MARIAN LANSKY

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Seeing What You Are Not

One thought that has been a piece of furniture in my mind all my life is that “I am not doing enough” or “What I am doing is not measuring up.”

It doesn’t matter where this thought came from, but it makes it so that many of my days, many of the moments I’m awake, are haunted by a sense that I’m too lazy and I’m not being a productive member of society—not contributing enough. Not fulfilling my purpose. “Do something,” plays in my head all the time.

At the very same time here’s what also plays, in response, in my head: “I don’t feel like doing anything. There’s nothing that really interests me to do.”

Back and forth, like a tiresome tennis match that nobody wins, playing on a perpetual TV in some distant room of my mind.

Thanks to recent circumstances, however, I have realized that, hey, wait a minute, both of these voices are coming from the same source, and neither one is real. They’re both just conditioned thought—detritus of the personality, the human vehicle. They don’t belong to me. Their purpose has NOTHING to do with accomplishing anything or creating anything or not creating anything.

The purpose of those voices is simply to keep me identifying with them in order to tie up my energy so I don’t remember that I am not the vehicle, I am not the conditioning, I am not the memories, the personality, the body.

During the pandemic—when the things I usually do to still those voices, or which I feel like doing, are not necessarily available to me, and the things I don’t feel like doing, or perhaps think I shouldn’t be wasting my time on, are quite available—the voices revealed their true nature and became visible as the same old biting dog they’ve always been.

The personality, the ego, bites. You are not it. You are not any thought that bites.

Thoughts on Wearing a Mask

Viruses, from what I understand, are fragments of genetic material, genetic coding. They cannot live or reproduce without a host. They’re like an operating system without a computer. They have no life until they’re installed.

Should a virus stumble upon a susceptible cell, it commandeers that cell with its coding and begins to reproduce. What had no empowered life of its own, now has a sort of borrowed life. 

(As an aside—the ego is a lot like a virus. It’s a collection of sensations and memories, thoughts and feelings and beliefs… a cloud of coding that has no life of its own without a vehicle to commandeer. We, humans, are the vehicle.)

The covid pandemic is a mass creation on a grand scale, and as all mass creations do, it’s showing us something about ourselves—something we needed and deep-down wanted, to see, and perhaps to change. Because I am alive right now and participating, I am part of this grand-scale creation. 

Before I go any further, here’s one of my favorite quotes from A Course in Miracles, from Lesson 76, I am under no laws but God’s.

Think of the freedom in the recognition that you are not bound by all the strange and twisted laws you have set up to save you. You really think that you would starve unless you have stacks of green paper strips and piles of metal discs. You really think a small round pellet or some fluid pushed in to your veins through a sharpened needle will ward off disease and death. You really think you are alone unless another body is with you.

It is insanity that thinks these things. You call them laws, and put them under different names in a long catalogue of rituals that have no use and serve no purpose. You think you must obey the “laws” of medicine, of economics and of health. Protect the body, and you will be saved.

These are not laws, but madness. The body is endangered by the mind that hurts itself. The body suffers just in order that the mind will fail to see it is the victim of itself. The body’s suffering is a mask the mind holds up to hide what really suffers. 

The body’s suffering is a mask the mind holds up to hide what really suffers. 

This is something I know deep down as true. This is knowledge I use in practical ways all the time with pretty good success. When I get sick or have an ache or pain, I always look within and try to figure out what’s really troubling me. In what way is my mind suffering and projecting it on the body so I won’t have to deal with unacceptable emotions or impulses, or God-forbid, make a change in my life?

All other treatments, even ones that I myself employ, I acknowledge as placebos and use them anyway. This is a dream. Nothing happening here is real. So when we take medications or herbs or do yoga or whatever we do to-and-with the dream body, it’s still not real.

However, we’re here to experience this embodied state as though it were real and solid and to work within the given parameters until we awaken, or die. For me, awakening has been a slow and sometimes painful process, but progress is being made.

Despite this slow process of my own blossoming lucidity, I have to say that I don’t understand what’s happening here with covid. I’m along for the ride as much as anyone else, and within the situation as a whole I feel better wearing a mask—not because I’m absolutely convinced that it is necessary, but because to me it has a definite, positive, symbolic value.

A friend sent me an article talking about how masks are a symbol of fear, shame and separation, and that they are part of a conspiracy to create a kind of mass alienation that will facilitate injecting the populace with genetic modifiers, masquerading as vaccines. 

That’s an interesting view, and the part about the vaccines might be true for all I know, but I don’t feel that way about masks.

For this entire lifetime I’ve felt enamored with certain aspects of Japanese culture. And one thing you always see in Japanese cities, is the wearing of masks. It’s considered courteous to wear a mask if you have a cold or aren’t feeling well. It’s also considered courteous to mask up if it’s flu season and others are ill. It’s a sign of consideration and mutual respect, and they’ve been doing it since the flu pandemic of the early 20th century. 

This is one reason the Japanese are more successful in dealing with covid. They just put on their masks, which they all had already. Another is that they don’t touch when greeting… no handshakes or hugs. They bow. Again, a sign of respect and affection.

