Growing a New Self

"When you think everything is someone else´s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy. ". Dalai Lama

Have you ever had that feeling in the morning, when you just know, beyond any doubt, that today will be a good day? I´m sure you have. I´m also sure that, as you so correctly predicted, it did in fact turn out to be a very good day. However, if you look at it logically, there may have been nothing especially that made you think in this positive way.... other than the power of the thought itself. There is often a basic assumption that our thoughts are created by our life circumstances; that the way we think is determined by what happens to us. But, what if it was the other way around? What if the truth was that our life circumstances, the way we feel about them and the nature and variety of our experiences were both created by our thoughts and could be changed by a change in thinking?

I was recently watching a television programme about people clearing old junk out of the loft and then putting it into an auction. The idea and the expectation was that they would make some money from this for a good cause. Obviously an auction is a bit uncertain because only a relatively small number of people can be there at any time. They may not like what you have to sell so its completely uncertain how much you are likely to get for your unwanted and unloved possessions. However, abandoned in the attic, all it´s generating is dust, so it would make sense that anything would be welcome. The programme had an "expert" who was able to provide an opinion as to how much money the stuff "should" sell for. The first item he opined, based on years of experience, ought to sell for about £40. The eager faces, full of anticipation and expectation observing the action on the auction floor, rapidly crumbled into acute distress as the unwanted rubbish was knocked down for £35. Long faces, downturned mouths, voices full of regret and whinging observations about their lack of luck. How cruel life can be! The next item, an unwanted gift that out of embarrassment was kept hidden away rather than being rapidly offloaded to the nearest charity shop, was evaluated as being worth £30. At the point at which the auctioneer´s hammer descended to seal a sale at £35, the contestants erupted into whoops and cheers, faces flushed with pleasure, fists punching the air. What good fortune. What happiness. Life is good again. Hooray!!

I couldn´t believe what I was seeing; the power of ideas to make such a difference to people´s sense of well-being, to engender such pleasure or pain. Consider the facts. Two pieces of unwanted tat, formerly completely worthless, but each now translated into an identical amount of money. However, one sale created a sense of great happiness, the other the complete opposite. What made the difference?

In both cases, there was an idea created by the antiques expert; that the item was worth a certain amount of money. He could have been wrong. He might have been lying. But because he was an expert he was believed. From this idea, a basic expectation was constructed; that if the item made more than the estimate then that would be "good" and desirable. If it made less, that would be an undesirable and unwanted outcome. Finally, both the idea and the expectation that it created resulted in an emotion; "happiness" for a sale that exceeded expectations and "sadness" for a sale that didn´t.

We all respond to the power of suggestion. The human mind can be understood to have two aspects to it. The conscious mind, the mind that thinks tangible thoughts, acts to shape the responses of the unconscious mind; the part of our self that acts instinctively and automatically, that governs our actions and our feelings. The conscious mind in this instance can be likened to the antiques expert. Based on past experience, it is telling us "acquire such-and-such and you will be happy". Instantly, just like a computer application, we are now programmed to act and feel in a particular way. Most of the time we are completely unaware of this level of conditioning. That´s why it´s called the unconscious. We don´t realise that it´s happening. However, this understanding is well known to the advertising industry. Vast resources are employed to persuade us that if only we will buy a particular product, or subscribe to a particular ideology or belief system, then happiness is assured.

Just like the contestants on the TV programme, our capacity to experience pleasure or pain, to think of ourselves as rich or poor, to feel fulfilled and loved, or lonely and bereft, is down to the way that we think. A key to understanding how to use this knowledge to create far-reaching change lies in realising that thinking CAN be changed; that we can become the designers of our own life. Happiness and unhappiness are not found in things. They are states of mind that are determined by the way that our thoughts and feelings are programmed. Rather than being a slave to our own past disappointments, or what others have told us, we can choose to consciously programme ourselves according to our deepest wishes and what we truly want out of life.

The way that the world works and the way that we each individually relate to it, is basically the product of a story or narrative by which we tell ourselves what we think is real. Change the story and our lives change. To do this means firstly to become conscious of the personal and individual stories to which we subscribe. For instance, in relationship to the global climate and environmental crisis, several competing narratives are informing our views, actions and sense of well-being; just like the contestants in the TV programme. One story has it that change can only come if politicians and business leaders change their ways. By and large, they haven´t done so far. Result: many feel a growing sense of distress, powerlessness and despair. An alternative story is that we, each of us in our own way and unique life circumstances, can embody the changes that the world needs; not as an act of grudging self-sacrifice, but rather an awakening to our true evolutionary potential as a conscious self-determining individual in harmony with the whole of nature. Result: empowerment, well-being and a life of rich meaning & purpose.

See also The Global Transition.

Change Agents

Findhorn Foundation

Feature Film (1.42.09). A beautifully and sensitively woven tapestry of the rich diversity that is the human family. Moving, thought-provoking, inspiring.

Barbara Marx Hubbard

Conscious Evolution: Barbara explains how our current crises are the natural birth pains of an awakened, universal humanity. Short interview (11.03).