Imagine that the universe is a neighbourhood and that “you” are a house within that neighbourhood. Because you’re not yet enlightened the windows of your house are all boarded up so it’s completely dark inside. Your Consciousness is like a flashlight. You can take the flashlight to any part of the house, but it has a relatively narrow beam so it can always only light up a small part of your house. What your flashlight lands on—what is illuminated within you—is the experience of your life.
What neighbourhood your house is in is irrelevant to you because you are inside your own house. People may call on the phone to tell you about it, but the exterior of your house is largely irrelevant to you because you dwell on the inside. What matters to you is what you shine the light of your consciousness on.
Understand that this is a metaphor for your entire day. All day long you are not a person walking around in an exterior world, you are actually an imagined person moving around in an interior world. So you have a self-image (your ego) that picks up your flashlight (your consciousness) and points it (your thinking) at whatever evidence it can find to supports its own existence.
It’s always self-reinforcing by comparing itself to what it sees. So if you do something “wrong” at work and get scolded for it, you’ll quickly take the flashlight of your consciousness down to your basement where you’ll open boxes and go through old report cards, or sports photos, or whatever will remind you to keep seeing yourself as a failure. Are you starting to see how you operate? Are you starting to get a sense that your life takes place via your consciousness?
Where do you go with your flashlight? Do you open boxes of photos of yourself when you were slimmer and then talk about how you impossibly want to look young again? Do you head into the office to shine your light on the filing cabinet and review the file on your bitter divorce? Or do you go to your old room to read your old diary where you used to write the insults your mother hurled at you when she was drunk?
These are all choices. You could take your flashlight anywhere in the house. You just keep taking it to the same places because you think those few spots define you. You keeping hoping that one day you’ll go to that drawer and the sad diary won’t be there. But that’s misunderstanding how you come to have a good life. You can’t keep going back hoping those places within you won’t be there. If they happened they will always be there. But they are only in your experience in any current Now because you have chosen to go back there with the flashlight of your consciousness.
Meanwhile, while you’re staring at sad things wishing there was no light on them, other people are wandering through your house with their flashlights and they’re finding out about all kinds of cool and interesting things about you. Do you see it is only you that cherry-picks all the failures and supposed short-comings? Only your egos enemies would be motivated to go through your house to do that. So why are you doing it? Your friends ignore that stuff in favour of the things they like about your house. You could do that too. Just start acting more like your friends and less like your enemies.
So how do you get healthy? Stop wandering through yourself. Stop navel-gazing. Stop looking for what’s wrong. Stop wondering about you. Open the door to your house. Take your flashlight into someone else’s home. Ask some questions. Connect with someone. Make a friend. Attract a new lover. Maybe find someone whose house you like so much that you’d actually sign the deed. Because your house is valid and worthwhile and much more interesting than you realize, but if you only rattle around inside of it you’ll limit your experiences far too much.
Forget going through old boxes. Open the doors to your mind. Find other houses you like and spend time in them. And while you’re there, remember to shine your light on what you like about them. That will lead you to enjoy your time with them even more. It really is that simple.
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.