The Stories We Tell...
George Carlin used to say, “Don’t get to believing your own shit.” He was right. It would appear that the people we con most in our lives, are ourselves.
We all do it. Make things up that are loosely based on fact and then create an entire narrative that then becomes the rudder for our lives. The thoughts that are born out of ego or hurt or longing, take on a life of their own and we become simply the delivery vehicle.
The Buddha said be mindful of your thoughts because thoughts become things. And that is so true. However, we tend to operate in the world like it isn’t.
I tell myself all kinds of shit all the damn time and what I almost never say when I am spinning some new tale for myself is that it isn’t true. Some situation lands in my head, it is accepted as fact for me, and then I begin to behave according to its absolute veracity. No questions asked.
But that was an older version of me. Now I am far more suspect of my own mind. It has proven me wrong quite a lot lately and so I have developed this watchful curiosity, almost like watching a young child lie to get the candy. The kid will tell you anything you want to hear to get what he wants. No lie too great or large. They will even resort to stealing when your back is turned. This is how my ego operates...lie, lie, lie and then steal it. Really wish I would have known that a few decades ago.
Lately I have just become a disinterested observer of my mind. It conjures up all kinds of interesting (and not so interesting) things. And I am developing the habit of saying things like this:
“Really, do tell”
“Where did you hear that?
“Hmmmmm, maybe some fact checking is in order”
“Wow, you sound like you really believe that”
This is a new dialogue that I have begun with myself. And it seems to almost be operating on its own. I am just here watching myself say and do things and not really getting all bent out of shape about it all.
There are just so many things to tell myself about myself...endless supplies of stories again loosely based on fact that are here to teach me that none of them are real. They are just momentary ideas about a situation designed to protect me, humble me, dislodge me or sometimes, crack me open.
What I have come to doubt is the narrative. I am the creator but I can also be the fact checker. Just because I am saying shit, doesn’t make it true or accurate. Most of the time, I conjure up stories that have a very narrow factual reality and then make some pretty major decisions based on that.
The stories are sometimes positive but most of the time they are negative. I can’t do this because of that. I will never do that because of this. This is happening because of that. All very thin explanations for things I can’t control, which is pretty much everything.
I have started this new practice which is really helping. I used to string together evidence to support my narrative. Now, I have decided that the narrative is not mine. It is really there for the universe to write, I am just a player and I can just be curious about it all. I am here now writing this and that is all that I truly know. I do not know if this is good writing, if anyone will read it or relate to it. I do not know whether it is bad writing. Simply all that is true in this very minute is that I am writing words on the screen that I will publish in a little bit. And even that last part isn’t really true, just another projection masquerading as fact. All that is really, really true is that right now, I am writing.
And so I have begun to try to stay with the fact. I am here writing. And the rest of the stuff that my mind tells me about it is really just bullshit.
It has started a new practice for me, in seeing things just as they are in the moment and being grateful for them:
I am writing now, I am grateful to be writing.
I am working now, I am grateful to be working.
I am having coffee with my friend PC, I am grateful to be having coffee with my friend PC.
I am sitting in a meeting, I am grateful meetings happen and end.
I am hiking now, I am grateful to be hiking.
Nothing else. Just an acknowledgement that I am doing this thing and that I am grateful for the fact that I am doing it. Seems to cut away the ties to my incessant storytelling that used to spin me round and round. Now, today, I am just here doing whatever and see it all as a gift and temporary. A letting it all go and seeing what remains kind of thing.
What is most amusing to me is that I think I started telling myself stories to feel better, safer. But after years of practice, I felt less safe and unwell a great deal of the time. Today, staying in the moment and letting the great stories just die on the vine of my mind seems like such a safer and better practice.
I cannot ever stop my thoughts but I can work to stop myself from being swept away by them. They are simply thoughts that sometimes are quite sticky and hook me into believing stories that the very same mind just made up. Not too cool. Today, well some days, I can see the process and decide not to participate. I can decide that I do not want to get to believin' my own shit...Thanks George. You were one funny fucking Buddha and I miss you.