The new idea that I like a lot, is to decide each day which one or two or three things on my list are 1) related to my goals and are things I want to do; and 2) which things on the list I have to do for my job or for general “housekeeping” (like them or not). What I find helpful is that it creates a lot of clarity with myself which things on my “TO DO” list are more likely to bring joy and energy, and which things might require some “pushing” of myself. We’ll see how long the idea lasts and how it works. I love it so I am hopeful that with practice it will stick! Here is the blog if you want to read more. I did and found more great ideas!
So, today or this weekend, one of my MITs is to finally finish and post this idea that has been hanging around in my head for a month… So it is post it or dump it! I decided to post it. It is about the number “NINE.” … (And no, this has no connection to Sesame Street.)
“Nine” has cropped up several times for me in the past month. It started when my coach introduced me to the nine environments of life by Thomas Leonard (on January 9, by the way). Then, a few days later, a different friend sent me a text about the nine “layers” of consciousness in Nichiren Buddhism. I won’t say I believe in magic in numbers, but it is curious when the same one shows up in different places in close temporal proximity! In addition to the actual meanings in both concepts, what struck me first was the idea of separation vs. wholeness in the images. In both cases, my first reaction was that you really can’t separate these facets of who and how we are. But then the analytical part of my brain whispered that separation can sometimes lead to clarity. Let’s see.
First, the idea of “9 environments of you.” What if we could “design” our environments to “pull” us into what we really want to do with life, instead of always depending in will power? Powerful thought! I like it!
In this visual (not the original one from Leonard, but the same idea and available as a .jpeg at the address cited), there are nine separate yet interconnected facets of life, attention to which could, in theory help us adjust something in life that feels out of whack. Although I think that separating them is artificial, it does strike me a useful as a tool for change. When making changes in many aspects of one’s life at the same time is daunting, starting with one or two seems a much more manageable proposition. Since the environments are all part of a system called “you” (or “me” in this case), a change in one will no doubt impact a change in the others. I like the idea.
Separating out the nine “layers” of consciousness (from Nichiren Buddhism) was/is a bit more difficult. The idea is appealing and offers a rich heuristic for thinking about the nature of consciousness, but “layers” seems an inconvenient metaphor, even if the goal is to try to understand, locate or define consciousness better. (Or maybe the goal of separation is something else that I missed?)
According to the text that was sent to me, the first six consciousnesses are closer to the surface, oriented to the external world. These include our five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch) plus a “layer” that integrates the five senses. This is the consciousness that allows us to synthesize and make sense of what we are perceiving. Even if one of the senses has our attention in a given moment (e.g., I can smell the chicken roasting), my other senses are still bringing in other data… my fingers feel the keyboard, my eyes see the light fading outside, I feel the cold setting in the longer I sit here… all in all, the senses collaborate to create coherent knowing about me in the “here and now.”
The other three consciousness are “deeper” and face inward, and no doubt more challenging to perceive as I smell the chicken and feel the cold. They are, however there and add my construction of me “there and then” to my perception of me “here and now.” According to the text, the seventh consciousness is our sense of self, our “self-identity” as distinct from the other and from the world. The eighth (ālaya) consciousness our “storehouse” and is where “karma” is located. The deepest is the ninth or amala consciousness. It is our deepest, truest self, and it is eternal.
Really I know very little about Buddhism (although I would like to know more) so I will go back to the idea that first struck me: “layers.” I suppose “layers” is one way to identify and describe multiple facets of our experience (aware and unaware) in order to understand it better. What I dislike about the “layer’ metaphor is the entailment of separation, and I don’t think we can effectively separate consciousness into discrete components: these things cannot really be separated and still “live,” even in the service of understanding. They only exist together. Instead, I think the nine concsiousnesses may look something like this: