Whilst working with a client recently he told me that he was feeling anxious and I was curious so I asked why..
“I have a meeting this week” he replied.
“Please tell me more” I asked.
“It’s a big meeting, with a huge company and it could not only change my month, this could change my year and even my career”.
“I want to get it right, make a good impression and get the outcome that I need”.
“What will happen if it doesn’t go well?” I asked.
“That would be a disaster, could effect my chances of promotion, I may even have to find myself a new job.”
As I listened to my client a few things started to occur to me. I could see that his thinking was creating a lot of unhelpful layers and I know from personal experience that when I start to layer insecure thinking, it distorts whatever I am dealing with or trying to achieve.
It’s like when I go to the opticians and they alter the lenses, I can barely see what’s in front of me. The letters on the board in front of me haven’t changed, I’m just not able to see them clearly.
I said to my client “it seems you have a lot of commas and not a lot of full stops.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Let me give you a scenario. I say to you I’m going on a blind date tomorrow. You ask if I am looking forward to it… I’m not so sure. What happens if we don’t get on, or the conversation dries up, I like her but she doesn’t like me, or visa versa..”
He said “I see what you mean. Is it always a bad thing to have lots of commas?”
“I’m not saying it’s bad to have commas. It’s more that if we don’t see what is going on its very easy to find ourselves distorting what is front of us.
Do you remember what you were telling me when we sat down half an hour ago? I am going away on holiday on Sunday. Looking forward to the sun, lounging by the pool, long relaxing walks, visiting new places, experiencing different food. There are still lots of commas, they are just coming from a clearer, less gripping state of mind”.
“How do I know the difference between helpful and unhelpful commas?” He asked.
“What was the difference between your two examples of the meeting and the holiday?”
“That’s easy” he said. “The feeling”
“Great” I said.
There is always information in the feeling. A thermometer will reliably let you know the temperature in that moment. Not yesterday or tomorrow, this moment. Your feelings are just as reliable. They will let you know exactly where your mind is at in this moment. Not yesterday or tomorrow.
Take a moment to think how easy it is for you to entertain too many commas and how that can play out in your mind. What would happen if you had more full stops and less commas?
The fact that you have read this article will help you to be more aware of those times when we lose sight of what is in front of you and bring you back to the moment.
I had a recent conversation with a client who had come to me with a few personal challenges. During the session we found ourselves in a quiet mental space, where they started to see their challenges with a completely new perspective, accompanied with a “happy, contented feeling”. I was asked “how can I feel like this all the time?”. I could relate to this experience as I had previously wanted to feel good all of the time too. As we discussed this further, I was reminded of a great article by a colleague Michael Neill. ( see below)
The reality is that we are never going to be happy all of the time, however we can all experience a level of contentment regardless of our state of mind.
Abandoning the Quest for 24/7 Happiness
When I first began studying psychology and spirituality nearly 25 years ago, I did it for completely selfish reasons. I was emotionally unstable, deeply depressed, and felt victimized by my brain chemistry. Anything that looked like it would give me the edge against such a fearsome enemy within was something I wanted to know about. Over the ensuing 18 years, I studied multiple disciplines, receiving nine separate certifications in fields ranging from Positive Psychology to Thought Field Therapy to Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I also experimented with various “medicines”, from drugs and alcohol to rituals and practices I came to call my “behavioral Prozac”.
But despite the rich variety of theories, practices, and methodologies, my goal in trying whatever I tried was always the same – to get more control over my emotional experience and move in the direction of “24/7 happiness” – a life of only positive feelings without any anger, sadness, insecurity, or fear. And there’s no question that my life got better. I was less unhappy more of the time, and capable of functioning at a much higher level when the black dog of misery had me in its grip.
So when I first began studying the principles behind the inside-out understanding, I did so in search of yet another weapon for my arsenal in the war against my darker nature. What I found, however, was not what I went looking for. Instead of discovering an even better way to manage my moods, I discovered that my emotions were not reflective of my nature – that they were in fact simply surface fluctuations atop a deep core of well-being.
To be honest, this discovery was equal parts liberating and disturbing. Having spent so much of my life battling against my moods (and worse still, often winning the battle), to discover that I was conquering shadows and defeating imaginary enemies was a bit disillusioning. Fortunately, as I got more deeply in touch with the peace of Mind, dis-illusionment started to look like a really good idea.
Here’s a metaphor for the human experience that might help you make more sense of this for yourself:
Imagine that you are riding on a giant barge, floating gently down a beautiful river. In the very center of the barge is a giant roller coaster, and your seat for the journey is in the front car. As the river carries the barge downstream, the roller coaster goes up and down, pausing every now and again before climbing its way to the next peak or plunging its way down into the valleys. At times it spins wildly, completely disorienting you; at other times you find yourself resting in the pause before the next ride.
Now imagine that your whole life, you had ridden the coaster with your eyes closed, believing that the roller coaster was the world and the river only a myth. What would happen the first time you opened your eyes and kept them open for every moment of the ride?
