The truth about “reality” (It’s what you think)
Principles are true whether we like them or not, whether we agree with them or not, whether we even know about them or not. Principles are the essential logic of the universe. As we discover them, things that were confusing suddenly make sense.
Think of little children before they have recognized the principle of addition. If you ask a toddler who is playing with some friends how many cookies you should bring in so he and each of his friends can have one, the answer is likely to be something like “lebenty-seven”. Toddlers haven’t seen yet that you can count by adding one to one, one more to two — until you have counted everyone. So that ordinary question is a nonsense question to the toddler, and any answer that sounds like a number will do. If you ask the same question to a six-year-old, he will count his friends and himself and tell you the number of children in the room, understanding that one cookie per person will be the same number.
Until we discover principles for all of the aspects of life that baffle us, we do the best we can making up theories and answers without any foundation. From the moment of birth, we are on a life-long journey of discovery. As soon as principles are recognized, understanding flourishes. Logic and common sense are revealed.
So it has been with human behavior. Until very recently, there were no universal answers to these kinds of questions:
- Why do people react so differently to the same events?
- Why do people remember the same things fondly or with humor sometimes and with anger or regret other times?
- Why do people lash out at others they truly love and have no desire to hurt?
- How do people miss things that are happening right in front of them?
To explain the array of human behaviors and experiences, we have looked for external causes. We look around and ask ourselves who or what made us do that? Whatever is close at hand or comes to mind looks like the culprit. I yelled at someone I really like and respect. What made me do that? Must be the angry driver that cut me off moments before that got me all stirred up. Or maybe it’s because my mother yelled at me while I was growing up and I can’t help it because it’s part of who I am. … My teenager, normally responsible, forgot about an upcoming test and didn’t study for it. Must be the distraction of that new girlfriend who calls him all the time. Or maybe it’s because we pressure him to excel and he is sending us a message? … I lost a report my boss needed for a meeting. Why? Must be because I’m so tired from being kept awake by my neighbor’s loud music. Or maybe I’m undermining my boss because he reminds me of that uncle I couldn’t stand when I was growing up? We could make a full-time job out of the blame game (some would say we do), and it wouldn’t solve anything or change anything or help us to see how to sidestep behaviors we don’t like.
At last, it is beginning to dawn on us that we can’t understand ourselves by looking all around after the fact. Now we are learning to turn and look inside at the psychological functioning of all human beings and, deeper than that, at the spiritual source of that functioning, to understand behaviors. This change in direction began with the discovery of the Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, the fundamental logic that explains who we are and how we operate. We are, at our core, pure energy. We manifest that energy as ideas and images that pass through our minds. We are aware of what is passing through our minds because our sensory systems register it. As that understanding spreads, more and more people experience a moment of insight that we are all the source of our own thinking, feelings and behaviors, that the common core of humanity is that every person on the planet, regardless of what they’re saying or doing, is generating that experience exactly the same way, using the universal energy of life to create the expression we call our individual life on earth.
At last, people are starting to recognize that we live in this world by thinking our way through it, by the creative process of forming one thought after another and experiencing that thought as reality. In simple terms, at last we’re seeing that what isn’t on our mind isn’t in our life at that moment. The only means we have of knowing what is going on in our lives is bringing things to mind, and to the extent we are aware that we are doing that, we are more or less free to shape our experience.
The simplest of life examples bring this home:
- I was in a hurry to get to work some years ago and was talking on my car phone to a client who was anxious for an answer. My head was full of the client’s problem as I backed out of my driveway, directly into the rear end of a big red truck that was parked across the street from me. It was there when I got into the car. I had looked into my rear view mirror, habitually. But because I was so distracted by all my work-related thoughts, I didn’t “see” the truck. Was it part of that moment’s “reality”? Absolutely. Was it part of “my” reality? No. My only reality was the client’s urgent issues.
- I arrived in my room at a beautiful resort hotel in California one afternoon right before sunset. I had just been facilitating a large retreat and I was trying to sort out whether to take a different approach the next day because of some of the questions that had been raised at the end. I stood in front of the window, focused on my problem, playing the day’s events over in my mind. When I went down to dinner, the waiter asked me if I had seen the sunset that night. “No, why?” I asked. “It was gorgeous,” he said. It had happened right in front of my unseeing eyes from my west-facing room, but I missed it entirely. My mind was on my work.
- When my grandson was little, he loved to invent things. He had all kinds of problem-solving ideas, and he would describe them in great detail to me as we were sitting on my porch. One afternoon, I heard him say, “So what do you think, Grammie? Will it work?” Tears came to my eyes as I realized he had been talking to me about an idea for several minutes and my mind had been elsewhere. I had no idea what he had been describing to me.
We all have many stories like that. The common thread is that whatever we are thinking about IS the moment for us, no matter what is really happening around us. The fundamental truth is that we can use the universal gift of thinking that we all share however we choose to, and we will experience our choice as if life were happening to us, even though it is truly happening through us. The depth with which we come to realize, appreciate and use this power is the measure of our joy in life. As soon as we can “see” and feel how we are using our thinking, we have the power to change. We find gratitude and empowerment in the knowledge that we are always, as Sydney Banks says, “one thought away from an entirely different reality.”
“Thought on its own is a completely neutral gift. Thought is not reality; yet it is through Thought that our realities are created. It is what we are humans put into our thoughts that dictates what we think of life. Among the greatest gifts given to us are the powers of free thought and free will, which give us the stamp of individuality, enabling us to see life as we wish. These same gifts can also be the greatest weaknesses of humanity.” Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, pp. 49-50