We are all familiar with the idea that an event in the world can cause us to feel a particular emotion. For example, if an event occurs in which something is physically taken away from us, this can cause us to feel cheated. But are you aware of the power of feelings to create events?
Regardless of which comes first, the event or the feeling, once the feeling has been created it will give rise to a circular pattern of experience whereby the feeling contributes to events which further reinforce the same feeling – which, in turn, give rise to more events which reinforce the same feeling, and so on ad infinitum.
If you feel cheated, the power of that feeling will cause you to draw to you experiences in which you feel cheated.
Energy goes where attention flows
Thoughts and feelings are energy and “energy goes where attention flows”. In other words, the quality and essence of your thoughts and feelings will contribute enormously to your experience of life.
Consciously and deliberately generating good feelings
For the most part this “feeling-event-feeling-event” cycle continues subconsciously, or outside of our conscious awareness. Some talking therapies are geared towards helping us to uncover the original event and get in touch with how we feel about it. For some people this means remembering something that happened in childhood and blaming their parents for it. For others it means getting in touch with their emotions about that event, releasing those emotions and any judgement attached to it, and moving on.
But if we see the process as a circle we can see that it is no longer the original event which matters: it is how we are feeling right now. How we feel now is the most critical component of the kind of life experience we are creating. We can’t change the past and we can never know for sure whether the cycle was started by an event or a feeling, but what we can do is accept what has happened and take responsibility for what we are creating right now.
Accustomed as we are to giving our attention and power away to the outside world, we tend to believe that we need something to happen in order for us to feel good. But in so doing we ignore the fact that we can consciously and deliberately choose to feel good right now, regardless of what is happening in the outside world.
I cannot emphasise this point enough. How you feel is not about what is happening outside of you: it is about how you respond to life and how you choose to feel, regardless of external events.
How to consciously generate good feelings
If we have been feeling unhappy or unwell for some time, the idea that we can simply choose to feel better can seem rather bizarre and we might think it is an impossible task, but there are some very practical steps we can take to bring our feelings back into alignment with happiness and health. The trick is to tune in to the essence of feeling good. We can do this by remembering times in our own lives when we felt good, or we can focus our attention on times when other people have felt good.
Looking at our own lives we can look back and remember times when we felt good, but instead of placing our attention on what was happening when we felt good, we can focus our awareness on how we felt. It is the feeling that is important to tune into, not what was happening in the outside world. When we feel good we are much more capable of doing good and of making good decisions. What was happening for us in the past when we previously felt good may not be appropriate for us now, so if we focus too much attention on the events or the characters involved, we may just lead ourselves into more disappointment. If we tune into the essence of how we felt and breathe that energy into our body we can bring that good feeling into the present moment.
Looking at the lives of well-known people we can see that there are some common expressions of feeling good. If we think about people who win at sport, for example, we can instantly tell the winners from the losers at the end of the contest even if we didn’t watch the event. The winners will be smiling, holding their arms aloft, perhaps punching the air with their fists. It will be written on their faces that they are thinking “Yes! I did it”, “Yes, we did it” or “We won!”
Think about a time when you wanted a sports person or team to win and they did win. Didn’t you feel good, as if it were you who had won? By tuning in to these memories we can bring the essence of feeling like winners into our present moment experience. We can then breathe life into these feelings and broadcast them to the world with the intention that our life experiences will mirror back to us success rather than failure.
Now let’s take this a step further: did it ever occur to you that some people who win at sport felt like winners before they started playing the game, and that feeling like a winner was one of the most important factors in their becoming a winner? In recent years we have become acquainted with the idea that self-belief and confidence are just as much a part of winning at sport as talent is, but there can be a tendency to overlook the importance of this. On many occasions we see the underdogs outperforming the favourites, not because they have become better players overnight, but because they really believed they could win.
In our daily lives, if we want to achieve success, our most powerful ally is to know that we are already successful – to know that we have already achieved what we are setting out to achieve. Similarly if we want to create health and happiness we need to know that we have already done so – we need to feel the energy and non-physical essence of health and happiness in order to manifest that in our physical experience.
