All of my life i’ve been trying to understand the mystery of how our mind works in relation to the imagination, it’s the source of art and creativity but what if it also is the foundation of the way we feel towards everything? What if our imagination was the source of not just good feelings or ideas, but harmful ones like stress and anxiety? Of course our imagination is a great thing, yet I don’t think we fully understand what it is and how it effects us. What if the bad thoughts about yourself, your situations, your past, your future could vanish in an instant if you just stop believing these thoughts to be true. Is there a fact that creates happiness? If so, what is it? Or is it just a thought? What would make you the happiest you could ever be? Do you think that would be it, complete success in being happy? Or would the play of thoughts always create the positive/negative cycle? This essay is about investigating our thoughts, how they affect us which we take at face value, without question. I would argue that most people never even question their thoughts, whether they are true, and what effect this has on your feelings, ideas and values. Maybe our problems are caused by our thoughts, not by the situation. The reason we don’t feel free, whole, and happy isn’t because we aren’t doing good enough, it isn’t because we are missing something, and it isn’t because we haven’t achieved the perfect circumstances. Thoughts. As a child I was quite a loner happy to be in my fantasies of adventure from cowboys to superheroes, as a young adult I wrote screenplays of fantasies, now I create pictures and videos or stories. I didn’t realise the stories in my head were also the foundation to everything i thought about from waking up thinking about work, to how I looked, and every emotion I felt. Children are happy, if in good health etc, but what goes wrong in adults. Eventually, you get to the point where your mind becomes crowded with so many thoughts you very rarely get a break from them. Yes I am an over thinker, I analyse everything from a cup to what to do with my life and how best to be. This is good for academic analysis and art, even in work and everything of life is more logical and whole but there is a downside. Thoughts are often consuming, or I feel I’m in a constant battle of good and bad thoughts, anxiety of how to be, what do do to feel content, successful.
I’ve been discovering a new form of meditation that has helped me deal with the swirling thoughts. At its core is the understanding that stress about work, anxiety of the future, worry about not having enough time, insecurity about ourselves; is all imaginary. Take this situation, If someone off the street told you the world was going to end tomorrow what would you do? Would it stress you out, what would you do about your day in effect of this? Well, probably nothing, why would you believe it? Take it a step further, what if a trusted friend said the world was going to end tomorrow, how would you react? Again, you be more concerned but you still wouldn’t believe it, meaning it wouldn’t affect you. I’m leaning towards the idea of thoughts not affecting us if we don’t believe them. Truths. I’ve always had anxiety, stress and fear about my career, the future, appearances etc, everyone does. But on what basis? Not based on what will happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I fail on my current course I may find something else I enjoy more, earn more. In fact, stress doesn’t make you work harder, it makes everything more difficult as you’re not fully in the moment and want distractions from it.
When we are young, toddlers, nothing is good or bad, things just merely are. We are conditionally nurtured to believe things are either good or bad. These polarisations are stories created by social beliefs but are exactly that, imaginary. To a child things just merely exist, not good or bad, no story or value. The relationship of thoughts in our heads can’t be changed by anyone else, it’s completely internal. People, friends, may make you feel happy or sad for moments but the problem remains the same. You could even perceive good moments as distractions as the bad things inside your head are always there, not dealt with, actually creating anxiety as you know they’ll return. We believe our thoughts to be real because we feel them as emotions. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between them, more part of thought/feeling whole. My idea is that there is a connection, one which is not based on truth. Where is the problem? If you can’t show me, where is it? Does it actually exist? It’s different to Buddhism, which says desire is the source of all suffering. Alan Watts while offering some great alternative thinking misses the idea of thoughts controlling emotions and beliefs, he’s too caught up in Buddhism to think outside his own thoughts. It’s better to think that all the good, bad, negative, positive things are only so within the play of our thoughts based on imaginary stories and beliefs. Buddhists also say there is a disconnection from our mind, body, the outside world, space, all are connected by anxiety as they are all different and create an otherness. Buddhists say that if you look at your hand, even though you know it’s your hand, there is still a part of you that doesn’t recognise it as real, as yours. A better explanation might be that most of those items are physical, where