This has been a question I keep asking myself, if I change how I think and the way I judge a situation does that actually change the situation? I question whether positive thinking is enough to create change or should we be spending time visualizing the outcomes we desire. There is also the idea that surrendering to the situation and focusing on the present moment is where fulfillment and happiness can be found.
This is how my journey began. I was very unhappy in my job, but a believer in positive thinking, I took the approach that I had to be proactive and make change. I committed myself to job hunting. Initially, energized by my choice, I enthusiastically updated and circulated my CV, joined job hunting sites, set up job alerts. Every day I was going to put in effort to make the changes I wanted.
A few months went by with little success, I created no new opportunities and I was finding the job I had, more and more emotionally challenging. I was starting to feel worn out, ill, distressed, negative, desperate. I found myself applying for jobs I didn’t even want. When escape seemed quite impossible, I tried to change the situation I was in, communicating my feelings and asking for the things, I felt, I needed to reduce the stress. I did not receive a response from management. Feeling defeated and worthless, I hit my first breaking point and I was signed off work.
It was at this time, I discovered TED! An endless stream of motivational talks and stories, that I hung on to like a climber on a sheer rock face. I started to think about who I was but found that I didn’t know anymore. It is amazing how we go through the day to day routine of our lives without really questioning if that routine represents our inner authentic selves. I noticed how much of my thinking was about how I would be judged by others and my need to fit in. I wanted to be accepted, to be good enough, to have value but I didn’t value myself. Time for a new perspective, by focusing on changing external factors, had I been missing the point?
Over the next couple of months, I experienced several synchronicities or had certain phrases that lingered in my mind, seemingly significant. The first synchronicity that surprised me, came from a conversation with a kind woman in my yoga class. We had only ever smiled at each other before but she noticed I wasn’t myself and approached me. In a brief conversation, her compassion was like a calm sea, flowing over me. She recommended Louise L. Hay’s book – You Can Heal Your Life. The book seemed to hear its name. Another woman from the class had brought along a few books she no longer wanted, the very book was included. Wow! I considered this a sign and began reading that very day.
Introduced to the idea that we have power in our thoughts and emotion. From a place of love and gratitude we can change our lives. I was initially resistant to the idea that this also meant that with our own thoughts we create our own unhappiness. Surely, I wasn’t responsible for my own anxiety and depression? I think what I understand now, from reading further is that there is an element of saved pain that we hold inside us, Eckhart Tolle, and others, refer to this as the pain body. The concept as I understand it, is that this pain comes from childhood experiences, learned and repeating patterns of thought and behaviour,that become part of us and can lead us into repeated unhappiness. Awareness of how this pain body operates within us seems to be the key to learning to live with it.
I started using affirmations. I found other sources that seemed to compliment the ideas of Louise L. Hays. I watched the film – The Secret and began learning more about an idea that there was a ‘law of attraction’, and suggests that we have the power to manifest our own reality, by using various methods to focus our thinking and emotions. I began visualising my dream job, believing that the universe was ordering things to enable me to reach this goal. I was uplifted in a belief that I could create the opportunities I was seeking. When I applied for jobs, I spent time imagining myself having a good interview and being successful. To my knowledge, I have not actually manifested any change in my circumstances, trying this method. However, I was starting to become aware of my thoughts at a deeper level but this was only the beginning.
It was summertime, I found a renewed desire to spend time outside in nature. I was able to simply enjoy moments of time without fears over the future overwhelming me. I seemed to have a growing connection to the birds and other animal, I encountered. I walked for hours, usually on my own, simply absorbing the surroundings. I felt a power, that is difficult to describe with words, but it felt wise, all-encompassing, I felt I was part of a story of life on planet Earth, simply by existing, I belonged. I was left with an urge to learn more about the mysteries of ancient civilisations, the wonders of structures like the pyramids, Stonehenge, Easter Island. I discovered and became particularly intrigued by the work of Graham Hancock.
My perception of life seemed to be changing considerable, I returned to work, anxious but feeling more aware of my inner self and stronger as a consequence. Work was not as important to my life as it had been. My work was not my purpose, as I had once thought. It was around this time, I first had the idea to begin this blog, a seemingly strange idea for a technophobe, like me, and I really have no expectations of any outcomes, as I do not see how there could be, but the idea felt exciting, like it had energy. After much resistance, I have embraced it. I was starting to feel like a child again, the world seemed exciting, purposeful and more mysterious and intriguing than I ever imagined. I felt safe, I felt loved and like I belonged in the world. I can not describe this feeling or knowing adequately, but to me, it was the very opposite of depression.
