WELL - Healing
[Excerpt from the book WELL]
We could consider that all reality - of self, other, past, future, everything - is essentially a film. A film created from thought, belief, association and imagination.
And the immediate question (especially in a conversation about physical and mental health) might come ‘Well that’s all very well but I need to know how do I get into a new film? A film in which I am healthy/happy/strong/clear-minded/loved/admired/free? A film in which I am not depressed, anxious, lonely, trapped, ill or exhausted?’
In other words - how do I use this understanding to get a better experience?
It seems like the film analogy breaks down completely because the thing about films - on the iPad, on the tv, even in the movies - is that they can be changed.
If we don’t like the film then we can just tap a button and bingo a new film appears.
And in the cinema, we can walk out. Find another screen.
Yet this film of our own lives can sometimes seem to be on continual repeat with no button to press, no green exit light showing our escape route.
What’s happening there? If it’s only a film, why can’t it be changed?
Well, it can be. Easily. But first we have to understand how these films work and in that understanding we can see where healing lies.
- If the film is bad, it’s because it’s demanding to be seen for what it is
A film in which we are trapped, anxious, ill, depressed, contracted, limited or exhausted is a film so out of line with the infinite potential of life that its very existence is saying, ‘there’s something not quite true about this…’
- The nature of the film (aka ‘reality’) must be understood
The film is a creation of self-understanding. So, everything that appears in ‘reality’, everything we resist or want to change is there because of the way the self is understood. Being on our own can be lonely or delicious. Having no money or no possessions or no home or no job can be our worst nightmare or a life-style choice. Pain can be something to fight against or the gift of information. Being terrified can be something to avoid at all costs or exhilarating. Being constrained or physically restricted can be something to struggle against or it can give rise to the greatest leaps of creativity.
It is the mind that makes it so. As John Milton said in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.”
The belief in an insecure, limited self is always going to create suffering. Because it is not true. Yet it is from that misunderstanding that this film originates. And the suffering is the sign that it is time for a new film.
- In the film, notice the uncomfortable
This is where the film starts to change. The uncomfortable is anything that threatens the idea of self. It is the story of the self that must be upheld, because, after all, what would we be without it? It is what must be defended or protected. And up until now, we’ve avoided the uncomfortable at all cost. We have turned away from it, squashed it down, numbed it, distracted ourselves from it, denied it, blocked it…
- In the film, stay with or move towards the uncomfortable
Now we are going to do the opposite of avoidance or denial. We are going to hang out in the uncomfortable. The only thing at risk in doing this, is the self-identity - which is just a collection of thoughts. So, while exploring the nature of reality (step 2), we are also going to notice what makes us uncomfortable in the knowledge that this is the place of all change. We are going to move towards it, stay with that feeling. Explore it like an anthropologist would encounter a distant people. With curiosity, fascination. With nothing to lose but an old idea.
- Change happens with the readiness to do the uncomfortable or to not do the comfortable
In our reality, there will be things that make the self uncomfortable. It will be anything that increases that feeling of vulnerability, of shame, fear and insecurity. It can be anything. Perhaps the prompt to join an exercise class or sport, ask for help, put ourselves out in the world or take up an activity or join a group. Whatever it is, it is an invitation to explore the protection of the self, to notice the increase in symptoms, to be the explorer in the terrain of what is outside the comfortable prison of the self-identity.
Or there might be something that looks like it will make us more comfortable. In other words, there will be something that will create a distraction or numbing of the suffering of separation or a momentary ‘reward’ for the ego. It might be to lose ourself in the internet or sex or a bottle or the fridge. It might be to seek out approval or attention. Or to withdraw. Whatever it is, perhaps the inclination for this will fall away because there just isn't the desire any more to avoid the only genuinely useful information of our existence. Discovering who we really are might have become so much more interesting than comfort.
- In the film, notice what then happens to the uncomfortable
What has just happened? We have challenged the self-identity by moving into an area previously protected and defended. We have given up the comfort of the familiar story. Or moved towards the discomfort of the unknown.
And what might happen is that we now feel more vulnerable than ever. This is the ultimate self-check. Because the question is now: do we retreat back into the safety of the awful but comfortingly familiar film, or do we stay with the discomfort, notice it, move into it and continue to do what is uncomfortable to do in the knowledge that comfort cannot be found here? There is no respite for the identity.
- Repeat steps 1-6
If we deeply question what is true and if we stay with, move into and do the uncomfortable or don't do the comfortable, we move into a whole new understanding of self and reality. A self with less and less layers of protection. A reality which is more and more aligned to the freedom, peace, love and potential of our true nature.
A new film is playing, and then another new film. And then another. Until the film that is playing is the perfect expression of our existence.
And, at that point, it becomes clear.
There was never anything to change.