“When you start to see the power of thought and its relationship to your way of observing life, you will better understand yourself and the world in which you live” -Sydney Banks, The Missing Link (1998)
The Relationship Between Thought and Reality
It often seems like we experience something out in the world, then we form a thought about it. Actually, we form thoughts about things in the world, then experience everything we encounter ‘out there’ through this filter. This is why two people can watch the same film and have a different experience of it. This is why there are different experiences of everything, even for the same person.
This morning I spotted something on my daughter’s windowsill out of the corner of my eye. I realised it was a huge insect and gave a start. Though I wanted to recoil, I knew I couldn’t leave it there. As I moved towards it, to inspect it further I realised it was made of paper. My experience of the bug changed as my perception of it changed.
So, we interpret what is in the world around us according to the thoughts we are having about it at a given moment. I can look at our garden and see a pleasing abundance of greenery, while my husband sees that grass that needs cutting. I bet you can guess who usually does this task.
Taking this a step further, we also interpret the abstract world according to the thoughts we have about it. So, words will hold particular meanings for one person, but not another. Take the way that ‘justice’ or ‘success’ get interpreted in different ways by different people, at different points in time.
Beyond this, the way we understand our internal experience, our feelings, our memories, our imaginings, our ideas, is a matter of interpretation. Thought forms which are about thought forms pop into our heads all day long too. This is how we come up with strategies, perspective, and views, then evaluate them.
For many of us, there is a voice within that tells us it should be simple to distinguish between physical reality and these abstract or psychological ephemera. However, this impression is just a result of the illusory quality of experience.
The line between the physical and psychological is always blurred, because the two are inseperable: You cannot have an external experience without internal experience and visa versa. You cannot build a house without imagining the structure, and when you fear that the project has gone awry, you see errors and problems in every nook and cranny. In both cases, the physical and psychological world are inextricably linked.
Thought forms feel as real to us as the physical forms we come into contact with, because they provoke physical responses. We have a thought and a feeling of some sort occurs. It always happens this way around: When taken by surprise, we have a perception that something unexpected is going on, which triggers astonishment; when we see that the world is a delightful place, a feeling of pleasure arises; when we beat ourselves up for not living up to our own ideals, then we feel crappy.
We are surrounded by thought forms made physical all the time in our everyday lives. Our buildings, our art, our books, our iPads, and our sponge cakes came into being because someone thought to create them. We find these things fascinating because we wonder at the magic of thought translated to the outside world, so that we can bring them into our internal world as experience.
How Thought Forms Are Created
Thought forms spring from the same energy which courses through our body and keeps our heart pumping, our breath coming and going, and our cells doing what they do. It is the energy behind all life and form. Because we are conscious beings, then the thoughts which appear in our minds become our experience of reality.
Thought forms start out flimsy, like tissue paper fairies, then we add layers and layers to them until they become dense objects with consistency and heft. Sometimes we do this with the care and love of an artist, and sometimes the maniacal fervour of a cartoon psycho plastering their wall with momentos and newspaper clippings.
Is it any wonder that they feel so real, so tangible!
And we make thought forms about EVERYTHING that slides into our consciousness. Some of them disappear almost straight away, while others linger. The latter variety help us to structure our existence on a nuts and bolts level, but can also haunt us, exhaust us, please us, and comfort us. Sometimes, they do us service, and other times they outstay their welcome.
Thought Forms In Pregnancy
In pregnancy, we are growing a physical baby, cell by cell, gram by gram. We are also growing a thought baby. The two babies become intertwined in our minds, and we can experience the same baby in different ways at different times. I can still picture the little girl that I believed my second baby would be, right up to the point that I saw a willy in my second trimester sonogram. I like to think that she, the thought baby, was a portent of our second daughter, who arrived on the heels of our son! Actually the baby in my mind was never the real baby, and the son and daughter in my mind are not who they really are either. Like everything else, I experience them through thoughts about them.
One of the things which is amazing about pregnancy is that we have a chance to see our thought forms and loosen our grip on them. As our joints relax, and organs shift to accommodate our growing baby, we shift our ideas about who we are, what we like, what we dislike, what our body does, where we begin and end. The thought forms we have about food and drink, stories, people and places take on new layers or get erased and restarted.
One of the less lovely things about pregnancy is that there is a smorgasbord of imagery with which to create thought forms which do not serve us well. Take birth thoughts for instance: We might picture birth horrors, which leave us buzzing on the inside and feeling vulnerable; We might wrap ourselves in anticipatory thought about the magical entrance to the world that we want for our baby, and put pressure on ourselves to be a certain way, to control the uncontrollable; We might be reluctant to examine our thought forms in case there are forceps in there, but they lurk on the edge of our consciousness like awkward wallflowers at a party.
Thought Forms in Motherhood
As we enter parenthood, we continue to craft our thought forms, adding new layers of self, responsibilities, expectations, and ideals. Thought forms relating to the small and large stuff of life continue to emerge, recede, shift, and often multiply.
