Where do you live? And I don’t mean your body. That’s not you. Otherwise everyone whose body died would be dead and we know that’s not true. In cases similar to mine lots of people have had their body die and then they’ve resurrected. So you isn’t your body, it’s whatever’s in your consciousness. The contents of your consciousness—your beliefs, self-identity and habitual narratives all define what you act like and therefore who you believe you are. So if you are the sum all of your thinking then where you live is your consciousness.
That is where you spend your time. You’ve almost completely abandoned the world by 25 years old and you would only make a real connection with it when you played sports or maybe camped. Outdoor adventurers tend to stay a bit more in touch, but for the most part people spend most of their lives swimming to and fro in their own thinking. So you have this choice, which is to take the world in, or you can output an opinion about the little bit of it you pay a little bit of attention to. Just think about some of the opinions you have of other people and how insanely second and third hand and unreliable they are. We’re crazy.
So now there’s two primary places you can situate yourself in human consciousness. You can live in the world of ideas. These are things like your culture or your laws or your rules or manners or ways of doing things. So in WWII a guy could say that he was a junior officer and had been ordered to kill people and in the world of ideas that can make a kind of sense. But in the human world, the world of feelings, everyone knows that killing feels wrong. A technical thought-based version of reality does not excuse the fact that a human being murdered other human beings. So it’s possible to be technically correct according to the rules and yet your behaviour could still be entirely immoral. It is important to remember that we live within that bizarre duality every single day.
Because I have long-lived with an awareness that people actually live in their consciousness, I was often at odds with those around me. Without realizing they had done it, they would all work toward a judgment of and then alignment with one of a few dominant perspectives. Like for instance, the idea of good and bad. So if you live there, music must be ranked very seriously and where I live you just listen. There’s no right or wrong things to enjoy. You can like this kind of music instead of that, wear this instead of that, vote for them instead of them, you can like these people or companies or objects. But most people live where there are fashions and trends and things are new or desired. I’ve generally surrounded myself with extremely impressive people, so I rarely had conflicts with their humanitarian views but I still was living in a different place when it came to the reality I was living in.
How this difference would translate is that their priority would be to reconcile the discussion in the room to those dominant perspectives, whereas I would see the room as an emotional soup, where maybe one area was too hot and tipped toward temper, or another might be too heavy and sinking to the bottom. This is so hyper-subtle that no one is even aware they are doing it. My reaction is to ignore the cultural frameworks and live in the part of the world where we feel our lives happen.
So say a discussion about music came up. In the discussion are four people. Amy, Bill, Clark and me. I’ve heard Amy mention that she’s having a really rough week and she’s been feeling really down on herself and so my perspective on the room is that there is a low spot among my friends and it is my nature to want to raise it. Let’s say that I also know that Bill is a super nice guy who loves Amy but he also has very strong opinions, so he is like a sharp spot on this landscape. She’s tender, he’s sharp. No one’s wrong, but that’s the landscape I see. Meanwhile the others will be talking about music.
So for instance, let’s say they’re talking about who the most influential band would be. And let’s say Amy picks someone I really don’t like or respect much. And let’s say Bill picks my favourite band and he defends them brilliantly and then attacks Amy’s choice just as brilliantly. Clark, who has the same favourite band agrees that Bill is “right” simply because Bill agrees with his view. Rather than get on board and actually tell a truth in that world, a tell a truth in my world and I lie and say I like Amy’s band because I know she needs to feel supported right now, and I know Bill’s going to go at her hard so I give him a lot of reasons why I think she’s right so he can focus his bluster on me instead of on her because I feel great and she doesn’t. It’s no different than making soup for someone sick.
People will later say I lied about what bands I like to try impress Amy for my ego. Or they’ll criticize me for liking a band I don’t like. But none of that matters to someone like me. Because I live in that other world. Reputation lives in that world of rules and ideas and conformity. I live where Amy feels. And in that world, I made a difference and it was good. So I live with that feeling every day.
I encourage you to join me in living in the world of feeling. It’s a much easier world to negotiate, it’s infinitely more peaceful without all of the judgment and you can do a lot of good there. You will irritate more people from that other world but I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Either you’re judging people or you’re not. If you don’t judge their moods and decisions and just help them when they’re struggling and support their successes when they are succeeding, then you will find you will have lived an extremely good life.
Have yourself an awesome 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.