to my core than I was before executing the act. How long I conduct this action and how much closer to my center of being it takes me depends on what I deem appropriate for the circumstance and how skilled I am in performing the maneuver.
The simple secret: Whenever I am feeling stress or discomfort of any kind or degree, the most effective action I can take is to…
Step back, envision my Conscious Core, and feel the sensation of being in my body.
Describing the One Simple Act as consisting of three stages is in a sense arbitrary, as they can be accomplished in one integrated movement with practice.
Alternative words can be used to describe each action:
- Instead of step back, pause may work better in some situations. I widen my attention from the thought or action I am focused on to recognize that I have other options. This first stage is arguably the most difficult to achieve. How do I remember to step back if I am absorbed in another thought or action? This quandary and other aspects of this maneuver will be addressed in a forthcoming essay.
- In the second stage, recall or imagine might evoke a mental picture of my core more readily than envision. And if I do not have a clear image or sense of my Conscious Core? First, just stepping back and sensing my body is effective. But adding the intervening act of remembering or imagining my core makes this movement substantially more potent. If my sense of my core is vague or weak, then I start with that. It will grow stronger over time.
- Feel the sensation of being in my body is particularly open to personal restatement to convey the idea effectively, as fully experiencing this feeling is indispensable to accomplishing the One Simple Act and knowing my Conscious Core. I will suggest other ways of describing this all-important visceral awareness soon.
My goal is to impart a clear, indelible understanding of the nature, composition and workings of our Conscious Core and to provide practical tools, tips and techniques to make the One Simple Act accessible to anyone who chooses to experiment with it.
Under the Sun
I realize I am making a rather bold claim in this essay. But I am hardly alone in making it. The rich benefits of knowing our Conscious Core and the power of the One Simple Act, by whatever name or no name at all, have been known for millennia. Teachings about the center of being and how to grow closer to it are a principal element of virtually all wisdom traditions, whether religious, spiritual, mystical or metaphysical in nature. Many philosophical and psychological schools of thought also posit a core self, and likewise commend the act of pausing, slowing down, and relaxing into a more grounded, centered, expansive state.
My intention is to demystify and simplify the “perennial philosophy” by emphasizing its end goal: to master the movement of stepping back to remember and move closer to my center. In accomplishing the work to become expert in this act of consciousness I will come to know the source of my being, my Conscious Core. The ability to accomplish the One Simple Act in any and all circumstances has always been a mark of genuine saints and mystics and other highly evolved human beings.
I only recently labeled this movement the “One Simple Act” but I have been striving to become more adept with it for decades. Am I claiming to have mastered the skill myself? Absolutely not, far from it. But I do know beyond any doubt that my Conscious Core exists and that the One Simple Act works. Choosing to test this hypothesis launches the journey. Then the real work begins: developing my ability to execute this silent maneuver in an ever-widening range of circumstances.
A Container for the Work
The more stressful the situation we find ourselves in, the more difficult it is to perform the One Simple Act and commensurately more important to try and more impactful when achieved.
Attempting to remember and connect to our Conscious Core under stressful conditions is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the wounds we have incurred, the traumas we have experienced, the losses, betrayals, abandonments, and all the other tribulations we have suffered – and the defensive habits we have deeply ingrained in our persistent efforts to shield ourselves from pain – rise up to block our intention to remember and move closer to our core of strength and goodness. This is the obstacle course we must make our way through, and we will experience both advances and reversals as we do.
This expedition will not, cannot, be traveled only on smooth paths with friendly hosts. We must traverse rough passages, meet our demons head on, and courageously go forward. The greater the internal impediment we encounter and ultimately remove or find a way around, the more we open up the channels to our Conscious Core and set free our innate curiosity, love and courage.
The methods we engage to confront our psychological and emotional afflictions vary widely depending our personal history, beliefs and accessible resources. Some of us choose and benefit from various disciplines of professional guidance. Wise and caring friends and family can be enormously helpful. Countless self-help practices and routines can aid our journey, from yoga and nature walks to meditation and nutrition. Whatever forms of healing we partake in, if we pursue that work within a framework of reconnecting to the center of our being – where we are now and always have been whole – our healing will be expedited.
As we gain a clear and vivid image of the destination we are seeking – our Conscious Core – and keep our eyes on that prize, we will reach our goal day by day, the inevitable setbacks notwithstanding. And results both tangible and subtle will be realized at every stage.
Now is the Time
Unfortunately, an external impediment also hinders our pursuit: a woeful lack of broad cultural support for such personal and spiritual development. In addition we face socioeconomic forces that work against our natural desire to become more healthy and complete human beings. This has long been the case, and in the present era of accelerating social and political breakdown, the opposite ethic is on the rise. Instead of being encouraged to step back toward the depths of our being where we can produce more creative thoughts and constructive actions, we are cheered and rewarded when we shoot first and question ourselves later if ever.
This is not a political commentary, at least not aimed in any single direction. Lunging forward in word or deed with an excess of speed and zeal and a deficit of awareness and consideration is ubiquitous across the spectrum – on social media, in our neighborhoods and common spaces, in the halls of government.
But hope is on the horizon. People are expressing growing concern about this trend toward knee-jerk intolerance and open hostility. Awareness is expanding that we need to fundamentally change how we engage one another if we are to emerge from today’s manifold crises into a tomorrow that beckons with unprecedented promise on many fronts.
With existential peril, unbounded potential and accelerating change existing side by side, reconnecting to our core goodness is more important today than it has ever been. And also more possible. Near the beginning of this essay I listed the benefits to be gained from knowing our Conscious Core. The last bullet point ends with this:
I become more capable of participating in genuine dialogue and creative conflict resolution.
To successfully confront our shared problems we need to listen to each other and work together. This means embracing the practice of genuine dialogue. Instead of trying to convince each other of the superiority of my point of view and the folly of yours, we seek to simply and accurately understand each other’s perspective and the experiences that led us to them. This is the key to transforming our ability to engage constructively, with ensuing rewards beyond what we can currently imagine.
As we all know from our personal lives and witness daily in our increasingly polarized public sphere, conducting authentic give-and-take when our views and interests differ can be extremely difficult. To faithfully address and ultimately overcome this difficulty we need to grow as human beings.
Bertrand Russell put it succinctly:
The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation, and the first step towards co-operation lies in the hearts of individuals.
Now is the time to take this step. And our deepening systemic crises may be the catalyst we need to do so.
Not everyone can be on the front lines in the struggle for all that is self-evidently righteous and good, such as human kindness; planetary stewardship; pluralistic society and democratic self-government; and honest communication and genuine dialogue at every level. But anybody who sincerely strives to be a responsible citizen and lead a good life advances the cause.
Whatever our path, the smartest, boldest and most productive commitment we can make is to know and connect to our innate strength and goodness.
With On Just Being, I hope to contribute to this critical mission by helping to bring the quest to know our Conscious Core and this modest yet potent shift of attention, the One Simple Act, down from the lofty perch of saints and mystics and into the realm of common folks like you and me.
This essay officially launches On Just Being. More content is in the works and the site will be updated frequently. Comments on this essay are welcome in the section below.
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Thanks for tuning in.
– Ronald Fel Jones