If you’ve studied with me, or if you read this blog or others authentically like it, then you will likely have already accepted the idea that your life is an internal experience not an external one. That is to say, you largely accept that your life experience comes to you via your emotions which in turn emerge from the narrative you tell yourself. This also means you do not believe that an outside world controls how you feel.
You may not be able to dictate your narrative and chemistry completely, but that’s a journey with infinite room for improvement anyway. (And even then, there cannot be road without un-road, so even when you’re lost you’re still an aspect of being found.) But even if you are only starting your journey, this blog post presumes you are already on the path. It presumes you have a reasonable working comprehension that how you feel has everything to do with what you’re thinking, rather than with where you are, who you’re there with, or what the conditions are.
If people stick with me long enough to see that their inner world really is more important than their outer one, then we’re on a nice, easy downhill slope to increased health and awareness. The only bump along the way happens right when people begin to actually become conscious of their own thinking and how that thought layers over top of every experience we have (with the exception of deep meditation and enlightened moments).
Because people are focusing on trying not to over-think things, they will necessarily begin by noticing how often they are involved in unproductive thinking. Because they’ve never looked for any before, they never found any. That means that however much unproductive thinking they do identify ends up seeming like a lot. This juxtaposition often initially causes people to presume that they are failing at improving their awareness, when in fact it is exactly the opposite; because they are more aware they are engaged in unhealthy thinking they have taken the first step in shifting to healthier thinking.
The first order of business is simply to become aware of your narratives. Look for what they’re consistently about: Are you a victim? Angry? Offended? Frightened? Are you a policeman? A judge? A mother? And how does that identity manifest when you speak to yourself? Can you see that this debate and these instructions are a little crazy? It’s you telling you what to do. You can just skip that part and go live.
That’s what authenticity is. It’s doing what you truly want, rather than what you’ve calculated out as wise or efficient or impressive or worth it. Rather than a life of calculated decisions, this is intuitive trust in yourself. Both routes carry triumph and disaster, but the one with less thinking leaves more awareness available to absorb your experience. It’s richer.
Find out how you generally process the world. Notice your own patterns. What makes you upset? What kinds of things? It doesn’t really matter what specifically they are—everyone has them. But if you know what your go-to thoughts and judgments are, then it helps you dismiss them as simply that thing you do. You don’t need to fight against these arguments. You just need to notice them. And just by doing that you will increase your separation between your Ego and you, the subconscious creator of your Ego. Once you have that distance, you will see that you should never have been taking yourself so seriously. And in doing so, you relax into the life that’s always been waiting for you.
You can’t rush discovery. If you’re noticing your thoughts but can’t change them then trust me, you really are learning how to change them. You just need a bit of time to get familiar with making the shift from one identity to no identity. Once you’ve done it a bit you will be able to command it in most cases. You’ll even find yourself unwittingly doing it by nature. So be patient.
Your desire to go deeper is both your frustration and your motivation. Embrace both. As one force pushes you away from what you aren’t, another pulls you toward what you are. Better to act on those impulses rather than debating with yourself endlessly. You can’t think your way into a good life. You can only go quiet and know your way into one.
Trust yourself. This isn’t someone else I’m writing about. The person that knows your path is you.
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.