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“I have no idea where that came from.”
I wasn’t thinking. It was a lapse of judgment. It just happened; I can’t explain why. I reacted without thinking.
How many times have I made one these excuses for myself in the aftermath of unintentional, hurtful behavior or words? How many times have I then gone about my day, telling myself that the thoughtless behavior was not me, and doesn’t represent who I am?
The answer is: many, many times. And likely, so have we all.
Whether we call it thoughtless, unmindful, insensitive, or something else, we often consider this behavior as discountable—not worthy of further investigation.
It wasn’t intentional, we tell ourselves. It was a momentary lapse of judgment. So we wrap it in an excuse, and we let it go.
That sinking feeling of guilt that sets in after saying or doing something that hurts someone is so uncomfortable.
We let it go, because the sting of regret seems like punishment enough already. Why pursue it further?
We let it go, because we can’t square the behavior with who we think we are. Who we say we are. Who we like to believe we are.
So, we distance ourselves from the behavior: It didn’t mean anything.
Then we negate it: It was just a reaction. A reflex. A lapse.
Ultimately, we let ourselves off the hook.
From the lens of the ego, perhaps these moments seem like distractions, or brief, unimportant breaks from our higher (and more acceptable) understanding of ourselves. From the ego’s perspective, thoughtless actions may very well be set aside as temporary missteps absent purpose or meaning.
But through the lens of our souls, or our higher selves, these thoughtless moments are great gifts that we could use to raise our consciousness.
In other words, thoughtless moments are opportunities that can lead to more awareness and a more aligned, mindful life.
We can start by refusing to write off the behavior as a “glitch.” Instead, we can own our words and our behavior. We did it, so we just notice it, name it, and accept it. Then, we must ask ourselves why. And why. And why again. Not from a place of punishing ourselves, but from a true desire to know—an open question, seeking possible answers.
Was it a protective reflex? Did the words come from jealousy? Were we projecting our own insecurities onto another?
All human behavior originates from intention. All of it.
The only difference between mindful behavior and what we term “thoughtless” behavior is whether or not the underlying intention is known to us (yet) or not.
We are asking why in order to learn what that intention is.
Take the approach of a scientist studying behavior through a microscope. Or sit behind the desk, taking the viewpoint of the wise teacher. What do we see? What is this “student” showing us?
This is not an exercise of self-admonishment. It’s a fascinating sojourn into the inner workings of our psyche, courtesy of our thoughtless behavior.
Dig deeper. Ask again: why?
What about this situation brought up insecurity, which made us erect walls of protection? What about the situation felt unsafe, and led us to swing our words like swords? What longings and deep desires do we deny that caused us to speak ill of another either behind their back or to their face?
We ask ourselves these questions, safely and with loving-kindness, until the thoughtless act doesn’t seem so intention-less after all. Until we finally spot the reason that has been hanging out, undetected, all this time in our subconscious.
But now, it has been been spotted. Rooted out. Made conscious. And thus, we raise our consciousness.
These moments in our life that we might write off as thoughtless are like footprints we’ve made on our life path. If we trace them backward, we will arrive at the root cause of the behavior. Ultimately, this work can lead to a life of fewer thoughtless moments and many more mindful ones—ones that we are less likely to regret.
Those of us walking a path to greater mindfulness and consciousness cannot afford to write off any moment—no matter how small it might seem.
We must learn to see our uncomfortable experiences as springboard moments that can catapult us into a greater consciousness (as well as result in fewer thoughtless incidents in the future).
If the thoughtless behavior bothers us, sticks with us, and makes us feel uncomfortable, it’s opportunity knocking. If the words said or the tone we couched them in do not represent our core values, it is time to take a closer look.
Get curious. Seek behind the curtains of consciousness. The work is the way.