Famous quote from Sydney Banks says: “If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” It took me two years to truly understand the significance of this statement even though it was the first and most important line of Michael Neill´s book The Inside-out Revolution that I translated into Czech.
This post is about what came to me last week while I could not sleep at 4:00 a.m. in La Conner.
Imagine a world where people did not understand how sleep works and its role in human life. In such world it would be a common thing for a man to come to a doctor and say: ”Oh doc, you have to help me. Every day when it gets dark, I get to my bed and I loose awareness of my surrounding. I suddenly appear somewhere I fight zombies and fall off cliffs. I can´t help myself. I am broken. It is such a waste of time and I lose the whole night. I can´t have a relationship because what if my partner found out how broken I am. What if she wanted to do stuff at night while I was away fighting zombies? And I can never have kids, because I could not look after them at night! Please help me not to sleep! I have tried everything, I keep myself awake by watching horror movies, drink coffee, take drugs, meditate 18 hours a day. I work on myself day and night. But it is exhausting. And not working! I am unable to overcome this horrible weakness. Help me!”
And since the level of understanding sleep even in professional circles is extremely low in this fantasy world the doctor might answer:” Yeah, this is a serious problem. It is good that you came. Luckily, I have read all the books on how to get rid of this condition and I am considered an expert myself on fighting zombies. I can give you a lot of advice and strategies on how to kill, run and avoid them. It might take a few years, ten at max, but we will get there! I myself never sleep! Trust me.”
The man would learn many things, decrease the amount of sleep, but never get rid of it completely. He would continue to search other experts that would assure him that it is an important matter and that they might help him, but to no avail. And he would get exhausted even more.
And then one day he might accidentally meet someone whose reaction was radically different:” Oh, me too! It is just sleep. I sleep every day. And I enjoy it. It is absolutely normal, it is part of the human condition. You have nothing to fear. The zombies are just a dream. They are made up!” He would say it with absolute certainty. He would be the first person not to buy into the man´s story of his horrible life problem.
Leaving the metaphor, we are living in a world that has a very limited understanding of human mind. A world controlled by fear of human experience, fear of unpleasant feelings. We have books, strategies, drugs, doctors, and experts that help us avoid them, cope with them or get rid of them. Many of us navigate life by staying away of unpleasant experiences as much as possible. We fear being scared, we hate not knowing, we conceal our own fragility. We suppress our feelings, hide them, or get totally consumed by them. We work on ourselves, self-improve 24/7 and try to stay in high states of consciousness all the time.
And damn, it is exhausting!
I have been lucky. I met people whose reaction to my problems with fear and stress were: “Oh, me too. It is no big deal. It is part of the human condition. It is just temporary, your stress is made of fleeting thoughts. If you stop fighting it, it will come and go.”
And it did. There is nothing I have to do. There is nothing to be afraid of.
The biggest asset of any coach, teacher, therapist in the field of the Inside-out understanding is their own KNOWING that all is well. That all the fears are made of thought, which comes and goes. It does not leave scars. Our moods are natural, we feel great one moment and two minutes later we cry and hate life.
Anyone coming from our own world to the fantasy one I described would be a transformative teacher, just by mere presence. No matter how vivid descriptions of zombies and how scared the other people would be of sleeping, someone from our world would keep saying: ” It is natural. Just let it be. You are ok, no matter what you dream. I know the dreams are scary to you, but let them be. They are arbitrary. They are not real.” And it would be the absolute certainty, the sense of knowing, that would help people more than the words themselves.
The better we understand how natural it is to feel bad and that all feelings are coming from inside of us and not the outside world the more we can relax. Relax into the flow of life. Not to be frightened by our own experience. Imagine how much free time you would get if you stopped working on improving yourself and what treasures you might discover if you stopped avoiding things that scare you or feel unpleasant.
I did stop. My world got bigger. I get so many things done. New things.
I feel even more. I still get scared but I am not afraid of being scared any more.