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Posts Tagged “Thought”

Do you ever get upset?

Upset smiley face“I never see you upset. Do you ever get upset?” At least once or twice a week, someone asks me that question, as if they are expecting that someone who truly understood how the mind works must never be anything but calm and happy.

So sorry, that’s not how it works. There is no way to anticipate what might come into our minds, and sometimes, the thoughts we bring to our minds carry with them upset, angry, frustrated, negative feelings. Of course, I get upset, just like every other human being on the planet.

The difference between me getting upset before I learned how thinking works, and me getting upset now is that now I don’t care if I’m upset. It doesn’t feel important to me. It feels like a passing experience, sort of like a thundershower. And I know not to take it seriously because I know what it is — just a torrent of negative thoughts passing through.

The reason people don’t see me upset now is that I keep it to myself and don’t pay much attention to it, whereas in the past, feeling upset used to be my go-go-go!-signal to take action and, by golly, track down that person and give them a piece of my mind, or write that nasty letter and let someone know they couldn’t take advantage of me, or speak harshly to people I perceived as letting me down, or call a friend to seek commiseration.

Understanding how our minds work, and the nature of thought and experience, does not make us immune to upset. It just makes us disinclined to pay much attention to it. So what? It’s just my own thoughts creating the temporary experience of being upset. Let those thoughts go and different thoughts will come to mind. Then I’ll feel different. I know better, now, than to take seriously or act on upsetting thinking because doing anything in a low state of mind does not work out well at all. (Have you ever actually solved a problem by yelling at someone, or sending a nasty letter?) And I don’t need to burden my friends with my negative thoughts because it’s up to me to see them for what they are and let them pass. Talking about them just holds them in place. And among my friends, there’s no one who would actually discuss them anyway. I know the look — the look that says, “You must be kidding me? That makes sense to you?” In the world I live in, we’d both be laughing in a matter of seconds because it’s absolutely silly to get all worked up about the smoke and mirrors of up-and-down thinking.

So, sure, I have the feeling of upset, sometimes several times a day. But I see it as a signal to slow down, quiet my mind, and wait for a minute. When I get that tight, tense feeling that signals a droopy mood, I don’t try to figure out what’s up. I know what’s up. I am thinking myself into a lower mood. No need to feed that cycle. I turn away from it, rather than indulging it. And then, at the speed of thought, it goes away as other things come to mind, and I start feeling more like myself again.

Often, I ask my clients, “How cheaply are you willing to sell your peace of mind?” Usually, it has never occurred to them that they have to sell it or give it away to lose it, even for a second. Peace of mind is the natural default setting we fall back to as soon as we let go of what pulls us away from it. The only thing that can pull us away from it is our very own negative thinking that we’re making up, all by ourselves, seeing as real, and taking seriously.

The gift of understanding the Three Principles that explain how we create our own experience is that we’re always in the driver’s seat. We get to decide whether to stay upset, or leave it alone. We get to decide whether to take the risk the quick relief of yelling or hurting ourselves or someone else, or get the reward of the quick relief of quietly seeing our thoughts/moods for what they are: Nothing. Images on the screen of our minds. If they’re worthwhile, helpful and uplifting, we can hold onto them and build on them, enjoy working with them. If they’re petty and discouraging and gloom-inducing, we can turn our backs on them.

Of all the gifts I have received in life, the most precious to me is the deep realization is that I am in charge of me. Life is not in charge of me. Nothing can bring me down but me. If I don’t think my way into stress and sadness, I can handle anything life brings me with wisdom, insight and good will. I can get upset and get over it, and do no harm.

What could be better than that?

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The Depression Fairy is Imaginary

depression fairyDespite the protests of several of my clients recently, I must insist  there is no Depression Fairy who randomly visits us and sprinkles dreadful thoughts in our minds. Oh, I know she seems very real, and powerful, and quick to alight out of nowhere. But she is imaginary, as are her close friends, like the Anxiety Fairy and the Anger Fairy.

As much as that might be good news, for many people who have struggled with Depression for decades, it is initially distressing news.  What’s wrong, then, if there’s no invisible outside force causing depression?  For people who are depressed, believing they just can’t help it  because it “happens” to them and they have to do the best they can to forge on anyway  becomes a kind of familiar comfort. They look at cheerful, energetic people as either lucky or out of touch with “real” life. They become resigned to existence in the gray spectrum: colorless, unemotional, exhausting in its grim monotony. They feel helpless and hopeless.

I had a client tell me recently that she hardly gotten out of bed at all for three months. She just couldn’t. I asked if there was ever even once in that time when she did, when she got up and got dressed and did something anyway. There was. Her cat got very sick and she rallied to take the cat to the vet. I asked her what she thought it was that  gave her the energy to move then. She said, “I love that cat. I couldn’t bear to see her suffer. I had to stop thinking about myself and take care of her.”

That is a profound statement about the source, and the relief, for depression. Over the years, so many people have told me similar stories. They had never stopped to reflect on the significance of their brief interludes of sufficient energy to do something. Yet in every case, their little surges of energy started with a compelling thought that interrupted a relentless torrent of self-concern and turned their mind elsewhere. They reconnected with life beyond their self-absorption, even if briefly. I do not use “self-absorption” judgmentally. It is the very definition of depression: a focus on one’s own internal stresses, fears, terrors, insecurities to the exclusion of all else.

Whether they realize it or not, they can turn their own thinking elsewhere, and often they do. Without understanding of the power to do that, though, it doesn’t register as meaningful. It just seems to them that every once in a while they manage to feel a little stronger, a little better, a little more engaged in something. But, as one of my clients put it, “I know it won’t last.”

