In the Human Design System, “deconditioning” is described as the process that we go through as we align with our form consciousness and begin to release the grip of the mind over attempting to direct and control life. This process often involves letting go of outdated narratives and stories about the way things are or should be – and experiencing ourselves and our lives as they are. This experience can be quite intense, and for many of us result in dramatic changes in our relationships and our way of being in the world.
This process can also take a lot of time. It’s often suggested that it takes a minimum of 7 years to complete a full deconditioning cycle. This happens to be the length of time for a Saturn square (transiting Saturn is 90 degrees to natal Saturn) to occur in one’s birth chart and is said to be roughly the time it takes for a majority of cells in the body to regenerate. Note: current scientific research holds that some of the body’s cells regenerate much more quickly, while others like those in the skeletal system can take as long as 15 years (two Saturn squares), and some of the body’s cells will never regenerate.
“Deconditioning, as it is called in The Human Design System, is a process of letting go of what we are not. It is a slow process because it is a deep process. When we re-claim our Authority, changing how we make decisions and navigate through life, we actually change the way our cells function within our body. Life moves in seven-year cycles, as it takes approximately seven years for all the cells in our body to be renewed. The moment we begin to align with our own nature, the moment we allow our body to live its life without resistance, we begin this deep process of deconditioning. Seven years later we emerge closer to the person we were born to be. It is not easy to start as an adult, but as we have heard over and over – it is NEVER too late to begin.”– Lynda Bunnell, The Definitive Book of Human Design
From the point of view of the Human Design System, we begin the deconditioning process when we enter into the experiment of living our design and following our unique Strategy and Authority. For an auric type of Generator, this looks like no longer initiating or forcing things from an attempt to mentally control life, but instead waiting to respond and meeting life directly through the deep intelligence of the body. For a Projector, the Strategy is to wait for recognition which comes through a specific and personal invitation from the other.
When we let life come to us (Generators, Projectors, and Reflectors… Manifestors are a different case) and only respond or engage when correct through our Inner Authority, we begin honoring our inner truth and can align with our proper trajectory and movement through life. As we start to live more as ourselves, following our Strategy and honoring our Inner Authority, there is often an experience of “no going back” or not being able to “put the genie back in the bottle”. We may find that it becomes increasingly difficult to remain in situations where we feel compromised or we cannot fully express ourselves. We may see that certain relationships are no longer maintained and we may leave jobs, move, and enter into a new and perhaps unfamiliar experience of the world. Whether we have support for this process of awakening and deconditioning, will often depend on the levels of conditioning and orientation of our family, friends, and co-workers.
G. I. Gurdjieff, the Armenian/Greek mystic and spiritual teacher appeared to have recognized this dynamic back in the 1920s when he wrote the following aphorism for his students “If you already know it is bad and do it, you commit a sin difficult to redress”. While his language may read a little awkward in today’s culture, the message appears to be sound and on point. There does seem to be something about this process of deconditioning and awakening to oneself that can seem uncompromising. I’m seeing this play out repeatedly in my experience, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue engaging in situations that I know are unhealthy for me, exhaust me, or leave me feeling bitter and unrecognized.
G. I. Gurdjieff is also quoted as saying “there is nothing worse than to begin work on oneself and then leave it and find oneself between two stools”. He seems to be pointing to what might be called the “ignorance is bliss” experience as the first “stool”. This can be compared to living from a “not-self” state as its described in Human Design, where we’ve yet to fully decondition and find our new center and grounding in ourselves as we actually are – the other “stool” referred to as the “true-self”.
― Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing
So what do we do here? Rather than adopting another set of beliefs, dogmas, and looking outside ourselves to external authorities, we have the possibility of surrender to reality as it and aligning with the deep intelligence of our body. We trust it to show us what is good for us or not. This often involves letting go or stopping doing the things that either take us away from ourselves or suppress and deny our life force and its authentic expression. This state of being can sometimes feel like one has lost the normal reference points and a little like falling or floating through space without a tether. As difficult and disorienting as some of these shifts and changes can be, what’s the alternative? To continue living a life that we know isn’t healthy for us?
Often we come to a teaching and body of knowledge like Human Design because we have exhausted all other possibilities. The Human Design System appears to be unique in all of the paths and teachings that I’ve encountered as its the only one that points us back to our deep uniqueness while giving us a practical means of tapping into the body’s innate intelligence. Through Strategy, Authority, and Profile we have several points of reference on while on this potentially challenging journey of deconditioning (ie. between the two stools). We may also see that the major transit cycles bring opportunities to make significant changes in our lives and direction. Yet, as simple as it may sound, it’s usually not so easy in practice.
The mind will tenaciously hold onto the idea that it knows best and attempt to continue trying to drive one’s life. We’ve seen how regardless of what the mind thinks it wants, that operating from a place of trying to mentally control and direct our lives gives mixed results at best. And more often brings some kind of resistance experienced as frustration, bitterness, anger, or disappointment. Eventually, we may see this resistance as a sign that what we’ve been doing isn’t working and open to the possibility that there could more to ourselves and life than the homogenized program that we’re all being constantly fed.
“When you get out of the driver’s seat, you find that life can drive itself, that actually life has always been driving itself. When you get out of the driver’s seat, it can drive itself so much easier—it can flow in ways you never imagined. Life becomes almost magical. The illusion of the “me” is no longer in the way. Life begins to flow, and you never know where it will take you.”― Adyashanti, The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment
When we start letting go of the conditioning that we’ve accumulated over the years and awaken to what is true for us, continuing to compromise ourselves can feel like a type of death or denial of what we are. Yet, if we don’t have a sense of what that is or feel that we don’t have a right to be what we are, then we can feel stuck or without a viable alternative. But that’s what the clear and logical Human Design mechanics offer us – a map and way of understanding just that. For example, a Projector may feel like there is seriously something wrong with them in not being able to consistently display the kind of work output that most Generators do. They may feel like they are lazy, undisciplined, or too sensitive. But the reality may be that they are not here to play that kind of role in the world.
Understanding our design can be both a huge relief and a confirmation of our experience and the gifts we are here to express. When years of bitterness, frustration, anger, and disappointment are released, it can be very difficult to go back to our previous state. It’s a bit like a detox when we finally get off the junk food and clean up our diet. The reintroduction of unhealthy food can bring quite a noticeable reaction. We now have a more clear sense of what works for us and what does not, and dishonoring that is a type of self-harm or violation of the deepest levels of our being.
And yet, life goes on. The outer world circumstances aren’t always the problem. They may actually mirror the relationship we have with ourselves. Are we actually living as and for ourselves? Are we honoring our truth as we know and experience it? Or are we living based on who we think others want us to be or what we can get from them? Do we love ourselves? If so, then we may find that in loving and caring for ourselves, our relationship with the world outside also changes.
Whatever the case, deconditioning from years of not-self influences in the conditioned world is no joke. It takes a certain kind of courage to stand on our own, and at the same time, it can really help to have a few good allies along the way. Perhaps its ultimately about letting the body guide the life… one day at a time, one breath at a time while releasing our mind’s tight grip on life and enjoying the ride.