Exploring Your Known and Unknown Minds
Wouldn’t you love to be one of those people who know from the word “go” exactly what they want to be when they grow up?”
Take Lewis Hamilton, for example. Three-time Formula One World Champion, Hamilton was just ten years old in December 1995 when he told Ronald Dennis, McLaren Automotive team principal “I want to race for you one day”. Less than three years later McLaren and Mercedes Benz signed Lewis to their Young Driver Support Program; 12 years later he made his Formula One debut and this year he’ll be competing for his fourth championship. Never a moment of doubt for him!
Sometimes it takes years of different experiences to find out that instinctively, very early in your life, you were doing just what you needed to be doing to be happy, with no thought or effort. Do you remember being so absorbed in something that you lost all sense of time? That’s what presence is: being in the moment, with no nagging second thoughts or doubts.
Behind the wheel, that is exactly where Hamilton is. Present to the road, one with the car, focused and relaxed. In his own words: “The way I drive, the way I handle a car is an expression of my inner feelings.”
This deep presence is an enviable place to be, one that sadly many of us experience infrequently. To be one with your whole being where your thoughts, body and intuition are perfectly integrated and operate harmoniously. And, if you are still asking yourself—Who am I? Who do I want to be? What’s my place in my world?—you have plenty of company. So how do you go about finding the answers to those questions?
To find these answers, you need to go to the very source of what drives you, no pun intended. You probably think it’s your conscious mind. Not quite. It’s your subconscious mind (where you hold the memory of all your past experiences), which prompts the emotions and beliefs that guide your thoughts, actions and, on a broader scale, your life. Powerful messages from your subconscious mind, generated by your earliest memories, not only continue to influence you as an adult, but sometimes haunt you too. Worse, they often conflict with your core values and prevent you from being the person you really are.
Although Eastern and Western philosophies differ on what actually constitutes conscious versus subconscious mind (or unconscious mind), one thing they both agree upon is that the conscious mind is the known mind, and the subconscious mind is the unknown mind. The known mind is our conscious thought processes. It is our ability to witness mindfully how our thoughts direct our actions. The unknown mind is our automatic recurrent conditioned thinking.
In your conscious mind lie your skills, the learning and knowledge you’ve gained from what you’ve done and experienced every day, the image you present to the world and the social role you play. Below the surface - in your subconscious mind - lie innumerable personal characteristics, assumptions, motivations, ideas about who you are or who you should be that form your mindset. Getting to know and recognize what lies below the surface of your conscious mind can be challenging, but a worthwhile undertaking, since it’s through uniting your conscious and subconscious minds and matching your inner and outer worlds, that you can find answers to those questions about yourself and live the life that fulfils you.
So think about exploring what motivates you; what shuts you down; what makes you happy; what makes you sad. You know how to use your conscious mind to think, analyze and make decisions rationally. But how often do you catch yourself being driven mindlessly by your unconscious mind? How often do you actually listen to your “gut” feeling that comes seemingly from nowhere but feels so right?
Intuition is your subconscious mind calling for attention. It comes from deep down in your core and it’s worth listening to. What you don’t want to listen to is the endlessly negative internal voice that comes from the unconscious you and often drowns out the intuitive you. Part of what I do to make it easier for my clients to move forward is to help them identify and disrupt their negative internal monolog. In other words, I help them witness their internal disruptive drivers and then, rewrite their internal story. And there are many ways and means to do this, which I’ll address in future posts. For now, let’s go beyond the philosophical and psychological approach and look at the science.
Happily, this is a perfect moment to be exploring the way your mind works! The huge leap forward in imaging and other technology since the 1980s has shown that our brain cells do not deteriorate as we age, and that in a healthy adult the brain’s neural network not only operates at full capacity, but is able to regenerate and create new neural pathways. “Is this a golden age for your brain?” ask Deepak Chopra and Harvard Professor of Neurology, Rudolph E.Tanzi In their book Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness and Spiritual Well-Being.
For you this means that you are in charge. Indeed, to keep your brain in top shape you need to train it to continually learn new skills. So, it’s not the number of neurons per se that make your life more vital, inspiring and successful…..It’s you. As you consciously and purposefully explore fresh avenues of learning, you create new pathways and new connections. And that is what creates your own brain’s Golden Age.
Since it’s consciousness that creates your brain, and brain cells are designed to be dynamic and alert to change, it takes constant awareness to keep on evolving. Start being actively aware. If you feel like you’re running on autopilot, notice the things in your everyday life that have become habits and begin to explore new ways of doing the same old thing. Even small changes can make a big difference in training your brain to reorganize itself, again and again.
When I turned 45, I had one of these big devastating shocks to my ego. I was proud to have the best memory of everyone I knew. I remembered everything. I knew I could count on my memory and so did everyone: My family, my staff, my friends, and specially my husband (“Have you seen my glasses, darling?”). I was smug, because I was always right, literally. There was an on-going bet in my family to trip me up. One day, I made one of my usual bets, absolutely dead sure of myself…and I lost.
Unnerving doesn’t begin to describe how it felt. To lose control over something so reliable, felt like I had lost a friend. My doctor had to convince me that no, I did not have Alzheimer’s. In retrospect, this was a symptom; a call for renewal, for moving away from the routine and trying new things. My being, in its infinite wisdom told me, in no uncertain terms, that a change had to be made. For me it did not come as a nagging gnawing, or intuition. It came and slapped me: “Get over yourself!” Twenty years have passed since the failing of my memory, and I’m happy to report that my brain is nimble, adaptable, creative and not so smug. The nature of my memory has changed as my brain has indeed reorganized itself. It is now really about quality and not quantity and I no longer let that inner voice berate me when I forget something.
What about you? Can you think of anything flagrant, or not so flagrant in the way your life is going right now that might suggest a need for change? Do you have a nagging intuition or a feeling that the “you inside” is trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to make itself heard? Is your brain, meaning your conscious and subconscious mind sending you some hints? It’s worth listening. When you can access the two aspects of your brain—known and unknown minds—with intention, you are informed about the quintessential you. You apprehend intrinsically who you are and where you’re going. As a result you can begin to experience flow and well-being in your daily life, rather than on occasion. In fact, you can indeed achieve what high achievers and meditators call “the zone”, regardless of your age or circumstances. If it sounds la Nirvana, it is! Stay tuned!
I help people “raise the bar” and find clarity — in their career, business, personal life. It’s what I’m here to do, and it’s what I love to do. Indeed, I am dedicated to guiding people along their own unique paths and thrive.