Almost every kind of unhappy feeling is the result of mistaking the partial for the whole. What this means is that when we don’t see the whole picture, we are likely to act in a way that is self-defeating.
One example of this would be that terrible sinking feeling that comes with learning too late, after you’ve become upset, that things weren’t the way you were so sure they had been. That, in fact, it was you who had misjudged or misunderstood the person or event; and now that you can see the whole situation, there is no reason at all to be angry or sad, anxious or afraid.
How many times have we regretted some thoughtless action on our part once we found out all of the facts? This is what we must do: gather all of the facts. I promise you that everything can be explained. Nothing that happens to you or through you need ever go without you understanding why. You can be self-enlightened instead of self-frightened. You have a choice. This discovery that you can always choose in favor of yourself is real excitement.
You do not have to accept your present life-level. Life-level is what determines whether you sail through this life or sink in it. At present, it may seem to you as if there are times when you don’t have much choice in your own life, I want you to know that this is a lie. This temporary feeling of being trapped is part of your current life-level, where you sincerely feel as though your choices are limited. Again, I want you to know this is simply not true. There is always a choice.
The problem is that most of us insist on our choices, so it’s vital we see the following: our present experience of life has been determined by the choices that we have already made. Why go back to the same field of choices? We already suspect that it will yield no real harvest of happiness, and now we must confirm this suspicion. Nothing bad will happen! In fact, only something good can occur once we stop clinging to useless ideas.
You could say that your new choice is to stop choosing for yourself from yourself. This is the first necessary step for changing your life-level. Here is something to help you see the wisdom of your new and higher choice.
If your choices so far have left you feeling dissatisfied and incomplete, you must stop blaming your selections and see that the problem lies with the chooser — you! You and what happens to you every day are the reflections of your life-level.
We are wrongly led to believe that life makes us into the kind of person we are. The truth is that the kind of person we are, our life-level, makes life what it is for us! This is why nothing can really change for us until we see that our unhappiness isn’t connected with the event, it is the level of it. Let’s look at this a little more deeply.
We believe that we meet events and that those events are good or bad, pleasurable or punishing. In other words, our feelings are the reflections of what happens to us moment to moment. That’s why, while acting from our current life-level, our first choice whenever we feel distressed is always to try and change the condition we blame for making us feel that way — the belief being that by changing our unhappy surroundings we will bring an end to our unhappiness. This has never really worked, and it never really will, because the unpleasant or unhappy condition was not the event but your reaction to it.
What does this new knowledge mean to you? Everything! It means:
– You can let go of those resentful feelings toward your job, because the treadmill isn’t what you are doing but the way you are thinking.
– You can let go of trying to change other people, because you are what is bothering you about them.
– You can let go of the fear of unforeseen changes or challenges because the only thing you really ever have to face is yourself.
Best of all, you can let go of the impossible and unbelievably self-punishing task of thinking that you are responsible for the way the world turns. The only world you are responsible for is your inner-world; the world of your thoughts and feelings, impulses and desires. Your life-level is determined by how clearly you can see into this inner-world. This new kind of seeing is safety and ultimately the root of all self-success, because when you know where not to step, your walk through life is a safe and happy one.
You wouldn’t go over to your neighbor’s kitchen to fix your broken sink. Why try and change your outer world when it is only a reflection of your inner life? Do not try to change the external world. Change your own attitudes and viewpoints. When you change yourself, you change the world as far as you are concerned, for you are your own world. Here is a simple way to say all of this: The inner determines the outer.
This is not as difficult to understand as it may appear at first. Let’s take an example. If a person writing a letter misspells a word, the error starts in his mind, after which it appears on paper. He cannot possibly correct the paper until his mind is corrected first. If he does not clarify his mind, the error must repeat itself on paper endlessly.
No doubt you see the parallel here with human problems. People try to correct exterior mistakes instead of correcting the way they think, which leaves them lost, because unknowingly they are still chained to a mistake-making machine. That is why it is so important to understand this lesson. Your discontentment with life is with your understanding — your life-level — not with what your understanding has brought to you.
Trying to change your life without first changing your life-level is like trying to convince yourself that a merry-go-round has a destination. If you are tired of going around and around, remember that you can get off whenever you choose.
Truthful principles such as these are here to assist you in making this Higher choice by helping you to increase your self-understanding. This elevated understanding in turn raises your life-level. As you raise your life-level, you will see that you have effortlessly raised the way in which you react to every event. Then the whole world begins to slow down for you because you now understand that it wasn’t this life that was making you dizzy — it was your thinking.
(Excerpted from The Secret of Letting Go, Rev. Edition, Llewellyn)
Guy Finley is the best-selling author of more than 38 books and audio albums on self-realization. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self-study located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. For more information visit www.guyfinley.org, and sign up to receive a free helpful newsletter emailed to your desktop once each week.
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Permission granted to reprint with author credit.