When I began my last job, I was excited for the first week during new teacher orientation. I was learning and growing, and the intriguing community was becoming a part of me. Then, sometime in the second week as existing teachers returned to school too and the busy-ness picked up, I had an “oh crap, what have I done?” moment. All of a sudden, the world darkened and I felt anxious that I’d made a mistake in changing schools.
That darkness eventually moved along, and over the next couple years at the school there was a lot of sunshine, periods of clouds, and occasional storms.
Switching schools again this summer, I had my first “oh crap, what have I done?” moment a couple days ago. The circumstances were that we were sitting in a meeting planning out a 3-day retreat for students that’s happening in a few weeks. It felt like we were going from one meeting to the next, and I wasn’t getting any closer to being prepared for my actual classes.
That “oh crap” moment turned into anxiety that lasted through the evening and into the morning. Then, with an insight during my morning routine (while reading this), my experience transformed.
The insight I had was that there was a thought underlying my feelings of anxiety, fear, and despair. The thought, “I made a mistake,” led directly to the emotions.
It wasn’t the circumstances of my decision or the new job at all that made me anxious. My feelings were solely wrapped up in my thinking, specifically a judgment, about the circumstances.
When I saw that it was just this thought underpinning my anxious experience, the feelings disappeared without effort. It wasn’t the decision to change jobs or the new job that was determining my emotions at all, it was just a thought. And suddenly I was reconnected to my life and not just my thinking about my life.
The feeling I’ve now got is one of being unshackled and free. From this place, the people at work are more lovable, the tasks are more enjoyable, and life is a lot brighter. The work will get done, and the anxiety is optional.
For me, this story is a reminder of three key aspects of our fundamental nature.
First, our circumstances are neutral - they're not good or bad - and they don’t give us our emotions. Circumstances are the facts, the what’s so. Circumstances are measurable in the physical world and what would hold up in a court of law. And the circumstances themselves carry no inherent significance. This is tough to see sometimes. The circumstances really do seem to carry significance! But they don't.
It is not Circumstances → Emotion.
Second, instead of our circumstances, it’s our thinking that gives us our emotions. Like screeching in fear at the stick we thought was a snake, “we live in the feeling of our thinking." If the circumstances are neutral, then it’s our thinking about them that gives us our emotions.
It is Circumstances → Thought → Emotion.
Third, the experience of insight is an experience of Truth. It's like glimpsing at heaven through a crack in the sky. It’s a candle in an otherwise pitch-black room. It's seeing the code behind the Matrix. Insight is a glimpse at truth, and it’s a truth that sets us free. Like an instance of pure joy, laughter, or ecstasy, insight gives us a direct experience of our spiritual nature.
When I had this insight, it occurred to me that perhaps there's no such thing as mistakes. Maybe mistakes only exist in our descriptions, our language, our thinking. While I could've heard or read this perspective on mistakes, having an insight into the nature of this "mistake" experience for myself allowed me to see the wisdom in it.
You see, insight is not positive thinking. It really is a glimpse at Truth, and while others can share and guide us to it, only we can see it for ourselves.
Thanks so much for engaging with my work. ❤️