the mind is creating the difference and anxiety. Scientifically we, everything, are all made of the same thing. If someone likes marmite and someone hates it, it doesn’t make the product bad, it just merely is something physical. Take a cookie, you really desire a cookie and believe it’ll satisfy you. Afterwards, you may feel a sugar rush or less hungry but what has it actually done. The cookie is merely an object, like any object, without any ability apart from containing some nutritional value. It’s our idea that the cookie will make us feel better, we have to have it, when really it’s our thoughts suggesting these beliefs. I’m sure some people don’t even like them, so it can’t be the object that is actually doing anything. Its our thoughts convincing us to believe something about this cookie. Meaning we can’t blame the situation, cause, outcome as they are based on feelings created by over active thoughts. My Lamppost 172 story has a part where it doesn’t understand the fascination with people looking at sunsets as it sees objects all the same. Take a sunset, it gives us great peace, tranquility and makes us think beautiful things. We can finally confront our thoughts as they are at peace. But the sunset isn’t actually doing anything, it’s something that merely exists. No different than looking at a dustbin? They just merely are things. Our mind creates either good or bad thoughts giving us emotions, a certain feeling. Sure a sunset is pretty, with colours and lights/darks. But why are these things good or bad? Where did these beliefs come from? In alternative cultures, different things have alternative meanings. For the Indian nation, a cow is sacred, never to be harmed, in most countries is seen as a source of meat. Our idea of beauty changes over time. In tudor times larger women were seen as more attractive, in art, Van gogh was seen as amataur, rubbish. Again, this further proves our thoughts of something create a belief, value, and emotional response. But once we know this isn’t fixed, anything is possible.
So working on the Buddhist theory of separation of the Mind, Body, External World. What if there was an additional area just after the mind which is self-recognising. Mind, Mind Awareness, Body, External World. This new Mind Awareness zone recognises that the mind is capable of making us feel anything towards everything else. In recognising this, is it possible to gain a new form of liberation as we know what we think isn’t always real? The truths we automatically accept can change, sometimes quite easily.
We constantly evaluate everything we see, do, did and plan to do. Thoughts racing away. ‘Getting up stressing about getting ready for work on time, how do I look, what should I do to change it, if i do this will i be quicker, what am i doing with my life, how can i change it, what shall i have for breakfast, no i’m not ready for it yet, oh no i look tired, how can i change that, wish i had more time for my art stuff, how can i do that, i feel sad about that, running late, get to work a bit late, have to be polite, look bright and hard working, must get this done on time, what shall i drink, pressure of deadlines, won’t have time’… A constant cascade of anxious spiralling questions leading to getting home feeling physically and mentally tired, wanting to do art fun things but not having motivation. ‘Go on Facebook, what to eat, shower now or tomorrow, time for bed, i’ll be too tired if i don’t sleep now. can’t sleep, have i set my alarm, can’t sleep, how to change my life, it’s morning’… Stop. There is proof only thoughts create negative feelings. When you’re distracted for your thoughts, everything seems ok right? In a moment of a joke, a film, a cookie, laughing with friends or being with a lover. If it only lasts a few seconds, during the time of escape, you feel fine. When we watch something in the cinema, it’s known as the suspension of disbelief as we seemingly forget about everything apart from what we are watching, we believe the film and disbelieve where we are. This is how we enjoy the emotional ride of the film, the same goes for any escapism device such as tv, art. It feels good to escape the spiralling thoughts of our mind, we don’t always want to confront our thoughts not to feel stress. But if we can do it watching a – film, why can’t we do it to our – thoughts. After all, all our thoughts are based on stories we have created about our ambitions, or nurtured into our minds during a child to become so natural, we automatically believe them. In believing them they turn into emotions, often negative ones. Everything we see and experience has an embedded story seemingly fixed on to it. The cookie has a story, we desire it thinking it’ll make us feel great, the sunset, a job, a friend, a lover, all matching our perception of good, what is good for us, a familiarity to confirm our own ideas. Thoughts and stories. All these things exist as objects, people are alive, but the rest we put onto them. This is where I differ from the Matrix’s point, suggesting everything is false physically and mentally, entrapped by the system for someone else’s gain. My idea is that our thoughts are entrapped us by nurturing, what is good, bad, positive, negative. Maybe this epiphany is the red pill, where we can be outside of our thoughts to realise what they are doing to us. This isn’t to say thoughts are our enemy, we just have to realise what they are.
