Did you know that a single black line can be your guide to a better life?
I want to begin this article by drawing a single black line.
That’s right, a single black line.
From my perspective, this black line is the most important model I know of for being a conscious person. Often this declaration is greeted with silence and skeptical looks. Understandably it raises some eyebrows.
I will go on to say that this model is binary: meaning it is “either/or.” At any point, a person is either above the line or below the line. If we are above it, we are living consciously and if we are below it, we are not.
When I ask people where they currently are with respect to the line, explaining that conscious people know at any given moment whether they are above or below it. Frustration builds because most people like to “get it right.”
This exercise replicates the “real world” experience of most people. Most people make decisions with limited information, and they judge those decisions as right or wrong. This usually leads to some amount of anxiety for most people. This anxiety is the water that most of us swim. Some of us swim in these waters consciously and others do it unconsciously.
In this article I hope you will find yourself and find ways to shift. In my experience, conscious people living consciously are rare. Most people live life largely unconsciously in the habitual trance of their various personas, their regret and anger about the past, and their hope, fear, greed, and anxiety about the future. Let me be clear. I am not judging this way of living. I find myself living this way quite often as well. In fact, I think this is “normal,” a “familiar” way of living. My intent in this article is to lay down some general thoughts and give the reader the chance to live a more playful way in their life. Where, as humans, we have access to all our centers of intelligence, and we can consciously choose trust over threat, safety over fear, in our life.
Did you know that a brain on high alert is a brain that doesn’t feel safe?
When you are swimming in the water of anxiety this is a baseline of anxiety that often puts the Central Nervous System on high alert. You are so used to this state that it is easy to swim in these waters unconsciously. However, as you will continue to learn along the way in many of the articles on this website that a brain on high alert creates a sensitivity of the nervous system that sets you up for chronic pain or persistent symptoms. So, this is a first step in being able to calm our nervous system through conscious awareness training.
You might wonder, “How does the black line apply to me?”
At this point I share with people that when you find yourself below the line, you are closed and defensive, and in a state of threat (fear). When you are above the line, you are open and curious and in a state of trust (safety). Further, I reveal that when you are below the line, your primary commitment is to being right, and when you are above the line, your primary commitment is to learn.
OPEN CURIOUS COMMITTED TO LEARNING TRUST STATE SAFETY
CLOSED DEFENSIVE COMMITTED TO BEING RIGHT THREAT STATE FEAR
At this point, you, as a smart, capable person have made a judgement that it is “better” to be above the line than below it. This belief causes you to distort reality so that you can see yourself above the line, the preferred state, even if you are not above the line.
What if distortion and denial are traits of living unconsciously?
In this common distortion “wanting to be right” I offer this coaching. I suggest that the first mark of conscious living is self-awareness and the ability for a person to tell themselves the truth. It matters far more that a person can accurately determine whether they are above or below the line in any moment than whether they are or not. Distortion and denial are cornerstone traits of unconscious living.
Being below the line is a normal state for many people because as a species our brains have evolved in such a way that we are constantly scanning our environment looking for threats. The complexity of our brain is something like an emotional sentinel, challenging every situation, every perception, with one question in mind, “Is this safe? Is this something that will harm me? Something I should fear? If so, then our entire central nervous system and all our body's resources prepare for survival. Fight, flight, or freeze. The option with the greatest probability for survival is an automatic, instinctual prediction made by multiple centers in the brain. These neuropathways, when consistently exercised become well-worn pathways and part of our automatic, default system. They become learned.
Take time today to recognize if you are operating above or below the line. Am I operating from an open, curious, state of trust and feeling of safety or am I operating from a closed, defensive, need to be right, state of threat and feelings of fear. Just notice how much time you spend on either side of the line.
You’ve got this!