Sunday, April 12, 2020

Consequences or Conditioning?

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

How desperate are you…

…for love?
…for approval?
…for attention?
…to appear relevant?
…to seem important?
…to know?
…to be right?
…to be cool?
…to be a victim?
…to have?
…to be “good enough”?

To find out, ask yourself this question:
Do I choose consequences over conditioning, or conditioning over consequences?
When it comes to making decisions, maybe you've already made them or maybe you're about to, ask yourself what the basis of your choice was or will be, and why.

In some instances, which option you choose and the details thereof may be quite clear to you; in other instances, the answers could be quite clouded.

Needful Things

For my junior year of college I had transferred to a university’s branch campus that had a population of mostly freshmen and sophomores.

This meant I was 21 and most everyone else wasn’t. This meant I could legally buy and drink alcohol and most everyone else couldn’t. This meant people came to me, like we were best-friends-for-life even if I’d hardly ever spoken to them, asking me to buy them alcohol.

I turned down plenty of people, but sometimes I didn’t.

Like the time I bought a bottle of liquor and a few 40s, shared them with a bunch of underage suitemates and friends, had about six shots in a relatively short period of time without standing up or moving around, did then stand up and immediately blacked out until a few hours later when I was woken up by someone while my head was resting on a toilet, then was half-carried through one dorm to the outside, at which point I turned to my right and puked in a bush… right as a campus police officer—of our dry campus—was driving into the drop-off circle where I was headed in order to get to my own dorm.

That was a long night.

Soon thereafter I went to see the officer in his office. He handed me “the book” and had me read the portion that expressed how buying alcohol for minors can result in as much as something like a $1,500 fine for every 8 ounces of alcohol and time in jail (though I can’t remember how much).

Thankfully—super-mega-ultra-praise-be-to-God-in-heaven-thankfully—both since the campus was a branch of a big-name, self-image-protecting school and since no one really got hurt, I got off with the minimal punishment of a fine for public drunkenness, which was only a few hundred dollars, and I had to pay $300 for a session with a local alcohol-abuse psychologist.


Why’d I do it?

I was desperate for [what I’d imagined to be] love, acceptance, approval, and so on.

I had no clue what “the book” said—and shouldn’t have had to know—and even if “the book” never existed, I still knew before buying that I could be in a lot of trouble with the school and at home if I were to get caught. Plus, when people would ask me to buy them alcohol, my stomach would churn hard because I desperately wanted to say both no and yes.

Yet the forces of desperation were so powerful that I’d pushed any deeper thoughts of getting caught to the periphery.
“What if I get caught?”

“Oh, the consequences couldn’t be
that bad. And maybe I’d be rejected and shamed by my family, but that’s so far off, if it ever happens at all. Now, right now, if I say no, I’m going to be rejected and shamed by my friends. Would I be able to live with that?”
By and large, the only thing I could see and feel, and the thing I almost couldn’t help but act on, was my conditioning—the fears and traumas I’d acquired and compounded earlier in life (and maybe other lifetimes) but never resolved.

Nevertheless, I think that even back then some 15 years ago, during one of the worst years of my life and with no awareness of self-help, if someone had been able to ask me the right questions and say the right things (because the psychologist certainly hadn’t been able to), I could probably have come to a similar though lesser conclusion as what I’ve said here.

Back then, without guidance, I may not have been able to understand my internal situation on an intellectual level. However, feeling-wise, my choice of conditioning over consequences was very clear.

“The Beast”

Now, here’s an example of when the choice of conditioning or consequences isn’t so clear.

Jehovah’s Witness door-to-door religious salesmen and –women.

One time I answered the door and standing there were two presentably dressed, elderly women holding onto their missionary paraphernalia. The one stood back, silent, while the other gave her spiel.

As I recall, she started off with her piece, and I very quickly responded by telling her I wasn’t interested.

She went on for a bit anyway, as though I'd asked her to tell me more, until I said something like, “What are you doing, here, anyway? You're forcing your message onto me even when I've told you I don't want it. I'm satisfied with my spirituality… You know, when someone is truly holy, when someone truly knows Jesus, their spirituality radiates from within them. And people go to them, they don’t have to go to the people. You say you’re following in Jesus’ footsteps, but what you’re doing is irritating—Jesus wasn’t a door-to-door salesman.”

