Introduction to Understanding Yourself
Whatever you do, don't trust your thinking.
What I want to share with you should really be taught in all the schools, but there's such a focus on intellectual and academic knowledge that, unless we're searching, we might not ever come across this deeper awareness that we all need in order to experience natural well-being.
I want to begin by helping you realise that you are not lacking anything in this moment. A lot of us have some kind of concept - think about what concepts you have, where you think you're lacking something and that you need that thing in order to be happy and fulfilled in life. Think about what those things might be, for example, more money, perhaps to be thinner, to have more friends, be more clever, maybe to live in another place, if that person who's giving you trouble was out of your life, a better job... There's so many things that we're convinced we need before we can be really happy and satisfied.
The truth is, you already have something inside you, something called innate well-being. You're born with it so you already have it - everybody has this innate well-being within them. (I didn't find that out until I was 52 years old and I don't want you to have to wait that long to find out about this.)
Now, you might say, "It's all very well talking about this stuff but what about my experience? That's not how I feel. I don't feel like everything is well, I don't feel that innate well-being that you're talking about." I'm going to tell you why that is.
Along with this innate well-being that we all have, we also have something else that interferes with our experience of it. So, if we're not feeling that innate well-being, that inner peace, that inner joy, that inner wellness, it's because something is interfering with it. What interferes with it is our thoughts.
Using a snow globe (my favourite prop) as an illustration, imagine that each one of the pieces of glitter is a thought in your head and, everything time you're focusing on your thoughts and giving them attention, they take you all over the place - into the past and future, into all sorts of imaginary scenarios... One thought leads to another and, before you know it, you can be lost in thought for hours until you come out of that state, into the present moment.
A lot of these thought come up randomly - they just arise in our head because we are thinking beings. There's nothing wrong with that in itself. However, what happens is, because of the way we grew up, because of the way we learned to be and to do and to live, we give these thoughts in our head so much attention and we believe almost every single one as though it's the truth. The fact is, most of the time, our thoughts aren't true. They're imagination.
The dangerous thing that happens (through no fault of our own) is that we become so attached to these thoughts of ours that we actually become one with them. A thought pops into your head and you just latch onto it. You become one with it. It's the truth for you and there's no other truth. There's no awareness that, "I'm just thinking this and I can take it or leave it."
This is what makes all the difference, this is what I'm talking about when I talk about self-awareness - it's this realisation, this awareness, that you are not that thought. Rather, you are the one who is thinking the thought. You can be the observer of your thoughts. You can become the one who is noticing them.
If you're particularly stressed or anxious, whatever you're feeling stressed or anxious about, cultivate the awareness that this (shaking the snow globe) is what's going on in your mind in that moment. It's not anything out there. It's this unaware, reactive state within us.
If you can see what's going on, then you have a choice. You realise, "I can stay in there, and carry on feeling stressed and anxious or I can let my thoughts settle down, come to a place of stillness, come back to the present moment, find that place of peace and clarity, and then go on from there."
This is what I want so much for you, to be empowered, to be able to do that every day of your life rather than being someone, like I was, for so long (and still am sometimes) where you just react to whatever's going on around you. You just become this ball of stress, reacting to this person, reacting to that situation, and just suffering - so much suffering, which doesn't need to happen. This is what I call unnecessary suffering. There's so much unnecessary suffering and it just doesn't have to be that way.
When you're not stuck in your mind, thinking about this and that, and believing your stressful thoughts - about the pandemic, about this politician, about the financial situation, all these things - when you're not believing every stressful thought that comes into your head, everything is actually quite calm and good and you can feel well.
We're trained very well, how to use our intellectual mind, but we don't know how to access our deeper wisdom. This deeper wisdom is what arises when we give our overthinking mind a break and let it rest. That's why things like mindfulness and meditation are so valuable, because they bring us to this place of stillness that we need so much, not only for our sanity, but to be balanced and to be well.
It's not a very pleasant reality to be filled with all these stressful thoughts that are being fed by what you're watching on the TV, what someone is telling you, or by what you might be taking in online. All these things will feed the unrest and, if there's no self-awareness, no awareness of anything deeper than your thoughts, then all you will know is the thoughts that you're thinking and that's not a very healthy way to be.
What I'd like you to take away is that, when this isn't going on in your head, when you let all those stressful, random thoughts settle down, you will find that you have a place inside you that is already very well and doesn't need improving. What it needs is the letting go and unlearning of some things, of some habits that we've picked up, some beliefs that we've latched on to throughout our life, just a letting go of those to reveal the well-being that we already have within us.
“In low levels of consciousness it is unwise to believe, trust or follow our thinking." ~Jack Pransky