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 http://www.aesthetic-machinery.com/every-thing.html, 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.
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