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Posts Tagged “secure thinking”

War and Peace

It is ultimately a matter of war and peace whether people across the world come to understand the role of their own and others’ thinking and fluctuating states of mind.

Security:InsecurityOne person at a time, when someone comes to understand how thought works and what is creating their experience of reality, they become increasingly secure. When a person feels secure, not living at the mercy of external factors, life does not look threatening. Secure people remain calm and exercise judgment, and look for insight and wisdom, rather than reacting or over-reacting without perspective. They recognize the power of beliefs within the context of knowing that each person becomes committed in their own way to their own beliefs, and nothing but their own insights will change their minds. They see with increasing clarity that people are all the same deep down: all people are constantly creating thoughts and then experiencing those thoughts as “reality”. Reality changes as our thoughts change. Knowing that, we lose our attachment to particular thoughts and gain awe for the very ability to keep thinking, to see beyond what we’ve thought so far. Respect for the shared human power to change keeps hope alive and allows us to see possibilities. It allows us peace within ourselves.

On the other hand, those who have no idea where thoughts come from and why reality looks different to different people are always prone to feel insecure, and cling to their thinking to ward off worsening insecurity. It is an either/or. Either we see the fluidity and creativity of thinking and understand that thoughts come and go and reality “shifts” as our thinking/feeling shifts — or we don’t see the fluidity of thinking and believe that thoughts have a life of their own and we have to hang onto our habitual thinking or fall prey to outside forces. Insecurity pushes people farther and farther away from tolerating differences and encourages the creation of elaborate systems of thought to make their own closely-held points of view feel/seem superior. It introduces the need to defend one’s position at all costs.

Two things are important to realize. Things that make absolute sense to us and seem quite obvious when we are insecure do not make any sense to us whatsoever when we are feeling secure. And the reverse is also true; things that seem quite appropriate and clear to us when we’re secure don’t make any sense at all when we are insecure. So as our states of mind change, the things we say, do and pursue are very different. A child who is angry and frustrated will stomp on and break a brand-new toy. In a quiet state, the child would pick up the toy and play with it.

What does this have to do with war and peace? War doesn’t come out  of the blue. War starts to make more and more sense to people who  are frightened and insecure and have no room in their thinking for “others”.  People who are calm and secure experience peace in their hearts and  minds, and thus seek and nurture peace.

Nations are assemblies of people who share a prevailing state of mind and perspective about the world. When people generally feel hopeful and optimistic, they make choices that reflect their level of security. They are inclusive and generous-spirited, and look for solutions that will do the least harm. When people start feeling frightened and pessimistic, they make choices that reflect their need to protect themselves and ward off enemies. They are exclusive and small-minded, and look for solutions that will keep them safe no matter if others experience harm. Out of a world dominated by leaders who live in fear and insecurity come many wars. The more brutal the fights, the more frightened people become, so they become trapped in a downward spiral of pain and despair. Nothing but war and more war makes sense to them — in that state of mind. In a moment of security, it would make no sense to them at all.

It is innocent because no one would choose killing and destruction if it appeared to them they actually had a choice. The key is understanding the illusion of that downward spiral, that insecurity breeds further insecurity until the moment we understand that all of it is built from our own thoughts. Stepping back, allowing the fear to pass and getting a fresh look can change everything.

Every human being on earth wants to have a happy life, but every human being on earth does not — yet — realize that that happiness is internally generated. No one has to suffer so that I will not suffer. When we realize that all people are creating their own thinking within the context of their own variable states of mind, we truly understand what creates human experience and behavior. We know not to pay attention to the thinking that comes to mind when we’re in an insecure, upset state of mind. And we know we can count on our thinking when our thoughts change and we feel calm and secure again. We navigate by the feeling of security. With the knowledge of how life is created from the inside out, we know that an instant of quiet into which one new thought comes can change everything. With that clarity about life, we know that peace is never more than a thought away, and we simply allow the thoughts that take us in the other direction to pass through our minds, just as we would watch a train cross the tracks, knowing that no matter how long it is, every train has a caboose!

“Thought, like the rudder of a ship, steers us to the safety of open waters or to the doom of rocky shores.”  Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p. 56.

