This week is mental health awareness week.
It’s a good week therefore to consider how we all have moments of misunderstanding that can cause us to believe either that there is something wrong with us or that there is something that we have to fix in the world to be OK.
It’s also a good week to consider how we all have the ability to see this misunderstanding more truthfully and in doing so realise the constancy of our mental well-being, our innate resilience and our access to our natural intelligence that will guide us through life.
Let’s look at this misunderstanding first.
At some point (perhaps many points) today all of us will believe that a person, event or circumstance is responsible for how we are feeling. This is a misunderstanding because it is just not true. This ‘not trueness’ is on a par with the ‘not trueness’ of the flat earth and bad smells causing disease.
Yet we all have moments when it looks so true. Even the people who’ve known this for decades get taken in. And we get taken because that is the nature, indeed the gift, of being human.
We are designed so that we have a stream of thoughts flowing through our mind and a state of the arts special effects department (the power of consciousness) that brings these thoughts alive to such an extent that we experience them physically and mentally as reality.
In the moment, if I am experiencing feelings of, for example, fear or stress or anxiety or sadness, it looks like it is the outside world creating those feelings directly. It looks like I have to change that person or circumstance in order to feel OK. Or if I see that everyone else is managing OK then I think there must be something wrong with me. I might try to improve or fix myself or I might try to blank out my thoughts and feelings with drugs or drink or work or shopping.
And this is a huge misunderstanding with enormous consequences for the way I live my life.
It is also the most logical, understandable misunderstanding to make (which is why so many of us make it, so frequently).
What is actually happening is that the energy of my mind rises and falls and the things I notice in the outside world change accordingly. When it is high I see opportunity and people there to support me. When it is low I see problems and adversaries.
This is all I ever need to know.
It cannot be the person causing my reaction because not everyone reacts to them in the same way as me. Indeed I myself have different experiences of that same person. It cannot be the event causing my reaction because not everyone at the event is having the same experience. Indeed I have different experiences even during the course of that one event.
The experience of the person or the event, therefore is simply thought in the moment flowing through me.
I don’t need to change the other because it has nothing to do with them.
I don’t need to fix myself because it is just thought passing through caused by a mind that fluctuates.
I don’t need to blank out the thoughts because they will just disappear of their own accord.
Realising this to even a tiny extent is a breakthrough. It is a sliver of reality and truth. It allows us to have a new more accurate perspective on our mental activity. We no longer take our experience as an exact representation of reality. We start to realise that it is simply a temporary personal version that we can simply allow to run its course.
As we spend more time hanging out in the realisation that we experience our thoughts. We start to make the distinction between the impermanent, ever-changing, fluctuating nature of our thinking and the permanent, unchanging and constant factors of human existence. The former is what we see from the roller coaster cart. The latter is the structure of the roller coaster. One is an experience. The other is the principles of how the whole system works.
I imagine I’m not the only one who looks out at the horizon across the sea and thinks that it really does look like a straight edge. But the knowledge that the earth is spherical is so deeply ingrained in me that it wouldn’t occur to me to panic that ships were going to fall off the side. We can experience the illusion and see through it at the same time.
From this sliver of truth about the previously unquestioned illusion, we might start enquiring into the nature of reality, thought and experience. We might talk to people who investigate this for a living. We could watch videos or read books about it.
And all of this will bring a level of awareness and understanding that will affect every area of our lives. Because the more we see through the misunderstanding, the less compelling it is, even when we are right in the middle of it.
I cannot emphasise enough how human it is to believe our thoughts and also how the ability to realise they are not reality is built into the design of the human mind. We can do both. Both are entirely natural.
Seeing this allows us to get off the hamster wheel of trying to fix either the outside world or ourselves. There is nothing wrong. There is nothing to do.
And in this space of ‘nothing to do’ we can listen to the voice of our real intelligence. This is the guidance that is designed to help us expand into the world, into our knowledge of who we are and into what we are capable of. We can trust this guidance.
It represents our inner well-being.
Permanent and unchanging. Everyday.