What I call the “Consciousness continuum” generally progresses from “sleeping child” to “sleeping adult” to “awakened adult.” The states of “intermittent non-dualism” and “sustained non-dualism” are beyond this, and another subject. These are not particularly useful in a mundane sense, but the “adult” phase, either sleeping or awake, is of critical importance: the children of the world are simply not safe if the adults are not home. And since the “child” aspect of your personality contains your dreams and creativity, one might say that your own heart is not safe unless your head is engaged.
What are some of the clues that “sleeping child” is driving the bus? Well…
Not long ago, I saw someone express a seriously paranoid theory and I took little-boy pleasure in mocking it. And got called on it by an observer. I felt a flash of anger, but ultimately realized that it didn’t matter if the one who “called me” had a positive or negative intent, whether they were being manipulative or partisan. All that mattered was “is it true that I was unkind? Is this out of alignment with my intentions and commitments? Yes? No?” If “no” the criticism doesn’t matter. If “yes” then the origin of the criticism and the intent of the critic is irrelevant.
If someone gives you a piece of advice which, objectively, you know to be valid, but you reject it because you don’t like the way they phrased it or their tone of voice…that is not the most mature decision you’ve ever made. It’s similar to someone saying “get off the train track, you jackass! The 5:05 is coming!” and you say: “nyahh nyahh, not until you ask me nicely.” I would consider this evidence that your “child” self is driving the car. In his sleep.
Remember that your dreams, hopes and emotions are only “safe” if your “adult” self is in control of that car. Your emotions, ungoverned, can take you off the edge of the cliff (ask anyone who has ever been attracted to the “wrong” people again and again.) Your intellect builds its own constructs and can talk itself into anything if there is no direct reality-check.
“Wisdom” is the perception of cycles of action and reaction, seeing the way the world actually responds to our actions, and the discovery of short cuts that reduce learning time or allow you to function in arenas where you have no data.
(For instance, prior to Y2K, I knew people who were certain the world was going to end. Some of these people knew more about computers than I. Actually, lots of ‘em–my knowledge of computers pretty much ends at web-surfing and MS Office. Maybe Call of Duty. So was the sky falling?
I simply picked up the phone and called friends who worked at Microsoft, figuring that if anyone knew whether we had things to worry about concerning Y2K, Bill Gates was likely to be among them. And he was, and they were, beyond a doubt more knowledgeable than any of the people I knew who were in a tizzy. And…nope. None of them were panicked at all. Now, that rubrick isn’t going to work every time, but frankly, it’s worked often enough to be a permanent part of my decision-making process. But…that’s another subject.)
Anyway, that consciousness continuum: “sleeping child to sleeping adult” is the first step. You have to be responsible for your own emotions and actions, independent of what other people say…unless you believe they are correct.
So if you say “get off the train track, @#$$!” I would expect Jason, in a bad mood, to say “no!” and I’ll know he has reached a higher level of maturity when he says: “hmmm.” Steps off the track (on the theory that the relative problem with ignoring a speeding train is far larger than the inconvenience of stepping off the track), checks to see if it was true that a train was coming, and if so, inquires into the reason the speaker felt it necessary to use foul language. If there is no train, perhaps inquire into why the speaker lied to him. But under no circumstances would it be rational and mature to refuse to step off the track until he liked the speaker’s tone of voice or phrasing.
I think all children go through this. And many adults still practice it. Personally, I will use any spur, any at all, to act in accordance with my better self…even if it comes from a bitter enemy.
Still tweaks a little, though.