We might construct dense and complex thought forms about what mothering is, and what family life should look like. We might absorb all kinds of impressions from books, research, and advice into our thought forms. We might make a living breathing scrapbook of these things, then use it to measure ourselves.
Let me give you some examples from my life as a mother:
It is only in recent months that my aversion to meat, especially steak, has passed, which began when my 18 month old was an embryo. The thought form I had crafted over years of living in Portugal, as I developed a taste for hearty slabs of beef, was disintegrated in an instant when I walked past a butchers’ stand in the supermarket and felt ill. A new thought form, which persisted long after my pregnancy, made meat look really unappealing.
My thought husband has changed many times over the years, once a colleague, a boyfriend, a fiancé, a partner in crime, a confidant, a consultant, a dad, a co-parent, a breadwinner. I sense the thought forms he has created for himself over the last few years, in response to his changing life and aspirations. I can see a tired film across his eyes when he is feeling overwhelmed by their jostling, overcrowding presence. I want to flick them away like pebbles, because they weigh so much more for him, than they do for me. It doesn’t work like that though. You can’t move other people’s thought forms for them.
Neither can you put other people’s thought forms on and expect them to be a perfect fit. This is why, though they are well-intended, baby books that prescribe frameworks of techniques and methods can result in people trying really hard to take on thought forms which just don’t work for them.
As a new parent, I found it very tempting to download a plan from someone else, because I had never looked after a baby before. I had never even changed a nappy before. However, as I realised that my daughter was pretty darn happy and alive, then my confidence grew. I liked having books to reference, but did not treat them as prescriptions, more for ideas. I have found that, more often than not, trying to follow expert advice resulted in me working myself up about how me and my child should be, rather than enjoying how we were. There is nothing that beats the feeling of doing things your own way, because only you can discover what constitutes harmony for you and your offspring.
And yet, I often have a lot of thinking about parenting, most of it is about how I want to be with my kids. I find it easier to accept their foibles, low moods, and moments of crabbiness, than I do my own. Sometimes I catch myself in this double standard, and I find that the more I do this, the more simple and natural my experience of motherhood feels.
Thought Forms Do Not Have To Bother Us
Sometimes, I picture myself tossing a great big ball of less useful thought forms into the ocean, wrapped in seaweed. I hurl them off a cliff and they plunge into the waves. Goodbye baby expert books, measuring tapes, and scales. Goodbye expectations and judgements. Goodbye ideals.
In my mind, I see a mother laughing with her kids in a house full of organised cosiness, or sprawling on a laundered picnic blanket in a well-tended garden. She always looks happy and stylish. She is always ready to breath soft kisses into her babies’ hair. She is always present and loving. I notice when I am behaving in a way that would or would not be acceptable to her.
Into the sea you go. Goodbye perfect mother.
I tell myself that if I chuck all those thought forms away, then I can look at myself, my husband, and my world with fresh eyes.
In fact, I do not need to work on throwing them away, as this just adds layers to their presence. Ironic, huh. All I have to do is loosen my hold on them, and they will float off on their own to be replaced by new thought.
I repeat. In any given moment, when we are creating thought forms which induce nastiness or stress, all we have to do is allow them to shift away on their own. Thinking is a fluid process and if we do not cling onto thoughts, they will be swept away and replaced by others.
Holding Thought Forms Lightly
When we recognise thought forms for the expressions of human creativity that they are, then they lose their power over us. They are just stuff that we make up, which excites our emotions because our consciousness makes them appear real.
Knowing this is the difference between being drawn into a high tech illusion and watching a bloke pull a rabbit out of a hat at a children’s party. Sometimes the magician has us going, because we get caught up in the show. However, we become more discerning at seeing the fake bottom in the top hat, or the artifice used to distract us.
We don’t mind that we know it isn’t real. We can still enjoy the show.
The difference between adults and children is that kids will get swept up in the magic of the show, but will also be more willing to let it go afterwards, forgetting about it in the next moment.
As adults, the analytic mental systems for planning, remembering, and controlling are much more developed, which makes it easier for us to build complicated thought forms and then to retain them.
As observed by Alison Gopnik, author of the Philosophical Baby (1998 Picador), it does not make sense for children to hold onto beliefs about how the world is because they are learning so much so fast. They know by instinct to cast thought forms aside in the light of new experience, and are unbothered by doing so.
I like to imagine my children holding their thought forms lightly, then casting them to the wind like kites. They know just when to let go, so that they can blow away like so much confetti.
The nature of thought is that it will always evolve if we let it. It passes through our heads day and night, and is capable of taking an infinite range of forms. The more aware we are that this is the case, the less we cling to thought forms, and the less cluttered our minds are likely to be. This leaves room for new thoughts to happen.
So, my wish for you today is to hold your thought forms lightly, and enjoy the magic of creativity.
It is quite a show.
What thought forms have you created? What images pop into your mind?
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