Imagine it’s a hot July day. You’ve got the AC cranked up, the blinds shut, you took a cold shower, but you just can’t seem to cool off.
You ignore the fact that you have a fire roaring in the fireplace because you don’t know that fires are hot.
So you call Sears to come check out the AC unit–there’s no way it would be so hot if the AC was working properly. You put your clothes in the freezer for a few minutes and then put them back on (a little trick I used during sweltering collegiate summers in Delaware). You consider going to buy a bag of ice and sit in an ice bath.
Then you ask your neighbor, who’s walking by, if she has any ideas about how to stay cool. She peeks her head in the door and says, “you know fires are hot right?”
Everything seems to make sense now. The solution is simple. You put out the fire.
Here’s another example.
Your left foot really hurts. It’s constantly bruised and in pain. No one, not even doctors, can tell you exactly what’s wrong with your foot. The fact that you spend 12 hours each day kicking a wall doesn’t register surprise in anyone with whom you discuss the foot pain.
You’ve tried everything. Homeopathic remedies. Seeing a chiropractor. Whiskey. Ibuprofen. Whiskey and ibuprofen. Different shoes. Orthotics. The Paleo diet. Transcendental Meditation.
Some of them offer temporary relief, but before you know it, the problem comes roaring back. You can’t seem to figure out the root issue.
Until one day, you look down. Some part of you knew that you were kicking the wall, but it never seemed like it was related to the pain. As you look down, a new possibility emerges: maybe the foot pain comes from kicking the wall!!
Everything is different. You don’t need to try a new strategy, medicine, or technique. You just stop kicking the wall. Soon, your foot is back to normal.
What’s the point?
There’s something magical about seeing the source of a problem. Especially when we’ve been looking for answers in the wrong place for a long time.
Seeing to the source automatically simplifies and clarifies. It removes the necessity to do more work or learn a new skill. It ends the frustration of trying one thing after another without success. The “problem” might not look like such a problem anymore. A lot of times it just dissolves.
Have you ever had an experience like this?
The funny thing is that when we look for ways to change ourselves, our moods, our thoughts, or our circumstances, 99.9% of the time we’re trying to crank the AC without noticing we have a fire crackling. We’re taking ibuprofen without noticing that kicking the wall hurts our foot.
It’s innocent, it’s well-intentioned, and it’s pervasive. And everyone does it (including me). It’s so common to look for love in all the wrong places.
But looking in the right direction has the potential to fundamentally transform our experience of our lives.
So what’s the direction? What’s the missing link that we’re all not seeing?
It’s that everything we experience is thought. We don’t experience the “outside world.” We don’t experience people, events, or situations. What we experience are thoughts. It isn’t what, but that, we think.
Thoughts aren’t just verbalized sentences. Sometimes they’re more subtle ones we don’t notice we have. Thoughts are an energy that composes our personal realities.
Don’t just take my word for it. Look to see if you can ever have an experience without thought. (Feelings come from thought, so they’re not an exception.) This doesn’t mean try to quiet the mind. It means look to see if thought, in its various forms, is what constitutes our entire experience.
When I first saw that this might be the case, it instantly lightened me up.
And then over time, I started to forget how it’s true 100% of the time in 100% of the areas of our lives.
That first area you see this to be the case is your gateway into seeing the source of our experience. When you walk through the gateway and keep walking, there will be other areas that have closed gates. Those are the areas where it’s really hard to see that it’s thought that we’re experiencing. They are the areas where we feel confused, scared, and insecure. “Well, I can see how my experience of that conflict with my coworkers came from arbitrary, made-up thoughts. But you’re saying my issue with my girlfriend is just thought? No way.”
The reason we feel confused, scared, and insecure, is because we’ve lost sight of the truth. That’s the only way we can suffer. We think those situations feel the way they feel because that’s inherently how they are. They’ve got real, ingrained meaning, and the meaning is confusing, scary, and insecurity-inducing.
As far as I know, we’ll always have those areas. We’ll keep getting insecure.
But over time, we’ll remember in more and more areas of our lives that we’re creating them through an interplay of thoughts arriving and becoming real in consciousness. That’s the only way to have an experience. And seeing that can transform us.
It has the ability to get us out of our own way. It makes us clearer, lighter, looser.
- we’re not in charge of our thoughts,
- thoughts always change, and
- they’re more or less arbitrary,
we can just let thoughts do what they do and dance around. Until they get tired, and go away.
We stop thinking that we’re the dancers on the stage, and realize that we’re the stage and in fact the entire theater. And behind that is an experience of peace. It’s an experience of contentment, love, and enlightenment.
Since thoughts are great actors, we always get drawn into the drama again. Yet we’re always only one thought away from healing and peace.
I know I am making a lot of definitive statements–it makes for good writing. But don’t just accept what I’m saying, or process it on an intellectual level. Look to see for yourself if it’s true in your life. That’s where the real impact and transformation will come from.
If there was nothing inherently wrong with you, no pain that could permanently wound you, nothing worse that could happen to you than a thought–what would be possible?
You could stop thinking anything needs to change before you can be happy. You could stop wasting so much energy trying to fix the world in order to feel better. You could relax, because you’re not the one who needs to solve your problems. You could stop fearing your experience.
You could see how you feel is completely independent of whatever is going on in the circumstances of your life.
You could be free.