In our Spring 2021 issue, our meditation and mindfulness columnist Sandy Newbigging offered a thoughtful reflection on how we can return to the reality of the world around us, when we find ourselves overtaken by fearful imaginings. Enjoy his words of wisdom below.
Real World Realisations
Master Imagination for Less Fear and More Peace
by Sandy Newbigging
Words cannot describe the relief that came to me the day I discovered that my memories from the past, irrespective of how bad or sad, were only accessible now via my imagination. Shockingly, the same went for my fears about the future.
For years I had literally been scared by my mind and imagination. From that moment on, any therapy to find peace with past memories and future concerns became so much easier, and less daunting, once I played with the possibility that the past or future was nothing more than imagined stories in my mind.
Product Of My Overactive Imagination
When I was a child, I snuck into the television room late one evening and watched the movie ‘Jaws’. It scared me to death! For weeks after seeing the movie I couldn’t sleep; I was convinced the massive shark from the movie was hiding in my bedroom wardrobe, waiting for me to go to sleep before it came out to eat me.
Now, looking back on it, I can’t help but laugh at the thought of a giant fish living in my wardrobe, but at the time it felt so real that I would sweat and shake from fear.
When my parents tried to tell me it wasn’t real, it was just my imagination, I didn’t believe them because it felt so real. But they spoke the truth, and gave me one of the most important lessons of my life.
I’ve now discovered that my fears exist mainly in my mind – in either my imagined past or future – and rarely in the real world of this moment. Please take a second to consider this possibility. Although the perceived problems that appear to cause us emotional stress may feel real, they exist more in our imagination than in reality.
Just because a problem feels real, it doesn’t mean it exists in the reality of now.
I appreciate this might be a bit hard to swallow at first, in particular if your memories feel real and appear to be impacting your peace today. However, for the sake of your health and happiness, I invite you to explore whether much of your stress and negative emotions are caused by over-thinking about the past and future.
When we are upset about things that have happened before, or might happen later, we are essentially ‘feeling our thinking’. Therefore, if we want to fear less and experience more peace in daily life, then we must master our imagination.
If we aren’t careful, we could spend years trying to fix, and find peace with, stuff that’s happened in the past, when all the time, we can find peace far more quickly by no longer letting our imagination get the better of us. We can spend more time in the reality of the present moment.
What World Are You Living In?
Irrespective of where you are reading this, take a moment to stop and have a look around. Right now, wherever you happen to be, is ‘your world’.
We tend to leave ‘our world’ and reach into ‘other worlds’ that are not actually happening right here or now.
We reach into the ‘news world’ and accidentally start believing the news is happening in our living room. Or we reach into the ‘social media world’, read about other people’s worlds, and again, can bring things into ‘our world’ that are upsetting or unsettling, for example.
Staying in our personal world is not about spiritual bypassing or denying reality. Quite the opposite. It’s about returning to ‘real reality’ and not letting our mind and imagination negatively impact our inner peace and empowerment. Try this quick Reality Check protocol for letting go of the mind and returning to the moment:
• Visual: Notice an object that is currently in your field of vision that you were unaware of previously. (Do not look at it directly. Use your peripheral vision.)
• Audio: Notice a sound that is currently occurring in your proximity that you were unaware of previously.
• Touch: Notice something that you are physically touching that you were unaware of previously.
Becoming attentive to these visual, auditory and kinaesthetic things in your immediate environment helps you to tune into ‘your world’. The power of this protocol comes from noticing what’s already present, that we’ve been missing because we’ve been too caught up in our mind. This protocol requires a higher level of present moment awareness, which also causes a calmer and clearer mind.
By staying in our ‘here-and-now- world’, and not spending our days lost in our imagination, we can even find that we already have ‘world peace’. Before rejecting this possibility, give this awareness-raising exercise a go and see what you discover.
Sandy is the creator of the popular Mind Detox and Mind Calm methods. Visit his website for more on his online mentoring sessions, club and academy.