I live on a beautiful estuary on the western fringe of the UK and recently got curious about my experience of this place.
I love walking and go out across the sands at low tide several times a week if I can. My eyes are drawn to the sky and I am rarely disappointed. A while ago I noticed the sun almost always breaks through the cloud at some point on my walks.
I’ve lost count of the number of beautiful sunrises and sunsets, amazing arrangements of mist and cloud and the most heart stopping play of light on water. And my experience is of a place that gets more and more beautiful. I snap endless pictures on my phone with no particular purpose in mind. I’m just moved to capture and share the beauty I see.
Does this mean it never rains here? No.
Yet somehow rain isn’t a big feature of my experience of this estuary. I don’t really pay any attention to wet weather. If it’s raining hard I don’t venture out but it doesn’t seem to last long and in light drizzle, I might go out. Often it clears. Like today, when a beautiful rainbow filled the sky.
Ever more beautiful skies; ever more beautiful feelings
What occurred to me the other morning was, I wonder if this is how it works with our thoughts and feelings? Wouldn’t it be great if we could notice, appreciate and revel in the light, loving, beautiful feelings we get from time to time? To rest in those more and pay less attention to the troublesome, heavy, ‘wet weather’ thinking.
How would that work?
When you get a glimpse of the fact that how you are feeling in any given moment is coming from your thinking in that moment (whether you are aware of it or not), not from external circumstances, the past or the future, it begins to make sense to try to leave negative and unhelpful thinking alone.
Except, as I know only too well, this isn’t always possible because we don’t always see the illusory and transitory nature of our thoughts. When we don’t see the illusion, no amount of ‘willing’ ourselves into a better state of mind will help the mood shift any faster because it feels real, therefore it is our reality. It seems all we can do, is try to leave it alone and it will lift in its own sweet time.
However when we experience a quieter mind, we can get curious about seeing something deeper.
Our feelings do not come from beautiful sunsets and other nice things
It’s helpful to get curious about where our experience is coming from. I am very fortunate to live in a beautiful place and yet the deep feelings of appreciation I get when I walk on the estuary are coming not from the view, but from inside me.
How do I know this?
Because my experience of the estuary varies. For every day I am awed by the beauty there can be others where I have no such experience because I am thinking about a work project, a conversation or what I’m going to have for dinner.
So how I experience the beauty depends on my state of mind, not on the estuary.
It is an innocent mistake to think that feelings of peace loving joy come from certain people or places when, it is much more interesting than that. We bring our state of mind and therefore our feelings to people and places.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring feelings of wonder and appreciation to our experience of being human?
Appreciating the incredible variety and beauty of our mental landscape
What if I related to my mental landscape the way I relate to the physical landscape I live in? What if I could appreciate and enjoy the wonderful aspects of my mind, my imagination, its creative power and pay less attention to the more troublesome aspects such as ruminating, feeling crappy.
Later I saw it more deeply. What goes on in my head, what we might experience as the interior conversation isn’t ‘MY mental landscape’ it is simply an aspect of what I know of as ‘me’. We often miss the presence of something deeper because we are busy latching on to unpleasant thoughts that catch our attention. They are often thoughts about the past or the future rather than the present.
What lies beyond our moods?
What if we get curious about experiencing more of the wonder, joy, love and beauty present in any moment, that is there but for thinking that sends us into a low mood?
As we open more and more to the wonder and awe of life, my experience is that we get to let go of more and more stories that no longer serve us and somehow this deepens our experience of love and appreciation without conscious effor. This in turn seems to increase the love and appreciation we experience. It just appreciates like a savings account with a healthy interest rate.
And in doing that we might find our life starts to get more and more beautiful, just as this estuary has. Just as rainy days and the odd storm will undoubtedly show up, we’re bound to still get insecure thinking, low moods, and periods of getting stuck but how wonderful to be more alive to the wonder and appreciation and less fussed about the low patches.
I have edited this article and yet it still feels as if something is missing, something I haven’t quite captured, I’d really appreciate hearing what you see or hear as often people’s comments bring more clarity. Please do add your comments.