Is Self Awareness Cognitive or Spiritual?

In this episode JJ and Melissa break down the different stances on meditation.

September 8, 2020
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride along and features your hosts, JJ Parker. And Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. Earlier this week, JJ, I sent you a very long blog post.

JJ Parker  0:24  
I got it. It was really good.

Melissa Albers  0:27  
The blog post was from a place called positive psychology.com. And I sent it to you because I thought it would be interesting. This particular website does a lot with self awareness. And I thought it would be interesting for you to just take a look at it and that maybe we could have a conversation about, you know, the contents of this particular post. But it's sort of spun us into a little bit of a different conversation, didn't it? Yes, yeah.

JJ Parker  1:03  
Well, first I like I like this work that the psychology community does. Yeah. around about self awareness. Yeah. Yeah. But what was interesting for us is that we've got pieces of work like this, which are definitely rooted in a more clinical scientific realm. Mm hmm. Right. And they've got other pieces of self awareness that are rooted. I wouldn't say the opposite of that, but in a whole different realm of you know, like meditation,

Melissa Albers  1:40  
right, the more spiritual

JJ Parker  1:42  
Yeah, spiritual. Yeah. And, and you don't see those two worlds cross very often they it's funny to me that they're so segmented.

Melissa Albers  1:52  
Yeah. Well, what I what I found interesting as I started to think about this, along with you, and come is like, how? Really That's true. Like when you look at self awareness, lots of people are like, what does that even mean? Like, what are you doing?

JJ Parker  2:09  
Oh, yeah, that's my very favorite thing. When people ask me what we're up to, like, Oh, we've got this self awareness podcast and we've got these teachings and then they just look at you like, Oh, what?

Melissa Albers  2:25  
Right? And I think that people by and large, it's like one of those gray area things. And yet it's so incredibly important. And what's what I think is even more interesting is when you look at self awareness as a whole, like even if you google self awareness, or if you're looking for something to help you feel better about yourself. There's, there's really two very clear camps. The cognitive one is you explain and that would be including things like you know, tests Like disc or Myers Briggs, or personality inventories, or rate yourself on this scale about how aware you are like very mental, a lot of mental activity. Yeah. And, and then the other camp is, as you were saying much more around, being with yourself understanding yourself from your feelings connecting with your soul or your spiritual side, not religious side, your spiritual side, that inner voice within you, you know, connecting to Mother Earth, understanding the Buddhist Buddhism way of thinking a

JJ Parker  3:43  
lot of talk about the ego in there,

Melissa Albers  3:45  
right? Yeah. Yeah. And what I find so interesting, and I think you coined the phrase, they don't commingle those two camps very seldom commingle yet inside of us. They must commingle for us to understand ourselves.

JJ Parker  4:04  
Yeah, I would, for my own self awareness journey, you know, years ago, I started on the cognitive side, I started with my head, right? Because, you know, there's, there's things that that, you know, kind of made me unhappy and upset and I was trying to figure out, figure figure that out, right. You know, a lot of it had to do around like me being really introverted. And I always was trying to figure out like, why am I so uncomfortable at work? do work events or why do I hate going to parties? Like

Unknown Speaker  4:41  
Yeah, right, right.

JJ Parker  4:42  
Go into read books about like, how to work a room and, you know, things like things that seemed like very basic to some, you know, extroverts I really struggled with, you know, actually in my in my work role. Yeah. So I started just reading all the books on you You know, I got a personality test, I started reading all the psychology books, I'd started learning how the brain works. Right. Right. And I, I, I did a deep dive into that kind of book study.

Melissa Albers  5:13  
Right? which is super common, by the way, lots of people do that.

JJ Parker  5:17  
Yeah. And and, you know, I think it, it probably served me well in the way that like I, you know, kind of came up with like a, I guess I'm mental model or understanding about how, you know, how, in general, the human brain works and why these things are certain ways, but it didn't really make me feel all that better. Right. And it wasn't until I read the book 10% happier Hmm, yes, that's a great book for me to like some concepts that I had never explored before, which was Meditation, right and Eastern philosophy.

