Twice each week for several years before the Covid interruption, I was fortunate to spend time in the company of a variety of amazing human beings using the services of
one of the homeless shelters in our community. The challenges they were experiencing included homelessness, poverty, trauma, chronic health issues, addiction, unemployment, and a variety of other physical conditions and circumstances.
What was fortunate for me was that they were all continually teaching me much more than I ever felt I was teaching them.
one visit a few years ago, I was chatting with a genuinely kind-hearted man who often times, was the only one to show up to the hangout offered. I was always happy to see him, and enjoyed wherever our conversations went, including his sharing of some lovely
One of his metaphors comes to my mind quite often, because it’s the exact opposite of the metaphor I would use to
explain the same thing. So for me, it’s a great example for how words are only ever a shadow of the message being conveyed.
most of this gentleman’s life, he felt as though his thinking was like a garden hose, spraying all around out of control.
then over the weeks of our visits together, he said it felt like he was given a nozzle to put on the end of the hose, which let him finally have some control over it.
He wasn't taking all his thinking as seriously. He wasn’t as afraid to do some things as he was before. New things were occurring to him in how to navigate his life and his complex, busy mind. He could see things he
couldn't see before. He could appreciate things he couldn't appreciate before. He had a sense of knowing what was going on in his mind, instead of being perpetually lost and hopeless in it.
He felt he now had some control over something that previously felt uncontrollable.
In contrast, I tend to
explain my own experience of the "freedom from the tyranny of my thinking", as realizing that I have no control.
My initial big insight
came in the form of, "OMG... every single thought I've ever had in my entire life has been completely made up!"
In a single instant,
I realized and felt the profound truth of that, and it seemed like the most hilarious thing I’d ever realized in my life.
All my lifetime of made up shoulds weren't true or "mine". They were just fleeting
clouds of perspective that somehow appeared in my mind (through absolutely no effort of my own)… some of which were let to flow on by, and some of which were somehow grabbed onto and believed as true.
I now realized that the nature of thought and life was way bigger and complex than I had had any understanding of in the past. And what a relief it felt, not to be in charge of all of that!
At some level, I became the curious and often amused observer of the “Jonelle-branded flow of up and down thinking craziness”,
rather than the personally identified owner of it.
So for me, my experience was, "Yay! I'm not in control of this thinking thing!
And hey, there's nothing to fix! All that “should fix” stuff was made up!"
In contrast, for my hangout friend, his experience
was, "Yay! I have some control over my thinking! I can better navigate the insanity of it all!"
Despite the apparent paradox in the
explanation of our experiences, at a deeper level, both metaphors point to a realization of the same thing...
- some felt sense of our own OKness, wholeness, enough-ness, no matter the craziness going on in our mind or our life
- some felt sense of the nature of thought itself, to be navigated more like passing weather rather than held onto tightly as any enduring truth
So am I in control of my thinking or not? Who knows?
However, within this vast, miraculous, inexplicable,
and incomprehensibly complex experience of life, I suspect that having the “right answer” to that question is not what really matters. Instead, it is simply the grace of realizing any felt understanding of life, or any relationship to our self
or our thinking, that offers peace and possibility, and that is discovered to have always been there, but just hadn’t been realized before.