Cultivating appreciation and gratitude
One of the easiest ways of generating good feelings and feeling positive is to cultivate appreciation and gratitude. No matter how bad we feel there will always be a great deal for us to be thankful for. By focusing our attention on what is already good in our lives we set our mental compass to a bearing which will lead us to more positive outcomes.
Do we really create our own reality?
It is often written in New Age books that we create our own reality – that all of our life experiences are created by our thoughts and beliefs. Some people take this to mean that, if only they could generate sufficient focus and mental energy, they would be able to manifest absolutely anything they desire. But most of us do not become accomplished wizards of such a high degree and, for the most part, we do not seem to be capable of creating physical objects at will out of thin air.
So to what extent do we or can we create our own reality? Leonardo da Vinci created the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa. We don’t say that he didn’t really create the Mona Lisa because he didn’t create the canvas, the paints or the brushes. We say that he did create the Mona Lisa because what the Mona Lisa is, is the creative energy which Leonardo provided. He started with a blank canvas and used creative energy to manifest something physical and tangible.
We could choose to look at life in a similar way: physical life provides us with a blank canvas and we get to use our consciousness – our minds, our feelings and our thoughts – to paint whatever picture we want.
There is a physical, objective world outside of our bodies and, although we cannot control this world, we can influence it. Where we have most influence is in creating our experience of the world – our interpretation of “what is” is entirely within our power to control. Whether we experience life as positive or negative depends on the totality of our vibrational offering, by which I mean the sum total of our conscious and unconscious hopes, fears, beliefs and judgements.
If we have a deep-seated belief that we are meant to be poor, that it is somehow more “spiritual” not to have much money, or that having lots of money is “bad”, no amount of thinking about money or wishing we had more of it will make much difference, because our deep-seated (usually unconscious) beliefs will be working against us.
In order to consistently enjoy life as a positive experience we need to bring our conscious and subconscious vibrational offerings into alignment. We need our conscious and subconscious aspects to be at peace with one another.
All our thoughts and feelings carry an energetic charge or vibration. We can describe this vibration as having 3 distinct levels of interaction with the world:
Level One: Interpretation. Our vibration can determine whether we experience “what is” as pleasurable or painful, as positive or negative. (For a very good example of how one man created a positive and meaningful experience from a very challenging situation I would recommend Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning.)
Level Two: Drawing more experiences of a certain type. Our vibration can draw to us more experiences which feel good or bad (if our vibrational offering is one of suffering we will draw to us more experiences of suffering; if our vibrational offering is one of joy we will draw to us more experiences of joy). So not only does our vibrational offering determine how we perceive “what is”, it can also draw to us more experiences which match that vibration. Our vibrational offering will also draw to us what we need, regardless of what we want.
Level Three: Affecting physical reality. In some cases, if our conscious and subconscious vibrational offering is sufficiently aligned and we have sufficient focused attention, our vibrational offering can also directly influence physical reality and change “what is”. The degree to which we can change “what is” depends on inertia. By “inertia” I mean the amount of force or influence which is keeping a situation or an object as it is, or the degree to which there are opposing forces pulling the situation or object in a different direction.
We can bring our vibrational offering into alignment by:
- Overcoming limiting and contradictory beliefs
- Healing our emotional wounds
To do this we need to:
- Cultivate positive qualities such as surrender, acceptance, non-judgement and non-attachment
- Engage in practices like meditation and mindfulness which can raise our consciousness and increase our awareness
- Be sincere in our devotion to our own development
- Be willing to face the aspects in our minds which we would rather ignore
- Have the courage to make changes when we recognise that our previous vibrational offering has been producing discord.
The garden of the mind
Most of the activity required to maintain positive vibrational alignment can be said to take place in the mind. Keeping a healthy mind can be likened to keeping a healthy garden.
- Thoughts are like seeds. Given enough time, attention and the right conditions they will grow into something which produces physical results.
- Just as seeds can grow into plants which we like (such as flowers) or plants which we don’t like (such as weeds), our thoughts can grow into positive or negative interpretations of life.
- In the same way that we pull out weeds before they take over the garden, through the practice of mindfulness we also need to be vigilant and remove the negative thoughts from our minds before they take hold and become chronic beliefs.
- No matter how careful we are with our gardening, rogue seeds can blow in on the wind, land on the soil and germinate without us realising. It is the same with thoughts – no matter how disciplined we are, we can still be affected by the thoughts of others.
