“The stream delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go.”
Richard Bach, Illusions
Welcome back to Part 3 of the brilliant, illuminating, transcendental series: How to Change Your World.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, this series is all about the power of thought. Specifically: the deliberate, conscious choosing of your thought.
- Part 1, was the why—so you can set the course of your life.
- Part 2, was the what—focusing on what feels good.
You can think of this part, as the how.
If you haven’t read the first two parts already, now would be a good time to do so.
You got an inkling of the how in the previous part, when I told you to choose your thoughts based on how they feel so you let go of the emotional resistance that is keeping you from moving forward.
But this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. After all, you’ve been practicing that resistance a long time. And when you practice something for a long time, it gets easier. That is to say, unless you make a concerted effort to change that habit, you’re going to continue to be resistant by default (that’s bad).
What we need, is a way to make feeling good easier so you consistently choose feeling good over being resistant—make sense?
In this part, we’re going to delve deeper down the cognitive rabbit hole to learn the fine art of dancing with thought. We’re going to learn how to go with the flow.
Wait. Isn’t This Loser Talk?
Hold on. Going with the flow? Isn’t that just code for drifting through life with no real direction or purpose? That doesn’t sound like purposeful living to me. That sounds like sugar coated mediocrity. To make things happen you have to tear down the barriers and hustle.
Is this you?
Well, if it is, let me clear up a little misunderstanding:
Going with the flow doesn’t mean you don’t have goals.
It doesn’t mean you don’t have direction.
It doesn’t even mean you don’t have ambition.
It just means you don’t have resistance.
It means you don’t fight yourself every step of the way with fears and doubts and unreasonable expectations. You do what feels good. You take your cues from intuition. And you trust in the process. You work in harmony with your environment—rather than trying to conquer it.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
But what does it really mean, when the rubber hits the road? Glad you asked…
Going Down the Rabbit Hole
You experience life through your thoughts and feelings. But, do you ever wonder about where your thoughts come from? Do you create your thoughts deliberately, or do they just sort of happen?
Anyone who has practiced meditation a few times has found that the stream of thoughts that flows through ones awareness can be quite overwhelming.
Indeed, it’s not until you actually get quiet and ‘listen’ that you even begin to realize just how many thoughts you actually have; and that you’re not even aware of most of them, most of the time. That’s kind of a strange concept: not being aware of your own thoughts because we tend to assume that thinking and consciousness are synonymous when in fact, most thinking is done unconsciously and habitually.
It’s only when you practice awareness through meditation that you begin to develop a greater sense of the real nature of your thought.
For some reason we like to assume that we are the author of every thought that we have. But my experience has always been that finding a great idea—a truly surprising, creative idea—is always more a case of relaxing and tuning in to it rather than systematically and deliberately constructing it through logic or design.
Some things can be reasoned out that way but that kind of thinking is usually not as creative, nor as illuminating as the inspired thoughts that happen while you’re in the flow. The truly creative element of thought happens at quite a different level.
In meditation you quiet your mind and slow down the flow of thought so you can watch it with greater awareness. Then you begin to appreciate how difficult it is to actually control with any sustained consistency. While it is possible to focus on a particular thought through will power, most of your thoughts don’t happen that way. Most of your thoughts just seem to dance through your mind of their own accord.
At first the thoughts bombard you, but by deliberately calming your breathing and focusing, you can slow down the stream enough to begin to observe it more objectively without getting carried away with it. You become more detached, more tranquil; and you realize that your thoughts are not you. They are something different.
When I do this I have the sense of floating in space, surrounded by bubbles of thought. I don’t really know where they come from. If I am their creator then the creation is done quite unconsciously. Some of the thoughts seem familiar, like a commentary on the events of my life or an echo of my previous contemplation. But many of them are completely surprising. Rarely do they come as words. More like images or feelings or a sense of knowing that is not rooted in language or intellect.
Some thoughts flow smooth and serene and carry you forth to faster moving waters. Other thoughts are tumultuous and they will dash you against the rocks if you allow yourself to be swept up in them.
To navigate life is to navigate your thoughts. The wise captain chooses to travel only in the currents that are favorable to his course. He moves with the current, not against it.
In the beginning, this skill is weak, so you tend to get carried along by thoughts which don’t really serve you well. It’s like the thoughts are choosing you rather than you them.
But even with the thoughts you choose deliberately, you have to ask the question: “how did I come to think that thought in the first place?” How did it occur to me? Why do I have “access” to that idea and not others? Why can’t I get access to an idea that could cure cancer, or make a million dollars or reveal the meaning of everything as easily as I can get access to ideas about what I’m eating for lunch today or how annoying my boss is?
