How thoughts die unless you put life behind them

How thoughts die unless you put life behind them

Imagine an unopened pack of balloons. The limp, shrunken rubber socks are deflated, like de-hydrated jelly beans. If you didn’t know you could inflate balloons, you would wonder what on earth they were for. But once you breathe air into a balloon it takes on a whole new form and function. The saturated colour becomes translucent as the material stretches into a glorious egg shape which floats and tells us its party time. Clustered in groups they invite festivities and merry making. Without air inside, balloons are sorry looking bits of brightly coloured stretchy rubber, easily ignored.

The same can be said of thoughts. Without life behind them, thoughts are insubstantial, with little purpose. Ignored they drift through the mind like the seeds of dandelion flowers carried away on a summer breeze. It is only when we breathe air into them, put life behind them that consciousness gets to work bringing that thought to life.

When you get down to it, what is a thought?

This is the million dollar question and one on which there is no consensus. Definitions of thought tend to centre around the results of thought and thinking rather than what it actually is. There is also no consensus on how many thoughts we have per hour but, claim we could have up to 36000 per hour.

Clearly we are not conscious of every one of those thoughts. Most remain outside our awareness or consciousness. Imagine if we had to think about every one of those thoughts. Phew! Exhausting! So we get to choose which ones we pick up off the conveyor belt of thoughts coming through our minds. Those we pick up get brought to the front of our minds, as it were and we put some life behind them, animate them. The word animate comes from the Latin anima, meaning life or soul. To animate is to instil with life or soul.

I love the idea a thought is soul-less until we give it life

So the ones we take seriously, the ones we believe are telling us something important about our lives. The ones we act on. These are what determine our experience. We have a choice.

Say we pick up a thought like,

‘Getting on in life is all about hard graft’.

This thought has come to us many, many times before and we think it is true. So every time, it occurs we pick it up again, nod our heads sagely and agree before idly wondering how many more years before we can retire.

We have effectively inflated this thought over the years until it becomes as solid and true as the fact of our birth. Everything around us, everything we see, read, hear, know and do confirms this thought. We have brought this thought to life again and again, like Pinocchio in his father, Geppetto’s, workshop.  A limp and idle thought that might have stayed on the bench now dances in our life and directs our choices and perspective.

When we feel anxious about how we are going to pay our bills, perhaps because we lost or quit our job or our freelance business is slow, that thought comes again:-

‘Getting on in life is all about hard graft’

It colours how we think about our current situation. So more thinking comes along to reinforce the first thought:-

  • I’m not trying hard enough to get work
  • I shouldn’t have lost/quit my job
  • I haven’t done enough to qualify for work/clients
  • I’m not good enough to get work
  • I’m a failure

And little by little we create a world in which work is scarce, money only comes through hard graft and life is all about effort and struggle. The joy of doing things for their own sake feels like a frivolous and irrelevant idea that is only for people on a private income.

What happens when we don’t put life behind a thought?

A new thought comes along.

If we have innocently animated a thought that makes us feel crappy. That feeling is a gentle nudge to stop animating that thought. The clue is in the feeling. Look past the content of the thought to the feeling.  When we realise the thought is making us feel bad, try just smiling at those thoughts, saying “hello, I see you”, but know you don’t have to take any notice of the content of the thought. Leave it alone. Don’t worry about it.

What happens is, a new thought comes along. Our minds in their natural clear state seem to provide a constant stream of new and fresh thinking.

People often ask, “yes but how do you not pay attention to it”. The trick is to bring a bit of levity to it. And that happens quite easily when we realise two things:

  • 1. Our wellbeing is innate and inviolate.
  • 2. Everything is thought created.

Let’s take the first of those. There is an inner essence within each one of us, the thing that gives us life. We all have some sense that something bigger than ourselves is running the show. That something: divine spark, Buddhahood, higher intelligence, call it what you will, cannot be harmed, eroded or wiped out by anything outside of us even when our personal thinking is telling us otherwise. Thinking is incredibly powerful (never underestimate it).

Everything is thought created

Once you realise this, actually see it for yourself, you realise the world you are experiencing comes from your own thinking. Levels and layers, influencers and genetics are all ultimately products of thought. We begin to see that so called problems we perceive are thought created. Created, in fact, by our personal thoughts. Created by putting life behind certain thoughts that talk of limits, difficulties and obstacles. Taking thoughts like those and believing they are telling us something about our world.

