Love Yourself...but what about your Neighbor?

Eric Stone

There is no courage and no discovery inside conformity. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you care about what other people think?

© 2021 Artist Benichou

What is conscious living? Clever definitions and slogans abound in the self-help corners of new-age literature.

I have long thought that if you are lucky enough to be awake in this world, the game of conscious living is to operate as yourself and to see the potential gift of every moment. 

Human beings spend a great of time thinking about things that don't really matter or worrying about what other people think. As a matter of fact, we are born into focusing on what others tell us we should be focusing on.

We call it growing up without batting an eyelash. Naturally, we toss all conditioning to the fact that we need to be raised, educated and feel safe. Seldom, do we actually realize who and what has conditioned us the most.

So many of our behaviors, reactions and habits were imposed rather than developed autonomously. 

Love yourself

Here's an affirmation I try to live by with great commitment: the key to understanding ourselves and to satisfying relationships is autonomy when it comes to decision-making. Even being influenced is by permission only.

When you put yourself first, it's a bit scary at the beginning.

My original title was "Love Thyself, forget your Neighbor." My intention was to draw attention to things we take for granted or simply just never investigate for their truth. How free are we when it comes to the direction of our lives?

Every being has a natural way to make decisions, unique to them. Some people require time, others contemplation, while others are more equipped to respond in the moment, etc.

Early on, this power and autonomy is quickly robbed by parents, siblings, peer pressure, teachers, friends, etc. So, we end up feeling tentative, lacking confidence and more important, not knowing where are true instincts lie.

As a long time self-expression and acting coach, I assert with great confidence and experience that our natural expression only emerges as a direct function of the freedom and autonomy to run our own show.

Part of training people at the onset is to place them back in touch with their autonomy and freedom. For most, it is quite a journey hence, why acting training has often been referred to as great therapy.

You are truly the only active ingredient in your life and it is a very necessary process. After all, during your entire life until death, you and you alone will experience your life. 

You can have empathy and compassion for another being, but you can never be inside someone else's body. On an airplane, during an emergency landing, you must first put on your oxygen mask before your child in order to help it stay safe. In life, you must first be yourself in order to be able to reach out to the other successfully, "free of conditioned pressures and embarrassing hang-ups."

Consciousness and memory

Consciousness is very different than memory. Why would I say such a thing? Well, did you ever ask yourself? While consciousness watches, memory remembers, measures and compares. Memory has no time to be conscious. We often confuse ourselves with our memories and it becomes painful.

Strange how some innocent observations, once spoken, become excellent opportunities for inquiry.

Memory or mind cannot solve existential angst

Within certain environments, existential concerns seem to lurk in abundance i.e. while delivering a speech, on a first date, at a job interview, or presenting in front of a large audience...any environment where the pressure is on.

Only the genuine collaboration between consciousness and body language (what we call behavior) can deliver true effectiveness and a sense of confidence. All credibility concerns are located in that relationship. As an example, actors or musicians have a deep reverence for this kind of intimate partnering. The body must be free of pressure from the mind telling you, for instance, to play better if you are a musician or to remember your lines, if you are an actor.

Mind is not consciousness

I can only be conscious of my mind i.e. my thoughts or concerns. Mind is thousands of years of abstraction of brain activity. Though quite impressive, mind can only be strategic and agenda driven, while it computes all the information it receives.

What gets us in trouble is that we think thoughts are coming from us. I understand it's quite a thing to contemplate. Very few people place a healthy distance between the content of thoughts and themselves (their awareness or spirit).

If you can hear and watch thoughts, then you are free. Even fewer individuals realize that there's nothing in the mind that actually belongs to them.

We are still living under the nostalgic spell and ancient magic of mind-driven existential fears. As a species, we have been afraid for a very long time.

Practically speaking, when mind activity dominates your scene, it operates 100% out of memory and misses the moment at hand. It leads to various forms and frequencies of frustration and fear.

An insight: remember that you cannot think in the future. You can only hear thoughts "about" the future—but the future isn't there. The same goes with actions. Nobody can act in the future. This would make you a time traveler.

Yet, so many individuals behave in their lives like the future is real hence, why when the future does arrive, they can feel so disappointed. Expectations are all future-based. It's a kind a fantasizing we indulge in culturally. It is innocent if you are aware but it can be devastating if you are not.


In my view, true creative freedom is liberation from the mind and its concerns for survival, approval, control and domination. How does the mind take our lives hostage and seduces us?

I have identified several key suspects for a line-up. Fear, Uncertainty, Approval, Conformity, Control, and Comparison. We all have a relationship with these existential tyrants.

Conformity is a form of collective blindness. We conform to fit in, to be nice and not make waves, but also, we conform because we are afraid to step out of our comfort zones. Put simply, to conform is to rule out your uniqueness and distinct contribution.

There is no courage and no discovery in conformity

Don't be like every other person. Bring your full attention to your body language (your instincts, intuitions, feelings, sensations, etc.) and watch how much easier it becomes to trust your life force instead of your mind.

Switch allegiance, and it will pay you back a thousand fold.


I was gifted three career paths in my life. I first began as a professional actor for stage, soap operas and voice-overs in New York and Hollywood.

I started directing and training actors as well as performers for another 15 years, while still very active as a voice-over artist and director. See the Hollywood Actors Studio.

As the actor's studio grew in reputation, the business and corporate world wanted to learn performance skills. In 2003, I founded Speakers & Artists International, Inc., a training ground dedicated to public speaking and business communication using acting techniques.

At age 40, I began a long journey as a visual artist, which led me to begin writing. This was 20 years ago. Writing continues to be an essential aspect of my development as an artist and a person.

Empowering individuals with critical skills and self-knowledge is my way of contributing my expertise. Emotional intelligence and intuitive awareness are prerequisites for the massive changes that are coming.

Philippe Stonebeck is my pen name, while Eric Stone has been my stage and coaching name for many years. I paint under the name Artist Benichou (Philippe Benichou).

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Empowering individuals with critical skills and self-knowledge is my way of contributing my expertise and varied experience as a performance coach, teacher, artist and lecturer. I strongly believe that emotional intelligence and intuitive awareness are prerequisites for the massive changes that continue to influence us all. I write to inspire people to walk their unique path with transformative self-knowledge. Through humorous yet provoking "lessons and insights", I focus on developing intuitive awareness and support self-expression. My aim is to entertain, while empowering individual growth & maximize personal development. If music is the "space between the notes" as Miles Davis so elegantly put, then authentic self-expression is the space between our character and attitudes, which are the true notes for playing ourselves to the fullest.

New York, NY

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