The woman immediately responded with, “Yes, he was.”

Woah! Now, hold on a fucking second… This woman was not just a professional of misrepresentation, err, I mean, a saleswoman, but one of those people who is so phenomenally arrogant yet also so amazingly blind to said arrogance.

She’d gotten on my nerves basically the moment she started talking, and as I became increasingly angry with her, she just stood there, confident and still as stone, with a subtle, yet, perhaps, the smuggest smile on her face that I have ever seen on anybody, ever.

“Yes, he was.”

I’ll be honest… I’d done a fair amount of inner healing up to the time when these two women showed up, and the times in my life had become very few that I actually felt inclined in any way toward violence. But I’ll tell you what, as this woman spoke, I wanted so dearly to punch her square in the face and knock her backwards off of my porch.

Yes, I’m human. And on that day, I was a very upset human.

What I remember next is that I again told her I wasn’t interested.

She replied, “Okay, well, why don’t you take this free pamphlet so you can read about us if you decide that you are? There’s also an important Bible passage on the back.”

“I’m not interested.”

“Well, here, you should at least take this card so you can read the Bible passage.”

“I don’t want it.”

“Okay, but I suggest you at least read 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.”

Admittedly, I don’t recall what the Bible passage was that she insistently stuffed down my throat against my will; I thought it would be funny to insert this one, here, because…
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (KJV)
I repeatedly tried to break off the conversation without flat-out slamming the door in her face, but, man, I felt like an antelope trying to flee for its life while dragging along a rabid hyena as it chomped down on my neck.

I finally closed the door.

And I never read the Bible passage.

Blind Destruction

In this example of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’m sure the woman, had she been asked, would have no reasonable clue whatsoever of the conditioning (in this case, perhaps, brainwashing) she was under nor the real consequences of her behavior.

I can’t say exactly what she was looking to get in terms of love, approval, and so on, but she was clearly so utterly absorbed in her shell of conditioning that she simply couldn’t see the true consequences: how she was hurting others; how she was trying to interfere with their lives and choices.

Her imposition of the Bible verse and the smug-ass smile she wore that so strongly compelled my fist toward her face are proof of this.

I don’t have any doubt that in her mind she was being “a good disciple” and I was “the sinner in need of conversion”; that the perceived consequences were not at all about the best interest of others but how good of a seat she could get in heaven.

Take what she did, put it on a grand scale, and what results? Holy war.

The self-righteous imagine they’re merely righteous, and the consequence, over and over and over again, because any other result is necessarily an impossibility, is that the victims of the conditioning are hurt.

Is It Worth the Pain and Suffering?

Of course, choosing consequences over conditioning or conditioning over consequences isn’t always as striking as I’ve potentially made it out to be in the above examples.

There are thousands of decisions we make every day that give us the opportunity to choose one or the other.

You could choose conditioning over consequences by again making a spam sandwich for Friday’s work lunch because, even though you really want peanut butter and jelly, you’re afraid your coworkers will laugh because you'll have stopped eating spam after 987 consecutive days. Your conditioning wins out over the consequence which is known, or at least sensed, by you in advance that you will be unhappy with stagnation.

As always, I encourage you to pay closer attention to your behavior and to become conscious of the programming behind it.

What are you really looking to get?
Are you trying to protect something?
Are you afraid of facing a certain fear?
Are you scared of letting go of pain-causing yet self-identity-confirming beliefs?

Is the decision to choose conditioning over consequences really worth it?

Are you sure?

And you know, you don’t have to eat the peanut butter and jelly, you can eat the spam sandwich, to maintain that 987-day streak.

But at least give yourself the chance to see what’s really going on in the full light of your awareness.

See what’s happening, know what’s happening, and then, if you still want to nom on some spam even though it will discomfort you, do it.

Do it. I think you’ll be both surprised and delighted by the consequences of understanding your conditioning.

Friday, April 3, 2020

You May Be Right (Even If You Think You’re Wrong)

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Have you ever said something only to soon regret it?

Sure, you have. We all have.

But in this case, I’m not referring to anything mean, embarrassing, or foolish as you’re probably thinking.

