Since last summer I’ve been studying the principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. I was attracted to these Principles by Jamie Smart and his book Clarity, and it’s through working with Jamie and his tribe that I’m deepening my understanding.
It’s serendipitous that after discovering Jamie I found I already had half a dozen books that point to these principles, I’d just never got past the planning-to-read-them phase. I also guess that when someone writes a book called Clarity, it’s likely to have some resonance with the people who run a business called Clear Thinking; there’s a fairly obvious synergy there. So the attraction to get reading and learn more was magnetic.
I went into Jamie’s Clarity Practitioner Programme thinking it would ‘give me an edge’ business-wise; I had a very intellectual objective, I was on a mission to gather information that I could learn and then put to good use. Nothing wrong with that. But actually what it’s creating is a transformation in the way I think and feel about my everyday experience of life….and it’s for the better. I have a truck-load of things that I’ve noticed have changed for me, but here are three for now.
#1. I‘ve slowed down, yet I’m achieving more
#2. I’ve changed where I put my attention, and the quality of my interactions with other people has sky-rocketed.
#3. I’ve given up over-thinking some of the more challenging bits of my life,
and started trusting that I’ll know the right thing to do and say, in the moment,
so that means I’m so much less stressed as I go about my day, and I have a greater sense of wellbeing.
That’s all very lovely for me, Mrs Super-productive, totally focused, blissed out Bev, but why should it matter to you? Whilst I’m bursting with stuff I want to share on this subject, I’m going to resist the temptation to be evangelical about it and have instead chosen one small thing that I think holds value for everyone. Here we go…..
We create our experience of the world we live in. Totally. 100%. It might not seem that way, we are obviously stimulated by outside factors, but our experience of the world all comes from the inside.
We are incredibly creative. If something is difficult, there’s a thought (and it’s flip side, a feeling) that we create in that moment that tells us so. If something is brilliant, there’s a thought that we create in that moment that tells us so. If someone is being awkward, there’s a thought that we create in that moment that tells us so. It’s always down to us. We start everything.
Some of our thinking is helpful to us; some of our thinking can be destructive. Every thought comes pre-loaded with a feeling. Jamie puts it brilliantly when he says, “We’re living in the feeling of our thinking.” But a thought can change in an instant. The best analogy I’ve come across so far uses clouds. It works for me right now because as I’m writing this I’m sat looking out over the fields and the sky, with fluffy white clouds floating by.
Clouds are temporary, they don’t last indefinitely. They come into existence, do their raining thing, and then they are gone. They are at the mercy of the wind too. They can’t fight against it. They float by in one direction or another; they change their shape as they go, morphing into elephants, pirate ships, tulips, dolphins, lamp shades and butterflies, and whatever else our minds can imagine.
What if every cloud was a thought?
My thoughts come into existence, they build up gradually, almost as if from nothing and from nowhere until they seem to have a tangible form and substance and there they are, in my mental sky-scape, giving me my experience of the world.
I could try to hold onto them, indeed sometimes I do try really hard, but clouds are not given to being grabbed and held. I let them float by and make space for another one to come into view. I dwell on it for a moment or two, examine it, wonder about it, but then it’s gone. I write down my best thoughts so they are not lost forever. That’s the nature of cloud and the nature of thought.
All clouds are not created equal. Sometimes clouds are dark, grey and moody. They seem to affect the whole sky-scape, changing the tone of it, sometimes almost blocking out the light. We sense that these clouds have more form and substance. They are thick and heavy, they hang over us, they seem somehow set and less keen on blowing by. But they are just the same as the white fluffy ones, a sudden gust will see them off, or they’ll rain themselves out. There’s nothing I need to do to them to make this happen. I have no control over the cloud.
When we have dark clouds in our mental sky-scape I’ve noticed that we search for their meaning. We question why we’re having them. We want to replace them with something else and we get frustrated with ourselves when this doesn’t come easily. All we have to do is recognise that they will float away, just as the fluffy ones did, in their own good time, without us interfering with them. Have you noticed that the more effort we put into fixing a ‘negative’ thought, the more it hangs around? The less we interfere the quicker they’ll move along.
For someone who once thought they were in control of their own thoughts, and you might think you are too, I’ve found it liberating to recognise that they are going to happen in spite of me, I’m not in control of them, they just appear as and when they are stimulated to do so.
Our obsession with doing something to correct the wrong and unhelpful thinking is making it harder for us to find the clarity of thinking we need to function well in the world. I don’t have to believe my thoughts, they are not necessarily true. I don’t have to take action on my thoughts. They are just thoughts. We’re busy trying to fix ourselves and other people with techniques, with lists of How To’s. We want short cuts to brilliance. Clarity of thought comes when we stop trying to make it happen.
If you’ve ever had a snow globe as a child, one of those glass domes that you shake and the glitter whizzed around inside, held in suspension by a liquid….all that shaking and whizzing obscures what’s at the heart of the snow globe. That’s what our heads are like when they are full of thinking and we are trying to do something with it.
Stop shaking it and the snow settles, and the liquid clears and the scene emerges from the glitter and is revealed. That’s how we find clarity of thought. We stop agitating it.
So, what if we treated every thought like a cloud, recognising its true nature as a temporary thing that will ultimately vanish to be replaced by another. All we need to be is curious about each thought and remember that it won’t be around for long. Engineering thoughts, artificially creating the ones we’d rather have is exhausting and time consuming. It brings additional pressure that we don’t need. What if we just worked with the thoughts we have? What would happen then?
So I don’t want to end this post by telling you there is something you must do next. That’s unusual for me. I favour the practical. I lean towards the doing of stuff. But I’m going to advocate that you do nothing. You’re busy enough. Sit down, in the fresh air or by the window and watch the clouds instead. There’s no need to try to think anything in particular, because that’s going to happen anyway.
Thanks to Bev Holden for this guest blog post. Bev Holden is a facilitator and coach and one half of The Clear Thinking Partnership. Bev believes the world should love it’s managers. She’s committed to helping managers and teams collaborate properly. You can find out more about the work Bev and Kate do at www.clearthinkinguk.com