On Ingrained Beliefs

Someone in my community emailed me last week and asked me to share my views on ingrained beliefs and conditioning. She wanted to know if they serve us (if so, which ones?) and should we work at changing them.

I love getting questions (seriously if there’s something you’re curious about, just ask!) so here’s how it looks to me.

Ingrained beliefs and conditioning are something every human being has. While the content of the beliefs and the specifics of the conditioning vary between cultures, religions, languages, upbringings and more, there’s no one that escapes meaning-making about the world they grew up in.

The beautiful, really hopeful thing about this understanding is that it points us away from the content of our thinking. Away from our beliefs, away from our opinions, away from our ideas and judgements and conditioning and towards one thing: what is universal.

Universally, we all have ingrained beliefs and we all have the in-built capacity for those beliefs to shift, change and disappear all on their own.

We see this all the time. People you knew from school that are totally different as adults are just one example.

Human beings are always changing. Sometimes in small, subtle ways. Sometimes in huge, holy-moly-who-is-this-person ways.

Change is built-in to the human system.

Fresh thinking is built-in to the human system.

Beliefs falling away is built-in to the human system.

So no, I would never, ever recommend to someone that they should work on changing them.

Mostly because it’s completely exhausting (and we all have better things to do with our time) but also because we don’t need to take on a job that’s already being done for us.

Your beliefs will change, if you let them. Your conditioning will have less importance on your life, if you allow it to.

Your ideas, preferences, opinions, judgements, affiliations, and concepts that seem so solid and real only look that way because we don’t see them for what they are…

Energy.

In a million different forms, looking a million different ways, telling a million different stories.

Don’t some of our ingrained beliefs serve us?

I suppose it’s possible that some may… but overall no. Any concrete belief can’t hold a candle to the beautiful responsive intelligence we’re all made of.

It’s a bit like asking ‘do the files on my computer serve me and guide me to live my best life?’

While I suppose it’s technically possible that you got gifted some exceptionally brilliant files, it’s just never going to be as good as having access to the internet.

Wisdom is designed to live us, it’s the very thing breathing our lungs and beating our hearts as we read this.

It’s so much more helpful to look away from beliefs, away from the content of anything that goes on in our heads, and towards the fact that we are constantly connected to the psychological equivalent of the internet.

New thinking, solutions, possibilities, potential, perspective, insight, epiphanies… they’re all much better at serving us than our ingrained beliefs are.

The internet is inherently more helpful than a database, no matter how good a database might seem.

Perhaps most importantly, trying to sort, analyze, compare or ‘get to the bottom’ of our beliefs is a huge waste of time and energy. Ironically it often has the opposite effect of getting us more entrenched and confused.

I wasted too many years of my life trying to wrestle with thoughts and it’s always a lose-lose outcome.

Rather than trying to be aware of what you believe and try to judge if it’s helpful or not (please don’t attempt this) it’s far more helpful to see that everyone has beliefs, everyone has conditioning, it can all be there floating through our minds in various forms but we don’t need to take any of it seriously, agree with it or use it to guide our lives.

Like I said, it’s all simply energy. It’s in the process of changing by the time you notice it.

You don’t have to take anything you think seriously. Said another way, you don’t have to believe anything you think.

Let it all be there, let it all come and go, and know that the wisdom that’s living you will guide you effortlessly to what you need when you need it. It’s already taken care of, we can just relax and enjoy the ride!

With love and gratitude,

S

On Pink Fluffy Lives

Somehow, somewhere, we’ve all picked up the idea that life should always be great and we should always feel amazing.

Always happy, always loving, always peaceful, we all get along, never get sick, are loved by everyone, have lots of money, no one dies, taxes don’t exist… etc.

We all have our own personal ideas under the category of “this is how life should look”, but on some level we’ve all bought into a misunderstanding that it’s a problem when life sucks.

That it’s a problem when we feel uncomfortable physical symptoms because we shouldn’t feel that.

That it’s a problem when we’re heartbroken, sad and lonely because surely it means something is wrong with us or our lives.

That it’s a problem when we’re struggling financially, it’s a problem when people we love leave our lives, it’s a problem when we could have done better than we did, it’s a problem when we don’t perform as well as we could or should…

The only “problem” that I see is that we believe that things – normal, everyday, human, safe, temporary, totally fine things – are problems.

Life was never meant to be all sunshines, rainbows and fluffy kittens.

Now I love fluffy kittens as much as the next person and I would love if every day could be Play With Fluffy Kittens Day, but that’s not the nature of life.

The nature of life is that there’s ups and downs. Dark and light. Misery and bliss. Sickness and health. Richer and poorer. 

