Many people have a primary mental state that shows up in their life as compulsive thinking, fear, anxiety or overwhelm. I know I did for many, many years. It took time for me to transcend that. For years I was anxiously trying to achieve the next thing that I thought would bring me happiness.
If this is the case for you, it is important to understand that you won’t find happiness or joy because looking for it implies that it is not here now. Looking for it, or thinking that it will happen to you implies that it is outside of you; that you are waiting for it to land on you. The perspective shift that is needed is to understand that it lies within you. Happiness is not a commodity to be gained; it is a state of being that you must choose and cultivate. Allowing ourselves to be happy is simple to realize and most of us don’t know how easy it is or that it exists. Simple, maybe, but not easy.
Being & Existence
Whatever you perceive with your senses, along with whatever thoughts that occupy your mind, and the feelings you experience as a result of the thoughts you think- all of this together creates your existence. What you think about your body exists as thoughts in your mind. What you think of as “being true” is nothing but mental chatter. A teaching from A Course in Miracles that highlights this point is the saying: there is nothing outside of you.
Our habitual brain creates a mental image in our mind, which is often derived from our past. The stories and narratives that you repeat in your mind about “your life” are often problematic. We all do this: we re-hash arguments so we can win them in our head, we re-experience anxious or embarrassing moments and wish they happened differently, we imagine ourselves being different or better than we are, as a way to feel better, as a way to attach to a more perfect future version of ourselves. And we tell ourselves “If I think about it enough maybe I will solve the problem of me”. At the deepest level, this kind of thinking makes us see ourselves from a perspective of not being good enough yet, a perspective that we need to be fixed before we can be happy, or before we can rest. But the deep current of truth under all this is that you can’t solve the problem of you by thinking more about your problems.
Instead, you need to become aware that you are conscious without any content (content is emotions, thought, senses). Let go of all knowing and trying to “process” or think your way through it all. Understand that our thinking is the obstacle. There is nothing to think through to get to a place where you are different, or better, or allowed to rest. You are already there. You realize it in the gap between two thoughts. What exists there goes beyond the intellect.
To the unawakened mind, intellect is all there is to intelligence. However, underneath intellect lies another type of intelligence connected to the deep “I” through awareness. As you are rooted in a deeper dimension of being, you learn to let go of your historical identity. You don’t derive who you are from your past.
This is what most people do – they look at what they can add to the mental construct of their mind by identifying with knowledge, achievement, awards, grades, accomplishments, creations, products etc or you identify with doing badly or being a failure – that can get stuck in the mind become a belief.
A common misconception of ego is that it means to be narcissistic, or to care only of yourself. When in truth, ego is really just a strong attachment to the idea of ourselves, however that may be. Many don’t have a narcissistic sense of self, but the insecure and anxious sense of self is still full of ego, full of the sense of me. “This is how I am, This is who I am”.
Your sense of who you are affects how you relate to others and to the world. Victimhood is a big one for many, for example. Maybe unfortunate things did happen to you, and do you derive your sense of who you are from being a victim? You complain, and with every complaint your sense of identity as a victim grows.
You don’t want to be trapped there on that level. Thinking in the past and deriving our sense of self from the past only projects it onto our future self. It only feeds our idea of who we are. But your story of your life is not who you are, it is an illusion. The more you defend it, the more you are trapped in your illusory self, trapped in ego.
Whenever you are in blame, judgment, criticism, complaining, comparing, fear or expectation, you are operating from the surface waves, or in your ego. See if you can drop down to the place of stillness that resides in you, using the breath, get in the gap and drop to the depths of the ocean that lie within you – where peace and calmness reside.
This habit is one of the keys to regaining your mental health. Learning the 7 R’s of working with Problematic thoughts and breaking the thought emotion cycle has been the foundation to my spiritual practice that enabled me to move beyond the labels of anxiety, depression (suicide), bulimia and bipolar disorder.
Read Chapter 18 & 19 in Beyond the Label to learn more. If you would like coaching in this process, I have created an online training program that you can sign up for.
The above was derived from notes I took at a lecture by Eckhart Tolle. Lachlan Crawford and I interpreted the teachings and created the above