Maybe this is why I feel so comfortable wearing a mask. I don’t know. At this point in the pandemic, as things are opening up and the infection rates are rising, wearing a mask, to me, feels like a gesture of togetherness in a situation that I don’t understand. 

And maybe covid itself is the mask our minds are holding up to hide what is really suffering inside us.

The Third Toke

Among the many other YouTube videos I’ve watched during quarantine have been several about DMT trips. Some are funny, others more scientifically oriented and others touch on the sacred. One thing many of them have in common is the idea of The Third Toke. Apparently, if you vaporize and smoke the most common form of DMT, it’s important to take three deep hits. They say that after the second one your perceptual world will be so deeply altered that the last thing you’ll want to do is take a third hit, but that it’s absolutely necessary to do so in order to “break through.”

The breakthrough is described as that moment in which you leave all semblance of human life, the universe, and self you’ve known, behind, and are plunged into an experience of vastness for which you have no reference points, and consequently from which you might gain the deep benefits of expanded awareness—if you can surrender.

Although obviously not as extreme, I feel like my experience of the pandemic, so far, has been a similar kind of process. The first hit was the onslaught of a huge wave of practical fears. Loss of savings and loss of income were right up there. As self-employed owners of a non-essential business, we were hit hard and fast. Working with that situation took a lot of focus and letting go.

The second wave was the actual fear of illness, as the pandemic began to spread through our state and my husband and I read the statistics (vulnerable!) and pondered this new reality and how to parse it. A work in progress, but one with which we are feeling more confident now, despite the fact that statistics are not on our side. We looked hard and long at our situation and developed a policy of staying present and trusting our intuitive feelings moment to moment about where to go, what to do, whether or not to order groceries online or go to the store, which streets we walk down on our daily walk, mask on or off, and so on.

But the third wave (by no means the final one, I’m sure) has been remarkably pleasant. It’s been a wave of letting go that is deeper than anything I’ve experienced in my life so far, except for maybe natural childbirth.

Letting go has been a theme for me in this lifetime, and I’ve done a lot of it, but this third toke of the pandemic has given me the opportunity to utilize lessons learned in all my other experiences of surrender.

The aspects of it have covered everything from looking right at the possible end of my livelihood or even the end of my time on the planet, to finally relaxing with the state of my quarantine hair. I have let go of needing to pick my own produce at the store. I’ve let go of thinking that I need to save up for retirement because, well, where did that get me? I’ve let go of expecting humans to behave responsibly and of being irritated when they don’t. 

And I’ve let go of believing that the structure of the way things have been, is the way they will or should continue.

The more I let go, the happier and more peaceful I begin to feel and the easier it has been for me to notice any thoughts popping up in my mind that make me tighten up and start struggling again—and just drop them.

What’s been the most amazing thing is that a dream I had as a little child—a dream which has helped me all my life and which I talked about here a couple of years ago—has again bounced to the forefront of my consciousness and become THE pandemic method of coping for me. 

In this recurring childhood nightmare, I am being attacked by a pack of Doberman Pinschers. They are jumping on me and tearing at me with their teeth and I am utterly terrified. I’m aware that I am dreaming, but it doesn’t help. The terror is too great. In this particular occurrence of the dream, a voice suddenly injects itself into the scene and says, “Don’t panic. Just relax completely and they’ll stop.” Amazingly enough I was able to listen and obey. As soon as I totally calmed down and relaxed, the dogs let go and disappeared. That one dream has been helping me for over 60 years.

So this is what I’ve been doing with negative thoughts, fearful thoughts, stressful thoughts—in fact any thought that gets its teeth in my arm and starts to chew on me. I relax and remember to calm down completely and let them disappear.

The pandemic has been a perfect ticket for me to remember the vastness of our true identity and the forces aligned our our behalf. It has helped me take my focus off the manifestation, off the projection, and place it squarely where it belongs, on the projector. Moment by moment, day after day, the spiritual opportunity offered by this situation has been, for me, immense, and I’m endeavoring to take full advantage of it.

It’s not always easy, and I can’t always do it immediately, but I can now see that judging myself for such apparent failures is just another Doberman, and if I relax, it will disappear.

In the Middle of a Covid Night

Years ago I used to love to watch the TV show Survivor. It was one of the first classic reality shows. People were dropped off in tropical locations and had to build shelters, find food, make fire, and compete with each other, alone or as teams, in order to win a million bucks.

There were some notoriously good players over the years, and they’re the ones that interested me the most. I love to watch people who are well-suited to life as a human being. I’ve never felt all that well-suited to it, but I’m here, so I like to observe those who appear undaunted.

Intermittently during each episode, contestants would be taken aside and interviewed individually. One I have remembered for years occurred after several weeks during which conditions were abysmal. Can’t remember what they were exactly, but let’s say cold, rainy, maybe some huge poisonous centipedes, no food, utter misery, and horrid competitions. Players were falling apart—weeping, complaining, attacking each other.