(I just realized this is starting to sound like wedding vows but perhaps the inherent predictability of these things is why those sayings became cliché)

My point is this: if we expect life to be something other than what it is, we’ll be disappointed, confused, and bothered by the totally normal, totally predictable, totally safe parts of life when they inevitably arise.

The human body gets ill sometimes. That’s what bodies do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of fever, sore throat, stuffy nose and sleeplessness.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel under the weather, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a body fighting infection.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to catch colds, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my body resets.

Our minds work the same way.

The human mind gets bogged down with insecurity, anxiety, low mood, dissatisfaction and upset from time to time. That’s what minds do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of feeling like life is hard and unfair, that I’m less than, that I have all these problems, that things or people are causing my anxiety, etc.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel that life sucks or I suck, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a mind bogged down with distorted thinking.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to feel like everything sucks, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my mind resets.

And allowing what is to just be, with no resistance or fighting, is what allows it to change quicker than we ever thought possible.

On The Paradox of Feeling Bad

No one likes feeling bad. It’s called feeling bad for a reason, it’s not particularly pleasant and can often bring with it uncomfortable sensations, emotions, and perceptions.

Yet feeling bad is an unavoidable part of life. If you’re a human being, you will feel bad from time to time, I promise you that.

No amount of money, no cultivated “perfect” circumstances, no finding the best humans alive can or will ever guard you against the fact that you will sometimes feel bad.

So given it’s inevitable, what can we do to make it less awful?

If feeling bad is painful, how can we avoid suffering?

Simple. We understand what it is so we can allow the system to work as designed.

Bad feelings, uncomfortable sensations, negative thoughts, and dark emotions are designed to move through us.

They’re designed to come up, give us an experience, and leave. That’s their nature.

Just like actual storms, thoughtstorms clear out eventually. We don’t know when (and we love to guess about the how and why) but every thought storm, and every real storm, runs its course and dies down; you won’t find any exceptions to this.

Often we don’t see what’s happening when we feel bad.

Because being in a bad mood is like wearing dark sunglasses, colouring everything we see, it will look and feel like there’s a problem with our lives and/or with ourselves.

If we don’t see this trick of the mind for what it is, we tend to keep spinning our wheels thinking about what needs to be fixed so that we can feel better.

Or we resist it. Or fight it. Or challenge it. Or tackle it. Or ruminate over it. Or make meaning about it. Or try to control it, manage it or eliminate it.

And not only does that not succeed in bringing relief or making us feel better, it’s actually the very thing keeping us feeling bad and causing us to suffer.

The paradox is that the more we try to get out of feeling bad, the more we get stuck in it.

The more we try to eliminate it, the more it hangs around.

Why is that? Simply because bad feelings are just temporary energy moving through your sensory system. And you can’t get energy to move through faster by energizing it with resistance, fight, control, meaning or management.

It just doesn’t work that way. Once we understand that we naturally do better.

As paradoxical as it seems, we can’t get out of feeling bad faster than the natural flow of thought/feeling moves.

So next time you’re feeling bad, do nothing with those feelings.

Don’t worry about them. Don’t make them mean anything about you or your life (it’s only a trick of the mind at play), don’t try to keep it at bay or man up against it or try to get rid of it.

Everything self-help, positive psychology and popular culture tells you to do about your feelings, ignore it all.

Relax. Seriously, just relax.

Humans quite naturally relax into our feelings (even the really uncomfortable ones) when we see them for what they truly are: temporary, meaningless, transient energy that flows through each and every one of us from time to time, bringing us an experience in a moment.

When you see that’s true, relaxing into your bad feelings will come naturally and you’ll start to notice just how quickly you bounce back to feeling good again.

On The Three Truths of Gratitude

This recent weekend was the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada and I swear each year that passes I love this holiday more and more.

This year though, I’m seeing a deeper dimension of what we all have to be grateful for.

That we are (all of us, no exceptions) the living, breathing manifestation of some universal truths.

There’s some truths that apply to all of us equally, regardless of circumstance, location, age, situation, history, ethnicity, gender, or anything else that makes us feel different.

Truth #1: Everything you experience is the energy behind life brought to life within you in any given moment. That energy changes automatically and naturally without any doing on our part.

What this means for us (and why it’s something we can all be grateful for) is we can’t be stuck in anything permanently. No matter how bad we feel, how awful our current experience is, how crazy or icky or hopeless our thinking is, it HAS to change.

It can’t not change. Change is in it’s nature. It’s in the fundamental design.

The same way the leaves can’t help but fall in autumn, your thinking, feeling and experience has to change at some point.

