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Principles to Live By – Freeing Yourself from Preconceptions

"Relativity" by M.C.Esher

"Relativity" by M.C.Esher

The biggest limitation to your enjoyment of life, your personal fulfilment and your peace of mind is nothing other than your very own set of preconceptions about life and your situation in it.

The reality of life is that there is nothing that can make us unhappy other than our own thoughts about, and resistance to, what we experience around us.

If you are unhappy, irritated, sad, angry, jealous, agitated, it is because you are holding on to a mental conception of how you think things ought to be, and dwelling in that unrealistic state rather than connecting with the truth, simplicity and immediacy of what is, right now.

Here is a challenge for you. Next time you notice yourself making a negative mental comment about yourself or your circumstances, stop and ask yourself whether or not that mental comment or perception is necessarily actually true. Look deeply, try to find the root of it – what may have generated that perception in you in the past, why it might have become a pattern of thought for you, whether you have challenged that attitude in yourself before.

Some examples?

  • I’m no good at this.
  • Life has been very hard on me.
  • If only I could afford a nice place to live, I would be happy.

And some possible corresponding truths?

  • I’ve always believed I was not good at this and have therefore never really tried, or given up without giving it a proper chance. In any case, what does “no good” mean – do I mean absolutely no good, or just relative to some other people, or am I just talking about other people’s opinions that I have adopted? Even by those standards, there may be others have have done it better, but no doubt also many others who have done it worse. Relative to at least one other person, I’m probably better. Maybe they could even learn something from me. Etc…
  • No person ever has a totally hard or easy life. Many people whom I imagine have had an easy life in reality may have experienced many hardships that I just don’t know about. How can I say for sure that my life is harder than anyone else’s? Even if I know a lot about their life, and think that their circumstances make it easy, is it not possible that they have their own private inner torment, and that they in fact experience life as even harder than I have done? Etc…
  • If I look back, I can remember thinking that I would be happy if only lots of different things had happened, and by now in fact some of them have happened. And yet I am probably no more or less happy than I was then. Actually I am sometimes happy now anyway, at least if I’m not thinking about wanting a nicer place to live. And who’s to say that even if I bought an expensive house, I would soon get used to it and then start noticing lots of little things that weren’t as good as I had imagined. Etc…

So even if you still think or feel that something is probably true, just the recognition that there is at least a small possibility that it may not be true is enough to begin the process of freeing yourself, and allowing yourself to experience the current moment a little more fully, with greater presence, greater joy.

And from that point on, it is simply a matter of rinsing and repeating, rinsing and repeating. Each time you notice and challenge your own preconceptions, their grip upon you becomes diminished. Even though some patterns of thought may be deeply embedded and ingrained, a continuing process of self-observation will eventually wash them away, and leave you freer, lighter, and more alive.

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