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Why should we bother to care about other people? Is it okay to live just for ourselves? Is it good enough to do no harm? Is there any reason we should go out of our way to help other people?
I used to not care about people. I mean really not care. I know what it’s like to live with that mindset. I lived that way for years.
In my late teens, I’d go out and shoplift on an almost daily basis. While some shoplifters justify their behavior by claiming they only steal from “evil, greedy corporations,” I could steal from individuals as easily as from large companies. I didn’t need to justify it to myself, and I didn’t feel remorse or regret about it afterwards. To me it was just a joke. I knew my actions were probably hurting people on some level, but I simply didn’t care. I could sleep just fine at night. If I had a conscience back then, it was pretty darned quiet.
This apathetic mindset flowed through other parts of my life as well. I used to get drunk at least once or twice a week, mostly at college parties. If it caused consequences for me, I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me that I was poisoning the cells of my own body with every sip. I figured that life was meaningless anyway. There was no greater purpose to it. The only thing worth living for was momentary pleasure. Having fun was reason enough to do anything I wanted.
I also combined alcohol and stealing… just for fun of course. One morning I woke up with a pile of miscellaneous items on my dorm room desk that I barely remembered stealing; I must have broken into at least three cars after downing a bottle of wine one night. I have a vague recollection of laughing uproariously while rummaging through vehicles in some parking lot. When my roommates pointed at my desk with stunned looks, I glanced at the pile of junk, laughing, “Damn… what the hell did I do last night?” I didn’t even want those items, so I just threw them away. Apathy and alcohol can be a rather destructive combination.
Friends would try to talk to me about what I was doing, but they couldn’t get through to me. I always jokingly dismissed them.
I truly did not care.
It wasn’t till I finally crashed and ended up being arrested enough times and facing prison that I finally started to care. I graduated from apathy to self-centeredness and began taking responsibility for my life. Soon I transitioned to neutrality and learned to stop harming others, adopting the attitude “live and let live.” And gradually over a period of years, I transitioned to the mindset of oneness, regarding service to the greater good as a higher order of living as opposed to just meeting my own needs.
Let’s explore all three of these mindsets, so you can deepen your understanding of different ways of relating to the larger body of humanity: self-centeredness, neutrality, and oneness.
At the level of self-centeredness, your primary aim in life is to serve your own interests without much regard for anyone else. You may compete against others to get ahead, perhaps lying or “bending the rules” when you feel it’s worthwhile. You probably generate income by mooching off the value created by others as opposed to making a genuine contribution. You live as a parasite, knowing that the world would be slightly better off without your presence. In order for you to continue living as you do, others must endure some sacrifice. The rest of humanity isn’t helped by your presence, and is probably somewhat harmed by it.
Viewed from the perspective of the larger body of humanity, you behave as a disease, an infection, or a cancer cell. When you pursue your own advancement at the expense of others, you damage the other cells, and on some level the larger body suffers for it. However, you remain apathetic to the larger body. You have your own problems to deal with, and the larger body can fend for itself for all you care.
What’s the most sensible way for the larger body to respond to this kind of behavior? Its options include trying to convince you to alter your misguided behavior, attempting to contain the damage you’re able to inflict, or attacking you outright in order to render you inert or wipe you out.
If the larger body fails to respond to your behavior (and collectively, the behavior of others with a similar mindset), it risks its own demise. An unchecked disease may destroy it. If everyone chose to live as you do, humanity would eventually be destroyed, most likely by drowning in its own waste. The larger body has little choice but to respond with some form of resistance.
This is exactly what happens. Persistent self-centeredness creates a long-term defensive reaction from the larger body of humanity, at least to the degree it remains capable of mounting a defense against you. Collectively, humanity considers you a disease and treats you as such. Loving connections with others won’t be a major part of your life; you’ll have to settle for fear-based or dependency connections. Others will only connect with you because they feel they have to or because they can gain something from it. This means your connections with other people are basically reduced to the level of transactions. They are loveless and devoid of deeper meaning.
Life with this attitude can be a struggle on many levels. First, you may find that individuals who serve the good of the body object to what you’re doing, perhaps labeling you as selfish or misguided. If you surround yourself with like-minded cancer cells, you may be able to insulate yourself from most personal attacks, but then you become part of a group that the body treats as a collective form of disease. For example, if you opt to make a living by mooching off the value of others (while creating and sharing no real value of your own), and you mainly choose to associate with like-minded people, you may insulate yourself from most personal attacks, but now you’re subject to collective attacks aimed at those who behave like you. You shift from being an individual disease cell to being part of a larger infection. Join a criminal gang, become a greed-driven stock trader who extracts value while creating nothing, or start spamming people for income, and you’re guilty by association.