Truth #2: When your experience changes, the life you see out your eyeballs changes with it.

This is why we can go from hating someone to loving them (and vice versa) without them actually changing.

It’s how we can bemoan an ending one day and see beauty and hope in it the next. It’s how we can love the rain then hate the rain then be neutral about the rain all in the span of a few hours.

It’s not coming from anything outside of us.

I know it really looks like it does, but in truth it doesn’t.

When we know that what we’re seeing out in our lives is a reflection of what’s going on in our minds in that moment, we’re free to let that perception shift and change as it naturally will (see Truth #1) and have our lives as we know them shift with it.

Truth #3: Our true nature, our deepest core essence, is pure love, well-being and peace.

Have you ever noticed that people never settle down into distressed, agitated states?

They settle into peace, connection, love, a state of rest and relaxation.

They say things like “I feel like myself again” or “I’m back to feeling fine”.

They act with more kindness and compassion, they have better ideas, they’re clearer and more creative. They see the best in life, enjoy things, and have easy, fulfilling relationships.

This is the natural state of everyone. This is what we all have going for us. Underneath the temporary weather of what we’re thinking, feeling and experiencing, we’re just whole, complete and always okay.

So this year it’s these truths that I’m the most thankful for.

The ones that have nothing to do with sipping hot chocolate lakeside on a gorgeous fall day, nothing to do with big feasts of delicious food and good company, nothing to do with anything that’s temporary.

Just some eternal, fundamental truths that we can all be grateful for, today and always.

On Craziness

I’ve been so blessed to spend these last few days doing practitioner training with the gorgeous George and Linda Pransky.

While there have been so many insights and takeaways, George kept emphasizing a key point that I’m seeing deeper.

When you’re crazy, do you know you’re crazy?

If you know, it makes all the difference. It protects you, stabilizes you and points you towards what’s really going on: your state of mind has taken a temporary dip.

If you don’t know when you’re crazy, you mistake its cause, make it a bigger deal than it is, run in circles and get nowhere, feeling defeated, hopeless and bad about it.

We all have a personal crazy: it’s our Mr. Hyde, our evil twin, our favourite ride at the Bonkers Amusement Park of Distress and Suffering.

Jokes aside, It’s often what people consider their primary label or diagnosis. The thing about them that needs fixing and changing because it so does not look like the simple, harmless result of a temporary low state of mind.

Anxiety, depression, stress, fear of failure, loneliness… it can look like a solid, stable problem we have but in truth it’s just our temporary crazy. Just where our mind habitually goes when it goes south.

You are a human being, and as part of the human condition you will sometimes think, feel and act like a crazy person. I say that with love because I too am a crazy person at times. We all are.

It’s not a personal failing, it’s not a problem, it’s not a mental illness, it’s nothing to worry about.

Truly, because it’s universal in nature and harmless once you see it for what it is, it’s nothing to concern yourself with.

You’ll instantly be protected by the negative effects of crazy if you know it’s just your crazy, instead of thinking it’s something you need to deal with, work on or fix about yourself or your life.

Our personal crazy is just riding the anxiety train or taking a plunge on the depression rollercoaster or spinning on the teacups of insecurity, so it makes all the difference to know that’s all that’s happening.

Your mind has temporarily taken a dip to stormy, untrue, distorted thinking. It’s unclear, totally biased, and not at all trustworthy.

No need to try to fix it, change it, control it, manage it, adjust it or correct it.

Our inbuilt well-being and health will do all of those things naturally (and far more effectively) if you can simply leave it alone.

At some point the ride ends and you hop off, completely fine.

You may have gotten a bit wet, or a tad dizzy, or felt a surge of adrenaline, but you are completely 100% fine the whole time and the ride always, always, comes to an end.

So next time you’re feeling crazy, welcome to the club! 

No judgement, no problem, no issue. Just a gentle, simple noticing of the ride you’re on and the inevitable realization that it’s all temporary, it’s all taken care of and it’s always simpler than we make it.

With love and gratitude,

Shannon

On The Trick of Consciousness

Today’s post is an excerpt from my latest book True Nature Series: Anxiety. Enjoy!

The mind is the only experience-generator that human beings have access to. We have no direct access to the outside world. 

A sleeping person is not having an experience of their external environment, even when that environment is changing.

They’re either having no conscious experience whatsoever, or they’re having a conscious experience of their dreams, aka what is happening in their minds.

That’s the only way it can work. Asleep or awake, the system only works one way: inside-out.

If we don’t know that’s the only way it can work, we keep falling for the trick that we’re seeing the true reality of our lives such as they are, when really we’re seeing the film strip of whatever form the energy of thought is taking in that moment.