That thought alone — “It won’t last” — triggers the downward spiral back to depression. But it’s nothing more than a habitual thought. The power to slip down into the cave again does not belong to those words, but to the life we give them. We always get to be right because our thinking comes to life via our consciousness and creates a temporary reality, no matter what it is. Just knowing that — knowing for sure that we are the thinkers creating from within our own minds the reality we see — is the antidote to depression. We don’t have to “clean up” our thinking or replace bleak thoughts with bright ones, or do anything at all with the thoughts we’ve already formed. As soon as we have the realization that the power of thought does not reside in the content of what we bring to mind, but in ourselves, who continually make it up from nothing, we let upsetting thoughts pass and keep on allowing new thoughts to come to mind. Understanding how thought works naturally results in letting go of thoughts that aren’t helpful and are taking us down. No one wants to feel bad; without seeing that the feeling is a byproduct of the thoughts we are innocently creating, though, it doesn’t seem like we have a choice.  We come out of the shadows of our own thinking as soon as we own our power to think.

As a colleague of mine often says, “The power of a thought lasts as long as you think it, and not a moment longer.” There’s no Depression Fairy sprinkling us with her yucky fairy dust. We chart our own course via the thinking we do; we can change direction at any time. We made up the Depression Fairy, too. Isn’t the human imagination amazing?

“Hate, jealousy, insecurity. phobias and feelings of depression are all compounds of negative thoughts.

All feelings derive and become alive, whether negative or positive, from the power of Thought. …

Even if you disagree with what I say, it’s your thought.”

                                                                                                           Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, pp. 24-25













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Wisdom is not an opinion

How soon we abandon the lessons of fairy tales, scripture, children’s books! How readily we disregard the common sense of life experience! How innocently we fall into the maelstrom of insecurity, then panic as we start to drown in our own fear! As quickly as we fall, however, we can arise from the nightmare and find the innate resiliency we need to restore balance, wisdom and hope. This is the promise of a true understanding of how our minds work: we live in the experience of the reality we create with the power of our own thinking. If our thinking is angry, hateful, fearful and anxious, we will see everything and everyone around us through the feelings of suspicion and despair. If our thinking changes, the same things immediately seem different to us. We have the power to know the difference and self-correct.

Spiritual teachings have always pointed us inside,  to even a tiny glimpse of the inner peace that transcends the thoughts of the moment. From that pure state, wisdom and insight blossom through our thinking,  just as flowers push up through the cracks in concrete. The flowers are always potential; a tiny crack allows them to actualize. Pansy grows from concrete

It is painful to watch others devolve into insecure thinking and wreak havoc on their own lives. That is why we have so much conversation about mental health now. We have seen far too many tragic instances of people descending into a hell of their own and then dragging innocent bystanders into the same pit of fire.

It is even more painful when the “others” are governments, nations, institutions, collections of individuals gathered for a common purpose, who lose their way but still have the power, from their own worst psychological states, to pull multitudes, a nation, or the world, with them into dystopia.

How does it happen? It’s very simple. When we lose sight of the tremendous “gift” we have of recognizing our own changing feeling states —  

” target=”_blank”>states of mind —  as true barometers of the quality of our thinking, we start taking all our thoughts seriously. We have no perspective on what makes sense and is helpful. We get attached to our opinions, no matter how bad we feel.

Most importantly, we lose connection with our humanity and the common truth that all human beings are operating from the logic of the same principles: We create thoughts that look like the only “real” reality to us. We forget that we are all creating separate thoughts and separate realities; we all behave according to what we perceive. In a manner of speaking, we live out of our moment-to-moment personal opinions of what is happening. As soon as we  regain our balance, quiet down, and restore calm and clarity, we can see the truth behind  disagreement and hatred. We  see that when people are caught up in whatever negative, dramatic reality they have have created from their own thinking, they are certain that everyone else can and should be seeing exactly the same thing! In that state, we lose all appreciation for difference, all tolerance for disagreement, all capacity for understanding that people in opposition to us are living life exactly the same way we are — we are all thinkers making up our experience as we go.

Others are just as certain of the absolute reality of their thoughts as we are of ours. In a calm state of mind, we know that. From that vantage point, we can realize that the only way to find peace and revive good will is to find a deeper feeling of appreciation for our shared experience as thinkers, and look for common ground in our capacity to create, rather than trying to sort out the mess we have already created.

We can recognize the quality of our thoughts only when we awaken to our own bad feelings and see them as a warning that our own thinking is heading away from inspiration and wisdom and towards insecurity and rigidity. As soon as we start to navigate our lives via our feeling state rather than by the content of any given thought, we steer ourselves away from upset and and towards calm and peace. If I am angry and upset, it isn’t because of you, it’s because of how I am using my thinking about you at this moment. I don’t have to change you or change your mind, I just have to quiet down, find a more positive feeling state, clear my head, and look to my insights for resolution. Sadly, a lot of self-help in the world today points us towards recognition of our thoughts, paying extra attention to our thought content, doing something with thoughts. To me, that’s forcing us to become immersed in the problem rather than looking towards the solution.

An already-thought thought, as I often say, is like an already-baked cookie. If the cookie tastes terrible (if the thought generates bad feelings), there’s no way to pull it apart and re-make it with the old recipe and the old ingredients. The only answer is to taste the cookie, realize how awful it is, throw that batch away, and start fresh. The resolution is not in repeating the bad recipe again and again. It’s recognizing yucky stuff for what it is and allowing ourselves to find and try a new recipe.

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