Ph.D. Melinda Fouts takes the reader through ways to gain a greater understanding of how we all disrupt our own inner peace. She teaches a method to develop a daily discipline to control emotional triggers and begin the journey of cognitive enlightenment.
Cognitive enlightenment is a process of delving deep into the self to gain greater understanding of how one disrupts one’s own inner peace. Mastering cognitive enlightenment is a daily discipline of watching one’s thoughts and how emotions are stirred up that one can control and transcend.
In this book, I take the reader through ways to begin mastering and owning their thoughts from my 20-plus years in private practice as a psychotherapist. The first six chapters are devoted to the areas where we need to put ourselves under a microscope to begin this journey. The last two chapters are stories about an individual whose experience amplifies many points I address and my struggle with attaining cognitive enlightenment. It is my hope that through these two stories individuals will understand the importance and the challenge it is to attain cognitive enlightenment yet at the same time, be encouraged to start the journey.
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
309 Paseo Rd.
Carbondale, CO 81623
My journey through life brought
many teachers even though they
did not hold the title of teacher.
I dedicate this book to all the
teachers I have met along my path
and most especially to my daughter,
Serena. I also dedicate this book
to my granddaughter, Seleste Elliette,
may you be a peace maker on your journey
through this life.
The inspiration for this book grew out of over 20 years’ experience as a professional in the business of being a shrewd observer of human behavior. Actually, my observation began at the young and impressionable age of five when my father would take me on trips to attend business and political meetings with him. He did not bring along crayons and paper for me; rather, he insisted that I sit and pay attention. And I did.
Since no one paid attention to me during these meetings, it allowed me to observe and take in everything: their faces, their body language, the tone of the speaker and the emotional climate of the room. I listened and studied the whole of the individual. I observed what wasn’t spoken, the body language expressed in the face, eyes, arms, and even the slightest shift in attitude. I could tell through the eyes, mood, and facial expression, ever so slight, whether someone agreed, disagreed, was becoming irritated, wasn’t listening and so on.
Over time, I learned that people are not very good listeners in general. They are formulating their thoughts and responses, not fully taking in the information from whomever is speaking. Their minds have been shaped over time, including what they think and believe, and their response is a result of their perspectives and beliefs. Even their decisions are driven by their beliefs, by the thoughts they keep telling themselves, by their storyline and their culture, all that shaped them to be who they are today.
As a professional with a private practice for over 20 years as a psychotherapist and an executive coach, I honed my skills and craft discovering further what keeps individuals stuck. When repetitive beliefs and perspectives are reinforced, one stays stuck in one’s box, and this is how one gets in the way of one’s own success, whether it is an observable success or an inner sense driven by fear that one is truly not successful. Everyone’s individual box is ripe for creating unnecessary conflict and undue suffering both for the individual and those around them.
For more than half my life, I have exercised a daily mindfulness practice that has brought awareness to how our thoughts and mind chatter can create patterns of behavior that are difficult to break. With this daily practice, I became aware of the negative self-talk that plays and undermines confidence, being and feeling successful and having an inner peace. We all have that negative tape hidden deep down and may not even know the root message. For the majority of my clients, the root of the tape is feeling “not good enough” or “not worthy.” To get out of this trap, one needs to adopt a mindfulness practice to start having greater self-awareness. From this daily practice, you become more cognitive of what your thoughts are and then can make a choice to change the tape and quiet the mental chatter as these thoughts are limiting our fullest potential.
Throughout my life and career, having a mindfulness practice is paramount to achieve cognitive enlightenment and transcend our limiting thought processes. It is the gateway to disciplining the mind. In this book, we will explore re-engineering the landscape of your self-image from the identities you have created for yourself, your projections, your limiting thoughts, and so much more. It will be taking mindfulness to the next level.
Wanting to reach more people, I decided it was time to share what I have observed and learned throughout my life and how we can untether ourselves from our thought patterns. This book is for anyone who wants inner peace by discovering what landmines your own thoughts create in your life. It is not a self-help book. Rather, it is a book to invite you and entice you to self-discovery. My dream and mission is if you can arrive at inner peace we will be one step closer to world peace. It is up to each of us to take charge of our thoughts, words, and actions, moving the globe toward one of peaceful cognitive enlightenment.