And in his interview, this one contestant said, “I don’t know what these whiners expected! I knew coming into this game that I would suffer. I came prepared to suffer. You’d think they never watched the show!”

Here’s another little relic from my psyche. When I was a little girl, my best friend and I used to play in her parents’ bedroom. They had a huge sleigh bed. We’d perch our little bums on the head or foot board, which seemed quite high up to us, (at the age, maybe four years old, when falling down and scraping your knees is a major issue) and we’d sing “I won’t fall down, I won’t fall down, I won’t fall down.” And then we’d pretend to lose our balance, shriek, and fall onto the bed.

So. We have fallen down now, we humans. And we are suffering. It is perhaps possible to think of life as a game, or a dream, when things are going well. But when the dream becomes nightmarish, it gets a little tougher.

Like many people, I’m able to stay positive most of the day. I can keep my mind clear and stay in the eye of the storm, in the present moment, where it’s calm. And where, even in quarantine, it’s actually kind of nice.

But it’s another story at 2 or 3 AM when I wake up to pee. If I’m unable to fall immediately back to sleep and my mind wanders even an iota, resistance to what’s happening comes on like a seizure. A seizure of thinking. And it rushes in so forcefully that I wind up fighting to avoid getting hooked.

I start believing my thoughts about financial ruin, the end of my small business, the virus statistics, how my death would affect my loved ones—you get the gist. The thought seizure takes hold, spins off wildly, and my first reaction is to try to stop it, fight it, make it quit. I do not want these thoughts.

Fighting with fear-think, of course, is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Fear grows when we resist it, fight with it, or try to get rid of it.

So, here’s what I do in the middle of the night when the crappy crew members are in the wheelhouse and I’ve lost control of my ship.

I roll over onto my back, take a few deep breaths, and feel the support of the bed beneath me. I feel my body, and sink into surrender to the present moment.

I like to repeat to myself something along the lines of I place the future in the hands of my Source. Or I give up. I give in. I might remind myself that I create my own reality and that unconditional trust creates the best path forward.

I might mentally chant Aaaaaa, or OM as I try to begin gathering in my attention in order to place it on the breath. I remind myself that I can’t see the big picture, that I don’t know what to do, and that it’s okay to just be, just stay in the Don’t-Know-Mind and be still.

The Don’t-Know-Mind, even if you can get there for only a second, is extremely peaceful. Fear wants to get you up and running, making plans, solidifying yourself around a defensive sense of self that thinks it knows what’s happening and has plans for how to fix it. It wants you to resist the storyline that it, itself has created, and in so doing, make it even more real.

All of this calming action helps a little, and allows me to get to the next bit, which is to observe my mind as it begins to slow down, and note what’s happening. Instead of getting involved in following the storyline that the thought-seizure is handing me, I begin to focus my attention on the breath, and I start noting what comes up. Fear…. Fear… Fear… Fear. As each new thought comes up, instead of following it, I describe it with one word in my mind.

I try to not resist it, and instead just let myself feel it. It’s a little tricky to feel something without following the storyline, but as you do separate the emotion out of the storyline, the storyline begins to fall back. So a thought comes up, I observe it, I note fear. The next thought comes up, maybe this time it’s guilt, or planning, or embarrassment, or frustration. Whatever it is, just note what the story is about with one word. Observe its rise and fall. Don’t try to get rid of it, just feel it.

Little by little the storylines start to dissolve and the spacious, stable feeling of not knowing, yet welcoming uncertainty, begins to dawn. The mind starts to feel softer and more trusting, okay with what is, ready to relax again. It starts to remember that we are more than this drama, more than this game of being human, and that we are safely couched in the loving hands of our Source, at all times.

We don’t know how this will play out, or in which of the many possible, probable outcomes we’ll find ourselves. But keeping ourselves uplifted—having a laugh now and then, staying in the present moment, helping out in whatever way feels natural to us without getting caught up in the fear-narrative—will go a long way towards making sure we create a softer landing. We knew we might suffer coming here, and we can handle this.

What If All Is Well?

Have you ever tried to catch that moment of pure awareness before the mind jumps in and names something? Sometimes when I’m sitting with my tea in the morning, looking at the objects on my kitchen table, I wish I could remember what it was like before all those objects separated themselves out from oneness in my mind and became cup, placemat, bowl, book, candle.

I remember once waking up from a deep sleep and lying in the dark, unable to remember what my name was supposed to be or who I was in this lifetime. It wasn’t frightening—more like a welcome respite from the intense focus of being a particular personality in physical life. Within a few seconds it all came back to me and I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Lately I’ve been very aware of how quickly the mind, the ego-thinking apparatus, jumps in with an interpretation of an event the second it occurs. It’s instantaneous—so much so that the event itself seems to be causing a feeling, when the truth is that the feeling is being caused by the thoughts that have arisen with the event. These are thoughts about which we have a choice, but often it doesn’t seem that way.

