You are neither the thoughts nor the feelings that show up (part II)


This post continues the conversation that I started in the previous post where a ‘sister’ reached out to me for help, for advice, for my point of view as she was and may still be suffering.

Let’s set the ground for this conversation

Look into the matter deeply and you might just find that we human beings do not have access to the truth.  If you are scientifically minded then study what has been taken for knowledge and ‘truth’ and you might just find that ‘truth’ is always provisional and ‘truths’ have come and gone.  Once ‘truth’ was that the heavens revolved around the Earth and women were held to be inferior to men – some men, tribes and religions still cling to the belief that women are inferior to men and are the property/playthings of men. I remember standing up to my parents so that my sister could go to University and create her own life rather than have a forced marriage thrust upon her.

How best to illustrate, provide your for a feeling for what I am pointing at?  Allow me to share a sufi tale with you.  A sufi master is said to have told the following story: 

‘Finding I could speak the language of ants, I approached one and enquired, “What is God like? Does he resemble the ant?”  He answered, “God? No, indeed – we have only a single sting but God, he has two!”‘

Which is not to say that all viewpoints, all the places we choose to stand are equal in value.  If you are driving in the UK it makes huge difference as to whether you drive on the left (the UK viewpoint) or the left (USA/Continental Europe).  The same applies to Life: some vantage points are simply more useful for tilting the table towards the ‘workability’ of life.  So the point of view that I share is not the truth.  I make no such claim yet I do assert that living from the vantage point that I am sharing can increase the ‘workability’ of your life.  Now that we are clear on this lets move on to the conversation itself.

All kinds of unhelpful/disempowering feelings & thoughts can show up in our lives

Sister I notice that all kinds of thoughts and feelings are showing up in your life: feeling lost; feeling the loss of physical intimacy; feeling lost and alone; feeling the burden of uncertainty/insecurity; feeling unwanted; feeling you don’t belong; longing for the one; thinking and believing there is something wrong with you…….

It might occur to you that you are all alone, that this is only showing up in your life.  You are not alone. Many, many of us have experienced these thoughts, these feelings at some point in our lives.  How many thousands are thinking/feeling this way right now?  Allow me to share a story with you.

“One day a mother turned up to the abode of a holy man clutching the body of her dead baby.  She was in so much pain and she pleaded, again and again, with the holy man to bring her baby back to life.  The holy man listened patiently and then told the mother that indeed he could help her.  And in order for him to help her he needed her to go back to her village and bring back a glass of water – but only from a household which had never experienced death.

The mother went back to her village and started knocking on doors. Each household was more than willing to give her a glass of water.  Yet the water was of no use as every household had lost someone – grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, friend……

After knocking on all the doors and finding no household, no person, left untouched by loss of someone dear the mother returned to the holy man.  This time she was lighter because she had gotten that loss, sorrow and death touch us all – an intrinsic part of human life.”

How about living from this stand: whole-complete-perfect?

So ‘sister’ you are no less than anyone else on this planet.  Suffering is not a sign that there is something wrong with you, that you are defective. Loss, pain, sorrow, suffering come as intrinsic to human existence on this planet of ours. You are whole-complete-perfect just as you are and just as you are not.  How about standing in that space?  The space of “I declare myself to be whole-complete-perfect just as I am and am not!”

You (and I) are neither our thoughts nor our feelings

Sister, being a woman, it is quite possible that you may find the following a struggle.  And I say there is value in listening to what I am about to say.  I say that you and I are neither our thoughts nor our feelings!  That’s right I get that thoughts and feelings are present and I say that you are not these thoughts nor these feelings.  Do you disagree?  Does this upset you?  Bear with me and let’s explore.

Do you choose the thoughts that pop up into your mind?  Just sit and meditate even for five minutes, keep a blank mind, think no thoughts.  What happened? Did a stream of thoughts simply show up?  Did you choose to think these thoughts? If you are honest you know that you did not choose these thoughts, they simply pop up in your house of being without your bidding.  Look deeper and you will find that some of these thoughts hook you and others don’t – they show up, they disappear.

