Due to the fact that someone created words to divide up the whole, most people believe they experience a variety of emotions when in fact we actually experience degrees of feeling. So we might say we’re irritated, frustrated, angry or depressed, but what we’re actually experiencing is some want, more want, a lot of want, or almost nothing but want. Likewise you might say you’re content, you’re pleased, you’re happy and you’re elated, but what you’re actually experiencing is a little appreciation, more appreciation, a lot of appreciation and almost complete appreciation
The words in our heads are not things. They are however obstacles that prevent us from seeing the Truth. That is what the Buddhist’s call ‘The Illusion.’ We mistake the name of something for the thing itself. So we think we’re awake because that dog is barking, but there are undoubtedly many people asleep who are also within earshot of the barking. The difference is, those people are not using their thoughts to want the barking to stop, so they are not being dosed with the chemistry that goes with ‘wanting.’
Ultimately, the chemistry for ‘wanting’ does not feel as relaxed and comfortable as the chemistry for ‘appreciation’. But either way, it’s not the dog releasing the chemistry, it’s our thinking about the dog. And that’s great news, because we generally don’t control the dog, but we can learn to control our thinking.
We were taught to think by the primary influences in our lives, including parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, TV, music, and advertising. These people and media teach us what to place our attention on —they teach us which story to tell ourselves. Advertising is focused completely on creating wants within us. Our parents might teach us to hate winter, or waiting in line, or being late. We’ll think you’re angry because our companion is late, but really we’ll be angry because our parents taught you to think that people weren’t supposed to be late, even though they quite often are.
Someone arriving at 7:10 rather than 7:00 doesn’t do anything to the part of our brain that assembles the chemistry for what we perceive as our experience of being alive. That chemistry is assembled by us and for us and we are the only person who experiences that reality. So it’s really our judgmental thoughts about another person’s late arrival that either upsets or pleases us, it is not the arrival itself.
Are we beginning to see the layer of thought that we build between us and reality? Can we see that, rather than walking through the world with the wise openness of a child, we instead walk through a maze of conversation that we’re having with ourselves? Think about it: we don’t see things as they are. We see what we think about them. So the only way to change the world is by changing our thinking about the world.
We all have been taught to think in patterns. But those patterns are not us. We have complete freedom to think whatever we choose, but right now most people aren’t choosing; we are thinking about things the way we were taught to. But that’s where we give our freedom away. We don’t have unconsciously follow the same patterns we’ve seen people close to us use. We can become conscious and be free.
If we invest our life in wanting more, then we are —in other words— asking for a life of disappointment, striving and suffering. Instead, we are best to slow down our thinking. Interrupt it and quiet it. See things as children do; with no expectation. For if we can be grateful for whatever comes, then our life will be a happy one.
The next time you feel an emotion you don’t like, check in to see what judgmental thought you’re thinking. And then know you can change that thought to a grateful one. Because doing that is the only route away from want and toward the appreciation that makes any life grand.
Now go choose yourself a great day.
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.