On Wisdom and Personal Thinking

Lately I’ve been getting asked the question: how can one tell the difference between wisdom and personal thinking?

If everything from our most anxious, depressed experiences to our most helpful natural guidance comes from the power of thought, how does one distinguish them and know which one to trust?

And for a long time I really thought this question could only be answered by looking at the content of what we think.

I thought I needed to compare my current experience to similar experiences in the past and assess from there.

Or even that I needed to compare it to other people, if it was “aligned” with what I noticed from the behaviour of others, I could guage how likely it was that it was wisdom.

Not only is that exhausting, it’s not even effective.

Fortunately, it’s so much more simple than that.

Human beings are beautifully designed and part of the kindness of the design is that we have a perfectly reliable feedback system as to what thinking we should take seriously.

It lets us know what thinking we should be listening to, acting on or following and what thinking we should be ignoring and allowing to change into something new.

The super helpful reliable feedback system is the feeling that accompanies the thinking.

And it’s a hard to describe a feeling because words have so many meanings but I’ll do my best.

When our experience feels expansive, light, free, airy, curious, playful, fun, inspiring, fresh, new, loving, interesting, open, helpful, fascinating or just downright obvious: a good feeling accompanies it.

When our experience feels heavy, tight, constricted, restricted, boring, monotonous, repetitive, habitual, closed, stuck, frustrating, stale or just downright unpleasant: no good feeling accompanies it.

Acting on the thinking that comes with a good feeling is how we know we’re operating in line with this greater intelligence that we’re all connected to: the very energy behind life that’s beating our hearts and breathing our lungs.

It’s how we know we’re coming from the space of our true nature, instead of coming from the space of biased personal thinking.

The feeling is designed to be our guide.

Red means stop. Wait. Take a pause. Breathe. Let something else come. Thought by nature is fluid and transient and it will bring us something new if we allow it to.

Good feelings are green. They tell us to proceed, to go forward with whatever it is, whether it’s creativity, inspiration, a helpful solution, a new perspective, a fresh thought… it’s all safe to trust and act from.

So we needn’t concern ourselves with the content of our thinking. It’s unnecessary and unhelpful to analyze, compare or contrast our thinking with other thinking.

If the thoughts bring a good feeling with them, go. That’s our wisdom shining through. Whether it’s subtle and ordinary or bold and inspiring, it’s simply a higher quality of thought that is wise and responsive to life.

If the thoughts bring a bad feeling with them, stop taking them seriously. Stop listening to them. Stop buying into their reality.

That’s a surefire sign you’re in distorted, subjective and untrue personal thought, and if you continue thinking about that thinking you’re bound to suffer, get in a tangle and innocently feed that experience.

Knowing that feelings are our built-in guide is incredibly helpful. Wisdom comes with a good feeling, personal thinking doesn’t.

On Thought

Today I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my new book True Nature Series: Anxiety.

Enjoy!

“Thought is the creative energy we’re all connected to that flows through our minds and allows us to have a human experience. This energy takes many different forms and its form is always changing.

Everything from the most fantastic ground-breaking discoveries to the most insecure nightmarish fantasies are simply different forms of this energy.

It’s an impersonal force that is infinitely creative, generative and imaginative.

Sometimes thought takes the form of anxious thinking. Sometimes thought takes the form of depressed thinking.

Sometimes thought takes the form of grateful thinking. Sometimes thought takes the form of curious thinking. It can and will take unlimited forms.

No matter what form it takes in any given moment, it never stops being a creative energy that flows into all of us, that gives us ideas, images, feelings, perceptions, emotions, concepts, structures and most importantly, an experience of being alive.

Without thought, there would be no experience of anything at all.

At its core it’s simply a force, an impersonal energy, that takes a momentary form in our awareness before changing form.

In my first book True Nature: An Exploration of Being Human (2018) I used the metaphor of colours flowing through us, with different colours creating different momentary experiences for us.

I also spoke about thought like waves, how every wave comes from the ocean, crashes on the shore and returns back to the ocean from whence it came.

Thought is universal in that every single human being operates the same way.

We all get a temporary, unique experience of this universal, impersonal energy. So even though every human being has experienced anxious thought, when it’s our anxious thinking, colouring our lives, our futures, our pasts, our relationships and ourselves it appears – but in truth isn’t – very personal, very unique and very problematic.