Consciousness, as a force, turns that film strip into an actual experience of reality, and we live in that illusory reality as though it is the actual, real, true, objective, independent reality of existence.

When in truth, that can’t ever be the case.

We can’t ever experience an actual, true, objective, independent reality of existence because humans simply aren’t wired up that way.

We’re only wired up to feel what’s on our minds, not what’s in our lives.

If we don’t know that, we think our lives, ourselves or other people is what’s getting better or worse moment by moment, day by day.

In truth, it’s only the workings of the creative energy of thought brought to life by consciousness that gets better or worse moment by moment, day by day.

These forces are so invisible and powerful that they trick us into thinking our lives suddenly got worse when really our thinking just took a temporary dip.

Momentary thinking is always creating our experience of reality, reality itself cannot create our experience of it.

If it could, all 7 billion of us would have identical experiences of the same events.

So to recap, the biggest trick of the mind is that consciousness as a force ensures that we are always experiencing what’s on our mind, yet it creates such a powerful compelling illusion that it seems like we’re experiencing reality/life/circumstances/other people directly.

It’s a really good, really compelling illusion, and one that all human beings are subject to because it’s the very blueprint of how we all operate.

Prefer to listen? True Nature Series: Anxiety audiobook

The Low Mood Survival Guide

The Low Mood Survival Guide

If you’re anything like me, or anything like any other human being who’s ever lived, you’ve likely asked yourself this question:

What do I/can I/should I do when I feel like shit?

At some point or another, everyone has asked this of themselves (or others) and I get asked this (and ask myself this) all the time. 

So today I’m going to share what I know to be true about low moods in the hope that we can see more about that question.

I know that fortunately low moods are temporary. Temporary does not mean we won’t have bad days, but it does mean we don’t need to resign ourselves to having bad lives.

It’s a law of nature that everything that comes up, must come down. Everything that ebbs must flow. Thought, the thing responsible for our feeling like shit, is constantly in motion, always moving and changing.

There’s a consistency to the flow of thought that we can take comfort in and come to rely on.

No matter how long it takes for the sun to come out, both literally and metaphorically, it eventually always does.

I know that low moods feel awful. No one likes to feel like shit. We are peaceful, loving, connected, well and wise by default. 

So when we feel angry, fearful, isolated, broken and confused, it feels like shit.

That awful feeling is designed to feel awful so we can all intuit our true nature, who we really are, is not that, but it still feels awful and it still sucks when we’re in the thick of it.

I know that low moods are a highly distorted state of mind.

Meaning that what looks and feels absolutely real to us in that state of mind, is actually not at all accurate or reliable. It feels like it is, but it isn’t. 

Knowing (or even just being willing to consider) that this is true allows us to take our perceptions a little (or a lot) less seriously.

I know that low moods are something that every single human being experiences. Everyone. No exceptions. 

Realizing that truth allows me to have compassion for others and for myself because no one is immune, it’s not pleasant, and we’ve all been there recently or are there now.

I know that in low moods we’re all doing the best we can. Sometimes we’ll do things we wish we didn’t do, but that’s okay. We’re all human, we’re all trying our best given how life looks to us in that moment.

That view, fortunately, is also always changing but in the meantime we can let our best be good enough and know we have limitless opportunities for it to be different next time.

I know there is no one “right way” to move gracefully through low moods.

Sometimes grace looks like having a good cry, stretching it out on my yoga mat and taking a hot shower.

Sometimes grace is reaching out to a loved one, sometimes it’s distracting myself for a good long while, sometimes it’s baking peanut butter cookies and watching The Office.

There are literally infinite ways we can move gracefully through low moods. It’s never in the what, it’s in knowing we can be kind and gentle with ourselves when we’re not feeling our best.

Is there a right way? No, there’s only what’s right for you, right now, in this moment.

So if you’re feeling like shit, there’s one last thing I want you to know.

Yes I want you to know all the above: that it’s temporary, that you’re guaranteed to eventually feel better, that I understand how awful it feels, that fortunately it’s a distorted view of reality, that compassion is always available for us and others, that we’re doing the best we can, that everyone else has been there and there’s no right way to move through it with grace… but I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

Nothing is ever wrong with you.

You are just as perfect, whole, complete, healthy, wise, well and peaceful as you’ve always been, even if you can’t feel the truth of that in this moment.

Nothing can take away your essence.

Nothing can alter your true nature.

So the low mood survival guide comes down to simply this: you always are okay, even when you don’t feel okay, and it’s okay that you don’t always feel okay and you’re free to do whatever helps you remember that you’re okay, always.

With all my love,

Shannon