Just moments ago, I walked into a bookstore to write this blog. There was a man talking to himself. He appeared to be angry and was rambling on incoherently.
“This ain’t no place, you wanna get f*cking gas I’ll kill you motherf*cker because this ain’t no place man you want gas this ain’t no place this nasty you f*ck I want gas my f*cking arm damn you punk this aint no place”
After, a few minutes of perusing the bookshelves, I needed an outlet for my laptop and the only one available was beneath a table near where the rambling man was sitting. I carried my things over to the table, set up, and sat down to write. Fear entered my body when just minutes before it was non-existent. I felt stiff, alone, completely exposed and vulnerable. I felt like the whole world was unsafe and maybe any second this man was out to get me. My thoughts were racing and I just knew that surely, I was going to be berated, attacked, or worse.
Something happened though..
In the midst of all of that noise in my head, I caught a glimpse of what was really going on. I noticed that I was sitting in a lovely cafe, at a table, enjoying the coffee in front of me. I saw that I was caught up in my thinking, just like the man was caught up in his thinking, and the woman at the table next to me in her thinking, and the older couple waiting in line in their thinking.
And so it was with everybody all around me.
Insight immediately struck me and as I calmed down the man seemed to calm down as well. As my own fearful thinking settled, The man didn’t seem as scary anymore. He was still angry, rambling, and talking out loud, but my fear subsided almost completely. It was quite remarkable. As author Michael Neill described in one of his books, “Nothing’s changed, but everything is different.”
It’s easy to look outside of ourselves and say “Look, there it is. The problem is out there and I need to stop it for things to be ok. For me to be at peace.” But, peace is always available – in any moment. In fact, peace is what’s always present but for our own thinking getting in the way.
It’s easy to pass judgement and get so lost in thought that we think “they’re crazy, I’m the normal one. Look at the way they’re acting. They’re so out of touch with reality.”
Now maybe that man was lost in thought more than you and I. Or, maybe not. We’d like to think so. We’d like to call him crazy, but if anything he was just engaged in a more intense version of what we all do on a daily basis. It’s an innocent misunderstanding of how the mind works and where our experience actually comes from. I’m not denying that perhaps there was a biological contribution at play in this man’s behavior. I’m simply saying that experience always follows thought.
Just think about a time when you were really worried about something. It engulfed you so much that you were lost in it. The world was just as scary as your thoughts. So much so, they felt like reality. So much so, they became your reality. Like the man I encountered in the book store, you too were speaking out loud – only inside your own mind. You would swear that the world was a worrisome place causing you to feel this way. But, that’s not how it works. Your worried thoughts were creating the illusion of a worried reality around you.
When we become deeply lost in thought we forget that what we’re feeling is not the world around us, but just our thinking in the moment. We forget that the painful thinking we’re caught up in will pass.
Sometimes, it may take longer than other times,
but it will pass. It always does.