It can seem overly simplistic to say that thought creates our experience. Most of our thoughts are so invisible to us they don’t look like they generate our personal reality. When I tell my clients their experience comes from thought, some only see the simplicity of this explanation and miss the profundity of the implications. The understanding is then initially dismissed as unhelpful. Others struggle to see that thought has anything to do with creating their experience. Instead, they see their experience as sourced from outside of them, the result of circumstances and situations.
I was that way for many years. I thought my suffering came from outside of me. I believed if I had a different husband or more money then I would be happy. Then I shifted my focus to fixing myself. If I was less shy, less anxious, less sensitive, experienced less self-doubt, then I would be content.
I failed to notice that my experience changed independent of my husband, finances, or personal character traits.
Sometimes I would be madly in love with my husband and then other days I would want nothing to do with him. He was still the same man. I didn’t see how my state of mind changed and my quality of thinking shifted with it. Some days I wouldn’t feel insecure, and I would feel good about myself. Other days I would feel crushed by self-doubt. I was still the same human being. It didn’t occur to me that the quality of my thinking was the source of my experience. Instead, I assumed there was something wrong with me, and I need to be fixed.
At the time, I did not understand that my natural state is loving. I thought I had to work on myself to get to that good feeling state. This was before I had an extended experience of a quiet mind in which I was flooded with wonderful feelings of open heartedness, good will, love, and peacefulness. There was also a neutrality present in which there was no good and bad, there simply was. I still had personal thoughts come and go, but they seemed like blips on a radar screen. I didn’t give them a lot of meaning, and they would just float by. I, also, still had all of the personality traits that I previously thought I needed to fix. In this state of mind, however, I had no desire to change them, and I knew they had nothing to do with my value, worth, and happiness.
This experience helped me to know I am not my thinking, nor am I my feelings. My essence is loving and the only thing that gets in the way of me experiencing my essence is when I lose my neutrality and get caught up and identified with right-wrong thinking. At these times, I don’t experience my true nature. When this occurs, the best thing I can do is to relax and let my thinking settle until I can, once again, re-experience the natural state of love and equanimity that is inside of me.
It is with great compassion that I point my clients in the direction of seeing their suffering is being innocently self-generated. My intention is to help them see and experience their natural state of peace and wellbeing by helping them to dis-identifying with their insecure thoughts. I hope to help them to see they live in the feeling of their thinking, and when their personal thinking settles, there is an impersonal level of thought available to them that comes with a beautiful feeling. This is available to each one of us. We don’t need to work to get there. It is a process of waking up to what already exists.
This teaching can be discombobulating for clients. I have been accused of not understanding, being out of touch, and not having compassion. Many of the clients I work with have had years of therapy or involvement in self-help in which the “outside-in” version of how experience is created is validated.
They have either been told their suffering is inevitable because of their past, because of their brain chemistry, because of the people in their lives, or in order to feel better,they need to work on changing themselves. From either perspective, the way forward involves effort to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with suffering that has no end in sight.
If our wellbeing is determined by anything other than thought, we will only ever be victims to forces outside of our control. If our wellbeing, is actually our natural state that is always available to us, then we are empowered. Even if we are not connected with our wellbeing in the moment, we know it is just one thought away.
It wasn’t until I woke up to the fact that I was creating my experience of suffering in the moment that I was able to transform it. I thought I was burdened by my past, challenged by current life circumstances, and the victim of difficult people. From this perspective, I was sentenced to a life of anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. I believed I just needed to keep working harder so someday I might actually feel good and not feel bad.
The truth is this only succeeded in me having more time when I felt stressed, anxious, and depressed. What I eventually saw is that it does not matter what happened to me or what my current circumstances are, all that matters is that I have the capacity to not identifying with the thoughts, beliefs, judgments that are the source of my suffering.
When I saw that, I didn’t even need to change the negative thoughts. They no longer had a hold on me. I also let go of the pressure that I needed to feel good all of the time. By understanding when I feel bad, I am caught up in my insecure thoughts. I am not in my natural state. I was able to have more compassion and be kinder to myself when this happens. I stopped making myself wrong for not always feeling good, and realized it wasn’t a big deal because it was only temporary.
Recognizing that thought creates my experience has had a profound impact on my life. I am empowered to choose not to fuel negative thinking. I am also aware that when I can’t help myself, and I do get gripped by limiting beliefs, I don’t need to take myself too seriously. I can be gentle with myself until I find my bearings and can see clearly again.
I am no longer a victim, even when I feel like one. Seeing all of this, has helped me to take all of my insecure thoughts more lightly so I can reside in the beautiful feelings of impersonal thought more often.