Friday, October 30, 2015

HSPs, the "Consciousness" business and Living a Meaningful Life

Recently, I have been spending a lot of time considering the whole "Consciousness" issue.

No, I don't mean "consciousness" as in what happens in the morning when you wake up after a night of heavy drinking... I mean consciousness in the context typically defined by the self-development and "New Age" industries. Some might call it "awareness;" others might call it "mindfulness" or "Being Present."

I expect this is not a "foreign country" for most HSPs, as our natural tendency towards introspection and self-improvement leads many of us down a path of discovery, driven by a desire to find-- and explore the nature of-- our "True Selves," "The Meaning of Life" and our "Life Purpose."

In the course of  living within the HSP Community for almost two decades, it would be tempting to latch on to the idea that being a Highly Sensitive Person somehow makes someone "more conscious" than the rest of the world... but my experience tells me otherwise. At best, I would feel more inclined to think of HSPs as "differently conscious" from the rest of the world.

I can already hear a few voices rise in protest, saying "How can you SAY such a thing?!?! Being Highly Sensitive automatically makes people more tuned into others, and more empathic, and so more conscious!"

Therein lies the rub, however...

By nature, our ability to "Live Consciously" tends to flow towards those areas of life that matter most to us... and not so much towards those that don't.

"True" consciousness also requires us to navigate-- with equal consciousness-- those areas that are not important to us. And that's where we (HSPs) don't do as well, because we tend to stay within our comfort zones and avoid those things that make us feel uncomfortable and overstimulated.

Let me offer a metaphor, to illustrate:

We may feel like we're doing the right thing by choosing to drive a Toyota Prius because it's environmentally friendly and gets 50 miles to the gallon (highly conscious choice), but are we being truly conscious if we're unaware that that anxieties that cause us to never go faster than 35 mph is actually endangering other travelers when we do so in a 55 mph zone and everyone around us is "doing crazy shit" to try to pass us because we're holding up traffic?

My point here is that "Consciousness" is more than just an esoteric abstract; it is a set of life choices, and many of them highly functional, as they exist in our daily choices. Like that other popular term "enlightenment," consciousness is not a thing; not something we can "have," but rather an ongoing practice; a perpetual sequence of choices that support the highest and best outcome for all-- ourselves included.

For HSPs, if there is one Achilles heel we have, it's our tendency to eternally "stay in our heads" as a means to-- in essence-- avoid interfacing with "real life" around us. And don't get me wrong... I am guilty of doing the same thing. However, it doesn't really help, in terms of becoming well-rounded, fully integrated people who can be of service to the world.

Think about this, for a second:

You are highly sensitive and have learned that the energy of crowds overwhelm you, and that's why you've never done well at festivals and concerts, even though some part of you really like them. Now, you can take that information and either translate it into "avoid crowds" and thereby withdraw from a part of life... OR you can observe yourself in a crowd, determine your "trigger points" and decide that the knowledge "crowds overstimulate me" means you can go and enjoy an event, be self aware, and then make a conscious choice to stay for TWO HOURS instead of "all day."

From my vantage point, the latter is definitely a more conscious choice.

Then I think about the many times I have attended HSP Workshops and Gatherings, and have found a great sense of community and connection, as well as a sense of "direction" in my life... only to end up at the inevitable question (posed by myself, and other attendees): "How do we take this home and continue to experience it outside the protected setting of a retreat?"

Good question!

Often, we know what "The Good Life" (or our version thereof) looks like-- in theory-- but the application is difficult. Or seems complicated. Or an invitation to becoming overwhelmed.

As regular visitors to these pages know, it's fairly rare that I recommend or "endorse" products or books... I think I have done so maybe five times in the 13 years I have been writing here.

Today, I am going to make one of those rare exceptions, because I am working with something I truly feel is of value.

Recently, I have been reading one of the best (and most "functional") books about Consciousness I have ever encountered:

Coffee for Consciousness: The Application of Perspective to Reality by Vito Mucci (opens to description on Amazon, in a new tab)

What I love about this is that it's not yet another fluffy feel-good self-help book overflowing with flowery motivational quotes that sound good without actually helping us-- instead it looks in depth at living consciously at the level  "where the rubber meets the road." In some ways, it reads far more like a "manual for life" or text book than your typical self-help book... and its 550-ish pages filled with no nonsense information underscores that.

In his book, Mucci focuses on the heart of consciousness, mindfulness and self-awareness... and instead of the eternal "rainbow soup" of cute sayings and quotes that sound good but leave us wondering what to actually do next-- this marvelous book is all about what these things actually mean, and how we apply them to our lives.

Of course, that also makes Coffee for Consciousness a challenging read, in its own right... because it asks us to-- or demands-- that we look beyond the pretty window dressing of the so-called self-awareness movement and graduate to making actual changes in our lives, rather than just talking about changes in our lives. So if you prefer "light and fluffy" over getting to the root of issues, this book is not for you.

Although this is in no way "a book for HSPs," I'm impressed enough to feel compelled to recommend it here on these pages-- something I rarely do. Yes, I know it's not cheap... but this is one of the rare occasions where I will counter with "Yes, but it's well worth it!" Whether Vito Mucci is an HSP I do not know, but the insights he shares definitely are meaningful for HSPs.

Now why do I care enough to write this? Well, because there is more to being an HSP than just eternally focusing on "being an HSP." We need to also become the best Humans we can be... and this is one of the few resources I have found that has the potential to truly help, in that respect. And the underlying ideas of the book seem to me to be very in step with the worldview and core values of many HSPs I have known. My wife Sarah-- who's also a Highly Sensitive Person-- has read it and now refers back to concepts learned with surprising regularity... and she's a 30-year "veteran" of the self-development trade.

If you're not quite sure what I am talking about, or you want to get more in-depth with the idea, I would like to recommend that you listen to Sarah's recent radio show where she interviews author Vito Mucci on Radio Nahmaste. As I mentioned, she's a fellow HSP and shares my high regard for this book as an amazing and helpful tool for life and for living consciously. And yes, HSPs do make good talk radio hosts!

Just click on the ► below to listen!

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