At first, you might be a bit disoriented and even frightened as you watched yourself and others go up and down and round and around at occasionally dizzying speeds. The first time you crested the heights of the coaster and saw the river clearly in all its glory, you would be so taken by the view that you would never want it to end. And when your revelation was followed by a plunge to the bottom of your world it might seem like all was lost.
But over time, you would begin to relax into the ride, spending less and less time trying to manage the ups and downs and more and more time enjoying the views along the way. You’d take comfort in the fact that no matter what was going on with the roller coaster, the river was always effortlessly supporting the barge along its journey. And you might even begin to enjoy pondering the mysteries of where the river came from, how you came to be on it, and where it might be taking you…
As I’ve seen a little bit more about the nature of the deeper mind that seems to carry us through life even while our personal thinking creates a roller coaster of emotion and drama, I’ve realized that chasing after 24/7 happiness is a bit like only ever wanting to be at the top of the coaster – not only does it not work that way, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun if it did. And all the energy we put in to managing the ride only serves to distract us from the river that is ever present, holding us up and carrying us along on our journey through life.
For me, abandoning the quest for 24/7 happiness has revealed a deeper truth and an even more magical possibility – the timeless presence of a river of wisdom and well-being that is no less present when we’re down than where we’re up, and no less powerful when we feel weak than when we feel like we’re on top of the world.
This timeless presence is our true nature – the essential well of our being, and the true source of peace in our lives. So while I may still find myself in a crappy mood from time to time, it hardly seems worth thinking about, let alone trying to fix it by figuring it out, tapping it away, or medicating it into oblivion. This too will pass, and remembrance of the river is never more than one thought away.
If you have watched, listened or read any of my material you will be aware that my work with my clients is focused entirely around the understanding of the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. Much of my work is spent in the company of traders, sales teams and other business professionals.
Dealing with high achievers has interesting challenges. Having been a trader for much of my career I lived with many of these challenges. I believed innocently and incorrectly that my experience of life was coming from the outside, that how I felt at any time was coming from my circumstances, situations, people in my life, my past and my future etc. I believed that there was always somewhere to get to. This misunderstanding made me push myself more and more in the belief that the more I had the better I would feel.
“If this happens, I will feel…”
“I’ll feel happy, secure, relaxed (fill in whatever word you want) when this happens”
“When I get/achieve this I will feel….”
In other words getting x, y or z would give me something (a feeling)
What the Principles point to, is that our experience of life works one way and that is from the Inside out. It often seems that my wife, bank balance, business, clients etc. dictate how I feel. However, like the world being flat and the sun going around the earth appeared to be true and certainly looked it….they weren’t.
WE ARE ONLY EVER FEELING OUR THINKING IN THE MOMENT. It just appears to be coming from a whole host of other variables. As I began to look in this direction what became clear to me was that my factory default was wellbeing. This I realised didn’t just apply to me, but to everyone. Like a glitter ball that is motionless, the default setting is settled and clear.
After watching Lewis Hamilton cruise to his third Formula One world championship win in the USA. He came across the radio to his team “this is the best moment of my life”. He was clearly emotional and between cracks in his voice he displayed a humility that I for one hadn’t always seen in him.
It was at a post-race interview that he said something quite profound.
Often at this time of year I would often ask myself ”how can this year be my best year?”.
This would lead me into a search of, how am I doing and how can I do better? What do I want to achieve, how I can improve? etc. After reading an article recently a fresh question came to mind….
How can this be my most enjoyable year?
With a small change between’ best’ and ‘enjoyable’, a lot seemed to change. I realised that I was always looking to improve and when I did improve in a certain area, I would then look to improve some more. Thus meaning wherever I was, I would always be looking to be somewhere else.
As I pondered this new question “how can this be my most enjoyable year”? I had a host of new thinking. Firstly, I felt more relaxed, as if I had just stepped off of the treadmill. There seemed nowhere for me to get to. I saw more clearly how my mind had previously tricked me out of the moment and into the illusion that somewhere, even anywhere, was better than where I was and if I could just get there, everything would be different.
A metaphor that I love is about a group of children at a fun fair in a wooden barrel. As they walk in the barrel it seems they have to walk quicker to keep up with the barrel and the quicker they walk the faster the barrel moves. Eventually they would fall over and it would stop. However, they were never keeping up with the barrel, but the barrel was keeping up with them. But for their feet moving the way they were the barrel would be still. This is how life used to seem to me, that I was keeping up with life and the more I wanted, the bigger P+L I was after, the better I thought I had to be, was like feet in the barrel, always moving but never seeming to get where I thought I wanted to be.
This took me back to when I was first introduced the ‘inside out nature of life’. Previously I believed that striving for more, to improve, that when I get there or have that my life will be better, happier or I will be more successful. On my journey to understanding how life/ experience/ mind works, It was pointed out to me that this is part of the illusion and that there is only the here and now and the clearer we see the illusion the more the noise falls away. The more the noise falls away the better we do.
”Can it really be that simple?”, was a question I would often ask myself… Yes, it can.