I’ve enjoyed a captivating couple of weeks leading retreats. A small group retreat on resilience and three private retreats. With creative and compassionate people dedicated to living meaningful, inspired lives.
If it’s crossed your mind to gift yourself a time of reflection and inquiry to open up new possibilities for your health, creativity, work life and relationships. Go here for more information private retreats.
Today’s Heart Notes takes its inspiration from a deceptively crucial question I often ask at the beginning of a retreat.
Where do you think your feelings come from?
I don’t know about you, but if you’d asked me this question twenty years ago I’d have said; “Hands down feelings are caused by other people, external events, biochemistry or a mix of all three”.
From my understanding it looked like life ‘out there’ caused happiness or unhappiness. The simplest example being; if the sun shone I felt great and if low hanging gray clouds smothered it I felt miserable.
But after deeper inquiry and a string of insights I realized that the belief that other people, external circumstances or biochemistry cause human beings to feel the way they do doesn’t hold water.
For every person who worships the sun, convinced they feel better when it shines, there’s another who shuns the heat desperate for winter to return. And for every person who suffers with a physical illness there’s another who thrives in spite of limitations.
Clearly there’s another variable involved otherwise every person would feel the same way about the same situation.
That variable is thought. The thoughts we hold determine the life we experience. Two people experience the same event differently because they have different thoughts about the event. Not only that; one human being can experience a 180 degree shift by having a change of mind.
To illustrate here’s a short story of evil kitchen cabinets that turned totally tame.
Once upon a time there was a smart, forward thinking woman who decided to downsize and move into a community setting.
Spurred by the prospect of making new friends, she navigated an emotional and physical process of shedding years of accumulated belongings keeping only the things that touched her.
Feeling lighter than she had in years and euphoric at the start of an adventure she moved into her new studio. But five days later she wailed in despair that she’d made a terrible mistake.
She rattled off a mental shopping list of complaints but the BIGGEST cause of her distress (so she believed) was the color of her kitchen cabinets.
“The color is just NOT me! I can’t live with these cabinets. They are making me sick.”
On the verge of a tearful breakdown she paused for breath and went for a walk.
In the quiet rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other her thoughts began to drift, as thoughts tend to do when we stop ruminating on them. And a space opened in her mind just enough for an insight to drop in (as insights tend to do when our mind quietens down).
It dawned on her that her neighbors had identical kitchen cabinets yet they were perfectly happy. So maybe, she mused, the cabinets were not evil after all.
Laughter bubbled up when she saw how her distress had been entirely generated by her own thoughts. Not by the kitchen cabinets possessing a mysterious malevolent power.
Relieved she returned home no longer plotting to take a sledge hammer to the cabinets or leave the community she dearly wanted to settle in.
The amazing power of Thought
Thought is an essential component of the human design. The thoughts we adopt, absorb and cultivate determine our moment to moment experience.
The author Steven Covey puts it like this:
‘We see the world, not as it is, but as we are or, as we are conditioned to see it.’
So while it sure can look like our experience is caused by the weather, or what your best friend did, or the state of your bank account. The truth is we’re always and only ever experiencing the nature of our thinking.
But before reaching for your favorite positive thought or try to control your next thought. Consider this….
The beauty of thought
Without the power of thought, life would be as dull as a lead balloon.
Every thought is brought to life by the energy of consciousness to generate feelings, sensations and perceptions.
A story in a book jumps off the page because thoughts get stirred up which generate feelings and sensations in the body. Likewise, images on a movie screen come alive because thoughts and feelings bubble up in you as you gaze at the big screen.
Like a sumptuous meal. Our daily thought life creates a smorgasbord of feelings and sensations. Adding infinite richness to our human experience.
The moment we see that thought is the shaper of our experience it makes no sense to blame the weather, our brother, boss or even biochemistry for our feelings.
And when we’re willing to question our thoughts. That maybe, just maybe, our thinking is not the gospel truth. We begin to see beyond the thoughts of our ordinary mind to see with the eyes of our heart.
For it’s our heart that can see and sense the power of wisdom, love, and healing energy at work in the universe. And it’s our heart that opens up a whole new world filled with love and possibility.