You don’t want to surrender because you imagine that you’re achieving goals, and winning competitions, and getting ahead. You have assets. You have a reputation. You want respect. You want people to be impressed with you. You want to be liked. But it’s like Charles Bukowski said, you’re “trapped in a cage with golden bars.” You have things to lose. Most importantly: your freedom.
But those are the things the Buddha was talking about when he talked about The Illusion. Those things don’t really exist. Alien anthropologists can’t land on a human-less Earth and find your assets. Or your reputation. Even your awards would just be pieces of metal with your name on them. They would have no more meaning than your money, which would be nothing more than coloured paper if no one was left to think the sustaining idea that thinking creates money’s value. In the end, none of your “valuables” would have that same possessive quality if you could see through The Illusion.
The reason you can be free—the reason it’s easy and fun and worth it is because, once you understand that your life experience takes place within your consciousness, the events outside you don’t seem anywhere near as personal or as traumatic. Surfing’s been used many times by many people because it’s a great analogy, but it’s important to remember that in that analogy spiritual success isn’t meditating so hard that the waves stop, or that they all turn into perfect waves. Spiritual success is loving the act of surfing even though some waves are great, and others are flat and require a lot of work for very little reward. Bottom line, it’s still all surfing. And so it is with life.
Okay, so you just read that last paragraph and now you’re reading this one but did you really take a moment to think about what that said? When your ‘Mom lets you down,’ that entire experience happens within your consciousness. Yes, she may decide to sleep on her three dimensional sofa instead of driving over in her physical car to see you, but those are where experiences would take place. The actual experiences are always internal. Even if other people are present for them and react to a change in your mood, they are reacting to their own experience of seeing you pain, not your pain itself.
Only you can think for you so any pain you’re experiencing exists within your thoughts. But if that’s true then joy exists there too, like the joy of loving a song, or a person.
So like Verbal Kint from the movie The Usual Suspects, or Pi from Life of Pi, just take in everything around you without objection and then assemble it into a story you enjoy. Even if that enjoyment includes some craziness. Remember: everything in moderation, including moderation. So whether you knit or race cars, the point is to live. Live fully and deeply. Because there is no downside. Everyone dies at the end.
What you call “your life” is really just a collection of moment-to-moment experiences that you bring into being with your thinking. You make judgments about the world and that is your experience of it. You divide it into words. Things are green, or big, or mine. So you want happiness, but you can’t go get it in the physical world because happiness exists within you.
A feeling doesn’t come shaped like a new house, or car or a hair-do. What you think of those things will be your actual experience of being alive. So since your life is weaved from your thoughts, maybe it’s time to stop striving and maybe it’s time to focus a little more on getting some awareness over our personal thinking. You need to do less winning and do a little more succeeding. Because right now, in your quest for happiness, you’ve overlooked peace.
The universe is vast and it exists within you. You can travel through experiences you don’t enjoy. But you cannot go wrong. So dive in deep. Because any judgment you would receive would only exist within other people’s thoughts and that exists in their reality, not yours—unless you invite it in by choosing to think about it yourself. But I wouldn’t recommend it. Maybe think about a tiger instead. It sounds like more fun. 😉
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.