“You can have your experience without your experience having you.”
You’re no doubt aware that your moods can fluctuate from day to day, even moment to moment. I think most people can appreciate, when they really consider it, that their state of mind is a big variable in their experience of life. What they don’t always see is that their state of mind is responsible for 100 percent of their experience.
The problem is, it’s often hard to remember this or feel consoled by this when you’re stuck, living in your head, feeling bad.
When you’re stuck in anxious, insecure thinking it can often seem like this way of being is here to stay. It can also seem like the bad feeling is caused by a variety of external things: our partners, our bank balance, what’s happening in the world, or indeed hundreds of other possible situations that all get the blame.
I say this as someone who knows all too well what this can be like. You see, I spent a long time feeling like I wasn’t enough. Despite spending my formative years on stages, playing in bands and acting, I always felt a little lost, unsure of myself, and disconnected from who I really was.
Then, in my late twenties, things came to a head. My music career came to an abrupt end around the same time I went through a messy breakup, and to say this floored me would be an understatement. For a long time I was in a dark place, looking for solace in all the wrong places. I’d always been a deep thinker, but now my thoughts threatened to do me in.
What’s more, I was an expert at blame at this stage in my life. I blamed other people (a lot), myself (mainly), and the world (usually).
I lamented why things weren’t happening for me the way I expected them to, but couldn’t see that this expectation was keeping me angry and tight and unable to see things clearly. The blame game kept me closed up, in victim mode, looking outside of myself for reasons as to why I was feeling bad. In essence, I wasn’t taking ownership of my life.
I’m glad to say that after a lot of self-work I was able to step away from this way of being. After years of searching and exploration I began to see that happiness and creativity were always available for me; they were always there inside of me. Just like the sun is always in the sky, even on grey days. If we allow the clouds to part in our psyche, then the sun inside us, our well-being, is always there waiting.
You see, when something happens, like a layoff or a messy breakup, it’s likely you’ll have lots of thoughts and opinions about what has happened that make the event mean something about who you are.
For instance, the event is: your career has ended, but the opinion you have about that is: you’re no good at your job, you’re no good at your career, you’re no good at life.
Another example. The event is: your relationship has ended, but the opinion you have about that is: you’re unlovable, you’ll never find anyone else, you’re worthless.
The problem is that most of the time this happens on a subconscious level. It’s useful to remember that when you pile more and more thinking and more and more opinions onto your experience it only makes you tight and closed up around the issue.
You resist reality. You obsess over what happened. You beat yourself up. You essentially hold on to the experience, allowing it to dominate your life.
I used to feel like I had to grip onto the issue really, really tightly, to keep hold of it until I could work out how to feel better about it. But I now know that it’s this very act of being tight and closed up that makes us feel bad.
It looks like the thing that happened is causing the bad feeling, but it isn’t. Being tight and closed up around what happened is what actually makes you feel bad.
We know this deep down, I think. When we practice being open and looser in life, the same events can happen to us, but they don’t knock us down in the same way. Sure, they’re still unpleasant experiences, but they happen and we deal with them. When we are open, we can see new ways to move forward. When we aren’t closed up tight, gripping onto the issue, we can look for solutions from a raised perspective.
Now, this isn’t about having a spiritual bypass or pretending bad things don’t happen. Loved ones die, wrongs are done, and I’m not in any way suggesting you should deny your feelings. When you stay open to your experience, you can still feel love and even deep sorrow, but without the tightness and the bitterness that are so negative. And this knowledge of how your experience works allows you to react better to these events. You can react with more clarity and compassion.
When we stay open we don’t have lots of opinions about what happens. When we stay open we don’t allow our expectations about how life ‘should be’ to overtake us. When we stay open we can better deal with what is actually going on.
Opening up takes us back to source, back to the loving reality of our being. And the good news is that opening up can be done in many ways.
In its most basic form it’s a sigh out after a deep breath in. In other forms it’s the end of a thrilling roller coaster ride that simulates a cheating of death, it’s a deep belly laugh, an orgasm. It can also take the form of a simple insight, a remembrance, a knowing that the event isn’t causing the suffering on its own, and that it’s our tightness around it and our unwillingness to let go that is causing the suffering.
When we remember this we naturally open up a little. When we see this truth our consciousness can’t help but raise a little. When this happens we can’t help but have more perspective on what’s going on.
To help with this it’s important to focus on three things: awareness, practice, and release.
Firstly, become aware that this is how your experience of life works—100 percent of the time. No exceptions. Events don’t cause suffering on their own, ever. It’s only when you get closed up and tight around them that it causes suffering. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel sadness or have low moods, just that we shouldn’t resist them but rather accept them for what they are.
When you see the truth in this for yourself it’ll make less sense to stay closed and tight round issues. When you understand that it’s the closed up tightness causing the real pain, it will start to seem pointless to grip these issues so close to you and not let go.
Next comes practice. A practice of letting go and opening up to life. This may take a little leap of faith, but you can do it. When you do, you’ll see that the bad feeling won’t win, it won’t take over, it won’t destroy you. From this state of openness you will be in a much better, more creative state of mind to deal with whatever is going on. From this place you’ll see new ways of solving your problems.
I know it can appear like if you ‘let go’ of the issue you won’t be able to deal with it. You’ll feel like you need to keep control of the issue, but that’s not the case. That need for control is the tightness, which is the root of the problem, not the solution.
And finally, with awareness and practice, you can begin to release the anxious, insecure thinking and in doing so, the suffering. You can take a deep breath, visualize your body and mind opening up, relax into the moment, and see what new ideas, insights, and solutions show up in this calmer, more creative space.
My hope is that you read this again and see something new that changes your thinking just enough to allow more freedom, space, and happiness to appear.
And that soon, you too will allow your own sun to appear through the clouds.