What about your feelings?  Do you choose them?  Do you choose to feel sad, miserable, joyful?  If you look deeply you will find that feelings show up in your house of being uninvited just like your thoughts.  And you will find that some feelings show up more often than others.  You are also likely that some feelings hook you more than others – they stay longer, you connect with them more deeply.  And all feelings fade away whether you want them to or not.

Do you still find what I say difficult to accept?  Imagine that you are throwing a party and a you get a village load of people turning up at this party – some invited and some ‘gatecrashers’.  Does your Self expand to include these people?  Do you ever say to yourself I am all – me, the people that I have invited and the ‘gatecrashers’?  No, you do not.  What is more once you noticed the ‘gatecrashers’ you would ask them to leave and if they did not you would  call the police so as to eject these unwelcome ‘gatecrashers’, right?

How are the thoughts and feelings that show up in your house of being any different to the ‘gatecrashers’?  And why do you collapse them with yourself and call them your feelings, your thoughts?  I say that you do that because you have been born into a culture that says and teaches you that the thoughts and feelings that show up for you are yours – they constitute an integral part of yourself.  And that is why you latch onto them and confuse them with yourself. Yet you are not the thoughts and feelings that show up and then disappear!

Do you want access to freedom?

If you want access to freedom then I invite you to live from this sand: “I am the context and not the content.  I am the house of being not the furniture that turns up, stays around, wears it, is thrown out.  I am the chooser not the chosen (content) nor the ‘gatecrashers’ (thoughts/feelings/moods) that show up in my house of being uninvited .  I choose and declare myself to be the possibilities that I project and the stand/s that I take in life!”

You might be wondering how that gives you freedom.  Allow me to illustrate with a personal example. Last week I was in considerable pain – some days I spent curled up in bed, some nights I did not sleep at all.  Then Friday morning arrived and it was the first morning that I felt OK.  Months ago I had agreed to meet a ‘friend that I had not yet met face to face’ and his guests for an informal chat in London. That informal gathering was due to start at 4pm.  What to do?  Do I take a chance and drive into London – an hour drive?  Or do I play it safe and rest given that I have already let my friend know that I am ill and might not make it? The day showed up as being miserable: dark clouds and heavy rain.

What thoughts and feelings showed up? Thoughts: don’t go, stay at home, it is safer (more accidents on the roads in this kind of weather), it is the right thing to do as I need to rest, and if I do go and am unwell then my wife/family will criticise me.  Feelings: confused, worried, scared – about doing the wrong things, making my health situation worse.

What did I do?  I chose to be my stand: to honour my word as myself.  I got into the car at 14:45 and headed into London in the pouring rain.  Half and hour later the noticeboard showed speed restriction and a blocked lane, long delays – an accident had indeed occurred on the motorway.  This was a great excuse to turn the car around and head back home. Those thoughts did pop up in my mind: look you have done your best, you have kept your word, no disgrace in heading home.  What did I do? I chose to play full-out to honour my word.  I diverted onto minor roads and found myself a different route into London.  I arrived 15 minutes late and yet I did turn up and I am proud of myself: I choose not to allow the uninvited thoughts and feelings to deflect me from my stand in life.

Summing up

You, I , we can choose to relate to ourselves as the possibilities that we invent live from/live into and the stand/s that we take in life.  You, I, we can get and live from the stand that we are not the thoughts and the feelings that pop up, stay a while, disappear, reappear in our minds/bodies/lives.

Living from this context we can let go of “I am feel insecure or helpless” and replace it with “How interesting I notice insecurity and helplessness are present, I wonder how they ended up in my house of being.”  And living from this context you can let the thoughts and feelings that show up, simply be, whilst you continue to be ruthless in living from/into the possibilities that you have invented and the stands you have taken.