I’m instead referring to the times when we say something intending to help someone, at their request, only to part ways and think that we should have said something different. As if, although we’d meant well, what we’d said seems more or less half-baked and may have left the person dissatisfied.

What I’d like you to consider is that what you’d said may have been just fine, even if you think otherwise.

It’s about What’s Needed, Not What’s Wanted.

One time someone asked me if I knew anything about a certain powder-form, high-nutrient dietary supplement.

From what I recall, I told the person that I’d never heard of it, that a lot of such products may have some nutritional benefits but are usually marketing gimmicks, and then I recommended that he make sure to eat plenty of whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Later on I looked up the product info. Being that the questioner had diet-related health problems and the product might have been a help to him, I got thinking that maybe I should contact the guy and tell him that he might find it useful to give the supplement a try.

At first I’d felt kind of guilty as though I’d given a lousy answer, like I should have thought more deeply about the question and then responded differently.

I later came to realize, however, that, even though I’d initially felt as though I’d sort of screwed up, I hadn’t actually screwed up at all.

The thing is, knowing what the person’s diet was like, without realizing what I was doing, I told him exactly what he needed to hear at that time.

Yes, true, maybe the supplement he’d asked about could have been of benefit to him. But supplementation was really beside the point because what was vastly more important in his particular circumstance was that he begin focusing on eating plenty of whole foods.

You Can’t Hear What Others Are Saying When You’re Too Busy Thinking about What You Wish They Were Saying but Aren’t.

This next instance is similar but different. Although I wasn’t directly asked for help, help certainly could have been a natural consequence. What positive came out of this, I really can’t say.

One time I was talking with a few somewhat older women and telling them, at their inquiry, about dietary changes I’d recently made.

I said something to the effect that I’d been eating lots of whole foods and had taken all processed and sugary foods out of my diet.

I said that I’d begun noticing how my body has improved and changed in ways I’d never seen before—as though my body had always wanted to do certain things but wasn’t able to because I’d always somewhat undereaten as well as had eaten a lot of junk food. Specifically, I’d mentioned that changing to a healthier diet caused more hair to grow on my body.

As you can probably imagine, this didn’t go over very well. Telling an older woman, or perhaps any woman, that eating a wholesome diet can potentially cause them to grow more hair is not the best marketing tactic for healthy eating (unless they have hair-loss problems, of course).

After my conversation, I hadn’t mulled this one over as I had the instance regarding the powder supplement, but I did think that maybe I should’ve used a different example.

I came to realize, however, that how any of those people chose to interpret my words is not my business. Indirectly, I could have been interpreted as saying, Eat real food because it’s the only food that works to make you and keep you healthy, that allows your body to function according to the ideal template of “you” stored in your DNA.

If someone chooses to shallowly interpret my words through distorted lenses of fear or self-depreciation or the like, such is not my problem in instances like these.

I did my job: I answered the question in an informed, honest, friendly manner.

I said what people needed to hear—but if people actually heard what I said is up to them.

Our Job's Reach Is No Further than Halfway.

I share this with you because I want you to know that even though we sometimes think we’d said or done the “wrong” thing, that maybe we shouldn’t have been so spontaneous or impulsive, there are definitely cases where this is not so.

If we’d look deeper into why any others who we’re involved with might have needed the exact experience we’d shared with them, we might find that we’d actually said or done the right thing—or, at least, a better thing than if we had spent more time to think before speaking or acting.

All the while, it’s important that we lean toward judging these situations based on what we provide, rather than judging solely in terms of the reactions others have to us.

While it is always possible that we could have either flubbed or said or done better, the fact is that people react based on their conditioning 99.938% of the time; meaning, unless we’d have told them exactly what they’d wanted to hear—something they may not even know—it could be that all reactions would be less-than-positive.

It’s our job to respond reasonably to others' questions, needs, etc. in any given situation and to continue conversing/interacting with others in such a way, but it’s usually not in our place, unless requested, to tell others how they should react to or think about our responses to them; it’s not our job to fight to make sure that we’re understood by others in the same way we understand ourselves.

How others react and think is based on their conditioning (beliefs, fears, education, and so on), and this is not something that any of us can forcefully change.

Even the wisest human changes no one, for it is only the individual, by self-willingness, that can change his- or herself.