Melissa Albers  6:05  
Right? You for the listeners sake, do you want to talk a little bit about 10% happier the author and how it got to be?

JJ Parker  6:12  
Yeah. So, so 10% happier is written by a guy named Dan Harris. He was a news anchor, a national news anchor and, you know, it's a very high profile competitive position. And he was really, you know, under a lot of stress. What when he when he held that position and you know, so much stress that he started to have, you know, breakdown.

Melissa Albers  6:48  
Yeah, he actually started stress cracks. Yeah, he started to over use cocaine, he actually became a drug user to try and manage his stress

JJ Parker  6:57  
and then like one night on it Evening News he like freaked out on air?

Melissa Albers  7:05  
Yeah, yeah, you can still find it. Yeah.

JJ Parker  7:08  
Yep. And then after that, he realized, like, Hey, I gotta do something different. That's, you know, a better, you know, coping mechanism than doing drugs. And he found in turn to meditation and, you know, it, it helped him young through that period of life and, and, you know, and beyond and, and he wrote this book and he's a great author. He's a great storyteller. Yes. And he really does a great job of sort of bridging the sort of like the mind and the soul in that way.

Melissa Albers  7:44  
Yeah, I feel like there's very few people of influence that have the power to do that. And I think that he's definitely one of them because he he is such an incredibly brilliant professional person. And that was and still is on the news and still does reporting and those kinds of other things. So he's extremely bright. And but he also used his influence to start doing interviews. He also has a, you know, he does a lot of blog stuff. He has a huge podcast following my podcast. Yeah. And he gets some of the absolute most prominent thought leaders and being leaders on meditation, he's interviewed the Buddha more than once. He's had many of the top meditations trainers across the country. So he's, yeah, he he has such a width and breadth about Him that does really take both sides of this conversation into into his his life, and he's just is amazing. So that is a great book for people to read. 10% happier is what it's called,

JJ Parker  8:51  
for sure. So after I read that book, you know, I thought well, okay. Yeah, if meditation is good enough for Dan Harris I must be good enough for me. So let's jump into that. So, so I, you know, I kind of started practicing meditation. And what was interesting for me was that even though I read all the books and I and I knew in my head what was what was happening? Yeah, it didn't really connect right till I actually had to sit there in silence. Trying to really observing, you know, my thoughts and feelings, right? It's It is funny how, you know if, if the listeners haven't meditated? I'm not I'm not going on a big meditation. Yeah, speech. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but even doing it a little bit is very insightful. As soon as you realize like how much your brain is actually just popping thoughts

Unknown Speaker  10:10  
and crazy thoughts like really crazy,

JJ Parker  10:13  
crazy. It's unreal. So until I started that and really observing like, Oh, wait, these thoughts like these signs are happening, like at an astounding pace, right? And like you said, like, and they're all over the place, right? I'd never realized that before. And it wasn't until those moments where I was able to like, take what I've learned and actually turn it into a practice where Yeah, when I got into a situation that did evoke a big feeling or big response I was I able to get that moment that gap between the feeling and the Thinking Yeah, in order to make me respond in the in a way that I really wanted to, instead of just being so impulsive?

Melissa Albers  11:08  
Well, I, you said a couple of things that I want to circle back on because it's really interesting. And I wish I had the actual percentage at my fingertips, but I do not. The number of thoughts that we have is in the hundreds of thousands per, per day. And out of that, it's in the high 90 percentile, that they are all the same thoughts, we think all the time. We have very few new thoughts, which is

JJ Parker  11:39  
very little original content up.