Separating the actual event from the thoughts that are automatically arising with it is my goal lately. There is, heaven knows, a lot of fear-mongering going on right now, a lot of identification with fearful thinking. When we identify with a negative thought, a painful, anxious, worried thought—when we believe it—that’s when it gains the power to create within our reality experience. We are choosing to manifest it when we choose to believe it.

So, to me, it seems infinitely worthwhile, if I want to avoid haphazard, chaotic reality-creation, to understand the process by which thinking gets me to identify with fear, in relation to an event that in and of itself is neutral.

We mistake our automatic negative reactions to an event, and the stories that cause them, for reality. In truth the event may be positive in terms of its ultimate meaning. The idea that everything happens, as ACIM says, for our good—not as in “this is for your own good, it’ll hurt me more than it hurts you”—but truly for our happiness, is something I’ve never quite believed, even though I’ve seen in hindsight that it’s probably true.  But to view all events as positive, the way Byron Katie does when she says, Nothing terrible has ever happened except in our thinking. Reality is always good, even in situations that seem like nightmares. The story we tell is the only nightmare that we have lived.—that degree of surrender has felt like quite a stretch lately.

This seems to be shifting, however. Here’s a teeny-tiny example of how. At the end of a long and somewhat stressful week, last week, I looked at my bank statement online and discovered that I was being charged full price for my Y membership. I have health insurance that usually pays for my membership, but somehow it had reverted. Just one more thing, right? One more thing I have to go and take care of on Monday. And what if I was mistaken and I no longer get the discount? Should I quit the Y? Not a ton of stories began proliferating, but enough that I wasn’t interpreting this potential overcharge positively, nor was I looking forward to going to the Y to check it out. After all, I haven’t used the Y in almost a year, so I have to factor in the embarrassment of paying for something I’m not currently using, as though anybody there cares.

But then I thought—what if I’m mistaken and this is in truth a positive event in some way that I can’t anticipate just yet? What if it will actually be fun? What if the overcharge is, in some way, for my good, for my joy? And when I went to the Y on Monday to take care of it, it was an entirely positive, friendly, and delightful experience, in which the error was corrected. The correction of the error was almost besides the point because my interactions with the people there were so delightful.

What if Byron Katie is speaking the truth and all events actually ARE good? What if we have been so sucked into our automatic defensive interpretations that we can’t see the truth right in front of our eyes, and because of our fearful stories, we’re creating and recreating a negative experience?

We have some deeply embedded ways of perceiving here in human life. Back in the early 90s, I was experiencing enduring heartbreak over a relationship in which I was totally invested, but which I had apparently lost. It was so painful that I was driven to deeply examine my own beliefs in an attempt to find relief from the mental torment. What I learned was that I believed that I needed to be in this relationship, or in a relationship, in order to be happy. When I questioned that belief, it shocked me to see that perhaps this wasn’t true. I was able to fully entertain the liberating belief that I, in fact, did not need to be in this or any other relationship in order to be happy. This wasn’t an intellectual concept, it was a deep understanding of truth. Shortly after I experienced this realization, the relationship was healed as well.

So, something happens—a health situation, a political situation, an environmental situation, a financial situation—something happens. Can we create a space between the event itself and the ego’s knee-jerk interpretation of it? Can I find a way to say “yes” to what is, before the stories begin to proliferate? Maybe not right away. But I believe I can at least notice when there is a negative story associated with an event and remember that it is my choice to believe it or not. 

As always, Abraham Hicks says it simply: “Nothing needs to be fixed. Everything is unfolding perfectly. So when you stand in your now accepting that all is well, then from that vibration, you become surrounded by more and more evidence that all is well. But when you’re convinced that things are broken, that there is pollution, or that things have gone wrong, or that the government is doing conspiracies… then what happens is you get caught up in that vibration, and you begin to manifest that kind of stuff, and then you say, “See, I told you that things were going wrong.”

The Dollhouse

Japanese videos show up on my YouTube feed a lot. This morning there was a magical one made by a creator of miniature three-dimensional scenes—a tradition in Japan. You can’t really call them dollhouses because they’re too small for dolls—this one a replica of his own studio complete with many-drawered cabinets, jars of brushes, sketches tacked on the walls, paints, knives and supplies scattered on the desk and lined up on shelves, a tumbling stack of books, and even a view through the window. The video (no voice-over, just quiet music) showed his amazingly steady hands painstakingly creating first the three-walled room and then each tiny bit, finally putting it all in place. 

After watching that, I looked out the sliding glass doors of my kitchen, and watched deer walking on the snow-covered railroad track behind our house. Deer, coyote, foxes… it’s a highway for the animals in winter. A place they can walk without running into humans or cars.

Then I glanced down at my copy of A Course in Miracles on the table and my eyes landed on this: 

“…think on this awhile: The world you see does nothing. It has no effects at all. It merely represents your thoughts. And it will change entirely as you elect to change your mind…”

Our world is like that miniature artist’s studio. It magically shows us a mirror-like, 3D representation of what we think, feel, and believe. Every time we dwell on a thought that feels bad—a fearful, angry, blaming thought, a worried thought, a thought of scarcity or anxiety for the future—it’s like we’re adding something discordant and frightening to the precious little world we’re creating.