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Listen for a feeling

I will never forget the first time I sat in a big conference where Sydney Banks was speaking and heard him say, “Don’t listen to my words; listen for a feeling.” It was very early on in my exposure to the Principles, and I came close to fleeing the room.  As a hard-working, hard-charging business person in a service business, who had been a tough-minded newspaper reporter, I was highly educated and well-trained to listen to and pay close attention to words. Every word mattered. Getting people’s words “right” mattered.  I had a Master’s Degree with a focus on Linguistics, for heaven’s sake, and that was all about words. If you didn’t focus closely on words, you could end up being sued in my work. Feelings!? Huh???

I probably would have fled, except that I was seated in the middle of a row. I glanced around me; everyone was sitting quietly, unconcerned about what Syd had just said, just taking things in. I would have embarrassed the person who had brought me if I clambered over a bunch of quiet people to rush for an exit, and I was also trained to be courteous. So I sat there, trying not to display my restless confusion, wondering what the heck it meant to “listen for a feeling.” I didn’t hear much else that day because, of course, I could not figure that out. So I was still puzzling over it on the drive home.

On the way, I asked the person who had brought me. The ambiguous answer infuriated me, but I kept that to myself, too, for the sake of politeness. “I imagine it means something different to each person who hears it. You have to see it for yourself.” I turned on the radio, hoping to mask how annoyed I was.  That night, I lay in bed in turmoil. “Listen for a feeling,” just four ordinary little words, and they were so outside of my world when strung together that I could make no sense of them at all. I had spent more than an hour in the audience of the talk of a self-confessed uneducated person, and I had no idea of the meaning of what I had heard. Yet hundreds of other people in the room seemed to think it was wonderful. During the break, I didn’t hear a single other soul complain about being perplexed.

When I confessed my fear that whatever this was, it just wasn’t for me — too weird and airy-fairy — to my mentor, he just laughed and said, “Let it go. Just relax. It will all come together for you when you stop trying so hard.”

“But, but,” I spluttered. “I run a business. You guys are trying to turn my brain to mush.”

“Sorry,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of power. You can only do that to yourself. But don’t worry about it. It won’t last. How about we go get some lunch?”

Oh, I tell you, in the beginning these people were maddening! The more agitated I became, the less interested they were in talking about it (unlike most of my friends). But I admit that lunch and a few jokes and some trivial conversation that day cheered me up.

OK, I was at a turning point. I could walk away from a group of people who seemed to me to be uncommonly happy, contented, productive and kind, who seemed to really enjoy their lives, and thereby lose any chance of learning what they knew that I didn’t. Or I could just stop worrying about it and hang out with them, as they suggested, and see what happened if I wasn’t analyzing every single word they said to me.  It was not actually a tough choice. What person who aspired to sanity would walk away from people who clearly cared, had my best interests at heart, and really wanted things to work out well for me? Despite my prickly attitude, they actually seemed to like me; they were immune to taking offense.

Fast forward a year, a wonderful year of soaking in the experience of spending a lot of time with high-spirited, high-minded, compassionate people who just loved their work and life in general. I took the advice to “thank my brain for sharing” when a bunch of questions would start popping up in my head, and I discovered quietude. I discovered having no need whatsoever to keep talking when I had nothing contributory to say. Everyone noticed how much calmer I was.

And then, one magical day, I “heard” the feeling. I can remember that moment with the exactness of a perfectly enlarged and preserved photograph. I was holding a staff meeting with my employees. We had been struggling for a while with how to handle a particularly difficult — all right, abusive — client who was also a major contributor to our income. That afternoon, I just “saw” that I had to put an end to our contract with that client, no matter the financial implications. I had an insight of total moral and ethical clarity; it served no one to go along with abuse for the sake of money. I gathered my staff, after notifying the client, and I told them what I had done. They immediately launched a barrage of technical questions, but instead of hearing their questions, what I heard was, “they are all feeling insecure about this.” The feeling of insecurity loomed in my mind much larger than any specific question.

