I went to a Catholic primary school back in the ‘old’ days when nuns wore traditional habits and rulers were used for discipline as well as measuring. It was a time when beliefs, even those beyond religion, were held sacred no questions asked. One of these beliefs was that children had to write with their right hand.
I will never forget a boy in my class. He would try so hard to print on the blank lined paper whatever letter of the alphabet we were learning that day. Invariably he would only be able to accomplish the task with his left hand. When a sharp rap across the knuckles did not produce the desired results, he was made to stand in the corner where his isolation produced tears of shame. Everyone got the message. Do what you are told, stay within the lines, and write with your right hand!
This experience made a big impression on me. However, as children do, I accepted such ideas as absolute. We all have childhood memories of events that may seem inconsequential now but were significant for our development. I took to wearing long sleeves and even sweaters on hot summer days to hide a mole on my arm that surely would not be acceptable. I was afraid a mole would be a ruler or a stand in the corner offense. Fortunately I was already right handed!
Eventually mandating that all children write with their right hand was discarded as was corporal punishment. Catching the wave of such movement, I wore short sleeves without fear. However, changes in what I thought were truths sewed seeds of uncertainty in my mind. It was not an uncertainty generated by Catholic school or nuns specifically. It was more a general wonder about how we could absolutely know things, like how writing with a certain hand was ‘better’. As I matured the seeds sewn years before began to take root and grow. With the road map for my life continually changing, I began to see that the same question really could have many answers.
My awareness was piqued by events like my classmate crying in the corner for no other reason than his inability to write ‘correctly’. Years later by trying to find answers, strengthening my own awareness and sharing this with others, I am in a sense trying to find clarity regarding my long ago friend. This book is not an attempt to define conscious living absolutely, but rather an endeavor to signpost a conscious living journey in helpful ways.
Of course living with greater awareness is not a new idea. Throughout time one of the traits that has defined us as humans is the ability to analyze and adapt to the world. From our cranial machinations flow discoveries, inventions, and ideas that influence and transform our existence. Some of these ideas though, while originally enlightening, have resulted in a quiet stagnation of mind and culture. How many of us go happily into an unconscious zone while watching television?
Today, more than ever before, we face the challenge of living consciously in our high tech multi-faceted society. When we try to meet this challenge our lives become invested with meaning and purpose. We experience happiness and joy as mainstays in our lives. As our awareness expands, our understanding and appreciation of our society and world is significantly amplified. Simply put, living consciously results in a better life and world. I tend to think of conscious living as a fundamental part of the job description for human beings.
I have been trying to live consciously throughout my adult life by means of a wide range of experiences. These have included training as a lawyer, sheep farm worker, prison minister, licensed massage therapist, teacher for inner-city gang kids, and organic food co-op manager, among other things. This odyssey has been about seeking ways to support conscious living through the broad expanse of living itself.
If my life has been defined by this process, having children has accelerated the task. Children are naturally aware and a conscious lifestyle supports their awareness. Though many fantastic books, lectures, and films have helped, I found that as a parent I needed something geared more to the child and family. So, as I continued to work to improve my own consciousness I took notes on things that supported awareness for children and teens, indeed for our entire household. Eventually I realized that sharing this information with a larger audience could benefit others on a similar voyage, and Conscious Living Short Cuts for You and Your Family was born.
Many of the concepts in this book are universal truths that you will recognize on some level whether through intuitive, spiritual, scholarly, scientific or personal means. This book is not so much about the ideas though, as it is about the application of the ideas. This book explains concepts, but more importantly it provides practical information and stories illustrating how such ideas may work for you and your family. It gives signs for the road you will map out yourself on your journey. For example, humor is a wonderful road sign. It has reminded my family for years to play basketball in public bathrooms by trying to score a winning shot with our used paper towels.
In summary, the beginning chapters, Source and Earth, are dedicated to consciously reconnecting with our already interconnected world. The idea of lifelong learning or life school is covered in the next chapter, School, and the following chapters examine closely how this learning can be done in simple ways. There are chapters on Tools, Emotions and Balance, as well as Clarity, Ego, and Help. Finally, the Practice chapter indicates how the information fits together to support an integrated conscious life.
Included within each chapter are Conscious Living Keys, concepts that highlight important conscious living ideas. The Keys are introduced as such the first time they appear, and thereafter are in italics even when the Key is modified to be grammatically correct. It may also be in parentheses as a reminder when it is being referred to indirectly. (I have tried to keep such cross referencing to a minimum in order to reinforce but not distract from the material.) The chapters cover different topics using the Keys as important common threads to bind the conscious living ideas together.
Each chapter ends with a list of Conscious Living Short Cuts relating to the chapter. A Short Cut is a simple thought, activity or focus that will empower you and your family to lead a more conscious and thus a more fulfilling life. They are meant to be an outline or quick reference so they are short and simple.
Many chapters suggest that you make up your own list of Short Cuts for conscious living. You may find yourself developing your own Keys as well. Only you know what will work best for you and your family. My ideas are merely suggestions or starting points. Perhaps just read the Conscious Living Short Cuts or the Conscious Living Keys chapters, and leave the rest until time permits or necessity dictates. This book is written so that you can find information in whatever way that suits you and your lifestyle.
For best results, take immediate action whenever you come across something you like or something you think might work for you. Get a highlighter or colored pen and mark the things of interest. Make notes or lists of your own in the page margins or on the back of a favorite birthday card (or on some other keepsake). Perhaps draw a spider diagram or a decision tree with an idea you like in the center and branching pathways indicating various solutions to help with decision making. The things that sound fun and interesting, or the ones that just feel right, will be the easiest to start with and will lead you to other ideas. Maybe look at the Selected Resources list for more details.
My family’s journey is shared with the hope that through our experience you will be supported on your own conscious living adventure. This book provides fun and helpful ideas to do just that. With each step you will gain momentum. Although some suggestions and even chapters may seem more relevant to children, we are all kids at heart. You do not have to hug a tree. You may feel better just leaning against one however!
Please note that this book is not meant to substitute for counseling or medical help. In certain situations getting assistance from a trained professional can be the most supportive thing you could do for yourself and your family. Such aid can bring a tremendous peace of mind and heart to your household.
Conscious living can be a challenging but also a rewarding and life affirming experience. It is a way that we can learn, grow, and finally live the life we were all born to live as conscious members of the human family on Earth. So turn the page and begin your conscious living adventure now!