Pair #98 It's all a mystery to me. Thank goodness.
It's interesting to me that something like 80- 90% percent of people in the world have a religious affiliation. Of that number, the huge majority of people have actually remained with the faith they grew up in and that is, overwhelmingly, the faith of their parents' parents.
This says a lot about our movement from childhood to adulthood, doesn't it?
While it is probably true that many of us don't actually attend church nowadays, I do see in my work with people that when the going gets rough, and when people do look in the direction of a spiritual solution, their start point is often a return to the faith of childhood.
I'm not saying this is a bad thing. Far from. People I know who've gone back to church when becoming sick or desperate often find comfort and help. In my personal view, any interest in the spiritual nature of life, any inquiry into the nature of who we are, why we are the way we are and how we work as humans - brings us back to something that we are often missing in our modern lives.
We have an odd relationship with mystery these days. Although we are content with fantasy video games and elaborate 3D mega-productions, and we are not uncomfortable with the serendipitous, we are wildly unfamiliar with the territory of true mystery.
Yet, despite our will to scientifically know and dissect matter itself, we keep uncovering more mystery.
Black holes are a mystery.
Why some people overcome cancer and others do not is a mystery.
Where the will to live comes from is a mystery.
Although mystery is quite delicious, I sense that mystery is a bit on the out these days. And because we've collectively agreed that life can be known, that it can be broken down to the smallest element and contained, we are rarely amazed by life. We delight not in the unexplainable.
Since we are not all that friendly with the inexplicable, we are also rarely reflective in that open "I wonder..." kind of way. And that IS a shame.
Deep reflection is something almost no one I know engages in regularly. The reason, I suspect? No time. We are all too busy being busy. Even busy waiting for the vacation in order to stop and relax.
But I'm not talking about taking time out and resting up. I'm talking about reflecting on the nature of life. I'm talking about hearing the inside of us. Openess to a truly new idea, that we had just not thought of before. When we were too busy. Take all the classes on 'authenticity' that you want; you'll never be authentically you until you are reflecting on your intimate life and listening for the answers within you.
As we have grown to adulthood and left behind our childish things, we may well have left behind our churches, but we have taken up the form of spiritual practice coupled with the science of knowing, and we have let go of our love of mystery and dislike spending time in the unknown. At the same time, maybe religious forms have attempted to explain too much, replacing true mystery and direct knowing with belief. Belief demands that we chose. Mystery does not. Mystery asks that we simply be with.
Surely adulthood does not mean finding more and more answers, but rather being more comfortable with not knowing what the hell is going on.
Recently, I had a glimpse of the profound 'kindness' of our human life-support system.
You know how on a music player you have the LOOP button? After the song finishes it loops back to the beginning? And in the scientific field, you have "closed systems". We also talk about "feedback loops".
Well I spent a day with George Pransky and one of the things he talked about was how thought and feelings truly are a looped. We have only to look to our feelings to know exactly the quality of our thinking at any given moment, and we have only to have a thought in order to have the feeling that goes along with it.
So... if it's true that thought-feeling is a completely closed loop, then it can never be true that things create feelings in us but rather that it is always our own thoughts. Our thoughts are solely responsible.
That means we are living out only our thinking. We are literally, thinking our way through life. And...
that would mean that we have been beautifully constructed.
It struck as me how incredibly smart it is that we each came equipped with an amazing GPS system that would always help us if we ever get lost and forget that.
If we are always feeling the world through our considerations about it (thoughts) and that it is not because the world bumps into us that we feel bad or scared or afraid, then the world around us may have no inherent meaning at all. Period. It would be just a simple blank canvas.
Which opens up the possibility thatthe world is not just neutral but a terribly kind place to live, and that, while we are here, we've been given a built-in navigational device, a treasured gift to help us find our way.
I used to believe that how I felt was telling me that a bad thing was happening to me, but now I understand that all a bad feeling is telling me is whether the quality of my thinking is dropping or rising.
Which ultimately means that Shakespeare was right "nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Pair #95 Life is hard and then you get your a*s handed to you
Ever thought... "It's been years now, but I just can't forgive so and so." "Every time I hear his voice, I just want to slump on the floor and cry." "I can't stop thinking about how much they hurt me and it makes me so mad." "I've just been told they are not sure if it's treatable."
No one disputes that you have good reasons to feel bad when you've just been told you have a disease or that your job is gone. And I'm not saying you should feel great and wonderful on the heels of some difficult life moment. Yet I am interested in the process by which we explain our feelings about them. Because where we see the cause of our feelings has everything to do with our recovery.
Although anger, grief, self-admonition, regret and concern are 'normal responses' we are often looking to resolve these emotions in the completely the wrong place. For years I remember thinking that if my father apologized to me for a particular childhood event, then finally I could feel better, put the grievance behind me and get on with life. Because of this kind of thinking, I wallowed in my own bad feelings for years later without any resolution, understanding or forward movement. Despite therapy, counseling and body work.
I knew I was stuck in the past. I think we've all experienced this -- and the helplessness that goes with it.
It seems like all the pain is coming from outside of us. It certainly seemed that way to me!
So let's consider for a moment how it is any outside experiences get 'inside' of us.
How did my father, who lived far away, actually make me miserable over the years, with an event that was long over and done with? How is it, for example that cancer actually creates emotional disturbance? How is that someone else uses their power to create sadness in you? How does that process, that alledged transference actually work?
If you examine closely you will see that it doesn't. All of my pain was old history carried through time -- by me. The same is true of everything we feel pain about, trivial or serious.
Consider this as an example. Let's take a friend of mine who knows someone at work who is very 'negative.' My friend will tell you that this person has such bad energy they can get into his space (or anyone else's) and ruin his day.
Know anyone right now who has that power in your world?
