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Posts Tagged “stress anxiety”

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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Too Good to be True?

I shared some written stories and

” target=”_blank”>a video about people who had an insight about being the thinkers of their own thoughts, not the victims of circumstances, with someone new to the ideas of Innate Health recently.  His response was, “Yeah, I read the stories and I watched that video and I gave it a lot of thought. It’s not that I don’t believe that these are real people genuinely saying what they think happened to them. It’s just that as far as I’m concerned, I think it’s too good to be true. I really don’t think this would ever happen for me. I’m not like them.”

Such is the dilemma of the power of thought. If I THINK something is too good to be true, then, for me, it is. I have created that reality. If I don’t THINK something could happen for me, I have created that reality. As long as I never question that THINKING, I continue  creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and I get to be right. The only thing that IS true for each one of us is the reality we are creating for ourselves in the moment we are thinking it.

Being attached to what we think builds a firewall against change. Since the only way we can create our present-moment reality is via the power of our own thinking, as long as certain thoughts are held in place, they continually self-reinforce. The space for insight is not opened by “giving it a lot of thought,” but by feeling — being touched, being affected,  allowing ourselves not to know and wondering “What if there’s something I don’t see yet?”

Big-time thinkers who take themselves and their thinking very seriously get insecure in the face of  feeling. It speaks to something beyond thought, something that could up-end their whole thought system, something scary to a person who has built a self-construct by thinking a lot about him- or herself. Feeling points to the formless spiritual nature of the Principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness. Deeper feelings quiet the mind and clear the way for insights, things we have never thought before, wisdom. Even change.

It’s easy to get discouraged when a client thinks about it, then argues about the relevance of spiritual, innate resiliency to his/her own situation. Now what? Well, the answer is not in a strong counterargument, that’s for sure. Something that further engages the thought process in a circular discussion about the person’s already formed thoughts will lead nowhere. (We have to learn this about ourselves, too. When we find ourselves going over and over the same pros and cons, it’s time to stop thinking about whatever it is and look to quiet down, allow our minds to rest.)

When someone argues against their own innate wisdom by insisting they don’t THINK it’s true, what could open a new possibility? The answer lies in looking deeper for shared feelings of love and respect, and avoiding judgment or argument, negative feelings that take us and them farther and farther from the potential for insight.

The more deeply we understand how thinking works, the more deeply we respect how powerful it is, and how important each person’s own thinking looks to them, especially if they feel insecure in the face of an idea unfamiliar to them. To reflect on it and seek their own insights about it, they need to feel more secure. To feel more secure, they need to quiet their minds and be in a more peaceful state. If we are trying to be helpful, then we know the pathway to peace and quiet is paved with love and respect, with loving the person no matter what they think, and respecting that their thoughts are as important and real to them as ours are to us.

When we are genuinely immersed in love and respect, our own wisdom leads us through the conversation. There’s no right or wrong thing to say or do because whatever comes to mind through love and respect will be fine for that very moment in time. If I shared with you how the rest of my conversation went, that would suggest I think I know a technique that would work. Not so. It worked out well only because I know to take care of my own state of mind when I want to be in service to others, and not blurt out my own insecurity.

Anything we didn’t already think looks “too good to be true” to us in an insecure state of mind. When we are insecure, we cling to what we already know, what we have thought before. The key to constructive interaction about change is to recognize the insecure state of mind and address that, leaving the content of the insecure thinking alone. When insecurity passes, anything is possible.

To quote Sydney Banks,

“Our feelings are evidence of our mental well-being. Find positive and loving feelings,  for they will guide you through life far better than resentment and grudges. Positive thoughts and feelings will assist you to discover the mental health and wisdom that lie within you.”

The Missing Link, p. 112.

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Peace on Earth?

Many people long for peace on earth, but few truly believe it is possible. Count me among the few.

If people saw that peace of mind is deeper than their opinions and more powerful than their thoughts…

If the insight spread like the dawn around the world that peace arises from an internal experience, and is not imposed by external pressures or arrangements…

Then peace would be a natural state, the logical and intuitive outcome of spiritual stillness. We could take it for granted as easily as we now take war and chaos for granted. We accept war and chaos because we generally operate from the innocent thought that there must be winners and losers so the strong can prevail and enforce peace. The world is missing the point that you can’t “make” peace with dominance and rules and fences and treaties and weapons. Force cannot generate peace; force sets up an uneasy system to contain insecurity — temporarily. Insecurity generates stress, anxiety, fear, selfishness, distrust of others.  In a setting ruled by the internal experience of insecurity, there is no true or lasting peace, only the shaky illusion of security dependent on unreliable external factors. No ease; it keeps people on edge.

Peace is only an insight away, though. A moment in time and a realization that changes everything seems simple and obvious when it is our moment in time, our realization. We’ve all had those moments, when something we were really sure about crumbled and a whole new reality appeared, just like that. I remember one from my youth that was stunning to me, and changed my entire understanding of life.  I was in 7th grade. I loved grammar because it was orderly and predictable. Things were what they were and stayed in their place, in nice, diagrammable relationships, like good children. Nouns were nouns, verbs were verbs. Then, in late fall, my English teacher introduced the concept of gerunds (verbs acting as nouns), and a seismic shift occurred in my world.  An amazing thought popped into my head, transporting me way beyond grammar. Nothing is predictable or certain. The deeper you look, the more “facts” are like quicksilver.  I “saw” in that moment that it makes no sense to get attached to “predictable” realities; they aren’t what they seem to be. It was clear and clean. OK, I’d been wrong about what was what.

When I was 22, I had the privilege of teaching English and civics in a missionary school on Okinawa. My students were mostly displaced from strife-torn areas, seeking safety on an island that was under the control of the US. One, originally from North Vietnam, wrote an essay for a civics assignment: “When I was little, the French were our enemies. They went away and the South Vietnamese were our enemies. Then the Americans were our enemies. But now that I am here on Okinawa, living happily with all kinds of people, I realize that enemies are just friends we don’t really know yet.” Powerful insight.

Think back. Life is full of these experiences. For me, fast-forwarding to the year I learned about the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought that explain how we create our own ever-changing realities, leads me to another astonishing insight. I am making all this stuff up. Everything I assume about my life is just my thinking. With that one insight, I set myself free from all kinds of opinions and judgments and ideas about what should be, releasing a huge burden I had carried for years as quickly as one could drop a 50-pound sack of potatoes and stand up straight.

And that is how peace can come. One soul at a time, insight by insight, washing across the earth in a series of gentle, illuminating insights, as individuals find peace of mind and set aside the darkness of chaos to enter the dawn. It is within the power of each of us, all of us, to find the wisdom that sets us free to see beyond the illusions of insecurity.

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