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Updated: Sep 15, 2020

“For centuries we have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences—every influence you can think of—and, therefore, our responses to every problem are conditioned. Are you aware that you are conditioned? That is the first thing to ask yourself, not how to be free of your conditioning. You may never be free of it, and if you say, “I must be free of it”, you may fall into another trap of another form of conditioning. So are you aware that you are conditioned?”

Jiddu Krishnamurti Early this year I was asked to do a session with Outdoor educators on ‘Professionalism’. It’s not a word I have been fond of because of my own past associations with the it, often along with the word ‘maturity’. The image of a suited, expressionless person is what I see. It means different things in different cultures too.

When I was able to let go of that image consciously, I realized I had no other idea about what ‘professionalism’ meant. I decided to redefine it in my mind as a map. What words do I associate with it? The map grew to confusing proportions before clarity began to appear in the form of patterns! That is so similar to what happens when I say I am confused. It’s an unmanageable state of ambiguity with random un-connected thoughts. Stay with it long enough without forcing a solution, and patterns and clarity appear! I just loved that moment.

Let me try and describe what emerged. I also notice that this is applicable in every moment and aspect of living. It isn’t new by any means. Its just another way of looking at our lives.

There are 3 things that have an influence on everything we do. The past we come from, the Present moment, and the future or what we want to see happen. Most times we are either in the past or the future. Both affect our present emotional state, and therefore our behavior. So it makes perfect sense that we need to be aware of what from our past is influencing our present actions, because that is certainly going to inform our conduct.

This is certainly true when we are in the role of an educator, attempting to enable another’s learning. I put together a list of things that affects our Conditioning. The present Consciousness has the ability to influence our Conduct. These are the 3 C’s of the model.

This ‘model’ has become a center piece of almost everything I have done since. It just makes a lot of sense to me, and it appears a far easier way for me to understand why I do what I do. Let’s take a dive into what Conditioning means. My partial list included the following:

  • Upbringing – the way I have been brought up, the things people told me was right, wrong, good, bad, things to stay away from, things to reach out for, definitions of success and failure.

  • Schooling, Training – the way I was taught may become the way I teach.

  • Personal preferences – an idea about the way things MUST be (dress sense, eat with the right hand, don’t use bad words, silence is a good thing in the classroom, respect means not challenging what you have been told).

  • Morals and Values – they have strong cultural influences. Living together is unacceptable.

  • Beliefs

June Blunk puts it interestingly. See if any of these sound familiar to what you do. Take a moment to analyze the statements (reactions and thought processes) listed below to find out if you can personally relate and recognize your own conditioned mind in action:

  • When I react negatively, it just happens

  • It is like a trigger and off I go

  • I am not sure why I react the way I do

  • It is a reoccurring pattern that repeats itself whenever I get in situations similar to this one

  • I can’t help myself; it is just how I am (Warning sign of an extremely conditioned mind, keep reading for your own sake and for those that you love.)

While the past may not be a rationally sound place, it is also the place we reach out to in the absence of any other answer that makes sense. It’s a comfortable answer to ambiguity. I choose it because that is the only thing I have seen others do. Most importantly, its easy!

When our only explanation to our behaviour is one of those stated above, we allow our conditioning to directly affect our behaviour in the present. That may not be the most appropriate response. Primarily because it is an un-thought through response. If am in the classroom, and a student challenges me, I am more than likely to respond with “Sit down! Don’t be disrespectful!”. That is what my teachers may have done to me. That would be the easiest way to respond in that moment.

The question for me is – how appropriate is that? In a world where knowledge is abundantly available, it is possible that what and how I am teaching is many generations old. In order to enable my audience to learn, I need to be a little more open to outcome. There isn’t one answer to anything. I certainly don’t have all the answers, and therefore the need to allow oneself a moment to reconsider my response.

That moment of consideration is what I am choosing to call Consciousness (alternate word could be awareness, in the moment, being present, open to outcome, etc.). In a while I shall share the idea of what I mean by Consciousness.

Would love to hear what you think.

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