Ten years ago, my brother bought a bumper sticker: “Don’t believe everything you think.” I thought that was amusing. How can you not believe what you think? Later on, I saw it as a reminder to lighten up. Admit you can be wrong sometimes.
But lately I’m seeing that this may be the most important advice I’ll ever receive. Happiness and peace seem to depend on stepping back from our thoughts, realizing they are just one view of the world, and frequently a wrong one, so not taking them too seriously. Without attaching to my thoughts, the world seems a much friendlier place. Apparently, other people have even more healing experiences. Here are a few of them…
I do believe that by stepping back from our stream-of-thought we can experience moments of balance, peace, perfection. And I also believe that real evil exists, so our peace cannot be perfect in this world at this time.
The discussion of this could be very abstract. I prefer a more experiential, observational, approach — one might call it evidence-based. I have noticed sometimes people can experience peace, harmony, blessing. And I have also noticed terrible times, of injustice, violence, greed and death. Both exist. I can live more and more in the peace and blessing, but cannot fully be aware and compassionate without also noticing evil. And I can be even more compassionate, peaceful, whole, and harmonious by living as a member of a spiritual community where love is a practice.
As a practicing contemplative Christian, Jesus’s words, “the Kingdom of God is within you” are comforting to me. The translation from the Greek really means both “within you” and also “among you” or even “in your midst”. In other words, yes, I have that peaceful place of unity and perfection within me, and I also experience it in the love of a community of people who sure seeking to experience peace, love, and joy together.
Yes, heaven is just a thought away, when we focus, stop thinking, and just breathe…When we watch our breath come in and go out, and feel the peace. From Rumi…”Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirit fly in and out…. Your old life was a frantic running from silence. The speechless full moon comes out now.” For the neuroscience behind the above, I recommend Rick Hanson’s book “Buddha’s Brain-the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom.” Love and Peace.
I like the concept. I do believe that quality of life is 95% attitude, since we cannot control many variables-only the way we react to them. However, living in bliss and ignoring suffering in ourselves or in others probably will not bring about substantive positive social change or fight injustice. Some recognition of suffering is needed. Also, I believe you must know sadness to also understand feeling grateful and happy.
How do we control how we react to the many variables we cannot control? Here’s an idea: maybe we can’t control how we react to them, but maybe a seed gets planted, the seed of wanting to see what is because what is is interesting. And then when things we can’t control happen (which may be just about everything) we look at them and see them differently from how we did when we didn’t look, and so the way we react to them is different – or maybe it isn’t.
Another way to look at it is this: who is it that’s going to control how we react?
Also, what is positive social change?
Just some passing thoughts. Whoops! There they go. Now they’re gone.
A great piece. I joined a meditation group and it lets you throw those thoughts out for at least one hour, wonderful. You learn your thoughts are just your thought, you don’t have to given them any power. Wonderful.
Sounds like cognitive psychology blended sweetly with Buddhism. Sounds like what I have been practicing for years, informed by my degree in Clinical Psychology, years of work with clients, and my lively interest in religion. Perhaps I am not as consistent as I could be, since I am in heaven only half the time…. But I endorse this approach. This is a very wise and powerful blog. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration!
If being blissfully peaceful is a mental state like any other, than it follows that it can be achieved more readily with practice. Likewise, having a healthy, compassionate response to suffering in the world can be developed with practice. And so on, and so on.
Your thoughts are thoughts, your emotions are emotions, your judgments are judgments, your pain is pain. It can be incredibly freeing to start to recognize all of them for what they are, to watch them come and go, and to recognize yourself as the experiencer, not the experience. You don’t need to eradicate anything to start being mindful of your own process. Easier said than done, but like the answer to ‘how do you get to carnegie hall? Practice, practice, practice.’
Like all of you have already said in different words. Thanks.
Just to add to my previous comment:
I’ve had my struggles with the voices in my head becoming unbearable, and it is not an experience I’d wish on anyone. But without that experience of suffering and healing, I don’t know that I would have the same level of love and compassion for myself and the world that I enjoy now.
I’m not arguing that torture and environmental catastrophe are good things, but there is a possibility for many good things to arise out of the bad. The good ol’ lotus is still blooming out of the swamp.
An argument could be made human beings do a decent job being, “good,” considering our given circumstances. Imagine if all 7billion of us all of a sudden had the minds of alligators while retaining our technological abilities. Things might get pretty ugly, no offense to alligators.
Special thanks for sharing again. There are many fine comments, thoughts and suggestions on you web site.
There is a real sense and reality about the mind and its radar narrowly focused on the immediate and pressing.
This is helpful when the saber tooth tiger is bearing down for a quick snack.
Other times one really needs to separate that system and narrow focus and stand back and smell the flowers and giving body and soul a chance.
Sometimes that is not easy nor trivial but it is critical to giving brain and body a chance.
Techniques that work to bring us greater freedom and alleviate our suffering are worth practicing. I’ve found Zhi Neng Qi Gong to be a remarkable practice to create feelings of open-hearted and embodied well-being. It’s like a form of self-hypnosis, where we visualize sending golden light to various parts of our body, streaming, washing over us like a waterfall. We imagine sending smiles to our internal organs. One could call this ridiculous. Still, thousands of people go to medical qi gong hospitals in China, spend several weeks practicing Qi Gong, and some heal from serious illnesses. Anyone who does this will experience well-being. Even if my frustration at the hurtful actions of greedy and clueless people who don’t deserve the power they have to hurt others is based on an accurate perception of our world, my well-being and my ability to be effective in this world are enhanced by practicing clearing out negative thoughts and emotions and imagining that I can heal myself.
Thanks David, for reminding me of this stuff. It’s really important. I’m familiar with Byron Katie’s work, but never really practised it.
Last year I was seriously depressed, but this shifted over time, especially when I changed my activities and environment. My attention shifted onto different things and I really started to enjoy myself. It really counts what one is focusing on.
Heaven seems to be just a “no-thought” away. In our world of duality, the thought “this is beautiful” is bringing with it “that is ugly” or “this is right” is followed by “that is wrong.” No-thought or no-mind is the only way out of the hell that we create for ourselves. Then again, even the concept of “heaven ” has hell lurking on the other side. Anyway do you really want to be sitting with a bunch of disembodied spirits on cold clammy clouds playing harps for eternity singing “hallelujah”? Ask yourself that question!