One of the things I love about the work that I do is that when we catch our first glimpse of the thought-created nature of our personal reality, the adventure has just begun. It’s like spending your life stumbling around in a cave and then being handed a lantern. Depending on the degree of illumination, you can see anywhere from a few inches to a few dozen feet in every direction. Once the light is on, you can begin to explore the cave in earnest. Some of the things you see in the light of your understanding are simply fascinating; others brighten the light for a moment or forever and make it progressively easier to navigate and guide others. (In this metaphor, an “enlightened” person’s lantern would flare so brightly that they can see the whole cave for an instant, and then gradually dim until they are seeing less but with the memory of the whole still very much intact.)
One of my most recent “light brightenings” happened while listening to a talk given by my very first mentor in the inside-out understanding, Keith Blevens and his wife Valda Monroe. While I can’t remember exactly what Keith said, it was something like this:
“The future is an incomplete equation, because you can never really take into account what thinking will come to you in the moment.”
Here’s how I made sense of this for myself. We tend to think of the future as a logical extension of the past and present:
Past Experience + Current Circumstances = Probable Future
In other words, we look to our memory and imagination to create a baseline idea of what we think will happen and then either dread the horror or crave the thrill of what we convince ourselves will be coming to pass. Yet the missing piece – the “X” factor of what thinking occurs to you in the moment- is what creates both the heaven and hell of our imagined future and the actual experience of that “future” when it comes to pass.
The actual formulae looks a bit more like this:
Past Experience (Memory, i.e. Thought) + Current Circumstances (Perception, i.e. Thought) + X (Thinking in the moment, i.e. Thought) = Predicted Future (i.e. Thought)
In other words, every element of our imagined future is made of imagination – a product of thinking that by and large comes to us unbidden and is far more arbitrary than we think. That’s why the more we think about a future event, the more we either seesaw between hope and fear or lock ourselves into an expectation – a fixed prediction of both future events and our future reaction to and experience of those events which we then proceed to sell everybody around us on and defend at all costs. And we haven’t even gotten to the good bit yet…
When the future actually arrives, our experience of it will be made up (as all experience is) of the sum total of – you guessed it – whatever thinking comes to us in the moment. And since there’s no way to accurately predict what will occur to us in the moment, there’s no way to accurately predict the future.
There are two implications to seeing this which, in my mind, are extremely good news about life:
1.Worry is a free-standing illusion
In my experience working with clients, people who chronically worry believe that the act of repeatedly thinking scary or unsettling thoughts about the future will either keep them safe, spur them into action, or both. The unquestionable reality of worry is that it obscures our natural intelligence, overrides common sense, and over time can make us physically sick. When it seems like our worries are based on reality – i.e. an accurate prediction of a likely future – that may seem a painful but worthwhile price to pay. But when we see that worry is a free-standing illusion, unconnected in any way to what will actually happen in the future, it becomes easier to let go of when it arises. We may still worry from time to time, but we are less inclined to elevate the discomfort of our uninvited insecure thinking to the role of protector of the faithful or creator of the universe.
2. Solutions, possibilities, and a whole new world are never more than one thought away
Because I can never know what will occur to me in the moment, I can only imagine a future based on my current thinking. And because I know that the deeper intelligence of the mind is responsive to the moment, I also know that it’s quite likely that something helpful, useful, and/or insightful will occur to me when I need it most. In other words, I’ll know what to do when I need to know what to do.
In my own life, I’ve seen that the more I rely on that capacity of the mind, the more reliable it is. I still worry far more than I would like and fall for the illusory future of my imagination like a kid in a horror film peeking through half-closed eyes so he feels a little bit safer but won’t miss a thing. But I’m also far more willing to go boldly forward into the dark of the unknown, knowing that the lantern of my understanding will illuminate the next step when there’s a next step to be taken. Because my confidence and security come from my understanding of the responsive intelligence of the mind, I’m less thrown by sudden shifts in circumstance and even more sudden shifts in my thinking in the moment. And because I see what little I see, I don’t even have to hide from my own fears. Because the only thing that can kill a shadow is more light…
With all my love,