A couple of days ago, I posted one of my favorite Syd Banks quotes to Facebook:“Mental sickness is created when we put feelings onto objects. But if you can see the objects without the feelings, then you are healthy.”Click To Tweet
I first came across it a couple of years ago and it immediately disturbed me in the way that the best and simplest spiritual truths inevitably do. To me, it woke me up to the fact that there is no inherent feeling state linked to any particular object or event, or as I put it in The Inside-Out Revolution, “We’re living in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world.”
Whether or not you think you agree with that statement, take a look at a few of its implications with me.
If we’re living in an inside-out, moment to moment thought-created reality:
- Running out of money isn’t stressful
- Approaching a deadline or performing in front of a large audience on a global stage aren’t “high pressure” situations
- Cancer isn’t scary and death isn’t sad
- Your children don’t make you happy (and your in-laws don’t drive you crazy)
- No one can make you love them or stop you from loving them.
While each of these statements may seem patently untrue, compare them with this inarguable fact:
- The sun did not rise this morning and it will not set this evening.
We know there’s no such thing as a “sunrise” because we understand what’s really happening is quite different. It’s actually the earth’s motion that causes the sun to become visible. The illusion of sunrise and sunset stems from the fact that we’re viewing it from a moving platform that is both hurtling through space in orbit around the sun and spinning full circle every 24 hours.
Because it really looks as though the sun moves from east to west throughout the day and disappears at night, all sorts of mythology has arisen to explain its path, from the god Apollo riding his golden chariot across the sky to the more modern explanation of “sunrise” and “sunset”.
One of the brightest men of the 20th century, Buckminster Fuller, proposed that we rename the phenomenon “sunsight” and “sunclipse”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the terms never caught on. We’re happy with our mythological and patently untrue explanation because ultimately it makes no difference to how we live our lives.
Unfortunately, buying in to the illusion that our feelings are intimately connected to objects or events does cost us, turning us into apparent victims of circumstance and making it seem as though the only rational way to thrive in the world is to attempt to control it.
When we begin to see that no object or event in the world can cause a feeling, we begin to experience a very different world. It’s difficult to quantify the exact ways that world is different, but for me, here are a few things I’ve noticed:
1. I’m so much less afraid
Another of my favorite Syd Banks quotes and the one I used as the introductory epigram to The Inside-Out Revolution is:
“If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their own experience, that alone would change the world.”
I haven’t learned not to be afraid of my own experience through practice, but rather through a deeper understanding of the nature of experience. To the extent that it no longer looks to me like objects (including people) and events can hurt me, I’m not scared of objects and events. To the extent that they still look like they possess the power to make me feel something I don’t want to feel, I continue to be scared of them.The more I look towards the thought-created nature of our personal realities, the more I see – and the more I see, the less afraid I become.Click To Tweet
2. Pain has become sweeter and suffering more “sufferable”
I once saw the musician John Maier give an acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards. He said words to the effect that “I pride myself on being bigger than the moment, but this moment is kicking my ass.”
We all get our asses kicked from time to time. It looks like life is doing the kicking, because our feelings of pain and suffering and loss and regret seem so intimately linked to the objects and events we project them onto. But in those moments where I see that the fluid energy of Thought is the source of any pain or suffering I might be experiencing and life is just being life, the ass-kicking stops feeling personal, permanent, or pervasive.
I can pretty much feel it without feeling the need to make it stop. And because I’m not inclined to try and control my thinking or stop the world, the thoughts and feelings pass through and I return to the Eden of my deeper nature without having to take a single step.
3. Wisdom and common sense emerge
Last Syd Banks quote for today:
“Mental health lies within the consciousness of all human beings, but it is shrouded and held prisoner by our own erroneous thought. This is why we must look past our contaminated thoughts to find the purity and wisdom that lies inside our own consciousness.”
We can’t look past thoughts that don’t look like thoughts. So as long as we persist in mythologizing the source of our feelings as being in some way to do with the objects and events of the outside world, we’re stuck in a world of our own creation built on a rickety platform of misunderstanding.
But every time you catch a glimpse of the thought-created nature of your experience, it’s easy enough to ignore it and rest in “the purity and wisdom that lies inside our own consciousness”.
This does not mean, to my mind, we can never again say that cancer is scary or that death is sad. It doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to get scared if we get a diagnosis or sad when we something we love transforms.
It simply means that we don’t have to believe everything we think. Scary thoughts are scary. Sad thoughts are sad. Life is life. And our capacity to recognize, ignore, and transcend our own thinking is unlimited.
How does this show up for you?
What have you seen about the inside-out nature of experience for yourself? How has it impacted your life?
Please share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section below!
With all my love,
Some more Caffeine for the Soul
Today’s blog is excerpted from my book Creating the Impossible: A 90 day program to get your dreams out of your head and into the world…The week I began working on this book, I read a distressing (to me) article about how Mahatma Gandhi was estranged from his eldest son, Harilal, throughout his adult life. I immediately called my own first born, Oliver…read more
Today, I want to share a third thing that I have come to see over a nearly 30 year career as a teacher and coach. It impacts how I do everything I do with students and clients, and is perhaps best summed up in this story I first heard in a dialogue between Anthony de Mello, an enlightened Jesuit priest, and one of his students….read more
In part one, I shared a simple truth about human beings that flies in the face of a lot of self-help ideologies and neo-cognitive therapies:
We aren’t in control of our thoughts and feelings. Today, I want to point to what may seem an even odder piece of good news…