My sister sends me your stuff and I like it because it’s easy to understand. But then I wonder why I still can’t stop feeling bad about things that happened in the past or why I still worry about the future? What am I doing wrong?
I am happy to report that you have hidden your answer deep within your question. As with most realizations, we don’t really learn something new and then have our Aha! moment. It’s more like we take some idea we’ve been staring at and we flip it upside down, or mirror it, or turn it backwards and Bam! we suddenly realize that the answer was right in front of us —we just had to look at it the right way.
I often use the example of when you learned to multiply numbers. Conceptually, once you know how to do it, it’s a remarkably simple concept. But before you get it, it just seems mysterious and difficult. This is like that. It’s not difficult. This is just a matter of casting the right light on the subject so that you can see its true shape.
You wrote, “…I wonder why I still can’t stop feeling…” Note exactly where I started the quote and where I ended it. I mean precisely that part of what you said. Your answer is hidden in there.
Your feelings come from your thoughts, so you’re essentially asking me: how do I stop thinking painful things? My answer is that you don’t stop feeling pain, you start feeling something else —by thinking about something else. Because thinking about pain is to engage with pain.
Think of it like a fire. If you burn your hand you do not make it better by sticking it back in the fire. You stick it in some snow. The snow will feel good because it is not the fire which was the thing causing the pain in the first place.
This is why we have feelings in the first place. They are our internal guidance systems. It’s like lane departure warning in a car. It beeps if we get off track. It warns us that our thinking is getting dangerous.
Start paying attention to your feelings not as the result of other people’s actions, but as the metering system for your own personal thinking. People don’t offend or hurt you for instance, you think offended or painful thoughts about what others have said. That might feel like a meaningless distinction but once you can see through the paradox it does not.
In the end, none of us is supposed to get the outside world to behave, we’re supposed to get our inside worlds under control.
That’s great news because all of the rules and all of the rights and wrongs in the universe won’t make someone else do what we want them to, but we always have total control over ourselves.
Surrender the idea that you were supposed to enlighten yourself into having no bad feelings. What you’re really supposed to do is to understand that those feelings are a beautiful gift to you and, if employed properly, they will guide you to a meaningful, profound, beautiful and rewarding lifetime.
Use your lane control feelings to help keep you on course as you traverse this wonderful universe. With their guidance any of us can steer clear of most of our unnecessary engagements with unnecessarily unpleasant feelings.
And if you can make staying centred a routine part of your life, you will be amazed at how much of the world you’d previously been missing simply because you were so immersed in your own personal thinking.
I promise, there’s tons of amazing things to focus on out there. There is no reason to steer our thinking toward painful things in our past or our potential future. Now is when we are alive, Now is when we generate our feelings so live Now and be free.
You’ll know when you’re succeeding with your spiritual and psychological growth because you will become generally (but not exclusively) more grateful, which often also leads to more happiness. So I look forward to seeing you out in the world with your subsequent smile.
Now —go notice 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.