I coach, write and speak in order to share what I have seen about our experience of life and how we can thrive. I do this because I spent decades looking for a way to feel better about myself and less anxious and I have stumbled on what I believe is the simplest truth about our lives and how we can thrive.
We have the gift of consciousness that brings our thoughts alive as though they are 100% real and equally allows us to realise they are just thoughts and not reality.
I notice in myself and in my clients how awareness of this changes. Sometimes it looks like the world out there is creating my experience. Sometimes I am aware that my Thoughts are creating my experience but I still seem stuck with it. Sometimes I come into the space of simply observing the flow of thought and feeling, knowing that there is nothing I need to do.
I have called these different levels of awareness Their fault, My Fault and Default. See what you think….
1. It’s their fault
They are bombing a shopping centre therefore I am frightened.
He is racist therefore I am defensive.
She is patronising therefore I feel put down.
They are welcoming therefore I feel happy.
She is calm therefore I feel relaxed.
He loves me therefore I feel loveable.
It seems as though my feelings come directly from what I see out in the world.
It is relatively OK when all is well with the world. In these moments there is nothing to fix but I do have some concern that the person who is making me so happy might die or leave me or the situation I am depending on in order to feel OK might change.
When I feel sad, angry, depressed and I look at the people and situations that are causing me to feel this way, it seems so hopeless. How can I change all this? It looks impossible and yet I feel I have to change other people or circumstances because I desperately want to feel OK.
In other words, it is their fault I am feeling this way. I am a victim in all of this.
2. It is my fault
Then along comes a conversation, a book, a podcast, a blog or a meeting which mentions the idea that the world is experienced through Thought.
Initially this seems ridiculous when it is so obvious that I am angry because of the politicians, scared because of the terrorists and happy because of the sunshine.
Nevertheless, there seems to be a grain of truth to it because I have noticed that my thoughts about a person or an event change and as they do so my feelings change too. I notice that even while the same politicians are in power, I am not angry all the time. Even when there has just been a terrorist attack I am still able to chat with my friend about our holiday plans. Even when it is sunny I am not always happy.
I start to realise that my thinking is playing a role in my experience. I think that maybe it isn’t the things I see outside me causing me to feel the way I do but the way I interpret those things, the meaning I give to them.
And now it seems to me that it is my thoughts that are the problem. If my thoughts are making me unhappy or angry or making me feel stuck then it is my fault if I am not happy. It is somehow my fault if the world is not how I want it to be.
Oh boy – all this stuff I don’t want in my life – the cross husband, the anxiety, the kids having issues at school, the money problems, the rubbish job… (or whatever it is)…
Somehow, in the way that I am holding all this in my head, I think I am the cause of all this.
I try to change these thoughts or get rid of them altogether. I go to meditation classes and I try positive thinking but still my head is full of thoughts I don’t want. All this trying to make the thoughts disappear or move along or change into more positive thoughts just seems to get me more into a tangle. I start blaming myself. Why can’t I get this? What is wrong with me that I can’t control my thoughts or that I get so upset by the things that are wrong in my life.
I feel worse that ever. At least before I could blame the boss or the rain or the traffic or the bank balance for making me feel so shit.
Now it all seems to be my fault. I am the villain here.
This stress and self blame that I’m feeling are intolerable. I’m noticing that other people who seem to understand the nature of thought don’t seem to have all this heaviness.
It seems that there must be something I am not seeing yet. I carry on investigating this nature of Thought.
I start to notice that sometimes I look out on the world and all seems well and sometimes I look out and it seems like there are huge problems. I notice that according to what I am seeing my entire reality shifts. The idea of any fixed reality out there seems less and less true.
It seems to be out of my control whether I see good stuff or bad stuff but I know that it is ever-changing. Even when it is really low, when all I see is bleakness, I know that it will shift again and that soon I will see things differently.
I see that the same thing happens in what I think about myself. I start to realise that anything I think about myself is also fluid, up and down. I start to take that less seriously as well.
Whether it is low and gloomy or high and optimistic seems to matter less and less because I am realising that neither is permanent or real. I experience the feelings, without needing to sort them out or change them. Things seem lighter somehow.
As I take my experience less seriously I become more of an observer of my mental life. I notice the deeper feeling beneath the highs and lows. This seems to be always present, just that sometimes I don’t notice it.
I come to see this as the feeling of being alive. It seems to me like love. It seems to be where I belong.
I also notice the ideas and insights that come to me with this feeling of depth and peacefulness. They have a ‘makes sense’ feeling to them. I start to act on these as I ignore more and more the ups and downs of the stuff that I see outside me. I begin to have a level of creative freedom and expansion that I don’t remember ever experiencing before although I imagine I did when I was younger.
As I ignore the fluctuations of my thinking about other people I connect with them on a completely different level. Relationships that used to cause me trouble are becoming easy and fun.
Now that I pay what I think about myself less and less attention, it seems weirdly that I am becoming more myself. I feel settled and grounded. I feel that I can just be who I am.
I start to see that this is the default setting I was born with, that all human beings are born with.
I know without question that I am neither victim nor villain. I am human and universal.
I am a way for the energy of love, connection, creativity and potential to experience itself.
This is my default setting. I am vital.