The Most Important Question in the World (#854)

In any field of endeavor, we must first ascertain how things actually work before we can meaningfully explore how best to make use of them. We need to understand the physics of something to become better engineers; a better understanding of biology allows us to save lives. When it comes to human psychology, the more accurately we understand how the mind works, the more usefully we can address questions of how to use it. So before we try to answer questions about how best to live, it is essential to take a fresh look at how life works.

And when it comes to understanding how life actually works, the most important question I know to ask is this:

Where is our experience coming from?

How we answer this question predetermines both where we will look for relief from our stress and suffering and what we will and won’t do in an attempt to experience greater well-being. It also forms the basis for nearly all intervention-based approaches to mental health.

For many years, psychologists have compared the human brain to a computer. The general assumption has been that while some people’s computers are more powerful than others (higher IQ, etc.), the main difference between individuals is in the software – the ‘programs’ they run.

These programs include both the ‘apps’, or strategies people use, and the ‘operating system’ that allow the apps to run– their beliefs and values. The culture we are raised in provides us with our individual operating system, which then gets modified over time. Some beliefs and values, particularly those around our identity, are so much a part of the fabric of our thinking that they feel almost hard wired into the system.

But far more important to the effectiveness of a computer than its apps, programs, or operating system is what’s baked into the firmware – the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System). Even the most effective programs can’t run without interfacing with the BIOS of the computer.

Almost every one of the 400+ distinct fields in psychology are built on the fundamental assumption that the BIOS of the human system works from the outside in – that is, we input data about the outside world through our senses and then process that data to produce various outputs like feeling and behavior.

Some psychologies focus on the input system, teaching us to refine our senses and pay more attention to what is actually going on around us as a way of mindfully re-sensitizing ourselves to the present moment.

Others focus on the processing of the data, encouraging us to change our beliefs and reframe our circumstances in ways that lessen the impact of stressful, frightening, or otherwise difficult situations and heighten our appreciation of and gratitude for the positive ones.

A third set focuses on the output, guiding us to replace ineffective habits and behaviors with better ones.

But what Syd Banks saw when he had his enlightenment experience was that the only way the human experience could unfold was from thought to experience. No exceptions.

This leads us to the revolutionary notion that Syd and the numerous psychologists and doctors who have followed in his path have proposed as a unifying paradigmatic understanding of human psychology:

Our experience of life is created from the inside out. We are living in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world.

We’ve been taught that we live in an outside-in world where the causal force in the universe is outside us. So our experience of life seems to be the result of the impact that external causal force has on us. All we can do, apparently, is to react to that impact in the best way we can.

But in the inside-out paradigm, the principle of Thought (in conjunction with Mind and Consciousness) is the only causal force behind experience. We are simply not designed to experience the outside world in any other way. We can’t see, hear, or feel without thought informing our senses, and we have no way of checking whether or not our thoughts are telling us about something that’s really happening or simply projecting false data that we then interpret as true. That’s why one moment we can be sure that everything’s going to be fine and the next we can be equally sure that it isn’t – without anything actually changing in the world.

This inability to verify our observations doesn’t mean that the world doesn’t exist – just that its impact on our experience of life has been vastly exaggerated.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!

With all my love,
Michael

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