I was sitting in an elegant drawing room of an iconic London hotel. I was with 12 outstanding professionals hosted by two of the world’s most influential coaches.
We were talking about projection. About how everything we experience comes from the inside out. How the world is essentially a projection of our thinking about it.
I looked around at the exquisite decor, listened to the intelligent discussion and had a secret smug smile to myself. If everything is a projection, I thought, then I’m pretty damn good at this game.
Then I came home and found out my Mum was ill. I argued over nonsense with husband. I lost a client who I thought was going well and had a tricky session with another. I got cross with my kids before school. I received an unexpected tax bill and a load of other stuff I didn’t want appeared in my life. I was stressed, insecure and ill at ease.
All this puzzled me. I knew enough to know (well.. ok… after a while) that I was experiencing my thinking. In London, I felt that I was reaping the rewards of getting it all together. Why, when I got home, would my thinking give me such a miserable time?
There is no answer to any of that because it is a false question. The reason it is false is it hinges on an entity that is also false – the self. The I. The Me.
A few of us were down in the dumps after London and Garret Kramer posted in our Facebook group, “Remember, the quickest way to jam the system is to aim for personal satisfaction. This workshop was not conducted for your personal benefit.”
I probably gave that a little blue thumbs up on the page but in my head I was running round, beating the walls with my fists, shouting WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN…?
I sat with it for a good while. And this is what I’ve seen.
There are two ways of experiencing life:
1. Projecting it
Most of the time we are living our life through our own personal thinking.
All this thinking is like reels and reels of film from the archives of our mind. We put on a film and we’re stuck with its script, characters and set directions for a moment, a while or a lifetime.
We project a story out of our old thinking and then we react to it as though it has come from anywhere other than directly from us. “Why do I always lose out?” “I can’t believe I’ve got another shit boss.” “I’m doing my best but she is such a bitch.” “It’s a dog eat dog world.” These are the patterns and stories that dictate our lives and the people in them.
The common theme in all these reels is the self, the me of it all.
Superior. Victimised. Defensive. Passive. Aggressive. Lucky. Lonely. Charming. The Self.
It’s the biggest piece of stuck thinking of them all. So fixed and unmoving that, like a huge piece of furniture in a small room, we don’t even see that it’s there.
Sitting there smug in the hotel, I thought I was so free and clear minded but my experience was entirely stuck at the level of my personal thinking. Look how great I am here in this place. Tra la la. Then I come home and my mind dips because that is what minds do. Instead of just shrugging it off. I search through the film archive for some entertainment. I put on the reel of ‘sorry for myself’ or ‘not wanting unexpected tax bills’ or ‘wants everyone to think I’m a brilliant coach’ and I react to what I’ve put out there.
We experience whatever film it is we are living in that moment. But even the happiest of films is no match for the second way of experiencing life.
2. Simply experiencing it
I’ve had moments, as I’m sure you have too, when I see the world immediately before me with such freshness, such original clarity, in such intricate, vibrant, unobscured detail that it takes my breath away.
The feeling that accompanies these moments of observation is other-wordly. It is as though by experiencing the truth of what we see or hear or feel we are actually experiencing the truth of ourselves. The miraculous, loving aliveness that we are witnessing, from the infinite to the microscopic, is us. We are all of it.
There is nothing in the way of the crystal clear awareness. No judgement. No criticism. No opinion. No ‘how does this reflect on me?’All of that falls away, utterly irrelevant.
The difference between this fresh experience of life and the living in one of our films from the projection room is immense. Michael Neill once described it as the difference between a blade of grass and a lawn mower . This breath-taking clarity and the feeling that goes with it is like the most powerful drug. Everything else, even the happiest of our projected films, is miserly short change.
Our group had a conversation about how as you go deeper in this understanding, life seems to throw more at you, not less. This is the greatest gift we could have. Because every feeling of resistance is a reminder that we are in the projection room and, with that realisation, we now have a choice. We have a chance to see the pain, and also the impermanent happiness, for what they are, reels of film. Nothing more than that. And when we see them for what they are, they lose their grip on us.
We move, one discarded story reel at a time, away from the projection room and towards the blissful reality of the unfiltered, unprojected experience of life.