The other day I was listening to a near-death experiencer talk about looking back at this reality from his non-physical perch and how it looked like a paper maché stage set—like a bit of fluff—completely unreal. And yet upon this stage, when we are in the play, everything seems absolutely real and solid. We fear, we grieve; we strive and struggle with the happenings on stage, and with the stage set itself.

The cool thing about this reality is that it includes time. So it offers us a buffer period between when we think a thought and when it manifests. Most often we have to create a good head of steam by thinking and feeling the same thing repeatedly before it begins to decorate our dollhouse.

So we get many moments to choose. Is this what I want to put in my world, this world I’m creating? Do I really want to see a 3D representation of my complaints or my worries? Wouldn’t I rather see a mirror of my inner peace and happiness?

Maybe not. Some of us really enjoy the drama of painful emotions. Some of us like to let things get really bad, hit bottom, and then rise like a phoenix. I’ve done that a few times. Maybe we like to see how bad we can let it get and still recover. 

But these days I’m tired. I’ve had enough drama and pain, so I don’t go looking for them. I’m careful about what I read, what I watch, what I think, what I talk about and how I talk about it. I’ve gotten serious, or maybe sincere is the word, about the kind of world I want to create.

The desire to create and experience a peaceful world requires the ability to view the current manifestations, which are the results of past thought, without having a knee-jerk opinion about them if they’re troubling. It requires a kind of overlooking-acceptance. A forgiveness. It’s the refusal to feed the current manifestation by giving it the energy of your attention.

We build the new on the bones of the old, without condemning the old. We let it dissolve on its own. This doesn’t mean that we deny the suffering that is occurring. It means that we take seriously the cause of suffering and seek to remedy it where it begins, in each of our all-powerful minds.

Awakening as Recovery

I recently read Ninety Days by Bill Clegg, which is the story of his recovery from addiction to crack cocaine, alcohol, and drug-driven sex. He was in bad shape, close to death, when he wound up hospitalized and then in rehab.

He relapsed many, many times after that, but each time he started over at day one, again and again until his recovery began to solidify.

What struck me most was the way he described the process of relapse. It always began with a thought. He’d be somewhere or see something triggering and the next thing that would happen was a thought—maybe a memory of getting high—whatever it was, and before he could gain control, he’d identified with that thought, and he was out the door to the ATM to get cash and find a dealer.

It was a beautiful description of what we all experience all the time. Something happens, some trigger, and a thought instantly arises—a thought that is not our friend, not our ally, but at the moment it appears to be just that. 

Maybe it’s a thought of blame or revenge or fear or guilt or greed. I do not want this, or, I must get that. And if we believe it, it takes us over and we’re off and running. 

We habitually identify with thoughts because they promise a solution. A solution to what? To the feeling that something is not right, something is incomplete, something is broken, something is about to be lost—or there is something we need in order to feel happy, in order to feel whole.

And yet, that very feeling of being incomplete, of fearing, of feeling like something is missing and broken—that very feeling is a result of identifying with thoughts in the first place. The temporary, false, thought-based nature that we usually call “me” feels incomplete because it is.  

It is not our true nature. It’s not where our true identity, our wholeness, is found.

His story of recovery felt so familiar to me. The layers of my addiction to thought have taken decades to undo and I relapse often. But little by little, the thought-addicted sense of self has given way to something vastly deeper. 

So now, just as a recovering alcoholic knows that the thought that she could have ‘just one drink’ is not true, I know that seductive negative thoughts, be they of fear, or blame, or righteous indignation, whatever, are not true. I know where they end up. And it’s not where I choose to go.

And at this point I honestly don’t care how often I relapse, because I know how to start over. I start over many times a day.

Lesson 160 in A Course in Miracles says it succinctly: 

I am at home. Fear is the stranger here.

Worry the Deceiver

It seems to me that everybody worries about something. My husband seems fairly immune to worry most of the time but there are odd scenarios that will trigger him into bouts of wakeful nights and negative thought-attacks. Fortunately we aren’t triggered by the same things, so when he’s tangled up, I’m free, and vice versa. We don’t go down the tubes together.

I’ve been looking lately at the phenomenon of worry, because I feel as though I can’t take it any more. I want to clearly understand what it is and whether or not it has any relationship with concern or caring, or whether it is what it feels like: a useless attack upon the self—a painful and damaging waste of energy.

My mother was a worrier—anxious most of the time and plagued by obsessive negative thoughts. She had two modes when faced with life-challenges: worry, and a weird, callous refusal to care. I see now that the latter was a defense against the former. She was trying to save herself from the anxiety within her own mind by switching into not-caring mode.

For her, to care meant to worry, so the only remedy for the anxious, sleepless nights, aside from valium, was to stop caring. Maybe many of us feel this way, at least in some areas. 

