It’s possible that I have joined a cult. While some friends worry (and I did as well) that there would be Kool-Aid, lamb slaughters, and tribal chanting, it didn’t come to that just yet. Instead I spent thirteen hours today, and the same schedule the next two days, encouraged to question and examine my basic belief systems and my perceptions of life, relationships, integrity, work, among many other things. As students, we’re to put aside all that we believe that we know, and try another thinking on for size for the three days time. If we choose to pick up our old thinking Sunday at 10pm, then we can do just that.
So now, midnight, I’m exhausted and could really use a Knob Creek on the rocks. No go, unfortunately, as we’re strongly encouraged not to drink during the weekend forum, so that we can be 100% present and numb-free.
My one big take-away today, from perhaps the best speaker I have ever encountered in my life, was that we are not our thoughts. I’ve spent years believing that our thoughts are what make us who we are, and to use that ridiculous word, “unique.” But this new thinking has us separating ourselves, the real us, from that annoying voice in our heads that doubts, questions, reacts emotionally, pesters, angers, judges – and goes nonstop all-day, everyday. I learned that thoughts can just be….thoughts – and that we can recognize them, but dismiss them just as easily, as they are not us. Our speaker asked a very important question: “If you are your thoughts, then who the hell is the one hearing them?”
The English philosopher, Colin Wilson, has a great take on the division of who we are and the voice inside our heads. He said, “G.K. Chesterton once said that in his teens he saw hell, and I really think I did too. I went through extreme depressions, glooms. There was one occasion on which I decided actually to commit suicide…. And immediately I felt this, I felt a curious sense of inner strength. So I went off to night school quite determined that what I was going to do was to take down the bottle of potassium cyanide from the reagent shelves and drink it. I knew that cyanide burns a hole in the bottom of the stomach and kills you within seconds….I went over to the reagent shelves, I took down the bottle of potassium cyanide, I uncorked it, and as I started raising this to my lips I suddenly had an extremely clear vision of myself in a few seconds’ time with an agonizing pain in the pit of my stomach, and at the same time I suddenly turned into two people. I don’t mean that literally, but I mean that there was I, and there beside me was this silly, bloody little idiot called Colin Wilson who was in a state of self-pity and about to kill himself, and I didn’t give a damn whether the fool killed himself or not. The trouble was, if he killed himself he’d kill me too.”
Apparently, we will all experience a ‘come to Jesus’ moment this weekend, and I see a few people having flashes of them around me already. But I won’t put too much pressure on myself because I’ve already been pushed to think in different ways – most importantly, that there is a big difference between what actually happens in a person’s life and the meaning or interpretation we make up about it. Similar to what Rita said about another’s thoughts about her being “their story of me, not mine,” there is a big difference between what happened to me and my interpretation of what happened. My interpretation will include blame, betrayal, distrust, abandonment, and my belief that I am replaceable and unloved by this person – and that’s been my sad story. But it’s not what happened. Nor is his version of events what happened. It’s his interpretation. Neither are the truth.
I’m getting older and wiser folks, and it’s only day one. Stay tuned for tomorrow.