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Hungry Ghosts and the Not-Self

Conditioning is an important topic in any field that deals with the human psyche, spirit and body, from psychology to spiritual practice to physical training.   In Human Design, we have a very specific map of how conditioning works mechanically, which explains how each person filters and processes conditioning influences.  The open centers, channels and gates of the BodyGraph take in pressure, information and energy through the people we interact with, the culture that surrounds us and the transits of the planets. It is an experience that never ends and is part of every interpersonal experience.  Whether a relationship is healthy or correct or not, conditioning is part of the mechanical way we affect each other.

When conditioning comes in, it feeds the conditioned mind, which we call the not-self.  One of the simplest ways to see this is through the Open Centers, which are keynoted by not-self themes.  We can see them as mental motivations, which often direct our choices and behavior.  As we reflect on and witness our experience, we can become aware of the sensations they evoke in the body or the state of mind and feeling they elicit in us.

De-conditioning can happen through awareness and dis-identification with the mind as well as through various healing modalities that allow the body to release.  It can happen through an experience of pure recognition.  It can happen in bursts or be ignited and unfold slowly.  De-conditioning can also take place when we are alone, away from other people, if we are not identified with the mind.  By adulthood, our cells have absorbed many layers of conditioning that has distorted our frequency.  Undoing this is a process that takes time.

Recently, I was working with a man who has an Open G Center, the center of love, identity and direction. The not-self theme of this center is about looking for love and direction.  With this theme, the mind becomes fixated on “Where am I going?” and “Where can I find love?”  He also has an Open Ego center, with the theme of trying to prove and improve oneself out of a feeling of unworthiness. The mind fixation might sound like, “What can I do to prove myself?” or “How can I prove that I have value?”  It can feel like a pressure to act in order to overcome feeling unworthy.  Not-self themes show themselves through the inner dialogue of the mind, which we may hear through our thoughts or feel as a state.

This man was a Sacral Generator, familiar with his design, frustrated with his current work and looking for something new.  A colleague recommended a recruiter to him and he responded to that and pursued a meeting. When he sat down with the recruiter, he was met with a series of questions.  The recruiter asked, “Who are you? Where do you want to be in 5 years? Who do you want to be?  How do you see your trajectory?”  These questions went right to the (empty) heart of identity and direction.  His mind grabbed onto them and he began to feel the pressure to come up with conceptual answers.

What is the body’s response to these types of questions for a Sacral Generator with no consistent source of identity and direction? Nothing. Open ended, theoretical questions have no relevance to the Sacral Center. He didn’t have an answer to these questions but they conditioned him, entered his energy field along with the energy, beliefs and thoughts of the recruiter who was asking. As he left the meeting, those open centers had taken all of this in.  Even though he knew better, his frequency had shifted, his state had changed and the questions lingered in him.

“Who am I and who do I want to be? Where am I going in my life? Which direction is best for my career?” And then the Open Ego kicked in, with its conditioned sense of unworthiness saying, “Why don’t I have this figured out yet?  I probably should know the answers to these questions, maybe I don’t really know what I’m doing, maybe I need to work on myself and on figuring out my path so I’ll be able to get the work I want.” And how did he feel?  Inadequate, doubting and questioning himself. He entered that unreliable, not-self place where his mind was busy trying to answer questions that were irrelevant to him.  He could feel the familiar drudgery of trying to get his energy going to deal with a mind trip that had nothing to do with his power, energy, abilities or response.

The Open Ego can be relentless in convincing us not only to try to make ourselves worthy in our own eyes and the eyes of those we love, but to prove ourselves to anyone and everyone we meet.

Our open centers do not have a way of dealing with the conditioning we take in.  They can not ultimately satisfy the preoccupations of the mind.  Strategy and Authority offer an alternative to trying.  In this case, it means going to the Sacral center, the gut response, to deal with the questions being asked.  In the moment, this man could say, “I don’t have a response to those questions.”  If he remembers to stay rooted in response, he can watch the mind, and even feel the pressure and unworthiness, and not let it determine his actions. If the recruiter had had an awareness of design, she could have been asking yes or no questions that engage the response of the Sacral Generator and allow access to clarity and power.

One of the values of knowing about design in any kind of relationship is to be able to respect not only yourself but the person you are dealing with.  It offers a way to support the stability in another and to stop feeding the not-self mind, which is like the hungry ghosts of Buddhist lore, addicted to behaviors and habits that are never satisfying and always feeding on what isn’t fulfilling.  The Open Spleen seeking more security, the Open Ego seeking value, the Open Solar Plexus seeking to avoid confrontation.

When the not-self themes no longer motivate our behavior, we can watch what comes in through our openness and not identify with it.  The not-self mind keeps talking but we can stop listening.

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