The first six chapters are an exploration of what keeps us from inner peace and attaining cognitive enlightenment. The last two chapters are stories about attaining cognitive enlightenment.
What Is Cognitive Enlightenment?
When we consider cognitive enlightenment, we need to fully understand the two terms before we can marry them together. Here is the definition of cognition according to Wikipedia:
Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” It encompasses processes such as attention, the formation of knowledge, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation,” problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language. Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.
Breaking down this definition, the formation of knowledge is not without its biases because we formulate and evaluate that knowledge from our past experiences. Understanding that information is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, our limiting beliefs and our culture. From the experience, we form judgments and evaluate the experience from our pre-existing conditioning. There are usually two categories of evaluating an experience: it is either a good experience or a bad experience, positive or negative. As we are driven by either pain or pleasure, we tend to limit ourselves so that we can stay comfortable and feel good.
One of the ways we do that is by staying in the realm of our comfort zone, areas that are familiar and confirm our beliefs, rather than, as the end of the definition states, generate new knowledge.
Let me give you an example of how we are shaped and limited from an early age. When my daughter was four years old, every morning I drove her to daycare. On a week where the full moon was lowering in the morning sky, each morning it was less and less full. By the third or fourth day, my daughter exclaimed, “Mommy, I don’t think the moon should be up when the sun is up. It’s melting!”
I chuckled and told her I agreed with her. I could have chosen a different response and explained the science behind what she was observing, but I knew that all too soon she would acquire that knowledge.
My point here is that I wanted her to continue to observe and state her observations without any interference from me. Often, when young children are told that they are incorrect, it squelches their curiosity. Being curious is the root of having an open mind and being able to absorb new knowledge that is out of our realm of tradition, beliefs, and perspectives, can take us out of our comfort zone and feeling numbly good.
By choosing to stay in our comfort zone, we are in the realm of what Daniel Kahneman, in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, refers to as cognitive ease. He explores how we are all subject to cognitive ease and abhor cognitive strain.
Cognitive ease makes us feel good and keeps us comfortably numb. When we use the knowledge that has been funneled into our comfort zone, we then take the position that how we interpreted the information is true and correct. From this stance, we assure ourselves and deepen our beliefs by thinking we are right and when we think we are right we become certain that we are right and experience a sense of feeling good, remaining in cognitive ease.
Being in a state of cognitive ease makes us feel good and our tendency is to believe what validates our pre-existing beliefs, making us comfortably unaware we are reinforcing our biases and beliefs. We also tend to buy in to what is familiar, often associated with our beliefs or what we have been exposed to over time, referred to as the mere-exposure effect. Finally, as implied by the term ‘cognitive ease’, we are more likely to believe what is easy. When it is familiar we are comfortable and therefore know it to be true and right. We all enjoy the feeling of being right! Right?
Cognitive strain is where we are in unfamiliar territory and have to apply ourselves. Think about when you first learned to tie your shoes. You had to concentrate hard and think through each step to accomplish the task. This makes us uncomfortable.
However, with time, tying your shoes became so easy and familiar that you can now tie your shoes, hold a conversation and think about your grocery list for dinner all at the same time. You moved from cognitive strain to cognitive ease.
What is important is that when it comes to cognitive enlightenment, we need to become comfortable with cognitive strain, which requires slowing down, paying attention to what you are thinking, your judgments, your beliefs, your biases, and finally what is called the negative bias.
Our brains are wired to be aware of anything that threatens our survival. Because of this wiring, we notice negative events more than we notice positive ones. Negative bias keeps us constantly evaluating experience and other people through the periscope of judgment mentioned earlier – either it is a good, positive experience or a bad, negative experience.
For example, generally, we experience difference as a threat. It puts us on alert, pulling us out of being comfortably numb. Negative bias is the driver behind the fears we have, whether warranted or not.
Part of the problem today is all the news media is negative amplifying fear in our culture. Moving toward cognitive enlightenment requires stepping away from the onslaught of negative news, so that you can move from a fear-based, negative thought process, which is like hitting the reset button on your computer for your brain.
