Advice for Living from a Dead Movie Star (#906)

This Friday, I’m going to be recording the audio book version of The Inside-Out Revolution. In reviewing the manuscript in some detail for the first time since it came out, I came across a section where I quote the late great movie star Spencer Tracy, whose unpretentious advice for wannabe actors was simply this:

“Know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.”

In my mind, this is not just great advice for actors – it’s fantastic advice for life. As I wrote in the book:

Have you ever gone looking for your glasses only to find them perched on the top of your head? Or gone in to work or school only to find it was a Saturday? Ever tried to get into the wrong car, or to fix a ‘broken’ piece of electrical equipment, only to find it wasn’t actually switched on or plugged in?

The reason everyone has at least a few of these stories in their arsenal is that we all spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about stuff. We think about what we had for dinner last night and what we’re going to have for lunch today. We think about what our partner really meant when they said, ‘I love you,’ in a slightly distracted manner, and we think about whether we really meant it the last time we said it.

In fact, it’s become so normal to always have something (or even lots of things) on our mind that we’ve stopped noticing how unnatural it is. After all, we weren’t born with very much on our mind. But somewhere along the way, we learned to live a second life in our head. And in so doing, we began to miss out on the incredible joy, insight, richness and depth of feeling available to us in the first one.

That’s not to say that thinking is bad. The capacity for critical thinking plays an important role in the evolution of our society and the development of science, mathematics, philosophy, language, and more. But if you find yourself bumping into the furniture or getting upset about the way someone you’ll never meet has parked their car in a public car park, chances are your critical thinking has run amok.

In other words, Thought makes a great servant but a terrible master. Fortunately, learning to master your thinking is as simple as understanding how the mind works at a deeper level.

Imagine the mind as being a pipeline for fresh Thought, flowing straight from the deeper intelligence behind life into our consciousness, where we experience it as our personal reality. When the pipeline is open and Thought is flowing freely, our experience is fed by a gentle stream of new thoughts, insights, and creative ideas. When the pipeline is closed or clogged up with our own regurgitated thinking, we experience an endless rehash of what’s already stuck inside it. Faced with this log jam of stale, repetitive thinking, we start to experience boredom, irritation, and a sense of futility and even emptiness.

If we don’t understand that all that’s happening is we’ve gotten lost in a world of our own thinking, the temptation is to ‘fix’ our experience by going out and creating our own best imitations of love and happiness and fulfillment. If we do understand, then we know that within moments of allowing our mind to empty and our thoughts to settle, we’ll once again feel the flow of the deeper river of life.

So why is ‘Know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture’ such great advice for life?

Because when we ‘know our lines’ – that is, we understand that our connection to the deeper intelligence behind the mind is continually writing the best possible script for our life – we relax into the moment and never have to worry about what we’ll do or say next. And the less we have on our mind, the less likely we are to absent-mindedly bump into the furniture of our circumstances and the more effortlessly we’ll navigate our life.

Pretty much every time I start to think that I need to work things out ahead of time in order to succeed in life, I start to drown in a whirlpool of my own making and circumstances start to seem ever so “bumpy”. And pretty much every time I let go and let the deeper intelligence behind the mind guide my path, I succeed in life.

I sometimes think that the day will come when I’ll no longer need to be reminded of this fact and will simply allow myself to be guided, day by day and moment by moment. But I suspect I’m wrong about that. As Syd Banks used to say, “Life is a contact sport”, and perhaps the best I can hope for is the same number of bumps but fewer bruises.

Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound bad at all…

With all my love,


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