This page helps make the beloved community pledge alive in your life and allows you to go deeper into the first commitment.
First, we suggest you to bookmark this page to ease your return to it each day.
Then, read the article or listen to the video of Trust and Obey My Conscience.
Finally, do the following four activities each day for the next seven days:
1. Meditate for five (or more) minutes a day. This will help you develop the key qualities of mindfulness and focus.
Or choose another meditation to use from our guided meditations page.
2. Work with the slogan "My body is a compass" or "My body is a warning bell." Let this slogan remind you to keep some of your awareness in your body at all times. Notice how the body can tell you when ego is active and when you are grounded in conscience.
3. Read and contemplate one of these reflections per day. When a question is asked, pause for as long as it takes to answer it before continuing to read.
Day 1: Body Awareness
Today and all this week, see your body as a warning bell. As often as you remember to, put some of your awareness in your body to feel what you feel. When you feel any emotional or mental discomfort, let that remind you to become very mindful and curious. Mindfully investigate what you are thinking. Critically examine if there is any falsehoods or unkindness in those thoughts.
Mindfully feel what you feel. Gently and compassionately allow the feelings to be.
When the ego is active in you, practice being mindful, curious, and quiet. Then refrain from doing what the ego wants you to do. Your actions at this moment will not likely be skillful.
If you feel anger, or similarly strong, energizing feelings, channel that energy into something skillful. Help those energies release by using them to do vigorous exercise, yard work, or household chores.
Notice how putting your awareness into feeling your body draws energy away from the thinking mind.
Day 2: Following Our Conscience
Remember a time you faced a challenging ethical dilemma and followed your conscience. When you reflect on that decision, how do you feel? Do you regret doing that, or do you think of it fondly? At the time, did the decision to follow your conscience empower you, make you feel brave, and enrich your life? Did any fears you have about doing the right thing come to pass? If so, does that make you regret your decision?
Reflect on two or more situations like this and ask of them the same questions. Is there a pattern showing up? What is that pattern? How might this pattern influence you going forward?
Day 3: The Costs of Ignoring Our Conscience
Think of a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma and you ignored your conscience. When you reflect on that decision, how do you feel? At the time when you made that decision, what were you thinking? What were you feeling? In what way were the thoughts you thinking untrue or unkind? Did your thoughts leave out important information? What actions did you take? How did the decision to ignore your conscience make you feel? Do you regret your choice, or do you remember it fondly? Given the benefits of hindsight, how would you have liked to handle that situation?
We all make mistakes and do things that harm people, animals, and other beings. Such actions are unskillful, but they are not who we are. The fact that we have done unskillful things doesn't make us less worthy of our love and compassion. The same is true for other people who do unskillful things.
Offer yourself some kindness. Place your hands on your heart and say silently to yourself, "May I be peaceful, happy, skillful, and wise." Do this as many times as it takes to feel peaceful. Then thank life, or the God of your understanding, for all inner wisdom, peace, love, and joy you have been gifted. May the wisdom, peace, love, and joy in you continue, may these beautiful qualities increase, and may they never end.
Day 4: The Ego Blames Others
The ego represents all in us that is false, conditioned, upsetting, unskillful, changing, and temporary. The ego is the source of our mental, emotional, and much of our physical suffering as well. One way the ego hides the fact that it causes our suffering is by keeping us focused on our external conditions and blaming others.
By keeping us focused on the behaviors of others that we don't like, the ego justifies our anger, judgment, frustration, and impatience with those around us. Focused on the external, it never occurs to us to look inside to see what falsehoods we believe. Thus we never challenge those falsehoods, and the ego continues to run our mind.
Today, mindfully notice judging and blaming nature of the ego. Notice how these judgmental thoughts create angry, frustrating, and upsetting emotions. Notice how these thoughts devalue the other person, and make them seem deserving of punishment.
Critically question these positions. Is it possible they are doing their best given their life circumstances? Can you model for them the kindness and respect you would like them to show you? Are they not inherently valuable and worthy of our kindness?
Day 5: Worrying About the Future
"I have had many great difficulties in my life, most of which never happened." -Anonymous*
Gently and mindfully reflect on the numerous fears and worries that you have had in your life that never came to pass. Calmly remember all that needless stress and anxiety you endured from worrying about the future scenarios created by the mind. Kindly contemplate of all the unskillful things you did to avoid feeling that stress and anxiety. Did your worries, stress, and anxiety serve you or sabotage you? Are you willing to let go of your fears and worries? If not, what reasons hold you back?