What this basically means is that we believe we have to torment ourselves in order to be effective or have compassion. Perhaps this imagining-of-dire-scenarios started out as a positive, useful way to work with the dangers of the physical environment when we were cave-people. But then, like so many human tendencies, we took it to extremes. It got away from us.

So what is worry? Worry is fear-and-preoccupation. It’s resistance to what is. It’s a continual playing of fearful mental movies which keep the mind tangled up in imaginary reactions to something that seems to be happening outside of us. 

As Abraham Hicks says, “Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.”

I know this, I do. Yet there are times when I feel utterly attacked by worry—as though it’s an invading army, and I can barely get on top of it. Since I became a grandmother, the whole game has ramped up, rather than subsiding as I’d hoped it would. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it. 

Whatever the reason, I’m tired of it. I’ve had enough. I want to get to the bottom of this phenomenon to the point where I can dissolve that invading army with the power of awareness. I want desperately to just stop it.

Here’s what I’ve unpacked so far:

Worry is not good for the object of worry. I believe that this is true even when the worry is not verbalized. We are all, at our roots, telepathically connected. Telling someone “I’m worried about you” is a weakening, undermining thing to do. It’s the ego saying “I’m afraid and I want you to be afraid, too. Join me in fear, won’t you?” Or “Stop what you’re doing so I don’t have to be afraid any more. Please take responsibility for my emotions, since I don’t seem to be able to.”

Worry is not good for the worrier. How can something that is utterly detrimental to our physical and mental health be good on any level?

Worry creates, but it’s not so much about the content. Worry will use any content it can get its hands on. It will grab any ratty old thing from from your memory bank that can evoke a fear response. Have you ever wondered why so many of the things we worry about don’t happen? Part of the answer may be that we can only worry about one thing at a time, and our powers of concentration are not great. Each worry tends to subside on its own as it’s replaced by the next one. It’s the problem-imperative. We’d have to worry about the same thing for quite a while in order to create a precise physical manifestation.

The creative goal of worry, if I were to personify that invading army, is to create a false, temporary self to defend against the invasion—one that is totally identified with fear-and-preoccupation. That’s what it creates. It creates a state in which we narrow down our focus and project it into future imaginings, forget the present moment, and become lost in our fearful mind-movies. This is a state of powerlessness, of seeming victimhood. That’s what it creates. It is a mechanism via which the ego creates its fearful me-against-the-world sense of self.

Worry asks us to do something in order to eliminate the worry. This is how it tricks us. It creates fear in the imagination and then the very same level of mind that is creating the fear, tells you what you have to do to eliminate the fear—when in truth the entire problem is this painful level of mind—the one creating the fear. Worry, which wants to continue existing, is giving you advice ostensibly designed to eliminate its existence—when in truth it will strengthen it instead, at your expense.

Go here, speak to so-and-so, take this medicine, bring the wagons in a circle, defend yourself, fix this. None of this can ever work because there is no solution at this level of mind. Defending yourself weakens you and strengthens the fear so the cycle starts all over again.

As my favorite quote from Leonard Jacobson says: “It is better to remain in a state of not knowing than to go into the mind in search of an answer.”

Worry is fear. Bottom line. It is not love. It is not caring. It is not compassion or empathy. It is fear in a particularly pernicious form. Dealing with it takes skill and mindfulness.

The solution. The problem is never the actual content of the worry. It is never the content of the fear-and-preoccupation. It is the level of mind. It is the thinking mind trying to keep us snagged within its fearful labyrinths that is the actual problem. It’s not evil, but everything that exists wants to keep existing.

The only solution is to rise above thinking.

This, however, is very difficult to do at 2 a.m. when the mind-gremlins are shooting flaming arrows over the ramparts of your psyche.  

Rising above this level of mind is the answer. But here’s what happens when you first try to rise above, quiet your mind, and surrender to the present moment. Or when you first say, “thy will be done,” or whatever mantra helps you disengage the thought stream and let go.

Let’s say, as an example, you’re worried about the results of a loved one’s biopsy and it’s tormenting you in the middle of the night. When you first try to quiet your mind and stop fighting what is—when you first begin to rise above this level of worry—you pass through a layer in which the worry will threaten you cruelly, by telling you that if you stop worrying, what you fear most will definitely occur.

The fear-mind will try to get you to believe that what you are surrendering to is the situation you are worried about. That your surrender will create the worst outcome. That you must continue to worry or it will actually happen. It does not want you to withdraw your energy from this level of mind because your energy is keeping it alive.

Rising above means you have to be aware of this trick and not fall for its bullshit.

Surrender means overlooking the loud, cruel threats of the worried mind, in order to get to a different level of mind. 

Truth never threatens. Worry threatens. Fear threatens. Truth never threatens because it cannot BE threatened. Who we truly are, our real identity, cannot be threatened and therefore never uses fear as a tool, ever.

As Byron Katie says, “When a thought hurts, that’s the signal that it isn’t true.” Worry hurts, threatens and punishes, that’s obvious. Coming out of worry when it has got you by the short hairs may take some persistence, but it can be done.