The larger body will mount some kind of resistance to your actions, whether you participate in a disease of a million cells or operate as a lone disease cell. So you can expect that your life will be filled with many (seemingly unfair) challenges and obstacles. You’ll always have this unsettling feeling that you’re swimming against the tide instead of going with the flow.
The net effect is that you can never experience genuine oneness with the larger body while you subscribe to self-centeredness. You can never feel truly safe. So you must live your life in such a way that you’re always pushing back against the larger body. You betray the body, the body resists your betrayal, and you resist its resistance. This is a life of perpetual disconnection from the whole. You will often have the feeling that you are unwanted and alone, even in the company of friends and family.
When you disconnect from the larger body, you also disconnect from other cells that serve the larger body. Now those do-gooder cells become a threat to you. Anything that strengthens the body threatens you because as the body grows stronger, so does its ability to resist you. So in order to grow stronger on this path, you actually have to mount more and more resistance to those who are actively doing good. Criminals fight law enforcement. Spammers fight anti-spammers. Polluting businesses fight environmentalists. The stronger you get, the more disconnected you become.
Since a life of committed self-centeredness is a life of perpetual disconnection and resistance, in the long run you’re likely to disconnect from your own heart. You’ll stop caring about the larger body, and you’ll stop caring about other people. You’ll learn to watch the suffering of others with no sense of caring or compassion. You’ll disconnect from your own humanity, becoming something cold and separate from all of us.
But your heart is still there, still waiting for its voice to be heard. You can never turn it off completely. You can only deny its existence and refuse to listen to it.
If everyone adopts this mindset, the human race basically goes to hell. We’d all be living as single-celled organisms, in complete denial of our inherent interconnectedness to each other and to this planet. Sooner or later, this mindset ends in the destruction of the larger body. In order for the body to survive and thrive, the cells must on some level be aware that they’re part of a larger body and work to maintain the health of that body.
The second option is to follow the mantra “live and let live.” In this case you seek to do no harm, but you don’t go out of your way to do intentional good either. For the most part, you fulfill your needs non-destructively but also non-creatively.
In the larger body of humanity, you might consider your attitude to be about average (maybe a little above average). You try to take care of your needs without harming your neighbors. You certainly don’t live as a disease cell, but you don’t go all out to serve the larger body either. You simply do what you feel is necessary to get by. You may assist other cells from time to time as the need arises, but you mainly do this reactively as opposed to proactively. You don’t actively seek out new ways to serve others, but if someone directly asks you for a favor, you may be inclined to say yes if you can assist.
In this case it’s reasonable to expect the larger body to treat you with indifference. As a non-essential cell, your life is of no great concern to it. The larger body won’t directly attack you, but it certainly won’t go out of its way to help you either. It isn’t too burdened by your presence, but it doesn’t really need you either.
If you hold the intention to receive more resources or more assistance, your request will most likely fall on deaf ears. The larger body will likely view your requests as trivial or irrelevant, so it will respond with little or no assistance. That is in fact the most sensible response.
The problem is that if there are other self-centered people at large in the body of humanity, then your attitude of neutrality actually contributes to the problem. In your day-to-day life, you’ll be walking past cells that are suffering and will basically do nothing to help them. Your attitude will likely be, “Not my problem. Someone else will take care of it.” Then you’ll go home and watch your favorite TV shows.
If everyone lived like this AND the larger body had no self-centered, darkworker cells present, the larger body would probably be in a state of slow decline (such as your own cells experience through the process of aging). However, if there are darkworkers present, then the decline accelerates. You do nothing while more Hitler-types gain increasing power. Eventually your neutrality doesn’t look so good. The most likely outcome is that you’ll end up being an unwitting pawn of a darkworker. In fact, there’s a good chance you already are. If you have a job, for instance, do you know what kind of person or people you’re ultimately working for? Are you basically working to fulfill the desires of people who have little concern for the greater good? Do you invest your money in people and companies who maintain such an attitude?
Even though most people on earth fall into this category, neutrality is a highly unstable state. Real life will constantly bring you experiences to knock you off this equilibrium, pushing you toward self-centeredness and then oneness in a yo-yo-like fashion. However, you’ll never fully cross the border on either side unless you make the choice consciously. It won’t happen by accident.
With respect to polarity and polarization, the neutral path is the unpolarized (or pre-polarized) path. It’s actually the least powerful path of all. Although it may seem better than the self-centered darkworker path, neutrality is actually weaker in practice. The reason is that on the darkworker path, you’re going to meet with a lot of resistance, and pushing against that resistance makes you stronger, much like weight training strengthens your muscles. Since the neutral path offers less resistance, you don’t have as many opportunities to grow your power. Even the lightworker/oneness path offers plenty of resistance training, in the form of working against self-centeredness, apathy, and even neutrality. So while lightworkers and darkworkers grow stronger, neutral people remain very weak by comparison. Historically speaking, the lightworkers and darkworkers are the movers and shakers on earth, while the neutral people are subjected to what the lightworkers and darkworkers are doing.
