Living a conscious life?

manchester skyline may 1st

I hadn’t really considered that I might be living my life in a conscious way. But the more I look into it, the more I see the difference between my life previous to my brush with death.

So what is a conscious life? A life which is deliberate and thought-out, by listening to yourself and making conscious choices.

There’s no absolute, but rather a number of common elements which point in a certain direction. After some research and thought here’s a small incomplete list.

  • Do what makes you happy
  • Feel comfortable with saying no
  • Accept yourself and stop comparing yourself to others
  • Ignore the messages of the mainstream
  • Live in the moment
  • Be choosy
  • Focus on what you have
  • Practice a life with gratitude
  • Don’t let your ego lead
  • Spend your time and resources wisely
  • Let go of negativity and judgement

Its easy to see how all of these can seem either obvious, patronising or some hippy spiritual nonsense? I get it, maybe 10 years ago I would be thinking a similar thing. Maybe its just one of those things which you are ready for or not?

So how does this manifest in my life?

Happy Programmers

Do what makes you happy

I pretty much do what makes me happy and ignore much else. Its not out of ignorance but rather feelings of overload. I guess this is why I can sleep well at night? Don’t get me wrong, there are feelings/tensions about this being selfish but I tend to balance it out in my head by helping people when possible.

Help takes many forms but trying to encourage more people to be a little more conscious is something I quite like. Although I guess in retrospect, it can seem like I’m pushing my ideology on to others? Of course its about balance and also if the person is receptive to the advice.

Going back to doing what makes me happy. My trip to Japan was a great example. I got much advice about where I should go and visit from a great number of people & places. Although I took them on-board, I spent most of my time in Tokyo wondering the streets of different prefectures of the city. I visited every single roller coaster park except the Disney ones. I did what made me happy and still ended up trying new things. So this isn’t about the filter bubble. Its not uncommon for me to end up in the middle of a new city and just go exploring, alone or with others. Usually on a quest for the best cocktail establishment in that city.

This also applies to what I see and experience. This does unfortunately means making some tough decisions about places, things, friendships, etc…  Doing what makes me happy also means I tend to go and do things which others wouldn’t do alone. Its not unknown for me to go to the cinema, city, dinner, holiday alone. I’m quite comfortable with my self and don’t need others to reaffirm my happiness.

Feel comfortable with saying no

Following on from the previous one, saying no and personal happiness are connected. Saying no means theres less guilt and less mental pain. Saying no does mean being honest and rejecting people, but in the long run, its a much better place to be. Its great being strong willed too, great for the character. This has also stopped me from ending up in places/doing things I honestly wasn’t happy about.

Accept yourself and stop comparing yourself to others

This is something I learned very early on, maybe back when I was in primary school to be honest. I was taken out of class to go up to a special room, where a teacher/specialist would give me tests for dyslexia. That combined with being one of about 3 black kids in the school, all this made me less focused on comparing myself. I also wasn’t the most photogenic person in school, but it didn’t matter so much to me. This followed through into later life and

I’d argue this also fits well with not letting your ego rule, because what others do with their lives doesn’t concern me much. Its only when it affects others or myself I start to wonder.

Every once in a while people near me, have said they are jealous of one thing or another. I always say,

“don’t be jealous, focus on how your going to get better”

I try and get people to rethink the situation by turning that early stage envy around. Be happy for the other person and use them as a pointer. This does require some re-framing but is important and directly fits with the notion of being conscious not just reactionary.

Live in the moment

I alluded to dyslexia and links to living in the moment, but honestly my personally has expanded quite a bit to seek out more opportunities, now I notice them more. Its one of the big noticeable differences after my brush with death. Lisa Upton talked about it too, so did Derren brown’s in the secret of luck and of course there was what happened at TedxManchester3 with  Carrie Green.

Funny enough I recently found where the coffee conversation with Carrie went; into her book She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur.

From the chapter – The little voice in your head

A guy called Ian Forrester climbed up to the stage, I handed him £20, the audience applauded and he went and sat down. A few weeks later we met up over a cup of tea and he told me how a brush with death a few years earlier made him make the decision that he was never going to let anything stand in his way. He said, “People are paralyzed by their fear of what might happen, and so they won’t reach out and grab what’s in front them. And that’s pretty much what I did.”

