From an early age we get programmed. Do certain things and the parents are happy. Do well in school and the teacher is happy. Act a certain way and we have friends. Get the grades and there is college. Do well in college and there is the job. It goes on and on. We get programmed for success, for popularity for achievement.
There is nothing inherently “wrong” with this. But it does imply we are “controlled” by the people around us. After a time you wonder who “you” are. “I” am conditioned by these programs. And I thought I was in control…
Here is an example.
I spoke with parents a time ago and they were upset their daughter did not want to get married in a church. She wanted the ceremony at a farm/hotel set up. The parents were wrapped up with their programming - “has to be at a church.” And their upset was really of their own choosing – they were conditioned by their programming and when life did not turn out according to their conditioning – they suffered. Much of our pain in life can be traced to this programming and conditioning.
It applies to how we feel we should live when we retire – what does the programming say? It applies to how long we think we should live – what are the expectations which our cultural programming sets us up for? Years ago we were happy to live to 50. Not now, when others live to 90. That is how the programming works – so, so subtle.
The antidote to all this is to live in relationship to God instead of a relationship to the conditioning and programming.
Step one is to discipline ourselves to give thanks for what is. Thanksgiving is not our default setting – the programming is our default setting and it takes a lot of work to break out of that programming. The practice of gratitude – rooted in Christianity and validated by social science – renders us more peaceful and contented people, but you would be amazed how many people do not think it necessary (for them) to write down 4 or 5 blessings from the previous day. That programming has a strong hold upon us.
Spend some time in solitude. Solitude cuts us off – physically – from those outside influences which have such power. Watch your thoughts. If you have a meditation practice you realize how easy it is for our thoughts to carry us away and how difficult it is to watch those thoughts and to live with that kind of spatial awareness. I suggest it is a life-changing way to open ourselves to the power of God’s Spirit.
Something to ponder.