Thinking differently: unexpected insights that could change your life

We stumbled across an online article from David Cain recently that certainly got us thinking. In it, he shared some epiphanies that had turned his world upside down. There are some unexpected, thought-provoking ideas here, insights you may not have thought about before…

1. You are not your mind
This is a bit of a head-scratcher. What are you if not your mind? But instead of thinking of the chatter in your head as being the central ‘you’, this is just one category of the things you experience in life.

Thoughts are no more fundamental than smells, sights and sounds. Like any experience, they arise in your awareness, having a certain texture, and then they give way to something else.

2. Life unfolds only in moments
If you can break your life down into individual moments, it can make challenges more easy to cope with. Instead of trying to solve your entire life in one fell swoop, and creating issues that aren’t actually there, focus on the single moment as it unfolds.

Anyone can summon the resolve to deal with a single moment, as long as you are truly aware that it’s your only point of contact with life, and there is nothing else you can do that can possibly be useful.

3. Quality of life = how you deal with your moments
Cain believes that the path to happiness lies with this truth. It can be tempting to grasp control of every moment to try and make it exactly how you want it but it’s wasted energy.

To encounter an undesirable situation and work with it willingly is the mark of a wise and happy person. Imagine knocking something over and breaking it, or falling ill at an inopportune time – and suffering nothing from it. There is nothing to fear if you agree with yourself to deal positively with adversity whenever it does show up. And that is how to make life better.

4. Most of life is imaginary
We have a habit as humans to over think. Most of what we interact with is not the world itself, but our beliefs about it, our expectations of it, and our personal interests in it. It can be difficult observing something without confusing it with the thoughts we have about it, and so the bulk of what we experience in life is imaginary things.

5. We have evolved to suffer
This doesn’t necessarily sound like a profound discovery. We’re conditioned to believe that if you are suffering, then something has gone wrong or something that perhaps you have done wrongly.

But suffering is a completely normal and human experience and there’s a very good reason for its existence. The background hum of life’s pressure to improve situations coupled with occasional intense flashes of horror and adrenaline are what has kept human beings alive for millennia. As unpleasant as suffering is, being aware of it throws the ball back into your court, so that the degree to which you suffer is ultimately up to you.

6. Emotions exist to make us biased
This insight could well turn a preconception on its head. Instead of thinking that your emotions are reliable indicators of the state of your life, look at them as a way of teaching you what it is you can’t let go of. Emotions make us both more biased and more forceful at the same time.

7. We all have two motivations in life: to fulfil our desires and to escape their suffering
As humans, we have a great propensity to hurt one another, emotionally and physically. By learning to accept that no matter what kind of behaviour others are exhibiting, and that they are acting in the most effective way they are capable of to fulfil a desire or to relieve their suffering, can be a liberating moment.

So there are no ‘good’ and ‘evil’ people, only wise or foolish. Understanding this can reshape your notions of morality and justice.

8. Beliefs are nothing to be proud of
We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, something worth standing up for. But are they really just opinions you refuse to reconsider? Beliefs are an ‘easy’ option – the stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because your strength of belief is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself.

If you are proud of a belief, then you’ve made it a part of your ego. Wherever there is a belief, there is also a closed door. Take on the beliefs that stand up to your most honest, humble scrutiny, and don’t be afraid to lose them.

9. Objectivity is subjective
Life is a subjective experience and one that cannot be escaped from. Every experience you have comes from your own, ultimately unshareable, viewpoint. No one else will have had your direct experiences. Realising this will have two implications for how you life your life: a) trust your own personal experience as no one else will have this angle on your life and b) feel the wonder of the world around you, as your ‘objective’ understanding of it is built entirely by you.

Subjectivity is a primary experience — it is real life, and objectivity is something each of us builds on top of it in our minds in order to explain it all.

What have you discovered that has turned your world upside down?