The fact that the system works the same in everyone shows us that in truth it’s completely impersonal, not at all unique, and not problematic in the slightest.

You’re about to see more about what’s behind that illusion, and learn about the trick we’re all falling for everyday…

On Insight

A question I often hear is some variation of

If the realization of these truths (often called insight) is what changes lives effortlessly, how do I have more insights?”

The bad news is you can’t force insights nor can you make yourself deeply realize a truth that you don’t yet deeply realize.

Because insights are a passive process any way of actively trying to make it happen won’t work and is quite frankly exhausting.

The good news is that the capacity for insight is built-in to the human system.

You’ve always been having insights even if you didn’t call it by that name or recognize that what shifted was in your mind, not in your life. 

You’ve had insights recently. Yes they might have been small, hardly noticed or explained away, but they’re still insights. You will always have insights, they’re part of the inevitable unfolding of life.

The more we can allow ourselves to relax and realize the job is already done for us, the less it’ll look like a good idea to try to force ourselves to have insights bigger or faster than we’re currently having.

Insights are like butterflies that land on your shoulder in a butterfly room (if you haven’t been to a butterfly room I highly recommended it, they are magical places).

The simple fact that you’re a human being means you’re already in the butterfly room.

If you want more butterflies to land on you, chasing them or begging them or running around trying to get closer to them is not going to work.

Instead you want to be still, open and completely unconcerned with which butterfly lands on which body part when.

Simply having an open mind and being willing to have new, fresh thinking about anything in your life (especially the things you believe can’t change)  is the psychological equivalent of relaxing on a bench in the butterfly room.

If you’re willing to see things differently and be wrong about what you think you know about life, you’re bound to see something new at some point. It’s inevitable.

It’s like sitting on the bench being curious as to which butterfly will land next  instead of frantically plotting, analyzing and figuring out how to draw the butterflies to you.

It’s peaceful, open and letting nature take its course as opposed to trying to get ourselves involved in a natural process.

The moment we’re less wedded to what we currently think we open the door to fresh thinking and seeing life anew.

On Driving From the Passenger’s Seat

Life has been giving me a (not so gentle) reminder lately…

Loud and clear it’s saying:

Hey, did you know you are not in control? Do you realise that you’re suffering because you mistakenly think you are?

You are not in control of what happens in your life, or in the lives of others, or what happens in the world.

You are not the driver of this vehicle. Sure, you can come along for the ride. You can be a front-seat passenger.

You can look out the window and enjoy the view. You can make up fun games. You can gather your favourite snacks and choose the best music and even make some suggestions about rest stops, destinations and detours from time to time.

But don’t forget: you’re not the driver.

And while that may sound victimy or passive at first glance, it actually comes with a lot of relief once I can see what’s behind it.

Drivers don’t get to nap on the job, they can’t chill out or shirk responsibility for any amount of time. They always have to be managing everything, sticking to schedules and consulting the GPS.

They’re constantly scanning the ever-changing environment, always actively doing something with an eye on the destination.

Lately though, I kind of forgot that I wasn’t the driver so I was trying to drive from the passenger seat, and failing miserably at it.

I was shouting instructions, repeating shoulder checks and trying to control the speed at which we were travelling.

It’s exhausting (not to mention impossible) to try to drive a car that you’re not actually driving.

I was trying to “do” life, deciding what should happen when, what shouldn’t happen at all and exactly when we should arrive where.

But life reminded me (probably for the hundreth time, if I’m honest): that’s not my job.

Yes, I can do something. I can look out the window and enjoy the ride. I can relax and ponder. I can get curious and reflective. I can daydream, laugh and sing along.

I can rest in my well-being. I can share the love and marvel in the views. I can connect with people whose paths I happen to cross. I can make the best of a rainy day.

I can do what occurs to me to do, make suggestions when it occurs to me to make them, and stay open to going places I’ve never been.

But make no mistake, I’m not driving. You’re not driving. We’re not the drivers of life.

Life is the driver of life. The Universe, the Unknown, Mind, the Life Force, and energy and intelligence of all things no matter what you call it… that’s the driver of life.

The more I relax and allow the driver do the driving, the nicer time I have.

I’m freed up to do what occurs to me to do as a passenger on the ride of life and let go of all the rest.

The timing? Not up to me. The destination? Not up to me. What other people do? Not up to me. My future? Not up to me.

