One of the benefits of gaining a deeper understanding into the nature of the human experience is that we become more insightful. Life starts to seem more intuitive and at times even obvious, and things that appeared dark and mysterious open themselves up in the light of our new insights.
To me, it’s always seemed that these insights occur in two distinct styles – with the smack on the forehead obviousness of a Homer Simpson “doh!” moment, or the parting of the Red Sea awe of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.:
By way of example, I had a real “doh!” moment a few years back while listening to sports talk radio in the run up to the Superbowl. A hall of fame former player shared a story about the longtime coach of the Buffalo Bills, Marv Levy, who began each new year with the advice:
“Expect adversity, and expect more that you will conquer adversity.”
For some reason, this was an epiphany for me. Not the second part about expecting that you will conquer adversity – I learned all about that kind of thing reading Napoleon Hill and other gurus in the positive thinking movement. But the “expect adversity” bit caught me by surprise. I’d somehow managed to chalk up all 28,163 adversities I’ve faced thus far in my life as “anomalies”, whereas the norm was clearly the 17 minutes of every day where everything goes exactly the way I’ve planned it.
On the “Charlton Heston” front, my most recent insight still exists more in feeling than in words. My work with clients seems to have deepened over the past month or so, and all I can point to is a profound feeling of spaciousness and peace that shows up whenever I sit down to talk with another human being about the nature of life.
What I find most interesting is that in both cases, the gateway to the insights was the same – not being overly interested in the content of my own thinking.
The less I care what I have on my mind, the easier it is to see what’s really going on outside of my head with greater clarity. This clarity makes things seem more obvious, leading to the kind of “doh!” moments that happen so frequently in the inside-out understanding that a friend once described it as “flat head therapy”.
It also seems that as I lose interest in my own story, more feelings of peace and well-being rise up inside me. I get a richer experience of life and access to an impersonal wisdom that seems more akin to the wisdom of the ages than any personal learnings I may have gleaned from my half a century or so on the planet.
For me, losing interest in the moment by moment content of my thinking is very different from trying to let go of my thoughts. When I strive for a quiet mind, I inevitably fill my head with noisy thoughts about how well or poorly I’m doing.
But when I see that the less I care what I have on my mind, the better my life seems to get, I’m simply less inclined to think about things that don’t need my input at the moment. Fortunately, that accounts for pretty much everything that’s happened to me in the past, might happen to me in the future, or is happening outside of my direct sphere of influence in the present.
In other words:
There’s really not much we have to think about in order to have a rich, full, and contributory life.
I have learned a great respect for the words of Franz Kafka:
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
With all my love,