After all—all those thoughts are indeed out there waiting to be discovered. Waiting to be engaged with. But they don’t just present themselves randomly, they present themselves based on what other thoughts you habitually entertain. They organize themselves in cliques and hang out with thoughts of a similar character.
Why Your Mind is Like Twitter
In this respect, your mind is kind of like Twitter.
Thoughts come and go.
Many of them are surprising to you.
Many of them are not even your own.
A good portion of them could accurately be labeled ‘spam’.
But what you get to do is decide which thoughts you’re going to ‘click through’ on, and which thoughts you’re going to ignore. You get to decide which thoughts you’re going to engage with, grab a hold of and follow; and which you’re just going to let pass you by.
This one decision, made continually, in every moment of consciousness determines the entire direction and quality of your life.
Thus, to live effectively, you need to cultivate two extremely important skills:
- Saying Yes
- Letting go
Most of us struggle with the second one. Most of us don’t know how to not pay attention to something that’s right there. That’s why our lives turn into a never ending procession of “YES… but”s.
“Yes, I’d like to do that: BUT, here’s a reason I just found why it’s impossible”
Here’s the secret of change:
Keep the Yes. Ditch the but.
Just LET. IT. GO.
Don’t try to rationalize it. Don’t try to solve it. Don’t try to push it away. Certainly don’t try to defend it. Just let it go.
And calmly remind yourself: “it’s just another thought”.
Know that you can’t cancel or destroy a thought. You can’t shut it out by force. Any attempt to do this just makes the thought more incessant and persistent. All you can do is learn to let it go.
When you can let go of a thought rather than automatically being swept up in it, then you can also let go of the troubles in your life. Because nothing can really bother you except your own propensity for making an issue of things.
What Does This Have To Do With My Burrito?
Because most of the things that you want are much easier to get than you think. But that’s exactly the problem. You’re thinking of all the reasons why you can’t have them. You’re thinking of all the rules that you made up for yourself to prevent you from going there. All your opinions about what’s appropriate or reasonable or realistic.
Stop that. It’s bad for you.
Am I saying that the secret to moving towards what you want in life is just to ignore every idea to the contrary?
Pretty much, yeah. That would be a good summary.
“But wait! That’s crazy!”
Crazy, yes. But true. Deal with it.
But I’ve got bills to pay! Kids to feed! Reports to file!
You know what? You’re doing it right now. Let it go, dude.
I’m not saying you should stop paying your bills or feeding your kids (just yet). I’m just saying stop thinking about it for a second. Stop using that as your excuse for arresting your creativity.
You don’t have to have all the solutions figured out at step one. But you do have to learn to feel comfortable in choosing a path without knowing all of its twists and turns. You have to have a little faith that the answers will come when you need them.
They can’t come, while you’re clinging to your excuses. Those two thoughts just don’t go together. They hang in different cliques.
So allow yourself to want what you want without having to know how you’re going to get it.
Allowing leads to knowing.
Doubting leads to nothing at all.
How To Have Faith (Even If You’re Not Into That Kind of Thing)
“But one creature said at last, I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”
Richard Bach, Illusions
Faith seems hard because it asks us to believe in things that we don’t yet intellectually understand; or when we don’t have enough information to work it out for ourselves.
It’s not too difficult to have faith about the little things: about the small risks. But the bigger the risk or the less visibility we have over the details the harder faith becomes. Intuition nudges you in one direction, but your calculating intellect complains it’s a fool’s errand; and it wont let you budge. And that my friends, is why it’s called resistance.
We want to have it all figured out ahead of time. We want to feel that we’re in control of it all.
Sorry. You’re not.
The people who accomplished extraordinary things, all required extraordinary faith. Not the least of which was in themselves.
You can’t row across an ocean without a little faith.
You can’t invent the airplane without a little faith.
You can’t walk on the moon without a little faith.
I don’t care how good you are at math.
Calculation is for navigating the known. Wherever there is unknown, you require faith. And on the edges of the unknown is where your destiny calls you.
So how can you develop such a faith if you don’t already have it?
You’re going to exercise your two master skills:
You’re going to revel in the joy of every thought you can find promoting happiness and abundance and success.
And you’re going to let all the rest of them go.
And when you’ve mastered that practice so well that you can’t help but believe that all is well with the world…
Life is going to show you that you’re right.