If I asked you to photograph a wedding most people would panic and stress as they don’t know what they’re doing. For me it isn’t stressful as i’ve been doing it for years. The situation isn’t the cause of stress, its subjective. So what if stress, anxiety and worry were the same. In fact, they are even less truthful. Tell me what is stress without the cause or effect of it? As i’ve suggested, the situation of stress is subjective. One person may not find it stressful, where another might. The effect of stress is immediately distracting, causes irritation and can lead to illness yet this is dependant on the person also. It’s only a thought that something is stressful. So therefore stress doesn’t actually exist, it’s nothing physical therefore only exists in thoughts. Can stress be explained with facts? Sure we feel it, as it if does exist but thoughts are based on ideas, beliefs and values of our mind, all imaginary. So called stressful situations, long term anxiety will occur, your mind dances thoughts everywhere, constantly evaluating, but are by no means fixed. Maybe at a workplace when you’re over tasked, rushed, stressed, running out of time, flustered. Stop. Realise your mind is overactive and creating emotions and stop it. If there is a situation where they wanted you to get it done, or you wanted to get it done but didn’t, should you have? You didn’t so it wasn’t possible, how do you know you should have? Plan what you can do, and even if you can’t get everything done then something has to change or make your manager realise it can’t happen. If someone is irate on the phone make them realise you won’t deal with them, what they are sounding like and if not end the call. What is the worst that could happen, you lose you job that over stresses you out and don’t treat you right with contracts etc. You’ll even find a better job with less stress, more pay and job security. Further, just imagine is the irate caller caused no emotional response in you. This can be achieved by merely recognising you thoughts are causing emotions. Don’t be a victim of someone else’s or my own thought tricks. The situation merely existed, we put bad thoughts on it. If you feel bored in an office job, doing the same thing everyday, is this a good job or a bad one? Its neither, its just something you do sometimes, it’s not who you are.
We don’t control where our thoughts go, negative or positive, but we can bring it back to the moment, accepting both. Where is the problem? Unless it’s something physical, where is the fact of the problem? Even the rational thoughts trying to settle the problem are thoughts that are coming and going, It’s not you. Negative thoughts will enter your mind, and try to consume you, it doesn’t mean they are you. When you feel things are bad, say with stress, it feels consuming physically and mentally, sure, maybe the the situation is bad but it does not reflect what you are, it’s a trick. Peace and freedom come from recognising that no experience is bad, because no experience says anything truthful about who you are. Be one step behind your thoughts/feelings to recognise what they are. If it’s a good feeling then embrace it, sure, and now you can fully be in that moment. Your attention will go everywhere but allow it, don’t suppress. Recognise that thoughts have the ability to create emotions, stress, anxiety, and are never based on truths. A cookie is a cookie, it’s not good or bad. Time pressure to complete a task might be a struggle buts its not good or bad. You have to disbelieve the imaginary story in your mind we’ve established over a lifetime. Yes you may be busy, work overloaded or not feeling artistic, but the feeling of the problem doesn’t actually exist. Meditation and calm is created by knowing the truth; it’s just a series of thoughts playing in your head. Stop. The larger the story we have embedded in our minds the tougher it is to realise its falsity and to control it. What is the thing you most want? A good job, to be in love, money, success in art, appreciation, experience life. All these things are based on perception, but they are also based on an eternal anxiety surrounding them. ‘Stress of not having the best job, anxiety of losing it, will my lover accept me, is there a future, will they make me happy, am I happy, how can i get more money to do things, to feel relaxed, is this photo better than my last, will people like it, do i like it, will other people like it, am i good enough, if i do this life will be better.’ Stop. Of course physically we need a reasonable home, a sense of safety and health. But a list of anxious questions could and does go on forever, even questions we don’t realise we are asking, i’m surprised we don’t all turn into Edvard munch’s Scream on that peer. The only time we feel calm is when we distract ourselves with something like having a cookie, or somehow manage to dispel these questions about our life narratives by having hobbies where our thoughts are seemingly not present. When we are in this moment we ignore them. The most convincing way we find calm, peace and true happiness is to disbelieve the thoughts that are making them from something that is not true; recognise these feelings coming from thoughts that are made up in your mind.