One Problem, One Solution

There’s a thing that sometimes happens to lucid dreamers—maybe a side-effect of developing lucidity—called a false awakening. I’m sure it happens under other circumstances as well, but it’s fairly common in lucid dreamers.

Here’s how a false awakening goes: You wake up in bed in the morning, stumble into the bathroom to pee, turn on the light and grab your toothbrush, but the light appears to be blown out. You flick the switch a few times. Dammit. Then you notice that there’s something funny about the bathroom. The walls are the wrong color. Or maybe you can’t find the toothpaste. Something’s off, for some reason—it’s all a little weird—and then it hits you: I’m still dreaming! This is a dream!

You wake up in bed, for real this time, whew, stumble into the bathroom and pee. The light works this time and you find the toothpaste. You shower, go down to put on the tea kettle and there’s something weird about the kitchen. The lights don’t work. Shit!

You wake up… and so on. I have had three false awakenings in a row, and that’s enough for me. It can be a very spooky experience. It’s as though reality is like a matrix of neighboring probabilities, and you keep waking up in the wrong one.

One well-known lucid dreamer wrote about having seven false awakenings in a row during a period of high focus on lucidity, and it was so scary that he swore off lucid dreaming for a while.

How do we know that we’re in Normal Waking Reality, and not still asleep and dreaming? Perhaps we don’t, really. But we can learn to distinguish between Normal Waking Reality (which may actually be a mega-dream on a larger level), and our individual nighttime dreaming, by using reality checks.

Lucid dreamers use reality checks during the day in order to cultivate the habit of using them during dreaming. I have three favorite reality checks: I pull one of my fingers to see if it stretches. In dreams your fingers stretch like taffy when you pull on them. Or I hop up in the air. In dreaming, I can stay in the air and hover. And lastly, I might find a hard surface and press on it with my fingers. In dreams I can dent or deform a hard surface with my fingers, or press right through it.

In dreams we can think from two different source-minds (and many grey areas in-between as lucidity waxes and wanes). We can think with the mind of the dream character, which is not lucid and is believing in the objective reality of the dream—faulty light switches, wrong colored walls and all—or we can think from the waking mind, if we can access it, which is saying, “something doesn’t feel right here, let’s check the reality of it.”

Changing the source of thought is the key to lucidity. 

In NWR, the thoughts in our heads, the constant internal dialogue that seems to never shut up, especially at 2 a.m., belong to the personality—our dream character in the dream of waking life. It believes that it’s a finite body, on a finite planet, with finite resources, needing to compete with other finite bodies in order to survive.

These thoughts of the human personality—the ego— have a certain feel to them, a certain subtle pain, even when they’re happy. They are conditional. They are reactive to what’s happening in the environment, in the same way that we are reactive in a non-lucid dream, believing we’re the dream character. They are victim thoughts, by and large. They have a fearful undercurrent. They fear loss. They are compulsive and incessant. They plan. They don’t believe they will be provided for. They don’t believe that the universe is necessarily a friendly place, and they’ll tell you why. They threaten and they blame. They are happy when they get what they want, and miserable when it proves to be inadequate. And so on.

The undercurrent of pain in these thoughts is caused by the nature of the personality’s existence, which has no permanent reality. The thoughts of the human character are seeking permanence in the impermanent, always arguing with what is, in an effort to make it what it is not. And they are masterful at creating a reality that accurately reflects this Sisyphean situation.

We cannot help creating a seemingly objective, projected reality with our thoughts and the emotions they generate. This is who we are as divine creators, and this is the nature of the game. Crappy thoughts, negative thoughts, chaotic, haphazard, default thoughts—they all create our reality to some extent.

But there’s another source of thought in human reality. It is as different from the usual thought-stream as the waking mind is from the mind of the dream character. 

How do we access it? Or does it access us? Or is the bridge built from both directions simultaneously?

I think it must be from both directions simultaneously. And our part in it, our part in the building of the bridge, is to love what is. To stop arguing with the dream of human life as though it were an objective reality outside of our minds. It’s as though, when we stop fighting with what is, we become available to the higher source of thought. 

It’s similar to the moment in a nighttime dream when something just feels off, and you begin to question the nature of the problem. Is the faulty light switch an electrical problem, or is it a sign that I’m dreaming? Once the notion that I might be dreaming enters the equation, all so-called problems are shown to be delusional.

At that moment, the seemingly objective reality, to which we were responding as a victim, becomes manageable. It becomes a creative medium, rather than a torture chamber. When the mind is relieved of identifying solely with the problem, the problem must transform, because it’s being robbed of the magic that gives it its reality: focused attention coupled with belief.

Deadliest Crew

I’ve been watching Deadliest Catch. It’s a long-running series about crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. Alaskan crab fishing is a brutal and dangerous job. It takes place in late fall and winter and is accompanied by arctic hurricanes, rogue waves, below zero temps, engine failures, equipment breakdowns, crew injuries, madness, and, occasionally, death.

