On Burnt Cookies

What makes a conversation about the nature of human experience so different than talking about the details of the human experience is that it looks to the root, the origin, the very foundation of what makes something so.

Almost all, if not all, of psychology, self-help and popular advice is focused on the content of our thinking. By contrast, learning about the principles underlying our psychological experience directs us to the moment of creation instead of the details of what is already created. 

A metaphor that I absolutely love for this is that of baking cookies. Imagine we were baking cookies and a batch didn’t turn out well. It could be for any number of reasons. Maybe they got burnt, or we accidentally used the wrong ingredients, or they taste too salty or not sweet enough; the why is not important.

If we don’t realize that we have an infinite supply of cookie dough, we’re quite naturally going to do our best to remedy the failed batch. Maybe this means covering them with icing, dipping them in milk or scraping off the burnt parts.

But once we see that we have unlimited cookie dough, and constant access to an oven, we’re free to just toss the bad batch in the trash and bake some fresh ones.

Once something is already formed, whether it’s baked cookies or thoughts, it’s really difficult to try to reform them.

It’s so much easier to allow new form to be created than to exhaust ourselves working on what has already formed. 

We do the mental equivalent of trying to scrape the burnt bits off our cookies when we try to think positive, talk ourselves out of how we’re feeling or otherwise ‘fix’ our experience.

Once thought is being brought to life by consciousness and creating our reality, it doesn’t serve us to dig around in our thinking to try to control our experience. It doesn’t help us to muck around with what has already been created and is naturally on its way out.

Once we see for ourselves how temporary that experience is, we can look towards the next batch of thinking, the fresh cookies that are going to look, smell and taste much different. 

We’re not stuck with the one batch that didn’t turn out well, thought is always being created within us, making up our reality as we go along. There’s a constant flow, like a never-ending river.

It’s so reassuring, for me at least, to know that we don’t know what we’re going to be thinking even an hour from now, let alone a week from now.

Most, if not all, of psychology and self-help are in one way or another picking up the burnt cookies and asking questions like:

“What’s wrong with this person that would make these cookies wonky?”

“What happened in their past?”

“What personality traits should they develop to prevent this from happening?” and so on.

The inside-out understanding doesn’t concern itself with what form the cookies happen to take in any given moment, because that’s just the form energy took in that given moment. It doesn’t mean anything about the person, their current life situation or their future. 

The self-correcting the mind is always working to clear away old thought and bring us new thought. Fresh cookies are always on the way. We’re never stuck eating the batch that didn’t taste good or wasn’t good for us.

So next time we’re tempted to figure out our issue, solve our problem, fix our anxiety, manage our depression or otherwise change our thinking about certain things, we can take comfort in the fact that the next batch is already in the oven and there’s infinite more batches right behind that one.

On Self-Correcting Minds

Did you know human beings are designed to evolve, to improve, to heal? I didn’t always know.

In fact, when I first heard that the mind is self-correcting I didn’t believe it.

I totally believed that if the mind is to be corrected, it was up to me to actively correct it. It felt irresponsible not to! When I was feeling anxious I thought I was responsible for fixing that feeling, so I would try techniques or tools that I was told would make me feel better.

I didn’t know I didn’t need techniques. I didn’t know I didn’t need to fix, change, resist or ‘work on’ my anxiety.

And I especially had no clue that all of that work and effort were actually counter-productive to having a different, better experience of life.

The mind is designed to self-correct. Naturally, when we cease interference, healing happens. The same way our body heals cuts, scrapes and bruises, our minds heal stress, anxiety and depression.

The same intelligence powering our physical healing powers our psychological healing as well.

So if this is true, why do we so rarely experience it?

We never leave our thinking alone long enough to let the natural processes work. We’re so conditioned by the belief that our mental distress is serious, problematic, personal, and caused by something external to us that we do the mental equivalent of poking and prodding our cuts and wondering why they’re not healing.

It’s a vicious cycle, because we believe we have to do something to feel better, we keep looking outside ourselves for what we think will make us feel better. When they don’t work at all, or only work a little, or only work for a short time, we feel the same, if not worse, and we feel hopeless.

