The problem with boundaries…

Imagine you have a piece of plain white paper and on it, you draw a small circle. Suddenly, you have a boundary – you have inside the circle and outside the circle.

And with every boundary, there is the potential for conflict.

In life, we have all created a great many boundaries. Universally recognised ones, like time for example, and personal ones like our ego, which is the sum of all our self-created boundaries (I am this, I am that, etc.).

Boundaries can be a good idea and the concept of time is clearly useful! It allows us to show up when we are supposed to. Or remember our loved one’s birthdays. Or as a guide to accomplishing something.

But there is still that latent potential for conflict in every boundary.

A client recently shared with me that he felt under pressure because his business had a ‘poor’ month. Revenue was not quite what he wanted.

So, in crossing the boundary from the end of one month to the beginning of next he began to experience a lot of insecure thinking that was not there before.

Instead of being present, calm and open – the very place where we keep perspective and have the most access to intelligent, creative thinking – he got negatively preoccupied and felt bad.

I know that many people will say goals (like monthly targets) are important.

But this is just a made-up idea too. I have seen many people under-perform because they feel under pressure in trying to meet their target. I used to fall into that trap too.

This is not to say targets are a bad thing. They are neutral. But when people get attached to them it does the opposite of what the initial intention was.

It is understanding where our experience is really coming from that sets us free.

Beyond the limitation of the boundaries we make up is the infinite potential of pure consciousness.

Nothing is smarter than this.

I remember Dr. Dicken Bettinger saying (and I am paraphrasing) – ‘We all have the intelligence of the entire universe at our disposal’.

When we appreciate this fact then it stops making sense to put up so many boundaries and it becomes easy to let them go.

Successful – now do you want to be happy 2.0?

Quite some time ago I wrote an article called ‘Successful – now do you want to be happy?’ and this is a new version, hence the title!

The seed for this article was sown when someone approached me for coaching and wanted me to help him create a new, compelling vision, mission and business plan.

Before deciding if I could help I was curious about what he thought this would give him. Despite his current business being successful and having no real issues in his life he shared with me that he had been feeling discontented, frustrated and unhappy for some time.

His idea was that he needed to create a bigger and more successful business. Something he could really get his teeth into so he could deeply immerse himself in the new project and put all his energy into it.

I shared that I didn’t think a bigger vision was the answer he was looking for. I said that I was sure he was capable of creating a business twice the size of the one he had and that would be a great achievement.

But it wouldn’t give him what he thought it would.

The project would have been a distraction tactic. It would have occupied his mind but as soon as his mind was not on the project he would more than likely be back to where he was.

The real issue was a misunderstanding.

It is so easy to think of success as something that occurs in the external world and that it will lead to happiness.

For instance, when we accomplish a goal we allow ourselves feelings of success and happiness. Of course, it can be wonderful to fulfil an ambition and yet whenever we reflect upon our achievements we’ll notice that the feelings don’t last.

That is because feelings don’t come from the outside. Chasing external goals is often the innocent attempt to find the deeper feelings of inner peace, love, gratitude, connection and aliveness that we naturally want to gravitate towards.

These feelings are found within and have no relationship with our external life.

But what if I’m not feeling them? What if my experience of life is one of often feeling tense, unhappy or anxious? What then?

What sets us free is FACT, not FICTION.

Fiction is believing that circumstances are causing our feelings. This is the ill-logic that creates all our suffering. Even though our thoughts and feelings can be extremely intense, compelling and consuming they are not caused or created by our circumstances. Yes, we will still get caught out by the illusion that they do, but it is still an illusion.

The fact is that life ONLY works one way – from the inside out. We feel our thinking, not our circumstances. When we see this truth and know it, then we are free.

One of those freedoms is that we will stop looking for happiness outside of ourselves.

I have heard some people have expressed the concern that if they are not chasing after a goal then they will lose their motivation.

But I have not seen this happen. It simply means that we are free to create whatever we want because we no longer see the need to fill our time chasing an illusion.

The road less travelled

Just recently I went to an evening hosted by One Thought and the lovely Susan Marmot, who said something that really resonated with me.

The subject was relationships and we talked about how our feelings about other people come from our thinking about the other person and not the other person directly. The implications of this fact are far reaching and highly significant, in every aspect of our lives.

For instance, when we realise that our experience is being generated from the ‘inside-out’ then it completely changes how we might approach any kind of conflict or difficulty we perceive we are having with another person.

Traditional approaches in therapy and mediation encourage people to air their grievances and, in some cases, even in the presence of the other person too. As Syd Banks once said, this is like burning your hand and then sticking back in the fire to make it better!

Life is difficult… is this really true?

Many years ago I read a book called ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by Dr.M.Scott Peck. I loved the book at the time and it contains a line which has become particularly famous:

‘Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.’

So, what is it that makes life difficult? 

How it looks to me is that bad feelings that we attribute to circumstances are what make life seem difficult. After all, in good feelings we tend to transcend our ‘problems’ because our thinking is so much more generative.

The thing is that what we tend to label ‘bad’ feelings are as normal, natural and to be expected as much as good feelings. You can’t have only good feelings, we just don’t work that way. I have never meet anyone who only gets good feelings and no bad ones, have you? (even though advertisers, certain sections of the media and other vested interests would love us to think that it’s true).

What does happen though is that people can have a lot of thinking about their bad feelings. They think it is wrong to have them, they fight them, try and make them go away and yet this only makes them worse.

The most intense examples of this are addictions. People feel bad and then try to get rid of the feeling by numbing themselves with substances or distracting themselves with certain (often destructive) behaviours.

A fundamental truth about life

At one point during the evening Susan said ‘There’s an easier way to do life.’ and I thought this brilliantly captured the essence of the three principles understanding.

The inside-out understanding tells us that our feelings are coming from our thought in the moment, not our circumstances. And the nature of thought is that it is transient – a thought comes, we experience the feeling of it and then we get another thought.

We live in a flow of thought, some we label ‘good’ and some we label ‘bad’ but, in reality, thought is neutral and the more we see this fact the less we are bothered by our experience, whatever it may be.

The biggest mistake that we can make is to try to manage our thinking and control our experience. We have about as much chance of doing this as we do of controlling the weather.

Our thinking changes all the time – in this respect it IS just like the weather (especially in the UK!). But, if we believe that our thinking is a representation of our life then we are going to be for a very, very bumpy ride.

The principles never change – they are 100% reliable, all of the time with no exception and whatever our experience is.

There is a life force, we think and we are aware of our thinking. These three spiritual facts are providing our experience of life, constantly, reliably and perfectly. This is all we need to realise to move through life with ease, gracefully and more enjoyably.