What About Time taught me about the secret of happiness

About Time posterIf you have not seen the movie “About Time” then beware as this post might contain spoilers. On the other hand I hope it also highlights one of the positive messages from the movie.

It will not spoil the movie for you to know that Domhall Gleeson’s character – Tim – can travel back in time.

The movie’s time traveling plot is enjoyable but what struck me most was towards the end where Tim’s Dad, played by Bill Nighy, gives him the secret of happiness. I believe that this secret is open to us all – and without the need for time travel.

Below is a clip edited from the movie that illustrates this secret of happiness.

What is the difference between the two visits to the sandwich bar? In the first Tim seems preoccupied. He’s wrapped up in his thoughts. He barely acknowledges the server and I think you can see that there’s no real contact between Tim and her.

But what about the second time, when he’s noticing how sweet life can be? Now, he’s smiling. He is engaged and you get a sense of connection.

What was the difference? Circumstances hadn’t changed. He was still buying his lunch. But he wasn’t lost in his thoughts. Rather he was noticing the present moment. And that allowed him to connect with those around him.

According to the Three Principles we are experiencing life through the medium of our own thoughts. They paint a picture and Consciousness brings this to life in our experience. So when Tim is present enough to notice the server, he is able to feel a connection. His smile and that felt connection can literally change the world. That is the promise of the Three Principles – when we see that our experience comes from the formless principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, then we can be present and awake to the everyday miracles of life that surround us.

The closing quote from the film is worth repeating:

QuoteWe are all traveling through time together every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.

Shut up already

Know when to keep your mouth shutIf you have ever had an argument with someone you love then you’ve probably said one or two things that you’ve regretted. (If not then you’re someone really special!)

Here’s some advice that comes from Sydney Banks’ Three Principles understanding. That understanding says that we create our own experience from our thinking. Sometimes our thoughts are “revved up” and block our access to the wisdom that comes to us from the energy of the universe (Universal Mind). When we are “revved up” our thinking is not to be trusted.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of moods.

Have you ever noticed that your moods go up and down? Of course you have. And along with these mood swings, the quality of your thoughts vary. Low mood tends to bring poor quality thoughts. High moods go along with high quality thoughts.

So in the midst of an argument you are not likely to be having high quality thinking. Time to shut up!

Unfortunately most of us, me included, usually feel like we must say something. Our very feeling of urgency is the clue that we should not trust our thinking.

Next time you’re in an argument watch out for that feeling of urgency. Then see if you can catch yourself before saying anything. That advice alone has improved many a relationship.

The time to deal with an issue is when you’re in a good mood – both of you. That way you will be more likely to get new thoughts about the issue and find an amicable way forward.

Let me know what you find in your own experience.

What can you learn from low moods?

Caution - low mood thinkingWe all have low moods. It’s part of life. Moods vary all the time. Sometime we are up and sometimes we are down.

The Three Principles teach us that we experience our thinking from moment to moment. In fact we live in our own thought created experience ALL the time.

So when we are in a low mood we tend to have low quality thinking and our feelings are not great. We may be anxious, frightened, stressed, nervous or constricted in some way.

These feelings are the opposite of those we get in a high mood. Then we tend to be loving, caring, compassionate and expansive.

Low mood thinking is constricted so we are not getting new information. Our stale thoughts tend to cycle round and round. That is a good indication that our thoughts are not to be trusted. It is not the time to address problems, make important decisions or fix your relationship.

Best to ride it out. As the Three Principles also teaches us, new thought is always possible. IF you are not hanging onto your low mood thoughts, and realize that they are just thoughts, then eventually a new thought will come along.

The good news is that the system is designed to reset itself back toward health. Your next thought might be wiser, and your mood may begin to rise.

Once your mood is higher, the quality of your thinking will improve. THEN you can act because you have access to wisdom that simply was not available when your thoughts were stale and constricted. That wisdom, the innate intelligence of the system, is always there – it is only our personal thinking that stops us from seeing it.

Thought so…

Thought is not reality - Sydney BanksIt’s funny how our realities can be so fixed and yet change in a heartbeat.

For instance, there’s a story about a man on the subway in New York. This man was annoyed because there were three unruly boys running up and down, shouting and laughing loudly.

But what really annoyed the commuter was that the boy’s father was just sitting there. He seemed unaware of the annoyance created by the boys.

The longer this situation continued, the more annoyed the commuter became until finally he couldn’t hold his tongue any longer.

He got up and went over to the father.

“Can’t you control your sons? Can’t you see that their laughter and horseplay are annoying everyone?”

The father looked up.

“Yes… sorry. I didn’t want to stop them having a good time because when we get home I am going to have to tell them their mother just died. I wanted to listen to their laughter…”

Change here for…

Change is only a thought away.

One moment your reality is all about those unruly boys and their negligent dad. Those thoughts are brought to life and experienced as feelings of annoyance.