“You know what,” I said, “we don’t need to worry about all these details right now. We will work it out. And I have tremendous confidence in all of us staying together, working together, and doing just great together. This is just a moment in time. We have no idea, yet, what we might be able to accomplish without spending so much time on a negative situation, so let’s just have our coffee and cookies and enjoy some free time together.”

There was zero precedent for that in my previous work life. The “old” me, the one who couldn’t even imagine listening for a feeling and following that, instead of my intellect, would have forged on, trying to answer each and every question, getting into the weeds of what it would be like to extricate ourselves from a contract, keeping the meeting going until every last question was discussed for as long as people wanted to keep talking about it. I would have been drawing charts and lists up on the board, sending people out to find certain files for reference, calling our attorney and our accountant, focusing on the words people were saying as though, if I really got to the bottom of everyone’s concerns, it would all work out just great.

The “new” me, the one who heard the feeling, simply realized that what my staff needed was reassurance and getting their minds off their fearful questions until they could enjoy their freedom and think fresh. And you know what? That was absolutely perfect. We chatted and had coffee and the cookies someone always brought to our meetings, then went back to work. Within a few days, I had reviewed the dissolution with our attorney and our accountant and I had a game plan. We had a brief meeting; everyone saw what they needed to do, and it turned into a routine business transaction. No biggie.

The big surprise, though, was that my staff relaxed so much once that was behind us that they actually became ambassadors for our work. Our existing clients started telling their friends and colleagues how much they were enjoying working with us, and how pleasant our staff was. Within a year, we had nearly doubled our business.

And from that one meeting forward, that one time I was so fortunate that my head had cleared and my heart had heard, I lost my attachment to my intellect, and I lived in a world of feelings and responded to them with love and care, just as my mentors had responded to me.

Oh, wow! It was so simple, when I let it be simple.

I don’t mean to suggest that I turned into a lifelong model of great leadership with that one big insight. We’re all human; we drop into insecurity before we even see it coming; we do things we regret; we second-guess our own wisdom. But there was one permanent change in my life. That anxious, analytical, revved-up state did not, I repeat, did not feel normal to me, did not feel good to me. It wasn’t my baseline any more. I saw it as a warning sign to slow down and try to weather it until it passed, rather than a green light to create a lot of activity around me. My intent was to regain my good feelings as soon as I could. I did my best not to pay much attention to my own complicated thinking at those times. And I always knew that the quieter, calmer more insightful me was the real me, the true me, the core me that could be sidelined but would always be ready to step back into the game.

Once any of us sees that, we cannot be tricked by our own minds. We know where we are, and we find our way as long as we listen for a feeling.

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Common Sense or Fear? Our choice.

 

Every time we get new information, we have a choice what to make of it. That choice has nothing to do with the information. It has to do with whether we understand how we bring our own thinking to life as reality. We don’t choose the first thought that comes to mind. But every subsequent related thought and what we make of it is strictly up to us.

fork in road

The more deeply we understand our own spiritual nature, that we are generating our life experience by bringing thoughts to mind and then taking them more or less seriously, the more easily we make common sense choices.

Example:  I am walking my dog as usual and I see another person, also walking a dog, fall down. This is not something I expected, nor is it something I can simply not allow into my mind. So I am at a crossroads. My next thought could be anything. It could be to rush up to help the person; to stay away in case that person is contagious;  to stand there and shout for help; to turn my back on the situation and figure someone else will come along — and so on. That next thought sets a direction. If my first thought was to rush up to help, my next thought might be caution. Or my next thought might be the checklist I know to determine if the person is having a stroke. Or my next thought might be to secure my dog so she would not interfere with the other dog while I was trying to help. And so on. On the other hand, if my first thought was to turn my back, my next thought might be the formation of a justification for turning away, or it might be to decide the person probably tripped and got right up and I spared him embarrassment, or it might be regret for being uncaring, and so on.