Melissa Albers  11:44  
But isn't that crazy? So if you just take that like one step further, and I know I could spin us into a new direction, which I won't but it is very interesting to think we continually think the same thoughts over and over again and what is a belief, a belief is not true or false. is simply thinking the same thought over and over again until you believe it's true. So, when you're looking at self awareness, if you can really sort of unpack that a little bit in my coaching, what I see so often is, people have some sort of level of pain inside, they have something that's hurting them, they've been triggered by something or they're unhappy with something. And that feeling, if it is not favorable, they will oftentimes go right to their head. Rather than staying with the feeling, they go right from the neck up is what I always call that. Like, I can just think my way through this, I just, I'll just go do this because that always works. I'll just think through why I'm feeling like this. And if 90% of your thoughts are the exact same, and you've been here before, there's something in In that process, it isn't working. I mean, that's not it doesn't work. But we just are afraid to tap into that neck down part or maybe not afraid, simply unequipped or unaware. How to tap more into that feeling part.

JJ Parker  13:18  
Yeah. So if we keep moving, I kind of on the spectrum, we started talking about the analytical Yeah, book, personality test kind of Yep. method of self awareness. We moved into meditation. Yeah. And you kind of can go farther into you know, different different tech, you know, meditation technique, I would say, right, sure. Grounding techniques, you can get into different philosophies, right. I'd say yeah, yeah. In our Western philosophy has got a one way of looking at the universe, right. But as you explore Eastern philosophy There's a whole different perspective.

Melissa Albers  14:03  

JJ Parker  14:04  
Right. Um, which you know, if you agree with or not is, is for me certainly interesting to learn about. Because it really, you know, for me, it helped me see the universe in a completely different way that I was never exposed to as a child.

Melissa Albers  14:19  
Right. And I think too, there's some fear around, you know, like when you hear people talk about Buddhism or you hear people talk about things like impermanence and all those kinds of things. I think people that are unaware of what that actually is, they get scared of it because they think that it's a religion. Yeah, and it is not a religion. It is a way of being. And so if you if you have a strong religious affiliation, many people have been trained and conditioned to think don't deviate from that yet. What we're really talking about is the connection with your soul. I'll call it soul for this conference. That connection with your inner being the connection with who you really are, like, I'll use all of those phrases so that I don't scare people off by just using one. But I think that it's really critical that we understand that both of those pieces are us. Mm hmm. That cognitive piece so many of us want to go right to the brain to solve our problems. And, and, and just like you described, like, that's a really natural reaction. It's like, Oh, I don't I don't understand. I don't understand why I feel this way. I'm gonna go read a book. I'm gonna go learn, I'm gonna go see a lecture. And some of that is fine. It does get us It does kick the can down the alley a little bit for us. However, like just us, for example, right now you're learning how to fly, you know, in a in a real airplane. And, you know, that

JJ Parker  15:58  
only learned from a book and then how In an airplane exactly go very well.

Melissa Albers  16:02  
Right, exactly. That's my point. It's, that's my point. It's like, there must be experience in ourselves in order to really, truly understand. You know, to really, truly understand who we are, and why we respond to the things that we do and how we react. Rather than feeling frustrated and upset when we have reactions that we don't like. We usually try to push them away, ignore them or stuffed them under a carpet or whatever.

JJ Parker  16:33  
Yeah, I think, you know, again, kind of pushing us all the way to the other side is Yeah, we talked, we talked about, you know, talking about certainly Buddhism and and Eastern philosophy, less as a religion, and more as a like model of

Melissa Albers  16:51  

JJ Parker  16:52  
Yeah. The one thing that really struck me when I started studying Buddhism, was like, I thought it was a religion. Right, you know what, that's what everyone

Melissa Albers  17:01  
thinks that for me. Yep,

JJ Parker  17:02  
I sort of Reno and I'm like, wait, this isn't a religion This is just like a framework of thinking

Melissa Albers  17:08  
and being not just thinking not just the being is actually probably better.

JJ Parker  17:13  
Yeah, but it starts but what's interesting about it is it starts kind of as a cognitive thing it starts as, like, look at this look at this way of, of our Learn about this way of looking at the universe, you know, this is kind of like, the Buddhist thing is, is like, look at this thinking model, how to observe things. And and now start observing that in yourself. Right now start practicing it by looking inward.

Melissa Albers  17:43  

JJ Parker  17:44  
And there you go. He goes so far as to say, you know, hey, don't believe it. There's no belief here. Yeah, like, challenge it. Try it. Like Yeah, do it. Yeah. Right. It doesn't work, then throw it away.

