Awareness vs. Thought

An email newsletter we recently received from an astrologer in another city contained this quote, attributed to Albert Einstein: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  I like the way Einstein looked at things and his outspoken nature.  He has always been a sort of a hero to me, in part because his cosmic sense of our physical world.  He knew that his scientific observations hinted at a spiritual foundation of the universe.

 I thought about using the quote as an illustration of how we work with bringing healing change through creative methods in our work at The Mesa.  Certainly I knew what the words in the quote meant and their implication that we need to “think outside the box” in order to solve problems.  Yes, I thought, changing how we think and being open minded are important in order for us to make things different in our lives, but something about the words didn’t feel right.

 Sadly, what passes as “thinking” these days is often the simple regurgitation of the ideas of others without any real experience, questioning, understanding, or creative expansion.  More and more, we are finding that the problem is not simply how people are thinking per se, but the fact that they are living in their heads; trying to solve all of their problems through the limiting practice of thought.  Usually, the root of what is out of balance for them is not on the level of conscious, aware thought at all, but emotional or spiritual in nature and deeply submerged or suppressed within their psyche.  So many times we’ve heard the stories from people whose therapists told them they had to learn to “just think differently” to stop being angry, sad, depressed, or afraid, when the origins of these disturbances were buried on levels of unconscious, non-verbal fears, misunderstandings, and negating programming that their thoughts simply mirrored.

 As I continued to ponder this simple sentence, I found myself wondering when Einstein had said it and if those were actually his words.  So many things on the web are passed along as “facts” these days when they are not so, and get repeated from site to site by webmasters too lazy to do their own research.  So, I proceeded to do what I have learned to do; I checked the quote out on the internet search engines.  There I found many sources who cited this little saying and various interpretations of its meaning.  Still, there was no date listed for the quote on any of the sites I perused, so I kept checking.  Eventually, I came to a discussion page on Yahoo where someone had asked what the quote meant.

 Buried in the comments section was a notation that the words so often repeated were not exactly what Einstein had said.  The actual quote being: “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”  It wasn’t about thinking at all, I said to myself, but levels of awareness.  Something inside of me knew that the words weren’t a match with Einstein’s energy and consciousness.  They had been interpreted by people with a smaller awareness.  Thinking is analysis of ideas and perceptions, but you can’t think about what you’re not aware of.  Awareness goes beyond the mind but is not always recognized by it.  Higher awareness eventually leads to greater understanding, much as my own awareness had tipped me off about the so-called quote.

 When you were young, you were likely taught to use a fork and a spoon, crayons and scissors, read a book, ride a bike, and drive a car.  Did anyone ever teach you to work with your emotions or those of others?  Were you taught to listen to your heart?  You were probably taught how to care for your clothes, wash dishes, and maybe feed the family pet, but what about feeding your soul?  This focus on “smart” thinking and rote practice over higher awareness is a reflection of the education system in our country that values rational thought above all and denies that emotions or spiritual notions are valid experiences of life.  People are not learning how to engage in deep observation or self-examination, but to actually avoid looking at anything beyond how white their teeth are.  The result is smart, rational people who are ready to explode and can’t figure out why.  They are failing at dealing with life because they are trying to solve all their issues externally when that’s not the level on which they exist.

 In our work with private clients as well as with students in Mesa workshops, we see so many people who are sick, upset, stuck, confused, broke, resentful, worried, and/or afraid.  Their lives are a mess.  Many know all about the “Law of Attraction” and “The Secret”.  Some have been writing affirmations on their bathroom mirrors.  They have done the requisite asking (as in: “Ask and it is given.”) but nothing is changing for them.  In fact, things have been getting slowly worse as they get older.  They already have changed at least some of their thinking and are taking small steps toward a more simple, spiritual kind of life.  They want to practice Love and Light, but it just doesn’t always seem to come out that way.  Some are at wit’s end with their bad feeling life situations, even though they have been doing “all the right things” they had read about in books.  What they lack is awareness.  It’s visible to us.

 A recent session with a client was very telling in this regard.  This very intelligent but narrowly schooled person had been involved in some bad feeling experiences with coworkers and was still upset days later.  She wanted to know why she couldn’t let go of it.  As my client described what had happened, it was apparent that she was not only looking for ways to justify her anger at her coworkers, but also feeling conflicted over her own reactions to the perceived indiscretions.  She didn’t like what was done to her nor what she herself had done in return.  At one point, I asked what was more troubling to my client, what her coworkers had “done to” her or the tense new situation that resulted from her retaliatory shunning of the offenders.  She sat and stammered, not knowing where to start.  What are you feeling as you think about each aspect?, I asked.  The confused look on her face told me the story; she couldn’t sort out her own feelings nor put them into words.

 I had to walk my client through the possibilities of what she might be feeling inside for her to finally recognize that the disapproval of her coworkers was far more painful to her than the resentful sting from their actions.  As much as she wanted to push back against feeling victimized, being “disapproved of” was far more painful.  Once brought to her attention, my client was able to see this longstanding issue and its impact on her life.  It had gotten worse and worse feeling over time and caused her to become (by her own admission) “addicted” to seeking approval.  This brought on more bad feeling experiences as my client then did things she didn’t really want to do in order to please others and avoided what she felt might be rejected.  Her life had become increasingly nerve wracking and virtually devoid of fun.

 Still, there was good news.  My client had found a new level of awareness, one different than the original limited one from her childhood when approval was stingily withheld.  She realized that every time she was exposed to disapproval she took it very personally and wanted to push back against it, instead of maintaining a good sense of self and letting it roll off her back.  Incidents ignited traumatic cycles of internal pain that often took days or weeks to run out of emotional steam.

 There was also help for her.  The new technique we had recently discovered quickly and effectively shifted my client’s unconscious system of motivation.  It took several repetitions but working together we were able to shift that system from a hard stance of saying “NO” to disapproval to a softer, “YES”, changing resistance of what is into acceptance; changing perspective at a new level of awareness for my client.  By session’s end, she was also able to recognize that she was being disapproving to others herself and then self-rejecting over it.  Now that could change, too.

 It’s time for all of us to move beyond reason and thought to new levels of awareness if we are going to solve our longstanding personal problems, those of our society, and the world.  We can’t do it by following “business as usual” methods, viewpoints, or lines of thought.  As of now, the Flow of Creation will no longer support or permit it.  It just doesn’t fit with where it, and we, are going as we move toward 2012 and beyond.  We need to switch over to a higher level of awareness—a more all encompassing, spiritually-based awareness.  We can do this by exercising our emotional, creative, and spiritual “muscles” as well as our brains and expanding our awareness of being aware: our consciousness.

 How can we go about it?  First of all, we can pay attention:  Go out and study nature.  People watch.  Be self observant without becoming self absorbed.  Experiment and wonder.  Make time for meditation (Wednesday nights at The Mesa!) so you can listen to the soundless voice inside of yourself.  Let your hands create without thinking.  Go out of your head and into your body by dancing, swimming, or walking.  Notice how you feel as you’re feeling it and track what you idly think.  Trust your senses and let your experiences teach you.  Most of all, listen to your heart and follow your spirit.  Einstein will be smiling.

About Brad Silberberg

Brad Silberberg, director of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA (Pittsburgh area) is an artist, holistic healer, spiritual leader, and change agent.
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