Wisdom is not an opinion
How soon we abandon the lessons of fairy tales, scripture, children’s books! How readily we disregard the common sense of life experience! How innocently we fall into the maelstrom of insecurity, then panic as we start to drown in our own fear! As quickly as we fall, however, we can arise from the nightmare and find the innate resiliency we need to restore balance, wisdom and hope. This is the promise of a true understanding of how our minds work: we live in the experience of the reality we create with the power of our own thinking. If our thinking is angry, hateful, fearful and anxious, we will see everything and everyone around us through the feelings of suspicion and despair. If our thinking changes, the same things immediately seem different to us. We have the power to know the difference and self-correct.
Spiritual teachings have always pointed us inside, to even a tiny glimpse of the inner peace that transcends the thoughts of the moment. From that pure state, wisdom and insight blossom through our thinking, just as flowers push up through the cracks in concrete. The flowers are always potential; a tiny crack allows them to actualize.
It is painful to watch others devolve into insecure thinking and wreak havoc on their own lives. That is why we have so much conversation about mental health now. We have seen far too many tragic instances of people descending into a hell of their own and then dragging innocent bystanders into the same pit of fire.
It is even more painful when the “others” are governments, nations, institutions, collections of individuals gathered for a common purpose, who lose their way but still have the power, from their own worst psychological states, to pull multitudes, a nation, or the world, with them into dystopia.
How does it happen? It’s very simple. When we lose sight of the tremendous “gift” we have of recognizing our own changing feeling states — states of mind — as true barometers of the quality of our thinking, we start taking all our thoughts seriously. We have no perspective on what makes sense and is helpful. We get attached to our opinions, no matter how bad we feel.
Most importantly, we lose connection with our humanity and the common truth that all human beings are operating from the logic of the same principles: We create thoughts that look like the only “real” reality to us. We forget that we are all creating separate thoughts and separate realities; we all behave according to what we perceive. In a manner of speaking, we live out of our moment-to-moment personal opinions of what is happening. As soon as we regain our balance, quiet down, and restore calm and clarity, we can see the truth behind disagreement and hatred. We see that when people are caught up in whatever negative, dramatic reality they have have created from their own thinking, they are certain that everyone else can and should be seeing exactly the same thing! In that state, we lose all appreciation for difference, all tolerance for disagreement, all capacity for understanding that people in opposition to us are living life exactly the same way we are — we are all thinkers making up our experience as we go.
Others are just as certain of the absolute reality of their thoughts as we are of ours. In a calm state of mind, we know that. From that vantage point, we can realize that the only way to find peace and revive good will is to find a deeper feeling of appreciation for our shared experience as thinkers, and look for common ground in our capacity to create, rather than trying to sort out the mess we have already created.
We can recognize the quality of our thoughts only when we awaken to our own bad feelings and see them as a warning that our own thinking is heading away from inspiration and wisdom and towards insecurity and rigidity. As soon as we start to navigate our lives via our feeling state rather than by the content of any given thought, we steer ourselves away from upset and and towards calm and peace. If I am angry and upset, it isn’t because of you, it’s because of how I am using my thinking about you at this moment. I don’t have to change you or change your mind, I just have to quiet down, find a more positive feeling state, clear my head, and look to my insights for resolution. Sadly, a lot of self-help in the world today points us towards recognition of our thoughts, paying extra attention to our thought content, doing something with thoughts. To me, that’s forcing us to become immersed in the problem rather than looking towards the solution.
An already-thought thought, as I often say, is like an already-baked cookie. If the cookie tastes terrible (if the thought generates bad feelings), there’s no way to pull it apart and re-make it with the old recipe and the old ingredients. The only answer is to taste the cookie, realize how awful it is, throw that batch away, and start fresh. The resolution is not in repeating the bad recipe again and again. It’s recognizing yucky stuff for what it is and allowing ourselves to find and try a new recipe.