My friend told me, "There are just some people who have bad energy, and when they are around they are going to affect you. That's just not something you can change."
I considered that for a moment. How does that work? I thought... I asked him, "Is there ever a time when that person doesn't affect you that way?"
"Well, sometimes. When I'm in a good mood after the weekend. I just go 'Whatever, dude!'"
"And are there some people who are friends with him and don't seem to think he has this 'bad energy?'"
"Well, yeah, actually. Which is strange"
"It is strange isn't it? How is that possible do you think?" I wondered with him. "If he is the cause of the 'bad vibe', you'd think he'd always be the cause? Not only for you but for everyone. Wouldn't everyone agree on who he is?
So where is the difference -- his behavior or your attitude?"
Someone I know discovered this for herself recently and described it as, "All I have to do is hear her shoes coming down the hall!"
As if the shoes created the feelings.
What we know about life, but often forget, is that no person or thing really has the power to make us feel anything at all. We are sovereign in our feelings.
What we do is look around and ATTRIBUTE our feelings.
But that doesn't give the shoes power.
Looking outside for the causes of our inside feelings is just a mis-attribution of cause.
Feelings don't arise out of nowhere. They are not 'provoked' out of us by job losses or diagnosis. They arise from the thoughts, judgements and stories we create about life around us and about what things mean.
So it is actually very true to say that things are not always what they seem - because we are not really seeing. We are only 'perceiving' via our thoughts. Like the projector shows whatever film is on. You feel what's happening in you. Not what is out there.
And that is good news on many fronts.
It means that you have the ability to have occur to you new ways of seeing things. You have the capacity that your heart may open suddenly without notice. The capacity to feel good is lying there within you and can pop to the surface anytime like a bobbing cork in the water. There is no limit and no barrier on your capacity for joy, love, and wisdom. Because you never learned those things, they just came with your human firmware installation.
And because of that, you really can relax. So whenever a good feeling comes up naturally for you, you might like to notice that.
When I began to relax and see that all my past was gone, that my feelings were coming from my own thoughts, my father and I became the great friends that I always hoped we would be.
What I've noticed is that I have a natural tendency toward upwards. Toward love. Toward reconciliation. It is beautiful that we actually tend naturally toward good feeling. We can miss that wonderful fact when we are pointing the finger away from ourselves.
I was observing the fog over the ocean the other day. In a matter of minutes the fog rolled in and the huge expanse of ocean simply blended away. Gone.
it was as if there was no more ocean. Just grey all around.
You know the saying that just because the clouds are there doesn't mean the sun has gone? We use that to try to buck ourselves up when things get hard. It's a way of saying have faith - the sun will come back. But really, why do we need faith? Faith is hard. Faith is a struggle. Faith asks me to believe what I don't believe and still be comfortable and happy.
But beyond that, why do I need to know the sun is going to come back anyway?
Reflecting on the scene in front of me I thought -- not only is the ocean not 'gone' but the ocean is unaware of my perceptions and opinions of it. It really doesn't give a monkey's if it is hidden or in plain site. Just as the sun doesn't care if the clouds roll over it. And the sky doesn't 'care' about whether it is experiencing a hurricane. It is entirely neutral.
Life is entirely neutral.
I on the other hand, am not.
Ever watched a nature program and felt 'sad' when the lion tumbles and kills the pretty gazelle?
We add all the opinions and views about what we see. The weather is a useful example of how we do this all day long. When we have casual conversations about forecasts we are not talking about the weather, but about our opinions of the weather. "It's going to rain AGAIN today," "It's going to stay nice ALL day," "It's going to be 20 degrees today!" are not facts, they are predictors of the day I'm about to have.
And I make them.
Human life is so interesting, isn't it? It's natural to have opinions about things. At the same time, there's that ocean. Just being there.
I'm certainly not experiencing the neutrality of life all day long. But I am glad to know that my own state of mind is ultimately is responsible for the quality of my life experience.
I find that infinitely more encouraging than a life being blown by about by the four winds.
Pair #93 When you reach for the stars will you need a boot in the backside?
What's the best way to get your goal? Do you need a drill sergeant wielding a clip board, a score sheet and a loud whistle? Or do you prefer to ease into success with a cup of tea, a pen, a blank notepad and an appointment-free morning?
I'm featured on Kristin Noelle's video kaleidoscope on the fine art of self-motivation affectionately known as 'butt-kicking.'
This weekend while I was reflecting, I realized I don't know anyone.
I look at others and I meet them of course. I interact with them and most of the time you'd call that 'getting to know them.' Yet it struck me that I only know them via my thoughts about them. I literally experience my thinking, not them. And so I create my experience of them.
But only 100% of the time.
Now if you really want to bake your noodle on this, not only do I really not know anyone, but in a very strange sense, they don't even exist. They are standing there, but my experience of them is coming from me.
Which means that on one level, there is no 'other' at all.
Now, I do realize that saying other people don't exist sounds a bit odd. (Just a bit). But if it's true that we are thinking beings, thinking our way through life and that the only experience we are ever having is the experience of what is in our own mind, then it follows that we can't see anyone outside of our thinking about them. I mean, how could we?
So the only person I've ever met is a bunch of my own thoughts about them.
You know, isn't it true that time after time we are shocked when we find out that so-and-so had a secret lover, or was embezzling or actually hates chocolate? Have you never had the experience of talking about someone only to find out that others don't see them the way you do? Aren't we often deeply surprised when someone very close to us reveals a secret dream or longing, or a deep desire that we had no idea about? Don't we mainly assume people are basically like us and find it strange when they are not?
In fact, we are just walking around, looking at people, and making them up as we go.
We are self-contained, self-referenced, meaning-makers. Except that we also assume that what we are making is true and real.