My sister sends me your stuff and I like it because it’s very understandable. 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 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. Because your feelings come from your thoughts, 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—you think something else. Because thinking about pain is to engage with pain. Really, it’s like 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 you have a sense of feelings in the first place. This is your internal guidance system. It’s like lane departure warning in a car. It beeps if you get off track. It warns you that your thinking is getting dangerous. So start paying attention to your feelings not as the result of other people’s actions, but as the metering system for your personal thinking. People don’t offend or hurt you for instance, you think offended or painful thoughts. You’re not supposed to get the outside world to behave, your supposed to get the inside world 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 you want them to, but you always have total control over yourself. So 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 to help keep you on course as you traverse this wonderful universe. With its guidance you will easily be able to steer clear of any unnecessary engagement 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 view 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 you are alive, Now is when you generate your feelings so live Now and be free. You’ll know when you’re succeeding with your spiritual and psychological growth because you will become much happier. So I look forward to seeing you out in the world with your subsequent smile.
Now—go notice yourself a great day!
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.