It’s the simple, ordinary stories that are the most powerful in helping us understand something which is often difficult to grasp. For example, how does an understanding of the workings of our mind help someone reconnect with their natural resilience and mental wellbeing?
Intellectually, I came to understand that the answer to this question is ‘no’. Nothing on the outside can be responsible for us feeling anything on the inside; we only ever feel our thinking. But there stubbornly remained a niggling doubt in my mind when it came to sunshine; surely there is a causal link between the sun shining and my ‘sunny’ mood. During a conversation on our recent retreat, I had a realisation and all doubt disappeared for good. Now I know that ‘100% an inside job’ really does include sunshine!
I was recently inspired to write a poem about feelings. No-one was more surprised than I was, when in the middle of the night the words appeared to tumble out of me. I hope you enjoy reading my first attempt at poetry even half as much as I enjoyed writing it…
When asked to share his secret to a happy life, renowned philosopher and spiritual leader, Jiddu Krishnamurti said “The secret is … that I don’t mind what happens.” It is the minding what happens to us personally that is at the core of our struggles, because by its very nature we are being led by ego. When we surrender ego, we have freedom to experience the silence, the peace that is inherent within us all, to be at one with nature, with others, with ourself – the very essence of happiness.
I was reminded recently of a metaphor I’ve used before, of peeling away layers of an onion. Where the layers of the onion represent the physical form of our experience – how we feel, what we think, what we do. As human beings we are continually learning from our experiences and when faced with similar situations we respond in familiar patterns that reflect this. There is a ‘me’ memory and identity within the layers that is experiencing but there is also a deeper ‘I’ that is constant and unchanged by experience. In the absence of experience, I know that I still exist.
A friend recently expressed to me how she was feeling overwhelmed by all that was going on in her life at the moment. And there was a lot going on – a busy job, a young family, a new puppy, husband’s new job, the first Christmas without a close member of the family, not to mention Christmas itself and Covid! She was wondering how and when she could return to those feelings of wellbeing that she trusted were within her.
Life is like the sea, a mixture of rough, choppy patches, calmer ones and everything in between. There are weather systems and currents which seem to pull us in different directions. I would like you to come on a journey with me and for the purposes of this journey I would like you to imagine that you are a sailing boat navigating the high seas of life.
Here’s another powerful metaphor to explain what freedom looks like to me… it‘s knowing that the light of wisdom and resilience are always shining within me whatever happens in life. I now see the lighthouse as a metaphor for our human default setting; we can’t help but shine an energy into the world when our busy personal thinking quietens down.
Whatever the different challenges we face in our lives, the actual outcome we seek is always the same – a return to the settled and calm feeling within, we could call it peace of mind. Sounds simple, but unfortunately, we’ve learned to believe that sometimes things on the outside need to happen in order for us to feel better on the inside. At other times we just ‘know’ that irrespective of circumstances we are deeply OK and that peace of mind is our natural state.
A raging battle is underway; it’s me against Smaug, the fire eating sugar dragon. Who will win the war? I have one great advantage over the dragon, I know his ultimate weakness. He may be powerful but he is also an illusion created in the mind.