I’m not sure that I am. I tend to constantly be commenting, judging, nudging and often fighting with the stream of thoughts that flow through my mind.
Doesn’t sound very free to me.
And yet the most powerful process (inbuilt in all of us) that I have encountered in my 25 years of personal growth work is that of discovery- the ability we have as humans to experience something new.
This is where our excitement comes from. When we experience something new we feel alive. It’s almost like being reborn.
So why do we so often resist change? Because we are built around a paradoxical conflict that has been with us since birth.
This conflict is between the part of us that wants to explore and the part that wants to be safe.
Babies and small children are the most incredible teachers about this process. They can’t stop putting things in their mouths, testing the limits of their bodies and finding out what’s ‘over there’.
And something within them causes them to go through endless transformations. From lying to being able to turn over, to being able to crawl, to being able to walk.
The desire to grow is hard-wired into us.
Opposed to this movement of exploration is the need for safety and stability. This is (hopefully) provided by the parents and their constant battle to keep us out of harm’s way.
We are manhandled away from the edge of the bed, moved away from the fire and endlessly instructed on what not to do. Endlessly.
The conflict between these two opposing forces becomes our inner template that either supports us into trying new things or keeps us eternally in our comfort zone.
Real growth happens when this inner template is challenged. It may be an outer event (positive or negative), a spontaneous inner transformation or because we have decided to challenge ourselves to grow.
Whatever the cause of this growth it is our current world view that is challenged. In other words, our thinking about how things are faces a crisis and is threatened.
As humans we tend to want to be right and be seen to be right by others. For a lot of us it seems to be very important for our level of status- how we feel about our position in relation to other people and the world around us.
One of the ways this plays out is that we want what happens our lives to conform to the template of our world view that we hold in our heads. When it doesn’t we feel not just disappointed but lessened.
Our status (in our own minds and sometimes those of others) tends to drop and we feel bad about ourselves.
If we don’t become aware of this process we become caught in an ever tightening circle of self-confirmation where we look for people, groups and ideas that support how we view the world.
The short term gain is we get a momentary hit of security. The long term price is that we become more rigid, less tolerant of others and more likely to become insular.
We can see this in how FB has tended to polarise groups so easily. As it learns what we like we see more of the same and become more entrenched in our views.
So what is the alternative?
In one sense it’s free thinking- starting to unlearn the lazy habits that we have of always looking simply to confirm our current world view.
But to my mind this misses out something absolutely essential that is hidden in plain view. This is what I think of as our inspired mind- the place beyond our thoughts where all our best ideas come from.
Think for a moment of a time when you’ve been struggling with a problem and the solution suddenly arises. What does that feel like?
One moment you’re caught up wrestling with the problem. Your body feels tight and constricted and you can’t even imagine a way forward.
The next moment the solution is there fully formed in your mind. Your body feels light and clear and you know what you need to do next.
The thing is, the solution always appears out of the blue. It comes in the form of a thought (because otherwise we wouldn’t know it was there). But in the infinitesimally small moment before we’re aware of the thought something else happens- this is our inspired mind at work.
At this point we can go in two directions. The first is along the route of spirituality.
The experience of the inspired mind (or whatever name it is given) is, after all, exactly what we see as the goal in all of the religions, traditions and methods that I have come across in my years of study.
This involves buying in to some degree or other to the values that the specific tradition you are involved with holds. This will generally be positive as long as your values and those of the tradition you are part of are the same.
The other direction that we can take at this point is that of creativity. With this approach you use a very stripped down system that gives you a method of becoming aware of your own conditioned ways of thinking and a framework for transcending them. (My take on this system and how to work with it is the Samaii Method).
Which brings us back to what I feel is the real value of free thinking. It allows us to be open enough to allow space for the inspired mind.
We can’t force the inspired mind to work, but it is always there waiting for us to turn towards it. The problem is that we tend to turn away from it because the thoughts it gives rise to tend to challenge our status quo and make us feel fear.
Instead of being open to the uncertainty of new ways of thinking and being we stay rigidly within our own world-view defending ourselves against any change.
But learning how to set our thinking free helps to break us out of this rigidity and allow the inspired mind to enliven our thoughts, and actions and our relationships. And that’s where the fun starts.