Alas, I returned to work and in a matter of weeks hit a low greater than before. I did not know how to maintain my new perception and experience of life with being little more than a number, in a hierarchical workplace, where egos, status and assumed power seemed to be order of the day. In fact, I began to think the feelings I had over the summer, were probably mind tricks or brain chemicals, perhaps I was delusional? Whatever my present perception of the universe was, I reached a state of complete despair, existence seemed pointless and I wanted to escape. I am a single mum of a teenage boy, and I believe it is solely my love for him and the support of a few loved ones that kept me here.
It was at this point my YouTube feed recommended a video by Eckhart Tolle, Watching this one video lead to another and another. I had bought his book – The Power of Now, a few years previous, but couldn’t understand the meaning. Now! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Surrendering to the present moment seemed just about all I was capable of. Eckhart’s profound message in The Power of Now: ‘In the Now, the present moment, problems do not exist’, provoked a realisation deep inside. This realisation did not externally change my situation in any way I am aware of, but again, I experienced a change in my perception of that situation. My depression had given me the ability to access a deeper side of myself, that I could use as an opportunity to increase my connection and awareness, an opportunity to allow a new me to unfold, without force, without expectation but perhaps with purpose and authenticity.
So now we are at the present time. Every time I begin to feel a strong negative emotion, or negative thought patterns, I pause, focus on my breathing, create space and remind myself that at this moment, I am safe. I have begun to observe my thoughts, and identify with different aspects of myself. I am now familiar with my pain body and some of the thoughts and behaviour that arise with it. I have become only too aware of my ego, I find it rather tricky to identify, but when I do, that awareness allows me to make more informed choices, or perhaps disregard it all together. This awareness allows me to better understand others too.
I have taken a great deal of focus away from worrying about the future, life rarely turns out anything like we imagined it would. Spending agonising hours, preparing for an unknown crisis, seems ridiculous, but this is how I have spent literally days, weeks and probably much more of my life. It was a far from happy way to exist.
I find acceptance challenging, but we live in a world that is always encouraging us to strive and push for something better, I am finding that it tends to be my ego that wants to push for status and recognition, however my ego does not understanding that you can not find fulfillment in the Now, if you are pushing to make gains in the future. Life surrounds us at every moment and to recognise that brings comfort and gratitude. Even if the present moment is uncomfortable, breathe, as this too shall pass.
I struggle with trusting the process of life. I think this is because we do not have to look for long, to see inhumanity to other beings and disregard and destruction towards all life forms, nature and the planet as a whole. However, when journalists travel to places of devastation, it is also impossible to ignore that even in the darkest of situation, love seems to be able to shine through in some way. Much of my resistance to surrender and trusting the flow of life is based on fear. I look at the world and think we have an epidemic of fear, I suggest that an increase in violence and hate is an indicator of this. Fear is perhaps the opposite to trust. Many spiritual teachers seem to be suggesting that the conditions of the world today, are the conditions needed to create a greater, mass, spiritual awakening. Many are suggesting this links with the coming of the Age of Aquarius. I do not have the knowledge to write about this with any confidence.
So to conclude, my subjective opinion is that changing perceptions can indeed change reality, but involved with this is a journey that goes far beyond changing how we think. I am only at the start of that journey and I have already discovered that the solution I initially sought to satisfy my unhappiness, a new job, may have only sated my negative emotions temporarily. I felt out of step with the world and this was just unbearably evident in my job. The cause of my unhappiness was rooted much deeper inside me and somewhere inside, there is starting to grow a sense of gratitude for this struggle, as I recognise the journey I have taken so far.
I believe that there are people able to control their thoughts and intentions to such a high level that they can access the law of attraction at will. Whilst, I think this is incredible, I don’t understand the conditions which enables that kind of manifestation and have little appetite to pursue this approach, now. I find it undeniable that our thoughts, have influence on the world around us, so perhaps we do need to pay close attention to where our mind dwells and what aspect of our mind is doing the dwelling, for what purpose.
I am warmed and soothed by the practice of surrender. I have found walking in nature is a powerful tool, to experience long meaningful periods of time in this state. It is where I am most at peace and feel most whole. I think it is also worth noting that we can not really judge the change that comes from the present moment, until time has passes and we can see the fruits that grew from the seeds, we previously sowed. Perception allows us to see the reality beyond the illusion of the mundane world and therefore allows us the space and freedom to embrace and feel fulfilled in the Now, that we currently experience. So can changing perception change reality? Perhaps it is more accurate to say that by changing our perception, we see a different reality altogether.