And then when we feel hopeless we take that as evidence that our anxiety, stress or mental distress really is bad, really is serious, and really does need to be fixed. So once again we look outside ourselves for some way to feel better and the cycle repeats itself, never allowing us the time and space to see what happens when we stop interfering.

We never leave our minds alone long enough to see the natural healing occur.

When I was invited to try leaving my experience alone, even when it was scary, even when it looked like I should be doing a lot more than “nothing”, I discovered that what I had heard is true: the mind has a propensity to self-correct, to heal, to improve, and it was the most natural thing ever.

Within months the anxiety I had struggled with for as long as I could remember fell away. My obsessive-compulsive tendencies stopped being compelling. Negative memories from the past lost their gripping emotional charge.

And the best part was I didn’t have to “work on” my experience. It changed on its own, as human experience always does, because that’s its nature.

If I didn’t understand that my interference was doing more harm than good, I would still be trying to work on thoughts and feelings I didn’t like.

But when you really get that the way to let unpleasant experiences pass by is just to leave them alone and let them pass by, you tend to let that happen a lot more.

Of course as all humans do, I still sometimes get caught up in my thinking and innocently obstruct the natural flow. But give it enough time and I either wake up to the fact that working on my thinking is counter-productive or I just notice after the fact that the unplesant experience has passed and I feel like myself again: calm, peaceful and full of love and wonder.

If you don’t know the mind self-corrects, it’s not likely you’re going to allow it the time and space to self-correct. It does, and it will, and it’s so much more simple, effective and freeing than having to effort our way to change.

Change is always occuring, all we have to do is see that so we can allow it to occur more easily and naturally.

On Misunderstanding Worry

Worrying is our imagination running wild making up all kinds of possible future scenarios. These scenarios then require solutions, so we make up “solutions” to all our what ifs. We make up what could go wrong, we make up how we’ll react in the moment, and we make up what needs to be done, avoided, changed, prepared for, on and on until we’re exhausted.

We believe we’re feeling bad because of the thing we’re worrying about. We believe that thing causes us to be worried, so naturally we engage in some worrying, and eventually we feel better.

Because we eventually feel better, we tend to conclude there’s some usefulness in worrying and overthinking. 

It seems logical: something happens to us that causes our anxiety, we feel anxious about it, we use our brains to cope with it, and at some point we feel good enough to carry on with life.

Without really giving it much thought we make two mistakes: we reckon something outside of us can cause us to feel a certain way and we reckon that worrying about it can help us to feel better.

This is simply not true. Our brains have innocently made a connection between what happened before we felt better and our feeling better. We’ve been played. We’ve fallen for a trick of the mind.

We feel more settled because mental health is our default. It’s our home base. Our natural disposition.

Thoughtstorms, like real storms, pass on their own because they’re part of a larger natural order.

Our minds clear hundreds, if not thousands, of times each day. Yet we rarely notice it because we’ve never been taught that’s how it works. When we don’t know how something works, we tend not to look towards its natural workings and see what’s always there.

We live in a world of thought. Thought is so prevalent in our life that we don’t really notice it come and we don’t really notice it leave. Though it’s easy to miss there is always a natural movement – that’s just the nature of thought.

Yes, we felt better after worrying… but that good feeling was going to be felt anyway. Your mind was going to clear anyway. Your thinking was going to settle anyway. Your peace of mind was going to be felt anyway. 

That’s the default. It’s how the system works.

You are feeling better now, not because you successfully accomplished something with worry, but in spite of it.

Humans naturally experience internal weather: ups, downs, sunny, cloudy and snowstorm kind of days. It’s not tied to our external circumstances, as much as we’re tricked into believing it is.

It’s just faulty logic to think our worry paves the way for our secure, peaceful feelings. Our worry can cover up our peace of mind, but it can’t create it as a by-product. 

Our habitual worrying is based on a misunderstanding of usefulness. It’s not.

Our minds are designed to clear. We naturally bounce back from stressful, anxious or worried thinking. And that whole naturally healthy system functions a lot better the less we mess with it.

 

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.