On Understanding Turbulence

Recently on a flight I saw an interesting example of our thinking and level of understanding creating our personal reality. The plane had just flown into some turbulence and as I was enjoying the rocking and swooping motions, I overheard passengers complaining and opened my eyes to see a lady across the aisle gripping her seat in terror, her body rigid.

It just hit me. Oh. She’s experiencing fearful thinking and doesn’t understand how safe she really is.

When I was young my parents took my brother and I on a trip to Disneyland. On the flight back we experienced heavy turbulence and I didn’t know what was going on. My dad explained that when planes fly through different weather conditions it causes the ride to be bumpy. It’s not dangerous, even if it feels like it might be. The plane is designed to handle it; it’s a normal part of flying.

It just clicked in my mind, in that moment, that since turbulence is weather that’s not dangerous to the plane, there’s nothing for me to be afraid of. I didn’t have to do anything to not be afraid, I simply wasn’t fearful because I knew the truth of what was happening.

During this tubulence the scared passenger and I were living through the same outer circumstances. My side of the plane was no less bouncy than hers.

If our circumstances were the cause of our experience then we would both be having the same terrified experience. Logically speaking the heavier the turbulence, the higher our level of fear.

This is the outside-in model we all grew up with: something out there in the world can make me feel something inside my mind and body. It’s simply not true.

Our consciousness brings our thoughts to life as reality. Because we had different thoughts and a different level of understanding, we inevitably experienced different realities. I was completely calm and enjoying the turbulence while she was terrified and hated it.

Despite what we’re led to believe, we can only ever experience our thinking. Our thoughts about turbulence, not the turbulence itself, is the cause of our experience.

If she understood (not just understood intellectually but really got it the way one gets a joke) that she is completely safe even though the ride feels bumpy, she wouldn’t be able to take her fearful thoughts seriously and her experience would change in an instant.

She would effortlessly bounce back to her natural state of calm. She would be free to feel all the ups and downs while secure in a deeper understanding that the turbulence is not the cause of her fear. Her fear comes from her thinking about the turbulence; nothing more, nothing less.

And if you haven’t already guessed, plane turbulence is just a helpful metaphor. It works the same way with our emotional ‘turbulence’. Once we really get that our default nature is peace of mind, health and wisdom, life looks different to us. We see how safe we really are, even when the ride feels bumpy.

We don’t worry when we’re in a low mood because we know it’s temporary. We have an awareness that we’re simply caught up in our thinking and that thinking is always changing. We get that our moods are simply internal weather. We understand that there’s nothing to do but wait it out.

The same way planes are designed to handle weather turbulence, we’re designed to handle emotional turbulence. Our moods rise and fall yet we’re fundamentally rooted in our innate health, it can get covered up but it can’t go anywhere. As soon as we see through our thoughts to the space in which they arise, we’re right back to enjoying the ride, however bumpy it may be.

On Brewing Insecurity

Feeling insecure is nothing more than experiencing insecure thoughts. Insecure thoughts tend to make us feel anxiety, fear, discomfort, or unease.

Understanding how our experience of life works means waking up to the fact that we are always feeling our thinking. Our thoughts create our feelings, always and only.

Insecure thoughts, like all thoughts, feel really real. They feel like they are informing us of the outside world; that they’re the effect of whatever circumstance is causing our insecurity.

The gift of consciousness brings our thinking to life for us in a way that makes it appear as if it is ‘out there’, when truly the process is operating entirely within us. Consciousness is the metaphorical hot water that brews tea. If our thoughts are the dried tea leaves, consciousness is the expanse of water that takes on the taste, colour and smell of a cup of tea.

This is the nature of consciousness, it does it regardless of what leaves you throw in. The same way hot water added to chamomile, peppermint, oolong, and rooibos produce teas that look, taste and smell different, consciousness brings our thoughts to life, producing a variety of experiences that look, sound and feel different. In both cases the process is the same, all that changes is the resulting experience.

Insecure, anxious, excited, angry, or joyous feeling states depend solely on what thoughts we’re thinking at any given moment. Every feeling we’ve ever had has been brought to us through this gift of awareness.

We feel thoughts as though they are true, and so naturally we fall for the illusion that they are true in some objective sense. Our thoughts are not reflections of our outside world, they simply look that way.

Thoughts are temporary energy that appears in our psychological system, gets brought to life within us through consciousness, and disappears into whence it came. Which is probably the coolest thing ever, and yet the hardest to wrap your head around because it’s so profoundly different than what we’ve been taught. We’ve been taught to trust the illusion.

So when we have insecure thinking we can become aware that that isn’t an accurate reflection of reality. We don’t need to pay attention to those thoughts to factor their “information” into our decisions about life.

They are simply creations of our thinking: things we have imagined, what ifs we have stressed about, hypotheticals we have worried about… and they’re all made up! All of them. That’s just how thought works.

Because they look like actual things we need to stress about, what ifs we’d be stupid not to prepare for and hypotheticals that deserve our time and consideration, we suffer.

We’re not suffering because of the thoughts, we’re suffering because of our relationship to the thoughts. We’re suffering because we’re taking the thoughts seriously, believing them to be true, and misunderstanding where they come from. It’s all so innocent, but this misunderstanding is the cause of our suffering.

Luckily, insecurity is not something you need to “work on”. You don’t have to spend hours talking about your insecure thoughts, getting caught up in the details. Therapy is not the answer. Wrestling with your mind is not the answer.

Taking seriously what has already been created isn’t going to help you wake up to the fact that we’re constantly creating. The water is always boiling. The tea is constantly being brewed.

You don’t have to do anything with your thoughts. Really. Understanding where your experience is coming from takes care of that for you.

The system is never stagnant. Whenever we step back from obsessing over our specific thoughts and allow space in our minds, new thought arises. That new thought is infinite creative potential, it could make any kind of tea you could imagine, just in case you were getting sick of drinking your insecuritea.

A fresh experience, a new taste of life, is just a thought away.