Melissa Albers  17:57  
Right. Right. I think he even says in the beginning of his book. It's And an awful long time since I read that, but I feel like at the beginning of his book he like encouraged people to just sit with themselves for like three minutes a day. He said, If you can just sit quietly for three minutes a day, you will gain benefit. And I think the benefit that is referred to constantly as he talks really about, you know, having a calmness, being more centered, understanding ourselves more not being so attached to the outcome of things, but rather being in the experience of things and I think that's such a beautiful, that's a beautiful piece.

JJ Parker  18:31  
And right there, you're moving right into that is a way of being Yeah, yes, centeredness and this calmness, yes, yes. And right there, you start talking about, you know, not religion, but, you know, spirituality, right. oneness with the universe. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And nature and all of all of that whole realm. Right. Yeah. So I'd say like, in this conversation is really interesting spectrum. Drum right where you've got this very logical scientific yeah method on one side all the way to I'm gonna sit in the woods alone and be one with the universe

Unknown Speaker  19:18  
right wait is it dark? That's a life goal. Exactly right is that are there bears? I'm a little afraid not black bears I'm not scared of black bears brown bears though I'm scared of brown bears

JJ Parker  19:29  
out there just cute little birds that fire

Melissa Albers  19:33  
Yeah, no and I'm making light of it. But it is very, I think that is such a great description like you're using like a spectrum are sort of a line on each end. It's like, whenever I'm talking about stuff like at what we think about I use the same analogy of a stick right on one end is the having of that something on the other end is the absence of that and and this spectrum can also be considered sort of the Same thing not in the having in the absence, but you know, it is a full spectrum.

JJ Parker  20:04  
Yeah. Or it's like two sides of the same coin. Yeah. Yeah, it's the same thing. It just whichever way Yeah, no, yeah, come at it. And my observation is you can come at it from either either direction. And no matter what direction you come at it, you kind of end up exploring the other side.

Unknown Speaker  20:25  
Yeah, well, we

JJ Parker  20:26  
came about as being in the middle, right, like, you can explore both sides of these one might resonate a little bit more with each other. Right, right. But just understand like both exist, right. And, and especially if you start on the, from the cognitive side, the, the clinical book side of that coin. really encouraging everyone to explore. Yeah, the feeling side of that. Well, you right,

Melissa Albers  20:55  
and that's so much about what our lessons are about, and what are our True desire in this process is to help people be more self aware for themselves not for the better, not for the benefit of anybody else. Although everybody else does benefit, it's really about being able to benefit in and of yourself for yourself and understanding your own processes. And like as you were describing, right now, the common way for people to manage themselves is to go up to their head, like even if they're not looking at books, or watching things on TV. Even if they have a feeling or a sense that they don't understand or they're not comfortable with, they go right up into their head. And if you then do start doing research or anything else like that, what I found for me, is, I would get really judgy I would spend more time in my head, trying to understand something and then ultimately comparing myself with whatever it is I was learning. Oh, I'm not good at that. Like, oh, I'm not ready to do that yet. Or how come this person And can do this and this. This says that 90% of people are like this. I'm not like this. Am I wrong? And it feels like when we get up into our head too much, there's a real opportunity for self judgment and self judgment shuts everything off.

JJ Parker  22:16  
Yeah. Yeah. So if you can bring that out of your head, yeah. down into your heart. Yeah. And just like, you know, except yourself. Well, our Yeah, here's how we do just like, release that judgment. Just say, hey, all this is okay. Right. Right. I'm really kind of get in touch with some of those thoughts and feelings.

Melissa Albers  22:39  
Right? Right. So the self awareness journey sits somewhere in the middle of that fabulous blog post that started this thinking today. And then on the other side of really just being able to be with yourself emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically all in alignment with each other and we continue to try to make things really accessible. For everyone so that they can really see and that you can really be with yourself wherever you are right now and make incremental steps to feeling good all the time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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