If you’re neutral, it’s a safe bet that much of your life is controlled by others. This is the place of living reactively instead of proactively. Even when you set goals, they’re likely to be socially conditioned ones, and most likely you won’t feel strongly empowered by them.
The third option is to live with the attitude of oneness. These cells recognize the larger body of humanity, and they devote their lives to serving the good of the body. This means taking care of individual needs as necessary, but the motivation for meeting one’s needs comes from being a better vehicle for service.
Oneness is the logical and emotional recognition that we’re all part of the same whole and that we aren’t separate from each other. We’re all cells in the larger body of humanity. Its fate is our fate. If the body suffers, we all suffer for it. If the body thrives, we all benefit from it.
When you fully internalize this mindset and commit yourself to it, something rather magical happens. The larger body recognizes your commitment to service, and it actively seeks to assist you. By helping you, the body is simply helping itself.
Imagine that someone else has pledged herself to meet your needs as best she can. Would you want to fight against her, or would you want to help and support her? Of course you’d want to help her because by helping her, you’re helping yourself. This is how the larger body of humanity responds to those who pledge themselves to serving its needs. If you say aloud, “I dedicate my life to serving the greater good,” and you feel that statement resonating with you on a deep emotional level, do not be surprised if new resources start flowing into your life to assist you.
Now this is a cute little theory, so it’s reasonable that you’ll be skeptical about this if you’ve never experienced the mindset of oneness for an extended period of time. I can’t convince you of this by merely writing about it. This is something that must be experienced first-hand to be believed. I can tell you what lies beyond this door, but that isn’t remotely the same thing as experiencing it for yourself. The way to walk through this door is to polarize as a lightworker.
What does the larger body of humanity actually want? Basically it wants the same things you do. It wants to survive and thrive, to be healthy, to learn and grow, to become stronger, and to creatively express itself. If you’re familiar with fractal geometry, the larger body is basically a zoomed-out version of you, and you are one of its cells.
Since a fractal is self-similar at all levels of magnification, if the larger body of humanity is sick and unhealthy, that doesn’t bode well for its individual cells. However, by healing ourselves and by adopting the mindset of oneness, we work to create a strong and healthy humanity.
In Chapter 4 of my book, there’s an exercise called Oneness World. Let me share this exercise with you here because I think it will help you understand what the mindset of oneness can help us collectively create for the larger body of humanity:
Set aside ten minutes to sit quietly, relax, and just imagine what it would be like to live in a world where everyone lives in alignment with oneness. Picture a world where all people feel joyful and connected with everyone else. Imagine a place where cooperation replaces competition. What would it be like to walk down the street past throngs of strangers and feel as if they’re all close family members? How would people behave in a world where “we” thinking replaces “me” thinking, where profiting at someone else’s expense never happens, and where everyone assumes personal responsibility for the well-being of everyone else?
In this world of oneness, you can always expect fair treatment, regardless of race, gender, or sexual preference. If you need help with anything, you can approach anyone at any time, and you’ll be treated like family. The very notion of individual advancement at the expense of others is completely alien. This world’s mantra is, “We’re all in this together.”
This new world has no weapons, no prisons, and no national borders. There’s no violence or war. People still have differences of opinion, but they settle them by cooperating to discover the truth while treating every individual with compassion and fairness.
Allow your mind and emotions to roam freely through Oneness World. Think about what it would be like to actually live there. Pay attention to how it makes you feel.
Although this is a fantasy world exercise, it will deepen your understanding of oneness. Even in the real world, you’ll experience some of these benefits as you begin to align yourself with oneness. When you interact with others from a place of cooperation, fairness, and compassion, you’ll tend to receive similar treatment in return. When you treat everyone as a friend or family member, you’ll often find them responding in kind. Over time, you’ll attract others who resonate with oneness, which will enable you to create a microcosm of the larger ideal within your own life.
from Personal Development for Smart People, Chapter 4
This is the short version of the ultimate vision that lightworkers aim to collectively create. Obviously it’s an ideal, but the more people who embrace this attitude, the better life becomes for all of us, even in the presence of darkworkers.
Lightworkers, incidentally, seek to render darkworkers inert and eventually convert them to lightworkers. This is a path of healing the larger body of humanity and bringing all of us together in a spirit of cooperation and compassion. Lightworkers believe that no one is undeserving of love, including darkworkers.