- Invasive plants can grow under the fence from a neighbour’s garden into our own garden. Similarly, strong beliefs and thought-forms which are prevalent in society can find their way into our minds and compete with the seeds of positivity that we have intentionally sown.
- Thoughts which germinate can become beliefs by putting down roots.
Degrees of awareness
If we can become aware of how our thoughts influence our feelings and how those feelings give rise to our actions, and if we can become aware of which thoughts are arising in our minds, we can consciously choose to adjust our thoughts for ones which will give rise to more pleasant feelings and more harmonious actions.
For most of us the journey towards becoming aware of our thoughts can be a long one and can be represented by various distinct stages.
The first stage is when we begin to recognise repeating patterns in our behaviour, after the event. For example we may become aware, after having had an altercation with someone, that we have a tendency to get into arguments with people.
The second stage is to become aware of our repeating patterns while they are happening so we can stop doing what we are doing and consciously choose a different direction. At this stage, regardless of who is right or wrong, we recognise that our behaviour is not the most appropriate course of action and that a different course of action will probably yield better results and make us feel better.
The third stage is when we become aware of our repeating patterns before we act on them. At this stage we can teach ourselves to pause, take a step back and consciously choose to take time out before we decide how to act. At this stage we begin to take responsibility for our actions. The other person may well have behaved badly but we know that we are ultimately responsible for our own feelings and our own behaviour. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
When we become aware that we are about to repeat a pattern of behaviour we need to stop and ask ourselves “how am I feeling?” and “am I aware of any thoughts that are present?” At this stage of our awareness it can be very helpful to write down whatever we are feeling or thinking and/or seek the help of someone who is more experienced in working with emotions and thoughts so that they might help us to reach a deeper understanding of what is causing us to feel the way we do.
When we become aware of a repeating behaviour pattern, the course of action that we feel compelled to take (the repeating behaviour) will present itself to us as the solution to a problem. When we ask ourselves “what is the problem that this course of action promises to solve?” we gain a deeper insight into the cause and effect loop of our behaviour.
For example we may feel that we need to be forceful in some way in our interactions with others. We may feel we need to go and tell someone to stop doing something or that we will not allow them to behave as they are doing. If we stop ourselves from carrying out these actions and ask ourselves “how will I feel if I don’t do that?” we might realise that what we are experiencing is a feeling of disempowerment or powerlessness. The fact that someone else appears to be able to do whatever he wants and get away with it probably annoys us. If someone else can do something and we can’t, that can make us feel weak and powerless. “They are imposing their will on me so I’ll impose my will on them” can be the way our thoughts go.
Mantras and mentality
If we have the courage to look deeply into our minds to find the source of our feelings and our behaviour, we discover that we have a specific type of mentality or consciousness. Examples of this can be described as:
- The mentality of poverty
- The mentality of injustice
- The mentality of victimhood
- The mentality of powerlessness
- The mentality of suffering
- The mentality of inability
These types of consciousness are sometimes referred to as “poverty consciousness”, “victim consciousness” and so on.
The mentality or consciousness is created by a dominant belief or mantra. For example the mentality of suffering could be created by the mantra “because of the actions of others I have to suffer.” The mentality of inability could be created by the mantra “I can’t do x because he/she is doing y” or “when other people stop doing x, y and z, I will be able to do…”
We can change our mentality and our mantras by becoming aware of the thoughts which arise in our minds and then using deliberate intent to consciously create new mantras which serve to create more pleasurable experiences. As we do this any limiting beliefs or unpleasant emotions which do not align with our new way of thinking will come to the surface to be healed.
Becoming aware of the thoughts as they arise in the mind
If we are to successfully make the transition from behaving like programmed robots to being fully conscious co-creators of our reality, we need to pay attention to the thoughts which arise in our minds.
For example, if we are feeling disgruntled, annoyed or angry we might be having thoughts like:
- Why should I?
- Why should I be the one to resolve it when they caused it to happen in the first place?
- Why should I have to do it when he started it?