The next moment your reality does a flip and your thoughts are painting a different reality. As a result your feelings change too. Concern and sympathy replace annoyance.

Thought is not reality

You may think that the commuter’s judgmental thinking turned out to be false – the reality was the father and the boys deserved sympathy not judgement.

But consider this: do we ever know the whole truth?

So as Sydney Banks said:

“Thought is not reality; yet it is through Thought that our realities are created.” – The Missing Link

How to cope with bad moods

Bad moodsWhere do bad moods come from? This question is at the heart of the answer to coping with a bad mood. And the answer might not be what you expect.

Conventional wisdom has it that your mood comes from circumstances.

  • You have had a “bad day” at work.
  • The commute home was fraught with delays.
  • The kids have been badly behaved.
  • Someone was rude to you at the supermarket.
  • Your team lost the big match.
  • The dinner you cooked was spoilt.

Whatever the circumstances, there are no no end of reasons for being in a bad mood. That is until you learn how our psychological reality is created.

In the understanding from which I work, all of these reasons boil down to one spiritual fact: we think. None of these circumstances creates our mood. It is our thinking about them that does so.

Same situation – different reactions

Consider for a moment the fact that two people can be in the same traffic jam and experience it quite differently. One may be frustrated and angry; the other relaxed and enjoying listening the car radio.

Same traffic – different experience.

Perhaps you’ve  been stuck in traffic more than once? Maybe your experience wasn’t always the same?

The difference is not the outside world, but what goes on in our mental lives.

Each thought we have is tied to a feeling. You can’t think happy thoughts and feel sad, or vice versa. That’s just not how the system works.

What are the traditional ways of dealing with a bad mood?

A quick look around shows quite a choice.

  • Take a relaxing bath.
  • Have a massage.
  • Take some exercise.
  • Meditate.
  • Think positively.
  • Use affirmations.
  • Watch a funny movie.
  • The list goes on…

Many of these seem to work. But they have one flaw. They are based on an outside-in view of the world. I mean that they assume (again) that circumstances outside will change what’s going on inside.

A relaxing bath can work, but it is not the warm water and peaceful surroundings that cause the change in mood. Rather it is your thinking that has changed. Have you ever been in that same relaxing bath and found yourself thinking dark thoughts? Well it’s not the bath that causes either good or bad moods. It is your thinking.

So what is the alternative approach to coping with bad moods?

Once you understand that you are experiencing the feeling of your thinking then things begin to change all on their own.

I find that there’s a peace at the heart of a bad mood, if you just let it be. That advice — to do nothing — seems counter-intuitive but it works. If it didn’t we’d all be stuck in our bad moods forever.

When you are in a bad mood there is comfort in knowing that a new thought will be along. In the meantime this is not the time to address the big issues in your life. Watch what you say and remember that your low mood is reflected in the quality of your thinking. Your thinking is not to be trusted.

If you begin to see the connection between your thoughts and your feelings, your inner wisdom will naturally assert itself. Human beings are programmed towards feeling good and away from feeling bad. Your wisdom, knowing that your thoughts are leading to bad feelings, will naturally return you to a more positive state in time.

Your bad mood is like the clouds that temporarily hide the sun. Behind the mood there is always your wisdom and health, and like the sun it can only temporarily be hidden. Eventually your wisdom will shine through.

While you wait for that to happen you can explore how your thoughts are creating your reality moment by moment. That exploration is something that will help you immensely in all aspects of your life.

How I ended my misery over Les Mis

Does Les Misérables create misery?It is fascinating how you can be blind to aspects of your own thinking even when you understand the principles behind human psychology.

According to these principles, we feel our thinking. So if you’re happy then it’s because you’re thinking happy thoughts. Conversely if you’re sad then it’s your sad thoughts that are behind the feeling.

I understand this and yet there are times when I miss making that connection completely.

One instance for me is the musical Les Misérables. My wife, Sue, and daughter Siân, both love this musical. And I have not. So much so that it became a family joke. It was misery for me even to think of going to see Les Misérables.

But that wasn’t about my thinking. No Sir! It was the fact that the music was annoying.

Of course if I had thought about it I would have known that this could not be the reality. Not only did Sue and Siân love the musical but thousands of others did too.

That is how this thing works. We each live in our own thought created realities. For some Les Misérables is lovely; for others it is horrible. The difference is our thought about it.

Recently, we were in London and Sue and Siân wanted to see Les Misérables. This time I came along with an open mind. And to my surprise I found myself not only enjoying the experience but humming the tunes afterwards!

I didn’t force myself to do this. I didn’t sit in that theatre seat and repeat affirmations (“I must appreciate the music”). Merely by understanding the nature of my psychological reality, and how thought creates my experience, I was naturally open to a new way of thinking about Les Misérables.

I am sure that this will not be the only blind spot I have about how my experience comes from thought. After all I haven’t even begun to let go of my judgements about Andrew Lloyd Webber but at least I know it is possible.