Today, notice when your mind succumbs to the falsehood of futuring. Futuring is when the mind mistakes a thought about the future to be more real than the present moment, causing you to feel stress or worry. Remember that the now is all there is. The idea of future in your head is not actually real. See if mindfully remembering this helps you see the falsehood in it, and allows you to stop believing the thought and diminish your fear and stress.
* This quote, in various different forms, has been attributed to many historical people over the years, but those who've researched its origins have not figured out who said it first.
Day 6: Letting Go of the Past
Point to something in your experience that exists outside of the present moment. You can't do it. The past is over and done with. It no longer exists. A new reality stands in its place.
Pasting is a falsehood where we consider our thoughts about the past to be more real than the present moment. When this happens, our memories of past failures, shortcomings, trauma, and abuse cause us to needlessly re-live the emotional pain we went through.
When troubling emotional energies arise from memories of past experiences, we must do our best to compassionately, mindfully, and as calmly as possible feel these trapped emotional energies. When we feel unpleasant energies in this way without aversion or acting them out unskillfully, we allow them to release. If we offer resistance to them, they will be trapped inside of us and remain dormant until triggered again.
We also need to remember that the past is not the present. Whenever you remember the past, do so with as much peace and ease as possible, mindful that your memories are simply thoughts. Not reality.
Today, mindfully notice when you are pasting and when you are living in the present moment. When it arises, notice how pasting feels in the body? How does pasting serve you? How does pasting sabotage you? When lost in pasting, what actions do you want to do? Get curious and investigate the falsehood of pasting when it arises.
4. Review this summary of what it means to trust and obey my conscience as my highest authority.
This commitment requires us to take personal responsibility for our ethical conduct. We refuse to simply conform our ethics to the standards of the people we live, work, or worship with, or to the laws of the land. These minimal standards will never bring us lasting joy or help us create the beloved community. Nor do we uncritically follow the teachings of wisdom teachers or wisdom texts, as history has shown us repeatedly that heedless obedience can lead to injustice, violence, and suffering.
To trust and obey our conscience, we must first recognize that two contrary forces operate within us: the ego and our conscience. The ego represents everything in us that is false, conditioned, upsetting, unskillful, changing, and temporary. The ego is the false self, it is the source of our suffering and our unskillfulness. We follow the ego to our own detriment and the detriment of others.
In contrast, our conscience embodies all in us that is true, unconditioned, peaceful, skillful, unchanging, and eternal. When we follow our conscience, we feel peaceful, fearless, and joyful, and we effortlessly behave in a loving, skillful, and wise manner.
The conscience goes by many names: true self, higher self, intuition, inner wisdom, the formless, soul, spirit, or divine nature. Religious people view it as the God of their understanding dwelling within them. Whatever you call it, it is the source of all life, wisdom, love, creativity, and skillfulness. Most importantly, it is who we are at our most fundamental level.
To trust and obey our conscience, we must learn how to distinguish between the thoughts of ego, and thoughts of conscience.
First, we can use our body as a compass to distinguish between false, unskillful, egoic thoughts and truthful, skillful, thoughts of conscience. When we believe thoughts of conscience, the mind feels balanced, spacious, and inspired; the heart feels warm, open, and connected; and the body feels peaceful, fearless, and ready for action. Be wary of thoughts and impulses that arise when the mind or body are tight, restless, angry, frustrated, impatient, or emotionally disturbed. Such thoughts and impulses typically lack wisdom and arise from ego.
Secondly, because the primary source ego is language, we must appreciate the inherent falsehood of our language-based thoughts, and prioritize experiencing the truth of reality as it is directly with our senses. (For more on this, read the article Trust and Obey My Conscience) Because of the my-thoughts-are-true bias of the mind, we need the qualities of mindfulness and focus to see thoughts as thoughts, rather than mistake them to be the truth. When we no longer mistake our thoughts to be the truth, they no longer cause us needless mental and emotional suffering, and we are able to rest in our true self; experience our inner love, peace, compassion, and joy; hear, trust, and obey our conscience.