I also remember a while ago hearing about smutslam and decided to give it a try. During the course of the evening, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up winning 2nd place. Totally living in the moment, just going with the flow.

Practice a life with gratitude

Been thinking about this one quite a bit, especially since I attended Sarah Raad’s workshop at Thinking Digital Newcastle. The benefits are huge for such a simple practice.

There are many gratitude apps and platforms, I’m just trying to pick one which contains all the things I respect like being opensource, decentralised, multiplatform, etc.  Currently I’m drawn somewhere between using Mastodon and trying Micropub.

What ever I decide, I’ve started writing weekly in Standard Notes, which also has a nice little micro blogging system called listed.

Let go of negativity and judgement

This is a big one. It was a workshop talk from Bobby from the happiest which unfortunately closed not long afterwards. (still like to see a distributed take on happiest); which got me thinking about negativity and how much we hold on to it (or it holds on to us?). He said something like 65 million thoughts we have everyday, 85% are negative. Although maybe not right, it got me thinking quite a lot about the possibility of changing our thought process.  Could we learn to accept and let go? Why do we hold on to negative feelings so tightly?

For me the totally irrational fear of injections was overcome by conscious thoughts of the same mind which was hosting that fear.

Although still fearful, I do feel much lighter because I was able to let go.

A shared passion for the brain

How To Retrain Your Brain Funzing talk in Manchester

How to Retrain Your Brain was my 3rd Funzing talk I have been to. The 1st I wasn’t that impressed with, while the 2nd one (Neuroscience of Decision Making) was great. With my interest in power of the brain. I’m happy to say retrain your brain was

I had no heard of Lisa Upton but during the evening hosted at MadLab, we got to learn a lot more about her.

Just over a year ago, Lisa was faced with a decision that would change her life forever. She had to decide whether to have awake brain surgery to remove a tumour which lay deep inside her brain in the left temporal lobe, close to the area responsible for speech and language. This decision came with extremely high risks – having the operation meant that she could have a stroke, may have to learn to talk, read and write again, or worst-case scenario, not survive the surgery.

Not having the operation meant living a life with four/five epileptic seizures every day and the chance that the ticking time bomb inside her brain could go off at any moment and this could take her life.

Lisa made the brave decision to have surgery.

It was weird hearing Lisa talking about her experience and noticed some interesting parallels in my own experience and outlook on life.

In the months following her operation Lisa’s life changed beyond measure, she thought about life in a completely different way, she approached things with a different attitude and as a result of this, saw new and amazing opportunities presenting themselves every day.

Its incredible to see the opportunities just presenting themselves. I’ve lived by those opportunities ever since. I always remember Derren Browns show about the secret of luck, facing my fear of injections (Belonephobia), facing the fear of rejection, going on dating shows and much more…

Lisa wanted to understand why this was happening and couldn’t accept that it was just “all part of the recovery”. She spent months researching the brain and its many functions, spending time with neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-researchers, neuropsychologists and patients at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

Now thats really cool, if I hadn’t spent so much time in hospital and had the issues I had; I likely would have gone back to Salford Royal to thank the staff again years later. But spending time would have been amazing (too be fair it still would be).

With a heart filled with gratitude, Lisa will share with you the amazing things that she learnt about the brain, and how we are all capable of reprogramming our brains so that we can achieve greatness and euphoria.

I reflect back on a blog I wrote years ago, while trying to explain to others how different life was since. My parents always thought I’d want to forget about the whole thing but I refuse to forget. I didn’t put my cards away for a whole year and still have them stored away even now. It gives me power and brings a new emphasise to life. Some people near me noticed how much I changed and some couldn’t quite comprehend the changes.

Lisa and others have called it living a conscious life. Its something I’ve noticed in myself, but weirdly very fitting with some of the dyslexic advantages, especially living in the moment. It might not come as a surprise the doctors also found an increase in the right brain activity (usually commonly associated with dyslexics, I know this is massively contested!) in Lisas brain. This  reminded me of the early months after my brush with death, it was suggested by the professionals that I might have forgotten/unlearned a lot of my coping mechanisms for dyslexia. Almost switched back to my natural state of some kind?

It also reminds me I need to do more about writing my gratitudes down following Sarah Raad’s workshop at Thinking Digital Newcastle last year.

I honestly really enjoyed the talk and it was a joy to hear from someone else as interested in the brain/mind due to similar reasons…