We have a choice. We can choose not to put life behind those thoughts. When you see they are simply thought, an energy form that exists only while we give it life. When you realise we all have thoughts like this drifting through our minds now and then and they only hang about if we take them seriously. Then you can smile and wave them on their way. They may stir up a momentary feeling of anxiety or concern. That’s okay too. There’s no need to react to that or worry about it.

But there’s more.

What if you choose to animate new, fresh thinking?

Imagine what would happen if you didn’t just choose to not worry about old thinking but chose instead to put life behind new thoughts? What would happen then to thoughts of a joyful life, a life enriched by helping others, a life enriched by putting your talents to good use, a life enriched by joyfully doing whatever we feel called to do?

To put life behind those thoughts will take your life in unexpected directions. It won’t lead to a bliss-out existence with no doubts, worries, sadness or loss, that’s just part of the deal of being human. However it will lead to experiencing deeper connection with your work and with others. Once you know this, those connections will get deeper and more prolonged. It’s like waking up from a deep, deep sleep.

Take stress at work as an example. If the thought, ‘my work is stressful’ occurs to you and you believe it, it tends to take root. It defines how you speak about work, how you act at work, how you relate to your work, how you think about people at work and it becomes in essence a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you see the stress is coming from your thinking about work, rather than the work itself, you make space for new thoughts about your work. If this is one of your favourite habitual thoughts, you could take a decision not to put life behind these thoughts any more. Go play with this and see what you find.

Some things, surely, are NOT coming from thinking?

It looks like that, for sure. That’s kind of the point. When we animate thoughts, our consciousness employs every special effects trick in the book so the content of our thinking can look oh so real but actually we only experience what we think about.  This isn’t something you will see through logical debate. Try it for yourself. Take the weather. If you feel a bit low when it rains or the nights start to draw in, start to notice how it is your thinking not the weather that is making you feel low. Do you have to take any notice of those thoughts about the weather? What happens of you ignore them? Weather is just weather. It has no emotional charge unless we give it one.

Just as you choose which balloons to inflate and which to leave in the bag, you can choose which thoughts to give life to. Leave the thoughts that can disturb and destroy your peace of mind, let them stay in the bag, un-inflated and look towards new, fresh thoughts that enrich and expand your experience.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Juliet Fay is a facilitator working for social change. She has recently launched a social enterprise called Solcare, with New York author and transformational coach, Mary Schiller. They run programmes for individuals and families in conflict and social care workers experiencing stress and burnout. Their work is based on the Three Principles as expressed by Sydney Banks.

Would you like to explore this further?

Check out the individual and group sessions and our program to help those in the caring professions love their work again.

Where rage comes from (and it’s not where you think)

Where rage comes from (and it’s not where you think)

When dark clouds rush across the sky, you instinctively pull your jacket collar tighter against the falling temperature. You do what you can to comfort yourself when the sun is temporarily obscured. The sun is hidden but not gone. We know it will return. The discomfort of the storm is temporary. Knowing this we can watch the storm in awe and wonder. In the same way when rage shows up it is temporary. It comes and goes, only temporarily obscuring the innate well being and wisdom we all possess. Rage will pass: innate well-being is a constant.

What is rage?

Rage is an emotion. A highly stoked, physically felt emotion. People talk about seeing red, feeling possessed by something, being unable to control themselves. If you’ve been on the receiving end, you know how scary it can be to witness rage. What isn’t always understood is that the person manifesting the rage can also be full of fear, another visceral emotion. But what is the source of such powerful emotion?

Where does rage come from?

The Three Principles of Mind Consciousness and Thought, as expressed by Sydney Banks tell us that our feelings are only ever a reflection of our thinking in the moment. So rage comes from our thinking in the moment.

What kind of thinking could provoke such a powerful emotion?

That’s a tricky question to answer. Anyone who has experienced sudden and explosive rage, will tell you there is no time to notice its onset. It seems to appear from nowhere.

Traditional anger management self-help books will suggest you try to notice the thoughts and feelings that precede rage: the tensing of the neck muscles, the shallow breathing and the tightening of the chest; the irritation rising. This advice is unhelpful if one minute you are minding your own business and the next you are in a towering rage.

Those who experience explosive rage will struggle to explain the cause. They may say it was the over flowing bin or because another person wasn’t listening or didn’t understand or was thoughtless but even to themselves, these reasons sound hollow.

Deep down they likely know the response is out of proportion to the supposed trigger.

With an understanding of the Three Principles there is no such thing as ‘a trigger’ out there. As all of our felt experience is coming from our thinking in the moment, it isn’t what anyone does or doesn’t do or say that causes the rage, it is our thinking about what is happening.

The thinking may not even be about something in the present moment. It could be thinking about a past event.