Given the current state of the larger body of humanity, it isn’t enough to do no harm. You must proactively commit yourself to doing good. Allowing harm to be done is just as irresponsible as causing direct harm. Our inherent interconnectedness is undeniable. We sink or swim together.
On the whole, committed lightworkers receive an incredible level of support from the larger body of humanity. This enables them to take on bigger and bigger challenges. Instead of worrying about survival, genuine lightworkers are given assistance to help them focus their energies on the larger mission of service. Others will come to their aid to help them meet their needs if necessary. From the larger body’s perspective, the important thing is that the lightworker keeps working to shift humanity toward that vision of Oneness World.
If I went back in time and introduced my age 37 self to my age 18 self, I seriously doubt my 18 year-old self would believe we’re the same person. If he asked about my life, his main concern would be about how much power I had and how brave I was. He’d want me to share stories of grander crimes I got away with and the greater thrills ahead of him.
Although on the surface we might seem to be two totally different people, my past self is still inside me. He’s my shadow.
For a time I tried to disconnect from him, to put him in a memory box and do my best to forget he ever existed. But my life didn’t go so well without him. I became a nicer person, but I lacked the strength, courage, and passion I had during my teenage years. I matured into a largely powerless adult.
Years ago I began to dialog with that part of myself to discover what he wanted and to understand him more deeply. I had to acknowledge that he is still with me. He had something that was lacking in my life when I turned my back on him. I had to understand his powerful drive and especially his courage. I needed to harness his energy and find a way to re-channel it through the mindset of oneness. That’s when I realized that power and oneness are not in conflict; in fact, they amplify each other. I can do more good from a position of strength than of weakness.
I gradually came to understand that I needed to feel strong and powerful and that this is a universal need we all share, but too often it gets squelched. As human beings we need to express our power, which is our ability to create the reality we want to experience. We need to feel strong. Weakness does not become us.
We are here to shine, not to cower in fear. If we are to achieve greatness, we must abandon the wimpy goal of security. Courage, not security, must be our friend and guide on this human journey.
Expressing our power isn’t a bad thing. It only becomes harmful when we fall out of alignment with truth and love. Then our power becomes destructive and wicked.
But the good news is that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can align our power with truth and love. We can learn to care deeply about each other. We can express our full creative energies and let our passion burn for the sake of the greater good. We can use our power to create and build instead of to conquer and destroy. When we align ourselves with truth and love, we amplify our power. Our desire for power needn’t lead us into darkness; it can take us further into the light.
When we act as separate individuals, our power is limited. We can only do so much on our own. But when we turn our power in the direction of the greater good, we align ourselves with the much more powerful body of humanity, and our results are magnified a hundredfold.
The body recognizes and acknowledges us when we adopt the mindset of oneness; in fact, it actively supports us. When we need help, there’s a knock on the door with an offer of assistance. When we need resources, they freely flow to us. When we need ideas, they come to us. But when we lose this mindset, we experience either indifference or resistance.
If you want the world to care about you, you must care about the world. The first move is yours. If your first move is to wait and see what happens, the world will respond in kind. If your first move is to give freely to the best of your ability, the world will also respond in kind.
I could not be doing what I’m doing if I was going it alone, fueled only by my own selfish desires. I know what it’s like to live that way, and I can’t imagine going back. It’s boring at best, frustrating and demoralizing at worst.
When I hold the mindset of oneness (which I freely admit isn’t always easy), I’m uplifted and encouraged by daily assistance and support. I have more resources flowing into my life than I need, more opportunities than I can possibly follow. To me this represents a powerful “yes” from the larger body of humanity. Meeting my needs has become almost trivially easy. This allows me to focus my time and energy on doing what I can to create a more conscious humanity, one that is able to shift from self-centeredness and neutrality to oneness.
As an individual, my life doesn’t seem particularly important. A self-centered purpose would bore me to tears and leave me feeling empty inside. But as an instrument for serving the good of humanity, I feel so much power and energy coursing through my life, many times more than what I felt when I lived only for myself.
Of the seven principles I wrote about in Personal Development for Smart People, oneness will probably seem the most “airy fairy” and perhaps the least grounded and practical. However, the exact opposite is true. As a guiding principle, it’s incredibly practical. Your degree of alignment (or misalignment) with oneness is a statement of your basic approach to living as a human being. It’s your answer to the question, “Why am I here?” Aligning yourself with oneness makes life easier on so many levels. It transforms resistance into acceptance, competition into cooperation, and sorrow into joy.
Even when I have a difficult or painful experience, I can see the joy behind it. Every difficulty I face becomes a lesson I can share with other people, so there’s always the opportunity to feel grateful for the opportunity to contribute.
Helping each other doesn’t mean going out of our way. Helping each other is our way.