My experiences are not real, they are the content of my personal thinking. The very nature of thought is that it flows endlessly. We cannot not think, if we try not to think we think about trying not to think. When we meditate, we notice that we have been thinking a dozen random things and on this realisation we attempt to take our focus back to the intention. We are only ever experiencing thought, in the moment, in each moment, we experiencing thinking which, in turn, creates feeling, and this is our reality.
Only, the reality is not real. It looks very real. It looks like we need certain things to happen in our lives in order for us to be happy. It looks like we need to make changes to the outside world in order to change how we are feeling. This simply isn’t true.
Last November I had what I called a bit of meltdown. This was not the first time, I had been through this many times over the past 20 plus years. I had left my teaching career a year earlier and had invested heavily in re-training to become a nurse. My meltdown appeared to be a result of a number of outside factors. Firstly, this was costing us as a family a lot financially, I had never before felt so financially reliant on others and this made me insecure. Also, I was on a placement that I really didn’t like. There was little work to do as it was a private hospital with very few patients attending, there was no team spirit, no one seemed to like what they did and there was a complete lack of professionalism. Moreover, it was now the depths of Autumn. Now, I had managed to overcome my very real fear of driving in the light of the summer’s day, but here I was navigating country roads, in icy conditions at 5 am in the pitch black, and I felt trapped, what if I had made a mistake, what if this is not the career for me after all, what if I damage my family, my relationships, my savings, my possibility of emigrating somewhere warm in the future for something didn’t like and didn’t think I was ever going to be very good at? All of this impacted negatively on my mental health, I couldn’t drive to placement, I couldn’t focus on my academic work, I was in a state of sheer anxiety which lead to depression. I ended up taking a leave of absence on medical grounds in order to recuperate and reevaluate, knowing I could return when I was fit to practice.
I went to my GP who put me on Fluoxetine because I had already tried every other Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor on the market and had never had lasting wellness. I made an appointment to be assessed for counselling and began my free eight sessions with an amazing counsellor. I talked to her about my past experiences, the thoughts and feelings I was having about myself, and the world around me. About not feeling like i fit anywhere in the world and feeling like there was some paradise life somewhere that I was meant to find but I didn’t know which direction to start looking in. Should I go back to teaching because it is well paid and I can save up and move my whole family to Spain where we can all live happily ever after, or should I resign myself to life in the grey UK, and continue with my nurse training which my give me fulfilment? Most of all I just wanted to feel free to be me.
I started to feel better for a few days after each session and I had started to relax a little in general which I put down the medication. Yet, it didn’t last. Each time i visited my therapist I had more problems, new worries or deeper anxiety.
Then I heard the Principles. It took me a couple of times to really listen to that first podcast. In it Nicola talked about cabs showing up as thoughts in my personal reality and how I might decide to get in one and ride around for a while, sometimes for a good length of time and as I do that more cabs appear and I begin to see problems and stress and fear, but as I begin to understand the nature of thought as free-flowing, and that my reality, my feelings, assumptions and beliefs about my self are just thought, these cabs start to dissipate, there are less of them, and even when they appear, I don’t have to get in. Then she said something extraordinary… The reason for this is that they were never there in the first place…. I made them up. I couldn’t get this out of my head. Each time I started to think about the things I believed were causing me stress in my life I would find myself saying… “it’s just another cab, I made it up, don’t get in. It’s not real”.
The impact of this was incredible, colleagues in the office where I was supply teaching appeared more innocent and vulnerable and I empathised with them, they didn’t cause me stress. I was able to fall asleep even when my Son was out partying without constantly replaying all of the possible negative outcomes in my head. This was a revelation. I knew from this point on that life would never be the same.