We all know the credo, “you create your own reality,” which tells us that the contents of our mind give birth to the world we perceive around us.
But doesn’t something sit uneasy here? There is a lot of over-simplification with this idea—a favourite among the self-help books—that doesn’t seem to jive with how we feel most of the time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, because the times when we do feel happy and at ease— when it seems we are able to manifest the life we want—also serve to bring the other, less glorious times into sharper focus. We need to account for both tendencies in our lives if we want to have a more even-keeled relationship with the world, don’t we?
If it was as simple as “manifest anything, right now!” we would all have everything we’ve ever wanted, right? I’m talking about the spectrum running from an affordable trip around the world and time in which to do it, to eternal happiness and immortality (or whatever else floats your boat; the first three, at least, float mine!).
The ideas behind “create your own reality” are good ones. Taking steps to manage how we live our lives is empowering and valuable. Our attitude towards a person, event or situation very much impacts the outcome of these relationships.
But we need to be mindful of how many factors are at play when we consider our attitudes and our relationships, and just how much we have to work through to achieve harmony between self and world. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and contentment, enlightenment and a life governed by freedom are much more difficult to achieve than Rome was.
Patience is our greatest ally.
It takes more than well-wishing and “thinking it” to get there. Our beliefs are very important, but they need to run deeper than the more superficial layers of our mind. We can’t cheat ourselves into believing positive things. We have to believe it way-deep down to our proverbial (and actual) bones. We have to cause change from the inside out, which means we have to learn how to acquaint ourselves with—and then take charge of—our deepest and darkest shadows, so that the light can filter through to our daily reality. No easy task, but not an impossible one!
“Wake up in yourself a will to conquer. Not a mere will in the mind but a will in the very cells of your body. Without that you can’t do anything; you may take a hundred medicines but they won’t cure you.” ~ Mirra Alfassa (or “The Mother”, as she was known to followers of Alfassa and Sri Aurobindo)
The best thing that can happen to us on this road through life, I’ve come to believe, is to stumble upon the idea that we want to be truly free from suffering in its most profound forms, and to dig deep to find the motivation to do something about it. We may not have to dig at all. It may come as inspiration, intuition, or in any number of ways, if it’s the right time.
But then, we have to do the work, and this is where patience comes in. The seed that gave us our inspiration to begin the long haul toward taming the beasts within is one we should never stop believing in and tending to, no matter how grueling the road, or how small our progress seems.
Our bodies, minds and ‘spirit’—or whatever you want to call that place inside where intuition comes from—operate at different speeds.
As a tiny example, we really want to quit coffee and be rid of its monstrous hold. This doesn’t mean our bodies don’t need a few days to physically “reset” as a caffeine-free entity, or that our minds don’t need even longer to understand that it’s okay to be a human who doesn’t consume coffee while reading morning emails or hanging out with friends in the afternoon.
On a much grander scope, the healing process—and any move toward growth, I believe, involves healing—affects us on many different levels at once, and we need to let each aspect of us handle the changes taking place in their own way.
I might want to forgive someone. But another part of me—one that shows up as my racing heart, for example, or the aching pit in my stomach—that precedes thought or rationalization, still wants to react with fear, repulsion, resentment…you name it.
Meditation is an amazing thing. It helps us to see that what we feel emotionally is mapped onto our physical bodies. It helps us observe and then unify our experiences so that we can understand through observation and experience how our body-mind-spirit complex maneuvers through life.
Meditation helps by bringing us to our breath and the present moment, where we can experience rather than just know that our minds and bodies are part of the same vast conglomerate.
When we “come back to the breath” we are taking our mind, which has floated anywhere from our childhood best friend to our retirement cruise, right back into our body, here and now.
Once we’re “together” like this, we can begin to access the ever-deepening layers of who we are, based on all we’ve been.
It’s a fascinating process to observe the wisdom our intuitions bring us, followed by all the rationalizations our minds make to thwart said wisdom, and how are bodies are thrown in there like the child of a very bitter divorce, always trying to catch up with what happened ten fights ago, let alone what is going on right now.
Sometimes our body, like a young child, needs to yell and say, “Stop! I’m confused and I’m hurting! Be quiet for a minute, or take the fight into another room, and let me figure out what’s happening!”
Or sometimes our bodies are springing forward, full of energy, only to be halted by the workings of the mind—our doubts, fears and habitual negative thinking.
We must be patient.
Our bodies (or minds) are just trying to catch up with the work we’re doing, as long as we are determined to do the work and with good intention, because ultimately, we’re the ones in the driver’s seat. There is nothing that is happening within us that is not a movement toward growth, despite the tricks we know how to play on ourselves.
Even in these, I truly believe, we can learn to observe and transcend.
“Once you are conscious, it means that you can distinguish and sift things, you can see which are the forces that pull you down and which help you on. And when you know the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the divine from the undivine, you are to act strictly up to your knowledge; that is to say, resolutely reject one and accept the other. The duality will present itself at every step and at every step you will have to make your choice. You will have to be patient and persistent and vigilant.” ~ The Mother
The Fading Mountain
The new moon is a mist behind clouds but I turn to the mountains in the near distance, on the other side of the very narrow river.
There’s a small rickety bridge that crosses it and last year they were building a second bridge not far away. Now it’s done. It’s not rickety yet, like the others, but it’s flimsy so there’s a lot of promise.
Now the sky is thick like you can touch it and it’s a dress from the Victorian Age made of endless folds of velvet. I want to watch the mountains go dark the way you want to watch water boil without ever taking your eyes away from the pot.
They say a watched pot never boils, but of course that’s not true. It’ll boil as sure as the sun rises everyday (so far that’s a sure thing, until one day the sun will just run out of energy and die). I’m not sure what that expression is trying to tell us, maybe not to be impatient but just to go on with life and let the proverbial water boil on its own?
Personally, I just think we don’t have the patience to watch water boil and are afraid to see this. The mind goes elsewhere and the body follows because we’re not as in control of ourselves as we’d like to think we are. If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ll see how difficult it is to watch your breath go in and out, in and out, with full concentration. This is mind-training, and the mind is stubborn. It wants to be anywhere else so you start thinking about the past and future, all sorts of happy and bad things, and before you know it you’re anxious and miserable and the breath has been forgotten.
How I love the mountains of Laos, their curves and shapes and strength, and I want to watch them change in the night, all night. I want to watch this water boil. There’s a large mountain covered with trees, and next to it is a series of smaller mountains, with one darker one dominating that’s also covered in trees. Above these the sky is now several intoxicating shades of blue. I look and immediately I’m back to when I was here years ago, and how I felt so protected under these nurturing mountains, and how lonely I was then.
The mountains were everything. I see again: the sky is darker, but you can still discern the varying blues of the sky. The mountains behind the darkest one have faded into the background. The large mountain next to it has become a silhouette. I missed this in the space it took for nostalgia to grow.
I hear someone start to cry. I try to find her but I can’t. I think of loneliness again and now my attention has moved away once again from the mountains, which are almost gone now. But I remember these mountains, and I’ll keep on remembering them. You can feel them even as they disappear.