All this suffering was just showing me I was trying to do something that’s not my job.

And that’s a really nice thing to know.

On Getting Out Of The Way

How do I grow sunflowers?

My friend and I recently planted a whole packet of sunflower seeds in her front garden because they’re our favourite flower.

I know that if I want sunflowers to grow in that specific patch of dirt, it’s helpful to plant seeds there. I also know that they need water and sunlight (both of which nature provides) in order for them to grow.

But how do I grow sunflowers?

Well the truth is, I don’t. Or more accurately, I can’t. Sunflower seeds turn into sunflowers because there’s a bigger energy, a life force, a universal intelligence, that takes care of it.

It’s simply not up to me. Since it’s in the cards for sunflower seeds to become sunflowers that will happen naturally, barring any interference in the system.

We work the same way. By nature, we are creativity, well-being, love, wisdom and peace of mind.

By design we are operated by the same life force that knows how to grow sunflowers. It also knows how to create kittens, heal wounds, digest our breakfast and run millions, perhaps billions, of other processes.

Essentially, it takes care of us. It runs us,  balances us, and can do the heavy lifting such that I never have to work out how to beat my heart… and yet it continues to beat.

The only thing that gets in the way of sunflowers expressing their true nature, or us expressing our true nature, is that occaisionally there’s temporary interference in the system.

Sometimes the land is too hot and dry, sometimes it’s too cold and wet, and the sunflowers have a hard time blooming. Sometimes we get lost in our stories, caught up in our beliefs and led astray by our personal thinking, and we don’t feel in touch with our true nature either.

Yet knowing what’s the default, and what’s simply sometimes in the way of the default, is immensely helpful.

When I need a new solution, a creative idea, a fresh perspective, a reminder of what’s available to me, a new thought, a feeling of connection, a sense of love, or a feeling of peace, I take comfort in knowing that’s the default.

I know the questions: How do I get peace of mind? How do I work out this problem? How do I feel love for this person? How do I feel well? is akin to the question I posed at the start of this post: How do I grow sunflowers?

I, with my human will, can’t. But fortunately I don’t have to, because it’s built-in to the system.

I live an easier, simpler life knowing that an inevitable fact of being human is that I, same as you, have well-being, wisdom and peace of mind as the factory settings.

And I also benefit immensely from understanding that when I’m feeling stuck, low, anxious, unwell, unclear, unbalanced, or anything else that doesn’t feel like home, that I’m simply experiencing some temporary static in the system that will clear out quickest when I leave my mind alone.

Where we so innocently get in our own way is we try to do something with what we think and how we feel. Instead of leaving the mind alone to self-correct we dive into the static and try to mess with it, not realising that the static is designed to clear out and return the signal to full strength.

If you’re not feeling love and connection, let your mind settle.

If you’re not feeling creative and resourceful, let your mind settle.

If you’re not feeling calm and contented, let your mind settle.

If you’re not feeling clear and wise, let your mind settle.

There’s nothing you need to do to get to these states, they are the default. 

When we’re not indulging the static it fades into the background effortlessly.

If you want to grow a sunflower, plant the seed and let nature take care of the rest. If you want to feel your true nature, plant the seed of understanding that there’s nothing you have to do to get yourself back there, and let nature take care of the rest.

On The Waves of Thought

Today I wanted to share another chapter from my book True Nature: An Exploration of Being Human in honour of recently releasing the True Nature Companion Course, enjoy!

GO WITH THE FLOW

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” Rumi

Thought and feeling come through us like waves on a shore. An ocean wave forms and then returns to the ocean, ready for the next wave to take form. Every thought/feeling wave we’ve ever had has come through our system, created a full sensory experience and then returned from whence it came.

This is why we’re not stuck in the same feelings we felt as kids. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had a moment where I truly believed that I would be stuck in a feeling forever, but time has proved that’s simply not possible.

Thought is always moving, always changing and always flowing, even when it’s not different enough to catch our attention.

Our brains are really efficient machines which tend to categorize similar feelings into one mood. So even while we’re in a bad mood, we’re still having hundreds of different thoughts, all with their corresponding feelings.

Once we’ve labelled it as ‘bad day’ we notice all the thoughts and feelings that support that, while ignoring or dismissing the outliers. The subtle nuances tend to get blurred together by the lens of how we’re seeing life in the moment.

