“The basic level of practical knowledge and judgment.”

Where the heck did it go? I look around and it seems that common sense has left the building. I’ve been looking around for it and this is what I’ve found.

Common sense is a skill. We get trained, or not, in common sense, and this happens on many levels through our development. How was common sense being practiced while growing up? What was happening in the primary family? Whatever configuration you experienced, common sense was revealed to you in how it was being practiced around you. We have several possible responses to experiences: inherit, learn, and/or rebel.

We partially inherit the selves we are closest to growing up. Attitudes get absorbed, generational wounds seep in, and behaviors are adopted. When a pattern fills a basic need, we are attracted to that pattern. The culture, communities, institutions and social norms are the soup we swim in and become ingrained through a kind of osmosis. Through these things and some other factors, our own practice of common sense is formed.

It seems those having experienced hardships in life often come away with a better common sense. Sometimes it takes those kinds of occurences to beat a little sense into us. And that’s part of what happens. If we are paying attention, we will learn something, gain some sense. Other’s lives see little hardship, but this doesn’t mean no common sense. There are too many variables to be definitive.

The best practice related to common sense is to PAY ATTENTION! When the majority of our attention is inward, we just miss what’s going on around us. Assessing our situation has value. Not obsessive assessing, practical assessing. This means we look for proof, we ground our assessments and act accordingly. We don’t just accept things at face value or just because it fits into a scheme of what we want to be true.

When we feel the possibility for a response or action move in us, it becomes easier to trust that feeling through embodying the combination of paying attention, practical assessing, and past experiences. Like anything else, this requires practice, but “right practice.” What do I want to stop doing? What do I want to start doing? How do I interrupt a deep, old, well-practiced pattern?

There is no switch to flip to make this happen. It takes a good common sense approach to long term change.

Yes, uncertainty! We are so in it right now as almost never before in our lifetimes. As a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, we lived through “duck and cover.” For those too young to remember, it was a cold war response to the possibility of a nuclear war, with every building that had a basement was adorned with a fallout shelter sign. I was too young to understand what it was all about, I just remember repeatedly practicing jumping under our desk at school and covering our heads. Like a lot of good that would have done!

So, it’s a different duck and cover now, and the uncertainty of these days affects us all. Some people are good with uncertainty and can navigate well through it. Most people remain in a state of freaked out. What happens to us in that state for a prolonged period of time? Well, to say the least, it’s not healthy. The point of this article is, “What do we do with it?”

 

One of my favorite quotes is, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl. This is extremely relevant for this time. We can all vote, this is an action we can take, and taking action is one of the cures for these times. The best action to take is what we do internally with ourselves. We have all heard of people in extreme life situations that maintain an amazingly optimistic and positive outlook in the face of what is affecting them. Easy for some, difficult for others.

When we lose our ground, be it through uncertainty, or fear, or the unknown, we have only our “self” to count on. Our individual historical shaping will determine our automatic response in this domain. So, it becomes relevant to understand our history and the “truth” that it thrust upon us. Our history is an interpretation of experiences based on getting our basic human needs met. It is not a truth. Every moment of our present experience is our truth, not our reaction or interpretation of it. In the moment we can self-correct, re-center, and re-ground ourselves into that “self” we want to be. This is a practice. We can practice reshaping ourselves into a positive, optimistic, life-affirming way of being, not once, but recurrently, moment to moment. Reshaping is the key. Moods of resignation, anxiety, shame, resentment, and frustration have a physical shape, as do moods of confidence, calm, pride, acceptance, and joy. If we can adhere to the notion that the body and self are indistinguishable, reshaping the body is reshaping the self. I have been using this practice supporting people in their lives for the past 25 years and it works. Practice these shapes: confidence, calm, pride, acceptance, and joy, and see what it offers you. It is not just a one-time practice, use it recurrently through your day and see the difference it can make.

So get out there and shape yourself into who and how you really want to be! This is the best support you will find in these times of uncertainty.

Behavioral choice is Freedom. Freedom of full expression of the essential self, that who we are destined to be in the world. Choosing to serve in one’s own unique way, choosing kindness over meanness, choosing to listen to how my body/self/intelligence is informing me, and listening to the deepest longing and urges and having the skill to move them forward is the best case outcome from doing our own personal work. The ability to choose who I am and how I act in the moment sets one’s soul free to be fully expressed.

 

How much choice do we really have? Has my fate and destiny already scripted my future? I choose to believe we have a combination of free will and destiny. But today let’s talk about choice.

Humans are historical animals. That is, we are the sum of all of our experiences up until this moment. Unexamined, our history will rule our behavior though a series of embodied habits and behaviors related to having our basic needs met throughout our childhood and beyond.  And even though our basic template of self will follow us throughout our life, we can make very big, fundamental shifts about who we are and what we embody.

One way to think about coaching: What if I can stop doing that thing I don’t want to do, that I know I do, and that I can’t stop doing? Ah, how refreshing that would be! So much more satisfying, feels so free! How can this happen? Through somatic coaching (and many other styles and structures), one becomes aware of what it is they are doing and how it is being done. Using this awareness and with a practice of interrupting old patterns and narratives with new stories and new practices, one can, over time, be different. Now, when an old automatic tendency shows up, there is a moment of centering around another possibility. One chooses to act differently; one chooses to be a different self. This also opens the possibility of a practice of deep listening, often obscured by historical clutter, which now has a stronger, clearer voice. All of this takes time and practice, there are no quick fixes altering fundamental patterns of behavior. One has to be committed to new practices over time.