- I don’t want to
- That’s annoying
- He’s so rude / inconsiderate / irritating
- I have no say in my own life
- Some people have all the luck
- Some people seem to get away with anything
Consciously changing the direction of our thoughts
When we become aware of the thoughts which arise, the challenge then becomes to consciously choose better-feeling thoughts and deliberately turn the attention of our thoughts towards the creation of positive outcomes.
The Teachings of Abraham by Esther and Jerry Hicks offer a very practical and helpful tip for “pivoting” our thoughts towards positive creation – they call it The Book of Positive Aspects. The Book of Positive Aspects is all about writing down what we feel is good about a situation and bringing our focus onto the positive aspects rather than giving attention to what is lacking.
Sometimes shifting our focus from negative to positive is all that is required to get us back on track, but we need to be mindful of not using positive thinking to avoid unpleasant emotions, which may serve only to suppress those emotions and their corresponding beliefs into unconsciousness. If we feel resistance to focusing on the positive aspects of a situation it is usually because we need to allow the voice of negativity and suffering within us to be heard. If this is the case then what we can do is to write down everything we feel which is wrong with the situation and then write down everything which is right, what the “wrong” aspects may have taught us, and what kind of situation we would like to create. In this way we give voice to our suffering (our darkness) as well as shift our focus towards the creation of the kind of positive experiences and situations which we do want.
The Teachings of Abraham offer us a further tip when they say that a good way to encourage someone to focus on the solution rather than the problem is to ask them why they want the solution.
Is everything in divine order?
In many self-development books we read statements like “I created this experience so I could learn from it” or “I drew this experience of abuse to me so I could learn to develop compassion”.
We seek to draw comfort from our experiences by giving them meaning. Being able to learn from experience is good. Learning to see the positives in challenging situations, in which we experienced a great deal of suffering, is admirable.
Finding meaning in suffering can be very empowering. Looking at a situation which was unpleasant for us to experience and asking “What can I learn from this, what does it have to teach me and how can I grow from this experience?” are all positive ways of working with “what is” to create a more enjoyable reality. Personally I prefer this approach to the one which says “That is why I had this experience” or “I made it happen”.
Do the babies who are born into families which have very little food create their experience of starving because they have lessons to learn about not having enough? Maybe it is we who have plenty who have the lessons to learn about starvation. Maybe the people who have no food are the ones who came here to teach us.
If we all create our own reality because we have lessons to learn then it must also be true that all prophets, ascended masters and avatars who come to help us humans raise our consciousness, must have a great deal to learn about helping a very resistant and ignorant species to evolve. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.
Some people, when they have been through a hard time and come out the other side like to say things like “everything is in Divine Order and everything is as it is meant to be”, but I do not subscribe to this view.
When we are feeling bad it seems like everything is going wrong. When we are feeling good it can seem like everything is going right. When we feel really good it can seem like life is just perfect. But then after a while we come down from that experience and begin to see that some aspects of life are maybe not quite as perfect as we previously thought.
People also talk about something being our “Divine Right” or our “Birthright”. I must confess that I don’t really know what people mean when they use these phrases or even if they know what they mean themselves. Some people believe that humans are essentially animals who have evolved. Some people believe that we are essentially divine beings having a human experience. Some people believe that our natural state is one of joy whereas others believe that the nature of human existence is one of suffering.
Whichever way we look at it I don’t know how anyone can conclude that when we are born we have the “right” to anything – I actually wonder if the whole concept of “rights” is purely a human one and that it has no validity beyond the human mind.
How can anyone know what was intended for us or by us before we were born? People do have mystical and out of body experiences but although most reported experiences seem to be very positive, some people have negative experiences. How can we be sure that the positive experiences in any way represent absolute or objective truth?
What we can say with some degree of certainty is that our lives are full of duality. We experience both joy and suffering. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we all have the freedom to choose how to respond to it. We all have the freedom to choose which thoughts to entertain, what judgements to make and how to behave.
As we look deeply into the concept of creating our own reality we find that it is not only our thoughts which are important, but also our speech and our action. What we need to do is to draw a straight line connecting what we want, what we think, what we say and what we do. As is often the case when discussing spiritual practice we find that focusing on one area eventually brings us back to another area. In this case, focusing on the creative power of thoughts and feelings leads us back to being true to ourselves and making our lives an embodiment of that inner Truth.
*** This chapter is taken from my book The Light Within ***