Our brains work with patterns, yet nearly every pattern we have as modern human beings has been disrupted. Our brain is tumbling.
It was not built for such a rare and chaotic reality so it is not unhealthy that we all feel overwhelmed, off-balance, emotional, confused or scared. That’s the sensation of us being hyper-alert during an emergency. That’s a healthy reaction.
Granted, while it may be healthy, it’s still very unpleasant. It’s like emotional puking. It’s good for us, but it feels awful. (And it helps if there’s someone there to hold our hair.)
Almost everyone normally lives within the stream of their own thoughts. That means an internal logic is maintained as anyone moves from place to place, thing to thing, person to person. This is how we form those comforting patterns that our brains all now miss.
Our problem with that system is that we developed words and language to accomplish all that coordination between us. But it had an inadvertent effect. Rather than being present with people, we normally tend to see the thought-forms of places, things and people.
We see what we expect to see based on history. We see who we think people are. But we fail to see who or what they are in the present. It’s how divorced couples often miss major changes in people they know well and see/saw all the time.
If we did live in the present we would take far less for granted. The world seems less predictable in the Now. Rather than noticing when our alarm clock doesn’t go off due to a power outage, we’re more likely to gratefully notice the fact that it is almost never off, any day.
By living in the present, instead of noting what isn’t, the mind shifts to noticing more of what is.
To be disappointed is to notice what is missing. But to do that we had to have a preconception that we’re now comparing to our present reality. That means that we both tried to live in the future and then act as though that future was real; and we also spent time in our past ignoring the present moment, because clearly we used it to imagine the future we’re now disappointed didn’t come true.
Ego ego ego. Our problems are not our problems. Our ego is our problem. We all do it, but can we all see how silly it is for us to expect our imagined futures to come true?
We see evidence it won’t every single day. So we might be becoming conscious of an uncertain reality, but this is where we always were. That uncertainty has always been the unseen bedrock of everyone’s reality.
We’ll still use our individual thoughts to think realities into being because that’s all we’re here to do, in a way. But we can use this opportunity to see that our beliefs are formed by our expectations, but our expectations are based on our thoughts. We now know those can be wrong in a major way. That can be comforting.
The way to make use of these uncomfortable events is to learn to get comfortable with discomfort. I am 100% serious. Rather than trying to stop thinking altogether, let’s all just stop trusting our thoughts so much. They’re wrong all the time anyway.
Yes, they’re right sometimes too, and often times they’re all we have to go on so we need not be timid. We just shouldn’t go so far as to expect things to go the way we expect.
Learning to balance on top of that uncertainty is a special kind of balance. In fact, it’s the only kind of balance there is when we accept that the world can and will always surprise us.
One of the ways that this experience can help us is by giving us a chance to practice that act of balancing. We may be surprised by how well we can do at learning to relax into the unknown. Again, it’s where every one of our ancestors lived right up until recently.
It’s in us to do. And once we’re more familiar with living there, we can start to use that awareness in extremely rewarding ways. If we play our cards right, we can truly end up better off once this is over. Likely with sacrifices, but still better off overall. It’s good to have opportunities and a future with joy within it. Our job now is patience.
The world is our dojo. Let us practice our mindfulness. Let’s not argue with the uncertainty. Let’s let our word-based, arguing-with-reality resistance collapse. It’s all just words in our heads anyway, and we can use the peace.
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.