[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin conscientia, from consciens, conscient- present participle of conscere, to be conscious of : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + scire, to know; see skei- in Indo-European Roots.]
“You see this? This is this. This ain’t somethin’ else. This is this.”
Robert De Niro as Michael Vronsky in The Deerhunter, 1978
To know. Is this knowledge inborn or merely the ingestion of the knowledge of those who came before us? Do we heed the call of our conscience only when we believe someone sees that we may not? Ahhh…so is it ourselves or others?
If you were always listen to that inner voice, never oppose and always align with your conscience, then what inner peace you would have! Every time we turn from it, we lose a bit of ourselves. You know it to be true. Every time we fail to do what is right in the moment, we suffer for it. The ego will swoop in with rationalizations that will astound. Deny to the grave if you wish. Fool yourself. Who’s kidding who?
“This above all things: to thine own self be true” (Hamlet, 3.1.81).
Not sure how to find the voice? First clue. Is the voice you hear in actuality two battling voices? One voice chock full of righteousness, condemnation and should do’s? If that exists, a sly and seemingly subservient voice arises to oppose. This second voice manipulates, undermines and blames. For every ‘should’ thrown it’s way, it accordingly responds with an excuse.
These voices forever struggling for control using your mind as the battlefield. Each voice secretly needing each other to survive. A sick symbiotic relationship. This is why the two may have been mistaken as one mass. Guided by this, one doesn’t even need to leave one’s mind to experience co-dependency. And then there are no meetings to attend.
Go ahead. Lie on a couch for decades. You’ll find you will have plenty of company. Your opposing voices can exchange with theirs. Marvel at how you manage as if by radar to find each other. Form a few unholy unions even. Then watch the battle which has no end and give up that which is precious in the process. Your self. All the joy, peace and contentment that wait for you to notice all is not well.
It’s not too late. When you tire of this game, come back home. With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, you can go home again. Be grateful that there is still time. Your conscience awaits patiently and only demands that you still yourself. Go beyond the words to the wordless.
Come home now. Come home from wherever you find yourself. Take a moment to try this. Gently and effortlessly become aware of your hands. Feel the tingle, the flow of blood in your hands. Now choose to concentrate on one hand only, preferably your dominant hand. Now just stay there! Stay in the present moment, continually aware of that hand. Simple.
If distracting or battling thoughts, trivialities or “to do lists” arise in your mind, calmly and intently bring your attention back to the awareness of that hand. Regain your focus and return again and again to the sensation in your hand, the flow of blood, the aware- ness of that hand, the awareness of this occurring in the present moment.
Ground yourself here. Clearly realize that in this moment the past is no longer here and the future has not yet arrived. Therefore the past and future exist in your mind only. You are absolutely here now only.
Be aware that even at those moments when your mind is involved with this pseudo-conscience of voices opposing one another with historical accounts and proofs, it is still ultimately operating from within the now.
You have a genuine choice only in the now. The eternal now. Your conscience will make itself known right here if you enter the gap between punches thrown. Slip in and stay there. It can take a lifetime or an instant to fully grasp and live according to this idea of the now. Your sincerity will be the determining factor.
Do not become frustrated with the barrage of emerging thoughts that attempt to pull your attention away. Do not wrestle with any thought; for that only energizes it and enables it to maintain sway over you. Rather, attempt to witness the thought dispassionately with patience, acknowledge the thought, and then bring your attention back to your hand, the now and a conscience that just is.
Seneca knew the score in 5 BC when he said “A good conscience fears no witness, but a guilty conscience is solicitous even in solitude. If we do nothing but what is honest, let all the world know it. But if otherwise, what does it signify to have nobody else know it, so long as I know it myself? Miserable is he who slights that witness.”