The ocean of thought keeps making waves: temporary forms that crash on the shore, give us an experience, and leave. They’re random, unpredictable and impersonal.

Even on our worst days, days full of panic attacks, crippling not-leaving-my-bed depression, tough illness, or unexpected injury, there’s still variance from one moment to the next. There’s still flow, even if it’s not to the degree that we wish.

Even when it goes unnoticed, even when we label it away, there is still thousands of times a day where the energy of thought comes through us like waves on a beach.

It begins in the formless, takes a form, gives us the ensuing experience, and returns to the formless to make way for the next wave of experience.

This dance of energy is a universal constant, we don’t know what will show up next but we know something will. The content can be anything we could ever imagine, as it’s fully creative, pure potential.

Yet whether the next wave is an anxious sensation, a surprised reaction, a joyous thought, tears of gratitude, a pang of hunger, nostalgia, despair or absolute enchantment, anything and everything comes to us as waves from this eternal ocean.

The same energy that powers the tides, waves and ocean currents of physical bodies of water also powers our human experience. The details are always changing yet the underlying principle is a constant.

I find it so comforting to know that we have infinite waves ahead of us bringing us fresh thinking and new feeling, ultimately recreating our lives from the inside-out.

 

p.s. if listening is more your thing you can check out the audiobook here

 

On The Future Is An Incomplete Equation

As humans it’s far too easy to fall into the mistake of thinking a) that we know how things should turn out and b) that it’s up to us to make that happen.

Lately I’ve noticed myself falling back into that trap. The trap of “it really is in my best interests if x were to happen” followed by a whole load of thinking “now how can I make sure that that happens?”

To be honest, it was making me positively neurotic and frankly no fun to be around.

Because very little is in our control. Very little is up to us. 

And yet, we walk around in these bodies, with these thoughts and feelings, with these hopes and dreams, with these fears and dilemmas, with these expectations and projections, and we think the responsibility for our future well-being is on our shoulders.

It’s a heavy burden to bear. Thankfully, it’s not necessary.

The future is an incomplete equation is a line I first heard from Dr Keith Blevens and I really got what he was pointing to.

Not only do we not know what’s going to happen in the physical world (injury, illness, death of a loved one, bankrupty, breakups, the list is endless) but we also don’t know what our experience of anything will be in any given moment.

Our experience is a result of how the energy of thought shows up in us in the moment. We can’t predict the thoughts we’ll think, the feelings we’ll feel, the sensations we’ll experience, the great ideas that’ll arise, the sense of knowing we’ll have in our gut and so much more.

We can’t predict any of it. There’s too many moving parts, too many pieces of the puzzle constantly rearranging that it’s impossible to know what the future holds, even when (and I would argue especially when) we think we have it figured out.

And because experience is something that occurs, arises, comes into form, shows up, appears… does it really make sense to think it’s something we can control, manipulate, have power over, force, or make happen?

The idea of not having control scares the living daylights out of us. It makes us feel vulnerable, unprotected, and at the mercy of life.

But while we’re putting in lots of effort to try to control life, manage our experience and ensure our future happiness, we miss what we have going for us, always have had and always will have.

We miss that we have wisdom, and knowing, and intelligence that is innate.

We miss that we’re a small part of a larger universal unfolding.

We miss that we’re safe and okay even if injury, illness, death of a loved one, bankrupty and breakups are in our imminent future.

We miss that we’re in a flow of experience, an ocean with a million waves that look and feel different but can’t affect the deepest part of us.

And when I remember that it becomes clear to me that a) my idea of how things should turn out is just a wave of thought that I’m treating as solid truth and b) when I’m too busy trying to make life turn out a certain way I miss what I always have going for me.

I miss the moment. The today. The right now. The right here. The stellar jay that landed on my deck as I write this. The way the sun looks in the trees. The warmth of the tea in my cup. The feeling of my fingers on the laptop. The sound of the music coming through the speakers. The softness of the blanket.

The future is an incomplete equation. 

I don’t know what will happen. And yet that’s okay. I’m starting to see more and more it’s not up to me to make life conform to my ideas of how life should be. 

Because really what do I know? I could be, and have been, totally wrong before.

I’ve strived to make things happen only to discover that life was never meant to work out that way. I’ve had beautiful unfoldings, serendipitous coincidences and unexpected delights change my life in numerous ways.

But most importantly, I’m perfectly whole, complete and okay no matter what the future brings.