The thinking that can provoke sudden, explosive rage, can be hidden, submerged. There can be no tangible, verbalised ‘thought’ expressed as a neat sentence. Rather a mini tsunami of thoughts and feelings rise, it seems, instantaneously, resulting in the experience of the emotion we call rage.

Just as people talk about an iceberg of thoughts with only a small proportion in our conscious awareness so a similar analogy has been used for anger or rage.  The illustration below shows what might be lurking under the surface of the rage you are experiencing or facing in someone you love.

anger iceberg

Any number of thoughts could be producing that range of emotions but from my experience fear is often a major culprit.

Fear that our wellbeing is under threat: either from without: the gas bill the government, your partner or loved one or from within – you fear you are not okay, you are damaged, you are not loved, you are not worthy of love, you can’t cope.

That fear may not be expressed as a coherent thought in the moment but it lies at the root of so much anger. At a superficial level we may feel disrespected, not heard, powerless but very quickly a dreadful feeling of desolation will kick in behind the rage especially if we realise the behaviour is not helping.

Why do we think rage is coming from out there?

That fear about our own wholeness comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of where our wellbeing comes from. According to the Three Principles we have innate wellbeing. At our essence, our core we are whole and healthy. This isn’t at the level of the physical body but the spark, essence or spirit of ourselves that lies beyond the physical. That is inviolate. It cannot be damaged or undermined by our parents, our partners, our children, the government or anyone else. Neither can it be undermined by our own thinking unless we take that thinking seriously, believe what it is telling us and act on it.

There seems to be a conundrum in this, I know.

We see daily evidence on our screens and perhaps in our own heads too of the damage we humans do, to ourselves and to others. According to the first World Health Organisation report on suicide prevention in 2004, more than 800 000 people die by suicide every year – around one person every 40 seconds. More people die from suicide worldwide than from war. Clearly thoughts can be immensely powerful (if we give them life).

Never underestimate the power of thought.

Yet I believe no-one gets up in the morning with the intention to cause misery and suffering for themselves or others.


Culturally and educationally we have been told our wellbeing comes from outside of ourselves yet at the same time and in direct contradiction that if we are not happy with our lot, we should ‘just pull ourselves together’.

The truth, as ever, lies somewhere buried in this apparent conundrum. From a quiet, settled, clear mind we are likely to make choices that propagate peace and joy for ourselves and others. Many of our thoughts are not telling us anything useful or true about ourselves, the world or other people. Left to their own devices, thoughts pass through our minds. We don’t have to listen to them or act on them. We are not our thoughts. Thoughts are not real until we give them life.

How do we realise where wellbeing is coming from?

When we realise we have innate well-being within. We’ve always had it. It is what we come from. And when we realise our experience is only ever created by our thought in the moment, we see we don’t need to be afraid of our emotions.

What happens when we realise where our wellbeing is coming from?

Once we realise our experience is only ever created by our thought in the moment we find we begin to notice our thinking. And we see we don’t need to worry about any of our thoughts, we relax and from the place of relaxation we might look more towards the ‘nice feeling’ thoughts and act on those rather than the yucky and crappy thoughts.

The moment you realise you are not experiencing what’s out there but simply your thinking in any given moment, you’ve already loosened your grip on that thinking.

You might be wondering, if someone provokes you, how can you not angry? Surely to not get angry would be acting like a doormat? There is a lovely story in the Lotus Sutra of a Buddhist monk known as Bodhisattva Never Disparaging. He took his name from the fact he treated everyone he met with reverence, seeing in each person the innate potential for enlightenment.

This was sometimes met with hostility and people would scorn him and throw rocks and stones at him. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging would move out of range but bow respectfully.

When we too can see beyond the momentary thinking of ourselves and others (and the subsequent actions), it gives us the clarity and wisdom to know how to act. We can choose to ‘step out of range’ rather than either picking up the rocks and hurling them back or just standing in the firing line and being pelted.

Just as you know dark clouds overhead mean a spell of bad weather but the sun will come out again, so too even powerful emotions are only passing through. The less we invest in the story they are trying to tell us, the quicker they pass and the quicker we return to our natural state which is one of wellbeing and peace.

Juliet Fay is a facilitator working for social change. With New York author and transformational coach, Mary Schiller, she runs programmes for families in conflict and social care workers experiencing stress and burnout. Their work is based on the Three Principles as expressed by Sydney Banks.

If you’d like to learn more, do email Juliet or find out more about Solcare’s coaching programmes for individuals and families experiencing stress and conflict.

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