We don’t break our thinking down this way, but that’s how it works. We take in information and then we create our own thoughts about it. We do not act on the information; we act on our own thoughts about it. The direction our thoughts go has a lot to do with our knowledge of what is going on in our minds, and the depth of our own recognition that when the train of thought is leading to anxiety, self-doubt, fear or darkness, we can change direction. The types of thoughts that continue to come to mind are defined by the state of mind in which we are thinking. If we are calm and confident, we’ll continue to think of increasingly constructive things. If we are stressed and fearful, we’ll think of increasingly less constructive things. If we don’t like the feeling state our thinking is leading us through, we can change our our minds.

There is one and only one reason for thoughts of anxiety breeding thoughts of fear breeding thoughts of panic breeding hysteria. That reason is upsetting thoughts taken increasingly seriously. For those who understand that their rising levels of tension are being produced by their own thinking, not by events or circumstances, this doesn’t happen. They know they have a choice, and one choice is to pause, let the flow of negative thoughts pass and allow their minds to quiet. A whole different quality of thinking will arise from a calmer state of mind. Vivid examples of this choice arose in my life this past week.

First, I watched in astonishment as the U.S. whipped itself into a state of panic over the Ebola virus because one case occurred in a man from Liberia, where the virus is rampant, and infected at least two nurses in exactly the way we understand this virus spreads, through direct contact with bodily fluids of a sick person. There is a lot to learn about how we manage health care institutions and how we train health care providers from this case, but there is no reason to extrapolate that everyone in the US is now in imminent danger. But somehow, within days, response escalated into reaction, which escalated into over-reaction, which escalated into national blaming and widespread panic. The increasingly dire thinking about what could happen has spread like wildfire. It doesn’t matter how it started. It spread because people simply are not aware of what they are doing with their own thinking. The first fearful thought brings a little tension, and opens the door to increasingly fearful thoughts and more tension and the race is on. Once people have worked themselves into a frenzy of concern, all common sense is out the window. Unless we know that we have the power to turn it around, our thinking can run wild.

Second, I received the news that one of my dear friends, Dr. Jamie Shumway, had succumbed to ALS after six years of decline. Jamie was a colleague at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He really saw for himself the profound meaning and import of the message of hope I and my colleagues were working to impart: we create our own reality by using the gift of thought to enliven our consciousness of what we perceive as real. When I first met Jamie, he was an irrepressible outdoorsman. He white-water kayaked. He hiked. He fished, He snowshoed. He skied. He was in love with high energy activity. Some years later, he had heart surgery and he had to give up many of his strenuous undertakings. Did he mourn that loss? No, he decided to take piano lessons, and spent hours quietly practicing and coming to appreciate music. He even took part in a recital with a group of youngsters who were taking lessons from the same teacher! He got a huge kick out of that. Just as I was leaving WVU to move to Florida, he began having unexplained weakness in his legs. He served with great grace and wit as the moderator for the beautiful farewell party given for me and my colleague Dr. Bill Pettit, even as he leaned heavily on a podium because he had discovered that he couldn’t stand for very long without support. At that time, he was having neurological tests.

Then came the news, ALS. For the next several years, Jamie did every single thing he could do within his increasing limitations. He moved from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair, but he kept on  going to WVU sports events, going down to the dock to fish, attending parties and events. He continued to work as long as he possibly could. After he retired, he continued to teach, his huge smile quickly helping students forget his voice was strained and his movements very small as he negotiated his motorized wheelchair with the last of his strength. He spent his final months working with a collaborator to finish a book about his life. He died at home. All along the way, he never talked about what he couldn’t do; he reveled in what he still could do, and made the most of it. Even in his last years, many of us had lively conversations with him about the things he had always enjoyed talking about.

He could have spiraled into fearful thinking and regret and recrimination and anger. Certainly, some terminally ill patients facing a long, slow, irreversible decline do that. But he knew how to use his thinking to keep his bearings. He knew how to ignore fear. He knew how to live in the present moment in gratitude for what he had, without wasting precious time stewing about what he didn’t have. He put his energy into ordinary, common sense thinking about making the most of life.

Those who have followed their thinking into a state of agitation about Ebola are not wrong or bad. They are innocently unaware of the simple logic underlying life. We are making up our own interpretations of what is happening and living through them as though they were reality. Jamie knew and felt the power in that. It is a power we all have.

Sydney Banks says it beautifully here:

 

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