Stemming from the work of Daniel Kahneman and his concepts of cognitive ease and cognitive strain, I want to take his idea a step further and challenge my readers to go beyond cognitive strain into cognitive enlightenment. Now that we have explored the meaning of cognitive, let’s look at the definition of enlightenment.
There are several meanings of enlightenment. In the West, there was the age of enlightenment, a “European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and its prominent figures included Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith.” (From the Oxford online dictionary).
During this time, traditional beliefs, myths, and superstitions were being questioned and challenged, a necessary step for opening the mind to use reason and think outside the proverbial box. Examining and challenging cultural and personal beliefs was the bulk of the work of these 17th century philosophers. Their work was instrumental and important to the inner growth of individuals as a whole and society.
In addition to the age of enlightenment, there are the spiritual definitions to consider. There are several Asian words that are similar in meaning yet do not mean the same thing. However, the West has chosen enlightenment as the go-to translation for these different words.
For the purposes of this book, we will consider the definition of Bodhi, a Sanskrit word that means “awakening,” and a perfection of insight into the Four Noble Truths. With this form of enlightenment, one ends all forms of personal stress, dissatisfaction, and suffering. I have chosen this definition because it comes closest to the purpose of this book.
Now that I have defined the two words, I can now assign a definition and have a better understanding of cognitive enlightenment. The definition I have created for Cognitive enlightenment is:
“the process of paying attention to our mental thought processes, recognizing thought patterns that are driven by perspectives and beliefs, having awareness of our biases and awakening to and being open to choosing and navigating our thinking to be unattached to our ways of perceiving and transcend ourselves to utilize emotional and spiritual insight to create a higher and untethered thought process to bring about inner peace.”
Having awareness of what you are choosing to think at any moment and awareness of any visceral reaction to that thought is the process of cognition of your thought patterns and then perfecting your insight to a higher perspective outside of your limited perspective.
Years ago, I went to a lecture given by the Dalai Lama in Aspen, Colorado. At the end of his lecture, there was time for questions. A woman in the audience asked the Dalai Lama if he hated the Chinese for exiling him out of his country.
Her question caught my attention and I was anxious to hear his answer as I thought to myself, “He’s the Dalai Lama, he is above hatred.” I thought he was going to lecture us on the need to transcend hatred. I share my inner experience as this is how we can start paying attention to our visceral reactions, our perceptions and how belief is the driver behind it all.
His answer changed my life. When he heard the translated question, he smiled, then laughed. He nodded his head and said, “Yes, the Chinese have exiled me out of my country. Yes, they have burned sacred texts and sacred temples.” Then pointing to his heart, he added, “Why would I let them in here, as I would be their prisoner?” Still pointing to his heart, he said, “Why would I give them the power to disrupt my inner peace?”
From that day forward, I became aware of how I let everything out of my power disrupt my inner peace, from situations to people.
Thus began my own journey toward cognitive enlightenment. It is a difficult journey and a road not well traveled but very much needed to change ourselves, thus changing the world. I believe if I can help one person find more inner peace then we are a step closer to world peace. …
Just finished Critical Enlightenment by Melinda Gouts. I am going to order the ebook, too. This way I can have a supportive read with me at all times. This book, unlike other self exploratory books, is concisely written with each chapter a definable and manageable daily read. I want to use this book almost as a daily guide to working the changes I need for a more honest and authentic life. I highly recommend this book.
Read Cognitive Enlightenment by Melinda Fouts, implement her tools and profoundly change your life! - 27.11.2019
I rarely write reviews but I am compelled to write one on Cognitive Enlightenment by Melinda Fouts. I have read many books of this nature in my life and typically they contain a few “nuggets” of useful information and tools for the reader to employ, but they are diluted in a sea of substantive data that the reader has to wade through. Ms. Fouts’ book is poignant and to the point. Each and every “nugget” she presents to guide the reader on their own journey towards Cognitive Enlightenment, is punctuated and illustrated with examples from her own journey. She notates several well-documented references to back up her points but not to the point of distraction. If the reader is mindful and practices the exercises laid out in Cognitive Enlightenment, you will begin a journey that will permanently and profoundly change your life.