No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Sometimes it’s hard to find your golf ball. You scan every square inch of the section of grass into which you thought you’d hit it. Then your partner yells, “I found it!” He’s 15 yards away on the other side of a tree, standing in a place you would have never thought to look. It’s a reminder that we will never find what we’re looking for when we’re looking in the wrong place.
The Limitations of Our Thinking
Our mind looks for ideas and information the way it looks for lost golf balls. Neuroscientists report that there are 11 million bits of information floating around us at any given moment, yet we are aware of only 25 to 40; that means we pick up .000003% of what’s happening around us. We miss objective reality because we are busy looking in the wrong place.
It’s our habitual way of thinking that creates our reality. Our mind can yield brilliance and it frequently creates blind spots. It’s no wonder we miss or distort information and keep tripping over our biases, since we’re using a very limited amount of our mind’s capacity while missing what is actually true, real, and present. Low self-mastery comes from narrow consciousness. To grow we need to wake up, reduce our blind spots, notice more options, and see the entire system at work.
We’re Sleep Walking
The other day a colleague with whom I’m working on a project missed our planning call. This was not the first time. I pointed out the importance of keeping to agreements and deadlines, while internally I questioned his commitment. Could I trust him? Then he shared the family trauma he experienced a month earlier. My heart softened. My reality shifted. I saw him differently. I saw our project differently. I wished I’d gone into our conversation with more objectivity and curiosity and less judgment.
Consciousness broadens your vision, gives you clarity, and increases creativity. It makes you a better complex problem solver. You relate to people better, especially those with different thinking patterns than yours. More consciousness means less emotional reactivity because you are less likely to make up a story about another person or group.
Expanding your consciousness begins with slowing down and turning your attention inward and toward your heart and gut. Learn to notice what feelings and sensations you’re experiencing in the moment. This practice looks easy on paper, but it’s difficult to do. I’ve gotten better at it partly because I start almost every day with 10 to 20 minutes of this practice. Meditation is the best way I know to sustainably expand your conscious mind and break habitual, reactive thinking.
You don’t need to be a big meditator to be able to notice when your heart, body, or mind are constricting. When you feel yourself getting angry, defensive, and impatient, try to relax your body, breathe deeply, and consciously let blood flow to all parts of your brain. This will activate your body/mind’s ability to access its lifeforce and get into the state of flow. Studies show it takes only five minutes to clear the cortisol (your body’s main stress hormone and its built-in alarm system) from your body. Let five minutes pass before you make that call or hit the Send button.
Using the Enneagram to Wake Up
You’ll also expand your consciousness when you more fully understand your default thinking, feeling, and behavioral patterns. The Enneagram is a system that draws attention to your patterns by sorting them into 9 distinct Types. Understanding your Type helps you become aware of your patterns, understand what’s causing them, and embrace both the strengths and the shadows of your Type.
You can use the Enneagram system to immediately reduce your suffering by guessing a difficult person’s Type or at least which Center of Intelligence (head, heart, or body/gut) they orient to. This will help you gain insight and empathy for the way other Types process information and you can adjust accordingly.
Even a basic understanding of the Enneagram will allow you to lean into your most helpful Wing (one of the Types adjacent to your core Type) or use an Arrow (each Type has relatively easy access to the resources of two other Types) to shift away from strengths that have become overused.
Expanding your consciousness gives you options. It expands your range as a leader, and best of all, it allows you to connect with what really matters to you. Our real genius is accessed when we transcend our personality entirely. After all, aren’t we all simply looking for a direct pathway to our authenticity and true essence—who we are without our old story?