Our lives takes place within our minds. There’s nothing limiting about that because our mind is as large as the universe. There are no borders on ideas. There are no limits to what thoughts we can have. So why do we keep having the same ones over and over and over?
That’s how we avoid living in the Now. We’re busy thinking about times other than Now.
It’s not difficult to gain control over this. We just have to keep practicing. Just like we did when we learned to walk, talk, add, subtract, jump, and throw and every other thing we’ve learned. The more we do anything the better we get at it. But we have to do it.
We can’t just do yoga and post quotes on social media and get healthy. We’ve got to put some daily effort into getting conscious. We’ve got to be spiritually awake. We have to stop searching for peace and start enacting it.
We can achieve this by being present —by experiencing our life much like we might find ourselves immersed in a dramatic film or TV series by a writer we like. By thinking another character’s thoughts we can lose our ego-self and ride with the film instead.
In that special place, it is possible for us to profoundly realize that our enjoyment of a viewing experience includes feelings of fear, anger, betrayal, a sense of loss, etc, etc.
In other words, we feel all kinds of feelings when we watch a movie or show and not all of those feelings could be called pleasant. But it’s not like every time we hit one of those feelings we change the channel. We stay, because some part of us not likes all that emotional turmoil, that’s what it’s here for.
We don’t assume that the sad moments in sad movies are mistakes. We accept those sad feelings as appropriate to their context in a sad story.
We do this because we are going where the story goes. We’re not stopping to judge whether we feel better in this moment in the film versus a previous moment –or some moment that we think might happen.
We don’t do that because by the act of watching the show we did choose it. Just like we did with our lives.
But in the film we’re so invested in the moment that we don’t care about the emotional prices. It allows us to courageously have many more kinds of experiences. We benefit by being the same way about our own lives –our own stories.
Taken well, the emotions a dramatic life generates are largely what makes our lives feel full. The question then becomes, if these feelings make life rich, why are so many of us hiding from experiencing them in our own lives?
It’s because, while we’re watching the show, we’re feeling the emotions by thinking about the character’s thoughts not our ‘own.’ That tricks us into the necessary state of detachment.
At this point it’s important to note that our identities are just as ephemeral as the ones in movies. But, each morning we keep making the same choices and rebuilding largely the same person.
When it comes to our personal lives, we as humans have trouble getting the same distance between our sense of self and our emotions.
The pain in our ‘real life’ feels worse than the pain we feel for a character because our ego intervenes and attaches itself to the pain. In the personal case, there’s a strong sense of something happening to us.
In a film or book, even though the emotional reactions are identical, we find a way not to mind experiencing them because we sense the events are happening to another person.
In a film we want to see the character succeed or fail at their specific challenge, but we don’t leave a movie theater with the idea that the characters have a life after the movie. What anyone thinks of the reactions of the characters is irrelevant, after the film the actor gets to go back to being their other Self.
We have to get that way about our own lives. More detached. Our egos are only characters we play anyway, and they were largely written by others. We need not take them so seriously. An ego can be totally destroyed and we are still fine as the ‘place’ in which that identity was performed.
Other than them feeling unpleasant, there is nothing wrong with thinking thoughts that lead us to feel sad or angry or frustrated or alone. But the world is so good about lying about life’s challenges that many of us get convinced to think that we wouldn’t have those feelings if we’re living in the ‘right’ way.
We end up accidentally believing that normal life challenges represent some sort of failure, rather than a normal progression of growth. That leads us to suffer a great deal with painful thinking, and yet at a movie we pay for the privilege to experience the same push and the same emotions.
Instead of the truth, modern people in the developed world tend to think that a ‘good life’ is an uninterrupted one of wealth, beauty and youth, and that those things will automatically lead to a good life that is happy, balanced and rewarding.
In reality life is actually just life. They all really suck sometimes, no matter where or who or when you are. Even in the best of cases, life will naturally include all sorts of disasters that people will try to edit out of their social media. But they’ll be there. Every time.
Like we do, most of our friends unwittingly and subconsciously assemble and cultivate the image of a life. As fragile egos, we all want others to think thoughts about us that have them imagining us as being as successful, impressive, attractive, or in some way as compelling as the people’s lives that we watch. We want to feel we are respected by our tribe.
Where that helpful idea turns truly unproductive is when our ego wants to get its value by having others envy our lives rather than respect them.
Often, even worse, if we have no chance of looking impressive, we‘ll often try to get the tribe’s commitment of support by having them feel so superior that their apparent obligation is to offer sympathy.
Both of these ego manipulation strategies can wear out but, either way, what’s important is that they indicate that everyone is just trying to get the tribe to confirm their inclusion as a member. Our open approval or affection, or alternately our sympathy or assistance, ends up acting like some sort of social glue.
Unfortunately, we’ve all been convinced by things like advertising and peer pressure to believe an untrue idea —that we’re not worthy. We all think people wouldn’t choose us if we were just ourselves. But this is not true.
No one needs to be anything specific other than who they naturally are. The rest is all just a mimicking; monkey climbing around on a scaffold of ego. We will benefit by no longer thinking that painful emotions mean we’re failing.
We have to stop thinking health is outside of us. We have to stop thinking it’s something we have to go and get. We must trust that we’re fine and just Be.
We are better to avoid attacking our experiences with our thoughts. We must let the feelings of our life pass through us the same way the TV show does; moment by moment. Experience by experience. No matter which emotion it involves, we go through it rather than invest our egos in efforts to try to avoid it.
We should have the experience of one scene and then move on to the next one. It’s a mystery where each scene might go —that’s the beauty of it. That is what it is to live with presence.
Enjoying the series of scenes each week is the only path to what could be called a ‘good life,’ because on every channel, every show has pain as a part of it. So we can’t avoid pain, all we can do is get conscious.
Doing that removes any panic about needing to find the ‘right’ channel. Instead, we can just choose our channel and then relax and enjoy the journey, ups and downs included.
We can get rid of a great deal of the suffering our chattering mind create. But we will never dispel the world of pain. That would be, in other words, to dispel it of comfort too. And we ultimately want both things in our world for they exist in duality.
Let’s all stop over-thinking about times other than the moment we’re in. Let’s Get Now. Feel what’s there to feel without the resistance of thought, and then move on to the next moment. That’s what health is.
Let’s all enjoy our days like it’s a TV show we’ve chosen to watch, because in a really profound way, that’s closer to the truth than many might think.
peace and a big hug, s
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.