You are walking down the street on your way to the first day at a new job. It’s 80 degrees outside. People are out and about. The humbug of city life is a pulse that reverberates through your veins.
Suddenly, a thought comes to your mind.
“Am I positive that this new job is the ‘right’ one?”
Immediately, your entire physiological system changes as the haunting “truth” of this fear starts to sink in. Your senses heighten. Your heart picks up its pace. Your chest and throat constrict as the waterfall of worst-case scenarios start filtering in and out your mind.
What if I fail?
What if the company fails?
What if the job doesn’t provide the best exit opportunities?
And if these worst-case scenarios do happen, what next? Will I be able to find another job? If not, will I be able to survive as an unemployed person? What if my wife leaves me? I don’t know if I will be able to take it…
Let’s backtrack for a second and watch this all too familiar cascade of thoughts and worries step by step.
In the beginning, you are free of fear. You are enjoying the present moment of your walk to work, maybe even appreciating the sun on your skin, the smell in the air, and the beautiful sense of accomplishment walking into a job you just landed.
Then something happens. Something almost so subtle you can barely discern it being different from your conscious awareness. This something is a thought. A thought is a psychological phenomenon that arises from the subconscious without our doing.
You did nothing to create this thought or to make it come into your conscious awareness. It just is. This is your present state now. There is no reason to fight it or to berate yourself for it arising.
A thought is neutral. It is neither bad nor good; it is our perception of the awareness that categorizes it as such. In this case, this thought brings up a fear of diving head first into a cataclysmic career path that will leave you broke, homeless, and alone.
But when we become curious about the thought, does it hold its weight? Does the thought actually mean anything? What happens if we simply realize it as a thought and come back to that glorious walk we were just having a couple seconds ago?
Does your thought need any further consideration or is there anything you can do right now to alleviate the fear? If not, then come back to your walk.
It is our need to analyze or “think through” our thoughts that bring about the array of catastrophic thoughts and worries that we know as anxiety. Not the thoughts themselves.
What would happen if you didn’t chase the thought, but rather just observed it? Would it fade away or become less intense?
You will realize that in fact, it does fade away or at least it becomes less intense. This realization may help you see how powerful the observer vs. the observed relationship is in your daily life.
When you learn that you are not your thoughts, therefore the substance of your thoughts is NOT you, a profound transformation begins to take place. Your mindset and perception change. You no longer judge your thoughts and emotions. You take it easier on yourself. You stop fearing those dark thoughts and start to second-guess your ego when it becomes inflated.
You stop worrying that the thought means something deeper about who you are. You realize that you can observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and not get caught up in them. And from a place of grounded
You stop worrying that the thought means something deeper about who you are. You realize that you can observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and not get caught up in them. And from a place of grounded presence, you are poised to act if that is what is necessary.
Acceptance is not resignation. It is the choice to act intentionally, without judgment, in the present moment.
But you may be asking yourself if I’m not my thoughts (because I am able to observe them) then who am I? Who is observing?
As we have proven above, you are not your thoughts because you are able to observe them, but who is the observer? And more interestingly, if this observer is unchanged by thoughts and emotions, could that mean that there is a deeper resource within us that has continuity and energy that remains unchanged, no matter your circumstances?
The Samurai swordsman Miyamoto Musashi stressed the difference between perceiving and observing. The perceiving eye is weak, he wrote, but the observing eye is strong. Why? Because strategy — whether in business or winning sword fights — requires objectivity and seeing things as they are. It requires us to put aside how our emotions that cloud our thinking with fear or brimming overconfidence and see how the situation truly is.
I would be naive to sit here and give you an answer to who the observer is, but searching for that answer yourself may reveal that in fact, you are stronger, more resilient than you ever imagined.
You may see that you are not your thoughts, but you are in control of how you act in response to them. You may see that maybe, just maybe, life is more about removing the layers within than adding layers on top, which may bring you to the discovery that you possess everything you need to live a full and rich life.
Personal discovery is less about going somewhere new, and more about going within and finding out that you possess the power of God within yourself, and always have.
It’s your job to discover this simple truth. Get to work.