On True Happiness

Happiness can feel so fleeting. One minute we have it, the next minute we’ve lost it and we then try to figure out what we need to do or change to get it back. But this relies on a misunderstanding – that happiness is something we get from the outside world.

I’m sure you’ve already heard that happiness comes from within. But no matter how many times we hear it, it still feels elusive and still looks like it’s coming from external circumstances. Our cultural misunderstanding is reinforced hundreds of times each day because almost everyone believes we live in an outside-in paradigm of psychological experience.

Happiness, along with joy, gratitude, and love, come from within because every experience of life comes from within. The only thing we can ever experience is our thinking in the moment. Feelings of happiness are the shadow of thoughts of happiness. Feelings of sadness are the shadow of thoughts of sadness. Regardless of the form of the experience, it only ever works inside-out.

Moment to moment, thought is creating our experience and consciousness is making us aware of the creation. Moment to moment we feel what is on our minds, not what is in our lives. If we have anxious thoughts, we will feel anxious. If we have happy thoughts, we will feel happy. And when our thinking quiets down, we default into a beautiful feeling of peace and contentment.

Your anxious, sad, happy, or joyful thoughts are not caused by anything external; they’re not coming from ‘real life’. We have a collective social and cultural misunderstanding about what is the cause and what is the effect of our experience. That external happenings cause certain thinking in our minds is a myth we fall for everyday.

We’ve been taught our whole lives that some situations and circumstances are inherently unhappy ones. We can try to cope with them, numb from them, or change them but we certainly can’t experience a natural happiness while they’re occurring. Not death, not divorce, not debt.

We’ve been taught to believe our minds are like cameras, collecting snapshots of life the way it truly is with little, if any, subjectivity. The truth is that our minds function more like paintings, our thoughts are the paint creating an image on the canvas we call “reality”.

Rather than the cause being the situation and the effect being our thinking, we start to wake up to the fact that the cause is our thinking and the effect is that we experience that thinking as our reality. We are constantly creating our personal realities, we always have been and we always will be.

Fortunately as human beings peace of mind is our natural state. When we live in a clear mind and a light heart, good feelings are felt automatically. We will still always experience our thinking but when that thinking settles down, as it naturally does, we just feel at peace.

We feel at peace without having to do anything or rearrange the outside world in any way, and that, to me, is true happiness.


On Sneaky Moods

One of the most reassuring things to see within this understanding is to notice that when our moods drop, we lose our ability to see clearly. We temporarily lose touch with our essence of peace and well-being.

Thought is always being created within us, every single experience we’ve ever had is created via thought. We live exclusively in thought-created realities.

We are all gifted with psychological forces that bring the energy of thought to life and make it look as if we’re seeing the outside world as it is. In truth, we are seeing the world not as it is, but as we are.

In a low mood, the exact same circumstance will look vastly different than in a high mood. Intuitively we know this, but it’s easy to forget. We know deep down that traffic, our partner or the weather aren’t consistent experiences for us.

Sometimes traffic feels like the universe conspiring against us and other times it’s a welcome opportunity to slow down and enjoy a song we love. Sometimes our partners look like horrible people trying to hurt us, yet later that same day we can’t believe how lucky we are to spend our precious lives laughing with them. One day we can curse the rain for draining us of energy and the next we can savour the sound of falling raindrops, smell the fresh air and feel renewal.

When we’re resting in our well-being, we naturally see the same situation more clearly. Decisions made from this place are naturally aligned with our true nature: well-being, love and wisdom.

Decisions made from a clear head, an open heart and a peaceful feeling can be trusted; they’re led by truth, not illusion.

Decisions made in a low mood are decisions made in a fog of personal thinking. They rarely align with what we want for ourselves and others. They’re often led by our desire to have less pain and more pleasure and there’s usually a sense of urgency or insecurity.

Think for a moment about hiking up a mountain. When we’re at the bottom of the mountain we can’t see very far in any direction or know where we’re situated in terms of the landscape. We might feel lost as we have limited perspective, and all we can see is identical looking trees. As we ascend, the same landscape looks completely different. We begin to realize that standing in the same spot, only higher, gives us a fresh view and reveals the big picture.

Unlike a hike, we don’t have to gather gear or expend energy to see life from a higher vantage point. Seeing from a calm, helpful perspective is our natural state. That’s always there underneath our thinking, and is seen once our thinking settles down.

Once we understand that things look different in a better mood we can stop trying to change our thinking. There’s nothing to do once we understand how the system works.

We need only understand that the mind is self-correcting to notice it self-correct. Our peaceful state and a fresh perspective is just one thought away.

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.