Be at peace with yourself. Change the world from within.
During a recent coaching session, I asked one of my clients what he felt his biggest obstacle to inner peace was.
“Myself,” he answered in a flash.
I knew exactly what he meant, of course, but was curious to hear his response to the following question.
What do you mean by ‘myself’?
“You know. The incessant mind chatter, the self-criticism, the doubts, the judgements, the fears, the craziness. All of that.” he replied.
“Are you experiencing this right now?” I asked.
“No. Right now I feel fine. But a lot of the time I struggle.” he replied.
I could totally empathise with his experience as I reflected on the one simple insight, the simple shift in perspective that had changed everything for me… and the common misperception about the mind, shared by pretty much the entire population, that had caused me so much unnecessary suffering for such a long time.
I Can’t Live With Myself Any Longer
Maybe you’re familiar with the book ‘The Power Of Now” by Eckhart Tolle? If you haven’t read it, I’d thoroughly recommend doing so.
In the book, the author describes how one evening, in the midst of a crippling bout of depression, the thought popped into his head, “I can’t live with myself any longer.”
In that moment, he was struck by how strange this thought was.
“Does that mean there are two of me—the one who is ‘me’ and the one that I can’t live with any more?” he pondered.
In a moment of clarity, he intuitively realised that only one of these versions of ‘me’ could be real. And with this realisation, the depression vanished, never to return.
When I first read the book back in the ’90s, it (quite literally) blew my mind… or more accurately, it blew apart my perception of what the mind is and my relationship with it.
Until then, I had always seen myself and the mind as being one and the same thing. Like my client, I had always believed that ‘me’ consisted of my thoughts, feelings, emotions and personal story.
And naturally, when you believe you are your thoughts, you’re going to suffer whenever negative ones appear.
It was the first time I had come across the idea that the mind is an object in my awareness, something I could step back from and view objectively. And furthermore, that there is, what Eckhart calls a witnessing presence that remains always at peace, no matter what is going on in the mind.
Whether you have agitated thoughts or peaceful ones, the awareness itself doesn’t change. It is not affected.
I realised for the first time that my thoughts were NOT the problem. The real issue was my identification WITH them. Read that again. This is massive!
Like the screen in the cinema, which doesn’t get burned when there’s a fire in the movie, there’s an awareness within each of us that remains untouched and unaffected by the thoughts, feelings and emotions it is aware of.
Knowing this is liberation.
Peace Of Mind vs Peace With Mind
So, if you, like pretty much everyone else, find yourself stuck in mind-created suffering, there are two approaches you can take to try and free yourself.
The first approach is to look for a fix on the level of the mind— to try to convert all your negative thoughts, feelings and emotions into positive ones.
I tried this for years and the truth is, it doesn’t work, for several reasons—the main one being that restlessness is the nature of the mind.
This quote from the Indian Master, Nisargaddatta, sums it up:
“There is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance; restlessness itself is mind.”
Having a crazy, messed up mind IS the human condition.
Wanting to have a peaceful, co-operative mind is like wanting the grass to be pink or wanting water to be dry.
But thankfully, there is another, far simpler solution.
You can make peace WITH the restless mind, through learning to step back and objectively watch your thoughts, feelings and emotions with an attitude of non-judgemental acceptance.
The main cause of suffering isn’t the content of your mind, It’s the judgement of and subsequent resistance to that content.
If you don’t mind what appears in your head, you won’t suffer.
The next step is to gradually, over time, learn to identify more and more with the unchanging awareness that is already at peace within you.
In my coaching program, I use a combination of both approaches… changing the way you deal with thoughts as they arise and learning to recognise and dive deep into the peace that never leaves you.
As another of my favourite Indian teachers, Papaji, says:
“Don’t strive to be a peaceful person. Be peace.”
Which Self Are You?
So, getting back to Eckhart Tolle’s question of which of the two selves we really are, here are the two possibilities.
We are either the constantly changing stream of impressions —the thoughts, feelings. emotions, perceptions, physical sensations etc— that continuously flow through our awareness OR we are the timeless, unchanging, conscious Presence that is aware of all these comings and goings, without being touched by any of them.*
Hint: All the great Masters point to the second option.
Trying to alter the stream of impressions is pretty much impossible but it’s really not that difficult to learn to shift your perspective and relate to the mind in a different way.
I’d be happy to show you how. Just send drop me a quick email to set up a free call.
Here’s a 20-minute guided meditation I like to share with my clients to give them a direct experience of the natural state that exists beyond the mind…. the ground of peace within you.
It may well help you find your own answer to the question “which self am I?”
If you do try the meditation, be sure to leave a comment saying how it was and what you discovered about yourself.
I’d love to hear from you.
Being You (20 minutes).
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