I guarantee that if you live from the context that I have outlined above your experience of living will be transformed.  You will relate to yourself as a powerful human being.  If you do that then you can drop the need to take more courses to fix yourself.  How/why?  Because you are already whole-complete-perfect and as such there really is nothing to fix and no course will fix it! 

Ultimately it comes down to choice.  Whether you choose to live from the context of whole-complete-perfect, living from/into the possibilities that you invent and the stands you take.  Are you up for that ‘sister’?

If the herd is headed for the cliff the sane thing is to break free from the herd no matter how uncomfortable you feel!


What am I to be, to do, to have in this world?

How do I decide what/how I am to be in this world?  How do I decide what to do, how to conduct myself, what to chase after in this world?   Of all questions these are the most important questions and they do not have easy answers.

Given that these are the most difficult questions and there are no ready made answers how do I answer these questions?  The default is simply to follow the herd: look around me and buy into the way of life that everyone around has bought into. Look deeply and you will notice that we human beings are herd animals.  We just don’t use the word herd instead we use softer more appealing words like ‘community’, ‘profession’, ‘vocation’, ‘nation’…..

“It’s all made up!”

If we are fortunate there will be glitches in the ‘matrix of the taken for granted every day life’ and we will notice these glitches.

I noticed these glitches.  I would go to school and be told “X is great, this is the right way to be, the right thing to do…”  and I’d get home and I would be told “X is totally wrong!  It is the wrong way to be, the wrong thing to do, the wrong thing to chase after…”.   At home I would learn a set of views/practices and upon arriving at school I’d be told that these were wrong.  I was lucky enough to be born into one culture and live in it whilst at home and then be embedded in a different culture during school hours.

At the age of about 8/9/10 I remember thinking “Its’ all made up!”  That was the most liberating thought of my life – it changed/directed the course of my life.  I focussed on school work rather than religion.  I studied Physics rather then Biology and thus dashed my parents hopes of becoming a doctor.  I went to a university far from my parents home rather than one nearer home.  I chose my wife rather than get an arranged marriage.  I made friends irrespective of their colour, their race or their religion instead of sticking with my ‘own kind’.  I questioned things and asked difficult questions rather than accept the ready made answers….

Being with the herd does not make you ‘right’, going away from the herd does not make you ‘wrong’

Most of us will experience a series of glitches in the ‘matrix of our taken for granted way of thinking and living’ and one or more of these will grab our attention and open our eyes so that we see beyond the surface.  When we see beyond the surface we may come to the conclusion we are living a false life, a shallow life, a mindless life, a meaningless life, a joyless life, someone else’s life.  Then we are confronted with choice: act/reclaim our life as ours or to go back to being with the herd and pretend we never saw what we saw.

Most of us lull ourself back to sleep and get back to following the herd. And if we don’t do that then the people around us act on us with more and more force to get us back in the pen with the rest of the herd.  Our argument, their argument is often that the herd cannot be wrong, we must be wrong.  With that in mind and with a commitment to leave us with the freedom to transform our lives I share with you the following passage from R.D. Laing’s book, The Politics of Experience:

“From an ideal vantage point from the ground, a formation of planes may be observed from the air.  One plane may be out of formation.  But the whole formation may be off course.  The plane that is ‘out of formation’ may be abnormal, bad or ‘mad’ from the point of view of the formation.  But the formation itself may be bad or mad from the point of view of the ideal observer.  The plane that is out of formation may be also more or less off course than the formation….

In particular, it is of fundamental importance not to confuse the person who may be ‘out of formation’ by telling him that he is ‘of course’ if he is not.  It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that, because a group is in formation, this means they are necessarily ‘on course‘.….. Nor is it necessarily the case that the person who is ‘out of formation’ is more ‘on course’ than the formation……

If the formation is itself off course, then the man who is really to get ‘on course’ must leave the formation.”