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We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality – Albert Einstein
I work a lot with people who come to me in the hope of losing weight. The majority of them have learned to be extremely harsh with themselves due to their weight, they see the weight they are carrying to be a scourge that they feel unable to see the end of, and so they are always surprised when I point out to them that “we are the lucky ones!”
As I wrote in my book “The Gentle Path to Definitive Weight Loss”
“One of my relatives was recently diagnosed with gallstones and was immediately prescribed a low-fat diet. He’s not allowed eggs, red meat, any fried food, any oils or anything containing cholesterol. However, he never was a big eater of fatty foods and actually has a fairly healthy diet; he has never had a problem with weight gain, he is somebody that actually could be classed as underweight particularly for his height, yet when he was just in his fifties he suffered a heart attack and has since been under medication…”
What I point out is that my relative had absolutely no visible signs of any metabolic condition that could remotely lead to a heart attack or other metabolic related problems. The reason I say that “we are the lucky ones” is because we have a clear and visible sign on the outside that something on the inside is off track somehow and because we know that, we can see what we can find to do about it before we get to the stage of having a heart attack or gallstones.
And, so it is with this understanding of the nature of the human experience. We’re the lucky ones who have an understanding of how we function psychologically. We know that we are creating our experiential reality on a moment to moment basis via the gift of thought; we know that the formless energy behind life is being brought into consciousness via thought; we know that we can only ever be victims of our own thinking. We can see for ourselves what we are doing.
99% of the population are not aware of how we create our experience of life. 99% of the population believe that they are tributary to whatever happens to be going on in their surroundings. 99% of the population, as we once were too, have been duped into believing that what they think is real and that, because they think it, things cannot be any other way.
But because we have learned to see the mechanism of our experience, the knowledge of that allows us to see what we can find to do about it before we get caught up and stuck in our own thinking before we end up with psychological gallstones and heart attacks.
When I was young, I would often burn myself taking food out of the oven. As it happened, I would get lost in my thinking about how much it hurt and, invariably, I would end up with a massive blister that would be painful for several days.* Now, as I am older, I still can burn myself in the oven but as it happens, I just say to myself “oh, burnt myself a bit” and, funnily enough, I don’t get blisters anymore and if it hurts, it only hurts for a very short time. Interestingly, I also find I burn myself a whole lot less now than I did when I was younger – simply because I have learned how to get in and out of the oven without getting burnt.
And it’s very similar in life. We can get “burnt” by our own thinking and we can keep going there, focalising our attention on the burn, which will ultimately make it far more painful than necessary. The beauty in this understanding of the three principles, is that we realize we don’t have to keep putting our hand in the oven. We have the choice of getting burnt, thinking about it, not thinking about it and not getting burnt at all but when we do get burnt, and let’s face it, everybody cooks, we realize that we did it ourselves and that it’s not the oven’s fault.
But more than that, once we have learned how the oven works, we know how to approach it without getting burnt, or at least without getting burnt quite as much.
I don’t know why human beings have this unique ability to create pain for themselves with their own thinking. What appears clear, is that it is not what thought was originally designed to do, but that this is something that we have learned to do over time.
Our saving grace in all of that is our wisdom, which ironically is coming from the same source as our own personal thinking, and that wisdom is there to guide us away from the pain and hurt, away from the lostness, it is the guide that will lead us back home to our well-being, it’s the constant in the midst of the ebb and flow of our own personal thinking.
When we find ourselves in trouble because of our personal thinking, our bodies will produce physical symptoms, everything going from fatigue to extreme cases of mental illness and this too is our saving grace. In the same way as weight gain is a signal that our metabolism is off track, in those moments, and in the beauty of this understanding again, we learn to recognize more and more early the “physical symptoms” related to our own painful thinking; we become aware that our thinking is off track and that it is simply time for us to take stock of what we’ve been doing ourselves and allow for a quiet space for the thoughts to return to their natural fluid state. We allow the oven to cool down.
That’s the wisdom… and in all honesty, to live a peaceful and fulfilled life, if that’s the only “thing” you have then you already have a guarantee of a peaceful and fulfilled life.
When you are able to pick up on the off-track thinking and the off-track accompanying symptoms, then there’s your insight. There’s nothing else to do as the system is designed to self-correct and, no matter how crazy your thinking might become, the underlying peacefulness and well-being is still present as a constant.
When we are looking at mental illness and labelling people with such and such a “mental condition”, then we are going in the wrong direction. You see, we all have crazy thinking and if we’re honest, I would say we all have some crazy thinking on a daily basis. But looking to see what is going on in our heads as a measure of our mental stability is distancing us from our mental wellness.
In a recent discussion with a friend who had been having some troubles, she had been in a very low state for quite some time and was pushing herself to stay “up” and being very harsh on herself. Ultimately she pushed her system to the limit, which ended with an episode of total lostness where she didn’t know where she was and was unable to discern between what was real or imagined. She became afraid and used the expression “I’m going insane”. I pointed out to her that insanity is not the wild thinking that we have; it’s not those people who have hallucinations and a couple of days later become aware that they had some kind of episode because they have simply been pushing their systems too much.
Insanity is ignoring the voice of wisdom. Insanity is when we don’t waken up to the illusion of our own thinking and when we believe that what we are thinking is real, despite that voice in our head guiding us back to our well-being.
Insanity is some guy sitting in a car, blaming his circumstances and everybody in them, for his dis-ease and as you watch that person’s video, you can see the voice of wisdom telling him that he’s going the wrong way and that he doesn’t have to do what he is thinking of doing. When you can see him ignoring that wisdom, not believing that wisdom, then you are witnessing true insanity. Insanity is when we shut out and become immune to our own voice of wisdom.
What I said to my friend was that she was lucky because she has the ability to recognize what is going on with her own thinking and in seeing that, she can tap into her wisdom that will always bring her home. If we only looked at her thinking then we might say she was insane but, given that she can see what’s going on, for me, she is one of the sanest people I know.
Because this much is true: no matter the level of dis-ease that we can drive ourselves to, it only takes one new thought to snap us out of it. As Syd Banks said, “we are but just one thought away from happiness”. One thought is all it takes. All we have to “do” is be and to listen for it, seethe possibility of it.
Neil de Grasse Tyson is re-launching the Cosmos series that was originally done by the astrophysicist Carl Sagan. In a recent clip we see him walking on a beach with a dog on a leash (link to video here). In the clip he is talking about climate change vs. weather. As the dog meanders all around, Neil de Grasse Tyson walks in a fairly straight line and as he does so, he explains that the dog represents the weather, the weather that can be all up and down and all over the place but he, NDGT, represents the global climate walking in a fairly constant line. He finishes by saying that the weather is not an indication of climate change and that if we want to know what is going on with the climate to, “keep your eye on the man”
If we transpose that scientific fact onto the climate vs. weather of our human psychological functioning we quickly see that our thinking, the weather, can be all over the place but when it comes to the climate of our psychological well-being, peacefulness, compassion and yes, LOVE; that constant that never goes anywhere and, more importantly, is neither affected by the weather of our personal thinking, then it seems a good idea to “keep your eye on the man”.