Giving Up

There’s a paradox I’m seeing more deeply lately, that brings with it an enormous feeling of relief: giving up is how I get what I’m looking for.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately hanging out and exploring the unknown. Asking the big questions. Getting quiet. Going inwards.

The unknown is this gorgeous space of pure possibility. It’s essentially what we have yet to discover, to learn, to be made aware of.

It’s a place where all my ideas of myself, others, life, work, and health are getting gently placed aside so I can see what else there is to see.

Something outside the box of everything I already think, believe, assume and “know”.

And as often happens when I’m sitting in the unknown, new things eventually become known.

That space gets filled with so much clarity, love, peace and joy that I sometimes find myself in tears.

But what I’ve come to see is that the more I “try to hang out in the unknown to get my answers” the less answers I get.

The more I try to think different thoughts than what I currently think, the more I tend to keep thinking the same things.

The more I feel like I need to figure something out, the less figuring out happens.

The more I feel I need to know like right now because time is of the essence and I don’t have days, weeks or months to wait, the longer the wait is and the more my urgency gets in the way.

The secret? Give up.

If I want answers I have to stop trying to get answers.

If I want different thoughts than what I’m currently getting I have to stop trying to get different thoughts.

If I want to figure something out I have to stop trying to figure it out.

If I want to know anything that’s currently unknown I have to stop trying to know anything.

It’s so simple it’s almost too good to be true.

When I’m sitting at my desk with my notebook trying to make a plan, get some answers, figure some things out, I end up feeling more stuck, more frustrated and more hopeless than when I started.

As soon as I resign, the magic happens.

When I truly accept that I don’t know and that’s okay, I go for a walk to get pizza, or put on some music and take a shower, or sit by the fire and just let my mind go blank… and that’s when I get what I’m looking for.

The answer appears. The solution is obvious. The new thought shows up. The situation gets figured out.

And I didn’t have to do a single thing but give up and go enjoy my life, however that looks in the moment.

There’s a reason I have my best ideas on the chairlift. Or why I often pause the tv show to jot down a brilliant idea. Or why hiking through the forest does wonders for my clarity of mind.

New, fresh thought is the default. When we’re not getting in the way by “trying” to get it, we just simply get it.

Could life be any more simple? 😉

Why Am I Not Getting It?

This week I got emailed the really good (and really common) question: why am I not getting it and how can I improve my chances of insight?

I wanted to share my response because there’s something all of us can see in this, whether we’re feeling mega stuck or like we just want to get out of our way more:

Hi lovely,
What a great question! I think a lot of people wonder this and I’m going to do a video on it for the new program (A Fresh Life) because it comes up so often!

Here’s how it looks to me: Most of us try to take in this understanding as we do subjects in school.

We try to remember the key points, take notes and compare/contrast it with what we already know… oftentimes we don’t even know we’re doing this because it’s simply how we were taught to learn.

But what keeps it from sinking in at a deeper level is we’re not listening to get impacted, we’re listening to learn it intellectually: as facts, information and concepts.

What I mean by listening to learn is that we’ve been taught to use our personal thinking to learn things.

Yet our personal thinking is the very thing that’s keeping us from deeply feeling the truth of who we are. The only thing that gets in the way of love, truth, beauty, aliveness, our true nature… is our personal thinking.

So we’re using our personal thinking (aka our intellect) to learn about our personal thinking (aka our intellect), and then wonder why can’t see beyond the intellect.

Can you see how that’s counterproductive?

It’s really not our fault… we were taught to think about everything even though thinking about everything is the worst way to learn anything.

Take young kids for example, they don’t know they’re supposed to “study” or “learn” or “remember” so they just go through life being curious and open and before you know it they’re talking, walking, creating, and fully engaging in life.

They learn like sponges, soaking up the world around them. They never took notes or stopped to think about what they’re learning or how to process the information.

As a result learning happens naturally by osmosis, by feeling, by the ‘click’ of common sense that’s built-in to all of us since day one.

As adults we forget how to listen and learn in this very natural way. So we try to listen and try to learn which is counterproductive. But for the trying it would naturally be happening without our input or effort.

Trying to learn is the main thing getting in the way of learning.

But for our trying to get it, or trying to learn it, or trying to have insights, or trying to let it sink it, it would just be sinking in, we would be having insights, we would just be getting it more and more.

So as counterintuitive as it seems, if you want to “get it” more, you have to stop trying to get it.

You have to hear the things you’re hearing and read the things you’re reading as though you’re listening to good music or reading a fiction novel: approach it full of fascination and curiosity instead of analyzing and thinking.

The actual timing of insights is totally out of our control, you cannot make them happen but fortunately you don’t need to: they’re built-in to the system and bound to happen when we get out of the way.

So if you’re trying to “get it”, give yourself a huge break and then another, even bigger break for good measure. Give yourself the biggest break you’re humanly capable of.

There’s nothing to get. There’s nothing to see.

It’s a paradox because everything you’re looking for is already within you. When you give up trying to “get it” and can be content without it, it tends to show up right before your very nose 🙂

Lots of love xx

Shannon

On the Mystery of Wisdom

Wisdom: A word often used to describe the innate intelligence of all living things, including us.

Human beings generally don’t like not knowing things. We don’t do well with uncertainty, surprise or the unknown.

So often when I discuss the truth that we are made of wisdom, people want to know what wisdom will say.

How will it show up?

What will it have me do?

What solution will it come up with?

What new thinking will I have?

How will I see things differently?

What will occur to me?

And the truth is: I don’t know.

I know wisdom is within all of us; it’s the very essence of our being. It’s wisdom that’s beating our hearts, breathing our lungs and dividing our cells.

It’s wisdom that’s moving experience through us, and giving us something new and fresh in each moment.

But the form it’ll take? We have absolutely no clue.

It’s a bit like signing up for a mailing list. We know we’ll get something on the related topic: if we’re signing up for a culinary list we’ll get recipes. If we’re signing up for a yoga list we’ll get yoga practices. If we’re signing up for a music list we’ll get recently released songs.

But the form it’ll take? No clue. The recipe, the song, the practice… it’s completely unknown.

But we know we’ll get something.

If we can relax into the certainty that something will show up: a new solution, thought, perspective, idea, or action…

Then we can stop concerning ourself with the who, what, when, how of it and relax into our lives more.

We don’t have to sign up to the “wisdom” mailing list. It’s automatically set on “deliver indefinitely” when we’re born.

So we either understand that it’s inherently unknown yet reliable.

Or we think we should know it and drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out what will be sent and when.

Or we think it’s not reliable and stress ourselves out over what will be sent and when.

Both become unnecessary when we see that wisdom is 100% reliable but 98% unpredictable, as my mentor Michael Neill likes to say.

We don’t know what we’ll get, but we can relax into the fact that we’ll get something, we simply can’t not.

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 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