Don’t try to think positively. There is nothing good about you! Sounds silly but being positive can only exist with negative drawbacks. They are one and the same. If you have a positive negative mind frame, you’ll be fearing the negative, creating anxiety. There is nothing good about you but there is also nothing bad about you. It’s just a thought in your mind. Trying to be positive can only take you back to the negative eventually. If you think positive about your art, or work, you think it’ll be better but it can’t, as you’ll live in fear of not being your best only creating anxiety again. The ultimate positive was directly connected to the negative. Anyway, you can’t think positively all the time, we’re not made that way. When you try not to think about something you can’t, it’s impossible. Don’t think of a cookie. whatever you do, Don’t think of a cookie. I’m assuming all you can think about is a cookie, what it looks like, taste etc. Don’t think of work!.. You can’t, it’s impossible. This is what negativity is. Whenever you feel there could be a better of worse outcome you’ll live in fear. Instead, accept positive and negative situations will exist together, step back from this polarisation knowing it’s your thoughts playing with these, and actually, just like someone telling you the world is going to end, it can’t affect you. You don’t believe it. Let our thoughts be anything, only realise its a play of thoughts, nothing true. Art is often said to be a way of dealing with our troubles. Though I would like to think it’s our way of finding truths about ourselves, the world and the universe around us. We may never reach conclusions yet the journey and experience is richly rewarding as we glimpse enlightenment. A person that is free is able to experience everything to its most. A sunset, a cloud, a kiss, an embrace. Know that they are thoughts creating emotions. Just imagine an interview, at home you can verse coherently your skills perfectly as you’re generally without pressure and anxiety. When you’re in the interview you may sound completely differently due to the anxieties swirling questions of inadequacy, how do I look, what’s the best way to put it, my body language, what if i don’t get the job, what if i do.. STOP. This shows stress clouds the experience, making an individual nowhere near their best. Instead of it being an interview, how about thinking it’s your life. What if our whole lives are juggling these stress and constant questions inevitably creating a lesser experience of existence. Nothing or no one can change the relationship of thoughts in our minds. They simply are. We shouldn’t stop them, just know what they are. What we can do is realise they are thoughts often not based on something that isn’t true. There is no such thing as bad about me, good about me, it’s all imaginary. Things just exist, it’s all a story in our heads. Am I stressed? No it’s just a thought. Another idea pops in your head. It’ll be good if this happens! No, it’s just a thought. If we discover that our problems are caused by thoughts, not by anything that’s true, gives us peace. We are phenomenal living things, we should aspire to become closer to the wonder of existence and our creative imagination and in doing so reach higher levels of tranquility, happiness.
After reading this step outside into the garden, take a walk. If this essay has made sense to you, you’ll see the world, yourself, very differently. Once you realise thoughts are causing the problems, not the situation, you are free. As you disbelieve more and more of the thoughts that create your suffering, which are often based on fiction, you will be happier in more and increasing situations, the more you will be living in the moment, at peace, be able to fully love, laugh, feel whole, be enthusiastic, and appreciate every experience in your life. Everything you enjoy now, music, art, sunsets, cookies, friends, family, you’ll enjoy more. Anything making you sad in a moment or over time will fade and become redundant. Let go of those imaginary hindrances of the mind holding you back. You are at a distinct advantage of questioning your own thoughts. Nothing in particular can make you happy, nothing missing can make you happy or sad. There is nothing good about you, there is nothing bad either. You exist. They are not you. If you get the dream job, the ideal house, the perfect partner; none of these things can change your play of positive/negative thoughts. No fact creates happiness, it’s our thoughts. You’ll still have anxiety about the future, stress about keeping it. Worry about being the best partner, fear losing your looks etc etc. Stop. You now realise it’s your play of thoughts deciding these things. Imagination. No external events can make you truly happy. The distractions of life provide proof thoughts are the only thing causing suffering. Ask yourself what story are you telling yourself? A story of being lonely, sad, anxious about the future, stressed. Ask yourself what is missing at this very moment? Notice your imagination tries to find these things when you ask these questions. It’s exciting to realise the stories we aspire for in life are no longer valid. We’ll no longer believe what we should be, what we should do, how we should be! Instead, bask in sunlight to feel the wind across your face, delve into music and science. Be free to enjoy everything. You are free! What journey in life can we achieve with this revelation? This is my red pill epiphany.
Life is beautiful.
This idea was inspired by my life’s experience and education, and Noah Elkrief on youtube. He has guides on everything from work to meditation.