Imagine that the universe is a city and that “we” are each in houses within our own neighbourhoods. If we are not yet enlightened the windows of our house will all be boarded up, keeping it completely dark inside. Our Consciousness is like a flashlight. We 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 aspects of our homes. What our flashlight lands on—what is illuminated within us—is the experience of our lives.
What neighbourhood our house is in is irrelevant to us because we live within the boundaries of our individual homes. People may call on the phone to tell you about the outside of your home, 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. This is how the rich can still be unhappy.
Understand that this is a metaphor for our entire day. All day long we are not individuals walking around in an exterior world; we are actually self-imagined people moving around in an self-created interior world. Essentially we have a self-image (our ego) that picks up our flashlight (our consciousness) and points it (via our thinking) at whatever evidence it can find to support its own existence.
It’s always self-reinforcing by comparing itself to what it sees. So if we do something “wrong” at work and get scolded for it, we react by quickly taking the flashlight of our consciousness down to our personal basement where we’ll open boxes and go through old report cards, or sports photos, or whatever will remind us to keep seeing ourselves as failures. Are you starting to see how we operate? Are you starting to get a sense that both today and our memories are all a part of our life that takes place via our 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 valid events, but thinking about them after the fact is a choice. We can always take our flashlight anywhere in the house. We just keep taking it to the same places because we think those few spots define us. We keeping hoping that one day we’ll go to that drawer and the sad diary won’t be there. But that’s misunderstanding how we come to have a good life. We can’t keep going back hoping those places within us won’t be there. If they happened they will always be there. But they will only be in our current-moment experience if we have chosen to go down to the basement with the flashlight of our consciousness.
Meanwhile, while we’re staring at sad things wishing there was no light on them, other people are wandering through our house with their flashlights and they’re finding out about all kinds of cool and interesting things about us. Do you see it is only us that cherry-picks all of our failures and supposed short-comings? So why are we all doing that? Our friends ignore that stuff in favour of the things they like about our home. We can do that for ourselves, too. We just need to start acting more like we’re our own friends and less like we’re our own enemies.
So how do we get healthy? We stop wandering through ourselves. We stop navel-gazing. Stop looking for what’s wrong. Stop wondering about ourselves. We need to open the door to our house. We need to take our flashlights into someone else’s home and ask some questions. Connect with someone. Make a friend. Attract a new lover. Maybe find someone whose house we like so much that we’d actually sign the deed. Our own homes are valid and worthwhile and much more interesting than we realise, but if we only rattle around inside of that, we’ll limit our 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.
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.