In the last few years they’ve followed the same group of boats, so the viewer gets to know the captains and crew and to observe their differing styles of not only fishing, but of culture and leadership. Lately it’s been especially interesting as the older group of captains begins to retire or experience failing health and the younger generation begins to emerge. Watching these captains, who are in an excruciatingly stressful position—really a lot like war—manage their crew with varying degrees of skill and finesse, or the lack thereof, has been fascinating and helpful to me. 

Most of these boats run with a crew of five or six people. Each one of them is being pushed to the limits of human endurance. Characters emerge. The older, more stable boats often have the same crew from season to season—guys who’ve worked together for years and are comfortable with each other and respectful towards the captain. 

On other boats, the ones with more cantankerous captains, or new, younger, unproven captains, the crew changes more often, and may include young men who are addicts, alcoholics, violent, cruel, lazy or incapable of accepting authority. How the captains deal with these new, wildcard crew members, who can literally bring fishing to a halt and completely disrupt a trip, is what interests me.

It interests me because I’ve been going through a period in which I have some problematic crew members in my own head. Repetitive, fear-based thoughts that stop the energy flow of my life or clog it up with preoccupation about money, or business, or family, or health, or whatever. The problem imperative, which I’ve talked about before, has become more and more noticeable to me as I become increasingly aware of my own mental state from moment to moment.

Fear and preoccupation, no matter what their content, are the goals of the ego. This is how we forget that we’re dreaming and become convinced that the dream is real. Whatever the ego (the false self) can do to keep us believing our painful thoughts without questioning their truthfulness, it will do. That’s its goal. Everything that exists tends to fight for its existence—even delusions.

So in Deadliest Catch, what I’ve noticed is that when there’s a strong, positive, respectful crew culture, the crew itself will school a rogue newcomer and keep him in line. If the positive culture is not strong enough, or experienced enough, one negative, or cruel, or toxic new guy can bring the whole thing down and force the captain to take action.

It’s the same with thoughts. I can be humming along in life quite nicely and I can read something, or someone can make a comment that, for whatever reason, finds a weak spot in my mind and goes straight in with cancerous negativity and makes itself at home. It begins to gather power and proliferate like a virus, even as I try and fight it.

Captains use various methods to discipline their crew. There’s a lot of yelling on most boats. There’s public shaming. There’s isolation of the disruptive character as in “Get off the deck, now!”. There are summons to the wheelhouse for disciplining followed by, “Now get the fuck out of my wheelhouse!”

Some of the more sophisticated captains will gather everyone around for a forceful pep talk in the mode of, “This is how we do things here.” If the problematic crew member still doesn’t comply or begins to disrupt work even further, there is firing. Sometimes even that doesn’t work because they’re out at sea in the middle of a dangerous situation on every level.

When I’ve allowed myself to identify with a negative thought, I wrestle with it in similar ways. I may fight with it, or use inquiry on it, or try to ignore it, or rise above it, or continually come out of thought, but if the thought has a lot of fear behind it and has hooked me in, sometimes nothing seems to help.

There was one episode of DC that I found inspiring while I was struggling with a particularly negative thought attack. The new crew member turned out to be mentally ill and was beating up the other guys without provocation. He was terrorizing the crew and making threats against the captain. Nothing the captain did seemed to help, and he found himself becoming afraid that this guy would do something to mess with the engines and bring the whole boat down. 

So he made the decision, without telling anyone on board, to interrupt the trip, at great expense, and take the boat back to the harbor while the crew were sleeping. He alerted the police to be waiting on the dock just in case they were needed. When they got into harbor towards dawn, he woke up the other guys first and had them accompany him as backup, then woke up the bad guy, and they peaceably escorted him off the boat, with pay and a plane ticket in hand. Done and done.

I found myself wishing I could to that to this thought I’d been struggling with for weeks because, of course, the more I fought it, the stronger it got. But what I realized was that the rest of my inner crew, and myself as captain of my own mind, were not strong enough in our own positive culture to create an effective immune response to the negative thought.

So I set out to strengthen the rest of my mind and myself as leader—to empower myself as captain of my own mind. I scoured my library for heavy-hitting positive messages about self love and power. I meditated. I used various processes that had worked for me in the past. I wrote. And little by little I began to receive help from the environment in the form of positive thoughts from other people that directly countered the negative ones. 

I made sure, during the days, that I was asking myself more often, “What do I really want to be doing right now?” and obeying my impulses.

And finally the one thing that helped the most was the simplest one. Every night before I went to sleep, while I was lying in bed, I wrote down every positive thing I had experienced throughout that day. From my yummy breakfast, to a nice conversation, to a sweet email exchange, to a good sale, to a lovely walk, to the light on the snow, to a good laugh, to warm, dry sheets—everything I could think of from the day that was enjoyable and that I appreciated. 

This simple practice has seemed to be the most powerful creator of a strong inner culture for me and has given me the greatest increase in dominion over my own mind and life. I sleep better. I dream better. I wake up in a better space. And during the day I’m on the lookout for good things to add to my little journal of appreciation. It’s like an immune booster for the mind.

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