“Treat your thoughts like shooting stars passing through the night sky. Let them burn bright and disappear” — Sam Burgess
Buddhists say that two arrows fly our way when we experience a negative life event. Being physically struck by an arrow is painful but being hit by a second emotional arrow is even more painful (suffering).
The Buddha explained: “In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”
Having “a thought” versus “thinking” are two very different things. You are not responsible for your thoughts, but you are responsible for your thinking. Your thinking is where your suffering begins.
Let me explain.
Thoughts randomly pop into your head throughout the day, I’m feeling hungry, I’m feeling sad, I’m feeling angry, I’m feeling frustrated, but it is the thinking — the story, the mental chatter and commentary that follows the thought that is our responsibility.
Our mind tells us a lot of untruths, some small lies that comfort us and some big fat ugly ones that derail us, and it is in our mind we create our reality by turning our thoughts into stories and subsequently feeling the emotions that arise from our thinking.
We are all single souls having a human experiences, yet every one of us has a different experience at every moment of our day, even if we are in the same place.
Right now, I am writing this in the cafe of my gym, where five other people are near me. We can all hear the sound of the frother whizzing up milk for the customer waiting at the counter, we can all hear the faint sound of people working out above us, we can all smell the chlorine drifting in from the spa, we can all feel the air con breezing in, and we can all taste the warm beverage we have purchased. All of us are frantically tapping away at our keyboards. And yet, we are all having a totally different experience.
I am not bothered about the sound of the frother or the chlorine scent, but I think I should have bought a jumper as the air conditioning is a bit too cool for my liking. The person nearest the counter is getting frustrated with the sounds from the milk frother and keeps glancing around to see if it’s bothering anyone else and perhaps considering moving to a table further away. The lady to the side of me has huffed numerous times at her laptop and made some passing comments to the person she is with that the coffee isn’t as hot as she would have liked.
We are all in the same place but have different experiences. Our thoughts are creating our reality. The thinking or meaning we give to an event determines how we feel about it. Our thinking is the lens through which we experience life — we filter out what we don’t want to see and let what we do filter through.
Reality is our perception of our experience — not reality itself. My reality of the events unfolding around me as I write this article differs from everyone else in this cafe.
It is in our reactions, thoughts and feelings in that we create our reality. Our interpretation of an event.
Let’s take something even more significant — Glastonbury Festival. Two hundred thousand people attend Glastonbury Festival annually, plus all the staff and the performers. Every person attending will have a different experience based on their perception. Some people may feel the experience wasn’t what they expected; others may think it was the experience of a lifetime. Some may feel the rain on the second day ruined it, others may think the rain was a welcome relief from the blistering heat, and some may not have had more than a brief thought of “oh, it’s raining” and didn’t dwell on it.
The important thing is — every single person had their own experience of reality because they filtered it through their lens, and their mind created a story of the experience. Our feelings come from our thinking about an event in our lives rather than the event itself.
Let’s take a hypothetical example, and you feel burnt out. You’ve been pushing yourself and hustling for too long; everything is against you, nothing seems to go your way, and no matter what you try, it doesn’t work out. You feel like you have failed and are ready to give up.
Is that reality, or is it your thinking that makes it so?
It is your thinking. You believe all those things are true because that is your perception of reality. Your mind has told you the story that you are burnt out, that nothing goes your way and that you have failed and should probably give up.
Now ask yourself, in this hypothetical example, who would you be without those thoughts?
Don’t overthink it — that’s when the mind (the ego) gets involved and starts to spin its web of stories.
What is the first thing that pops into your head?
I’d feel peaceful? I’d feel calm? I’d feel joyful? Without the opportunity for the mind to expand, our experience of our reality begins to shift. The root of all suffering lies in our attachment to our thinking — or, more specifically, our overthinking.
Now, you may be thinking, “erm, I’m sorry, but burnout is real” you may have even experienced it yourself or know someone who has. I am not saying it’s not real, and I am certainly not trivialising it. I’ve even experienced it myself. The core thing to identify here is that the narrative of our thoughts creates the reality of our experience and, in this case, feeling burnt out.
Burnout is “a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress”. Stress is our experience of any situation and the prolonged thinking and subsequent stories we tell ourselves.
How often have you told yourself or a friend, “I am so stressed.”?
Your perception of reality is real. You do feel stressed. It’s not the event that caused it but the constant overthinking which leads to burnout.
Our feelings are real, very real. Whether they be positive or negative, our feelings come from our thinking, which comes from our perception of reality.
If we know that we can only ever feel what we are thinking, we can change our thinking and, in turn, change the entire experience of our life.
The moment we choose not to think, we start to find peace.
Sam is an intuitive healer and visionary who holds space for heart-centric souls to discover their strengths, find their true purpose and take bold steps towards living a life aligned with their core values.
Through a fusion of psychology, spirituality, Human Design and two decades of business experience, Sam has supported hundreds of people to find their purpose, live life with more flow and build businesses that thrive.
She is a sought-after thought leader, and her work has been featured in numerous publications and television appearances on BBC and Channel 5 News.