Because someone created words to divide up the whole, you believe you experience a variety of emotions when in fact you actually experience degrees of feeling. So you might say you’re irritated, frustrated, angry or depressed, but what you’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 your head are not things. They are however obstacles that prevent you from seeing the Truth. That is what the Buddhist’s call the illusion. You mistake the name of something for the thing itself. So you think you’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. And 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 your thinking about the dog. And that’s great news, because you don’t control the dog, but you can learn to control your thinking.
You were taught to think by the primary influences in your life, including parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, TV, music, and advertising. These people and media teach you what to place your attention on—they teach you which story to tell yourself. Advertising is focused completely on creating Wants within you. Your parents might teach you to hate winter, or waiting in line, or being late. You’ll think you’re angry because your companion is late, but really you’ll be angry because your 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 your brain that assembles the chemistry for what you perceive as your experience of being alive. That chemistry is assembled by you and for you and you are the only person who experiences that reality. So it’s really your judgmental thoughts about their arrival that either upsets or pleases you, not the arrival itself.
Are you beginning to see the layer of thought that you build between you and reality? Do you see that, rather than walking through the world with the wise openness of a child, you instead walk through a maze of conversation that you’re having with yourself? Think about it: you don’t see things as they are. You see what you think about them. So the only way to change the world is by changing your thinking about< the world.
You have been taught to think in patterns. But those patterns are not you. You have complete freedom to think whatever you choose, but right now you aren’t choosing; you are thinking about things the way you were taught to. But that’s where you give your freedom away. You don’t have unconsciously follow the same patterns you’ve seen people close to you use. You can become conscious and be free.
If you invest your life in wanting more, then you are—in other words—asking for a life of disappointment, striving and suffering. Instead, slow down your thinking. Interrupt it and quiet it. See things as children do; with no expectation. For if you can be grateful for whatever comes, then your 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 Appreciation.
Now go choose yourself a great day.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations 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.