It’s really quite simple. We are all already happy, underneath our personal ego thoughts.
Let’s expand on that, because it often doesn’t seem so simple.
Happiness is a feeling, that although seems to be caused by circumstances, is actually innate to our nature, as an eternal constant. Think of happiness as a blazing sun that never sets, can always be found in this present moment, beyond time and space, but occasionally clouds pass over it, making it appear as something conditional.
Those clouds are thoughts, we can call them ego thoughts. There is another stream of thought that feels really nice, those I call spirit thoughts. You might also hear me call it wisdom somewhere on this website. The ego thoughts (I also call them personal thoughts or negative thoughts sometimes) are like dark clouds. They make us feel cold, alone, afraid, anything negative. The spirit thoughts are like white fluffy clouds that fill our hearts with joy. They feel positive.
Beyond either cloud, however, is the sun, which just shines. This is what gives us a positive nature. It’s also why happiness is constant and not, for example, frustration or despair. Because in the absence of all thought, in the presence of no-thought, we are happy and at peace. It’s the default feeling.
When we focus on any kind of thought, it’s kind of like tuning into a feeling channel. While we’re tuned into that channel, the world seems to take on the quality or feeling of those thoughts. Our thoughts are, in that sense, windows into different realities.
As we gaze into the dark clouds of ego thoughts, we get lost in a world where happiness seems hard to get. How happy we are at any moment seems to be dependent on so many different factors, diet, how many close friends you have, how much sleep you’ve had, etc.
When we’re caught in the dream of our ego thoughts, it’s almost like a web of amnesia. It keeps us looking into the world trying to find happiness when in reality the world is like a distraction mechanism which keeps the ego thoughts running in the mind.
From the ego’s perspective, our happiness depends on many factors. This is depicted nicely in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In reality, everything in the pyramid is just thought too, and nothing really needs to change to come back to your positive nature, because it’s already who you are. It just takes a realization of that fact.
The hierarchy of needs is more like a hierarchy of ego-distractions. It’s a hierarchy of things we believe prevent us from being happy when we don’t have them. It’s a hierarchy of thoughts that don’t look like thoughts, but they’re still thoughts, and we find peace of mind whenever we’re willing to look past them. It’s really simple to understand, but sometimes difficult to practice because our thoughts seem so real to us.
There is no lack, no suffering, that isn’t just made from the thinking we’re having the moment. It’s just that our thoughts look so convincing to us, that we fall for them. If we don’t take them seriously, they’ll pass and we come back to peace.
You might say, “Well, Pete, that’s easy to say when you’ve already got all those needs covered,” and it’s true (remind me to share with you the time I strained my knee in the mountains). But there are many stories, given your willingness to look for them, of people in deplorable conditions who suddenly ‘got it’, and had their lives transform overnight before their circumstances got better.
When we’re hungry, cold, and tired, we’ll usually defend tooth and nail that that’s just how it is, and that’s what’s causing the upset feeling. But your wellbeing, happiness, and peace of mind, is still available in those conditions, and any conditions – and so is spiritual guidance (which is actually very reliable at helping you fill those needs in the most graceful way possible). Peace of mind and spiritual guidance go hand-in-hand.
Let’s go deeper into this, into how things that seem that real and unchangeable are illusions of thought.
Let’s take a road rage example. It may seem that the situation itself, independent of whatever interpretation you had of it, is what causes you to feel angry. But it doesn’t take very much awareness to realize it’s only your interpretation of the event that you’re experiencing. It’s the thoughts you have about it that cause you to feel anger.
That’s an easy example to see the role of thought and how it creates how we feel, but what about physical stuff?
In fact, all of our feelings are coming from thought. That’s not because the physical world has no effect over the mind, not because the mind is ‘more powerful’ than matter. It’s actually because the physical world is an effect of the mind.
A thought isn’t just something that’s happening in your head. A thought is literally your experience in the moment. It encompasses and is your experience.
What seems to be ‘inside thoughts about the world’ and an ‘outside world’, are actually one and the same. Your experience of the world literally is a sensory projection of what’s happening in your mind. They are not related, they are literally the same – cause and effect – they are one.
What we experience through the senses as something we are observing in the world is actually just whatever we’re thinking moment-by-moment projected outwardly. This is always happening, it’s just sometimes we don’t realize it.
The Thought-Reality Spectrum
“But surely some stuff is not thought – there has to be some reality out there!”
Imagine a spectrum, on one side stuff that’s obviously thought, and the other side, stuff that’s seemingly very solid and real. On the thought side, you might have relationships, and on the far end of the other, you might have physical diseases. It’s easy to see relationship problems as thought-created, as something you can easily let go of and come back to wellbeing, but not so much a physical disease it seems.
I’ve populated this spectrum with examples.
Back to our example: when someone cuts you off in traffic, and you start having angry thoughts, it doesn’t take very much convincing to be reminded that it’s only some thought that’s making you angry. Being only thought, it’s relatively easy to choose to not give more energy to those thoughts and come back to peace of mind.
On the other hand, when you strain a ligament in your leg, it seems to be much harder, because it seems like much more than thought. There’s a sense of “no, that’s actually there!” The physical body doesn’t seem to be something happening in the mind, it seems to be solid, factual, material.
In between those two ends lie all experience. Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum there is a line, but you choose where to draw it. You choose what thoughts you’re cool with ‘it’s in my head’, and what kind of thoughts you deem as ‘reality’, and refuse to accept are no more than a fleeting cloud.
To the ego, the notion that there is no world outside your mind implies that you can merely ‘think away’ a disease. To the ego, this is pure insanity. This is why the desire for joy is so important. The desire for joy, in conjunction with divine wisdom (spirit thought), is what dispels the beliefs of the ego that hold you away from joy. In other words, we have to want to be happy more than we want to be right.
Consider how our nightmares seem factual and real while we’re in them – it’s only when we wake up out of them that we laugh at how silly we were for falling for an illusion.
In that same sense, we’re always dreaming with thought. We’re living inside an illusion of our own thoughts, moment by moment – and it appears as an outside world. What seems to be happening ‘out there’ is just what’s happening in your mind. And so you’re not living in the feeling of your circumstances, you’re just living in the feeling of the thought that happens to be passing through your mind – which is often mistaken as ‘reality’.
The journey here is moving that line over, the one that separates ‘whats happening in my mind’ with ‘what I deem as being real’. It takes a willingness, to bring doubt around what’s ‘real’. Eventually, we come to the realization that 100% of our experience is thought. Like a puff of smoke that looks solid. Our bodies are made of thought, our friends are made of thought, the world is made of thought. Everything is thought, appearing as form.
The more we rest in our true nature, the more the ego’s dream becomes undone in our mind, and we remember that our essence is before form. You are not housed in a brain in a body as a victim to the world, you are ‘dreaming’ your whole world up. You are dreaming of being in a body. The body and the world are in your mind.