You’re Faking It

You’re Faking It

Previously I wrote about the many layers of the Self as explained in nondual Tantrik philosophy. Each of these layers – your body, your mind and feelings, your energy, your awareness, etc. – is considered an expression of the oneness that is the real You. When we find ourselves wrapped up in just one layer – struggling with a body issue, for instance, or carried away by obsessive thinking – we forget that we’re all of this, more than the mind is capable of grasping. When we lose sight of our vastness, we experience a loss of freedom. Instead, we’re at the mercy of a body which will inevitably age, or at the mercy of a mind which will inevitably fail to see the big picture.

As I explained in that article, the mind/feelings layer is the most common for people to get stuck in. It’s hard not to have your attention monopolized by a machine that generates so much drama, such strong sensations, that has so many facts and answers, that helps you navigate life as a human, and that keeps score on how you’re doing. But your mind is just a tiny fraction of all that you are. This is why mental discipline is important not just for things like martial arts and meditation, but also for reaching your potential in any arena – from sports to finance to scientific research – and for being as happy, peaceful, and free as possible. The scientist Michael Faraday said in an 1854 lecture, That point of self-education which consists in teaching the mind to resist its desires and inclinations until they are proved to be right, is the most important of all.”

The alternative is what I referred to as “bondage” in last week’s article. Your mind takes the driver’s seat and steers you to distraction and negativity, or just toward pursuits that aren’t really aligned with what your highest self wants. My friend Andy Dooley, who teaches people to be happy, calls this cycle “lousy and lazy thinking.” Lousy because of its disempowering nature, and lazy because of our tendency to let it take over – often without even noticing – rather than doing the work to heal and clean house.

Some years ago, I found myself in a period of chronic anxiety. I had at my disposal a wide range of herbs, supplements, and pharmaceuticals, most of them designed to do the same thing – tranquilize the mind. Although they made me feel sleepy and cloudy, these substances never fundamentally changed the anxiety, and often, they actually made it worse. To my surprise, some of the worst experiences occurred with herbs. Eventually I realized these pills and teas were robbing me of my mental edge, which made mental discipline more difficult.

When I discontinued all the meds and committed myself to healing, I improved rapidly. Though, I must admit, whenever I felt normal for a while, I would get “lazy” again. I would assume that I didn’t need to keep an eye on my mind. And it would eventually sneak up on me with a relapse. I learned that it needed to be a continuous practice, and when I added meditation and mindfulness to my regimen, it was much easier. It was a valuable experience, and it changed the way I treat patients with mental health issues.

During the process of relearning mental discipline, I remembered an earlier time, in my 20s, when I felt horribly despondent after the end of an intense romantic relationship. In the midst of despair, a fleeting thought visited me. It seemed almost as if it didn’t come from my own mind – as if it was inserted into my stream of consciousness from a more intelligent Me that was removed from the emotional intensity of the situation. The thought was, “You’re faking it.”

Being swept up as I was in the tragedy of the breakup and enjoying the commiseration of my friends, a part of me felt indignant at the suggestion that I might be faking it. Faking it? Outrageous! Why would I be faking this? This is what humans DO when something like this happens. This is serious! Why would I choose to suffer?!

I can now advise in hindsight that anytime you find yourself mentally protesting and defending your point of view – particularly one that makes you feel bad – you’re standing on shaky ground. You’re not allowing the truth to come in because it would invalidate your story. Probably you have a lot invested in being right, which is often in direct opposition to being free.

Anyway, that one thought – you’re faking it – burrowed into my consciousness and started to take hold. Novel thoughts arose: What if I were able to skip the whole grieving process? What if I could just be light about the whole thing? I would have to sacrifice all the sympathy I’ve been getting. I wouldn’t be able to tell the “woe is me” story anymore.

I discovered that there was a more enduring, more neutral, more authentic Me that didn’t really feel terrible or dramatic, but just watched the whole thing impassively. Since then, in the midst of all sorts of other strong emotions, that disruptive thought has returned: You’re faking it. The real You is okay. What happens next is a matter of whether I apply the mental discipline to stick to the truth.

Try it. Even if you feel hopeless. Watch what’s happening in your mind and body. Don’t ignore any unpleasant thought or feeling. Turn your attention toward it rather than away. Learn what’s really there. Be curious. What is the actual thought behind the unpleasant feeling? Feel the feeling without resistance. Don’t deny it, reject it, or bury it. Welcome it. Experience it with your whole self. Let it open and spread over you. Breathe into it. Forgive yourself and anyone else who’s connected to what you’re feeling. And let it go. Then choose something else: Choose light. Choose to reclaim your power. Choose freedom. Choose to embody your expanded sense of self. Then keep choosing, keep forgiving, and keep letting go.

If you believe this is overly simplistic, just give it an earnest try. Sincerely commit to healing. I’m just talking about work. I’m sure you’ve done hard work before – whether in the form of cleaning, exercise, studying, or whatever you do for a living. Hard work isn’t bad. People generally don’t like to work hard unless there’s a payoff – something objective, like a clean house, a hot body, a gold medal, or a paycheck. In this case, there’s not going to be an obvious carrot dangling in front of you, and what’s more, there’s really no end to it. You don’t get weekends or your birthday off. 

But once you experience the value of it, you will never want to take a break. And even though it’s hard work, it does get easier (then it gets harder, and then easier again). And even though you will never want to let your mind get away with grabbing the steering wheel and driving you into illusion, over time you’ll notice that your mind doesn’t try to pull that crap nearly as often.

Good luck,

Dr. Peter Borten

  • Marge Simmons
    Posted at 22:15h, 15 August Reply

    Thank you for your insight. I will reread it to more deeply impress it upon my mind.

  • Sherry
    Posted at 02:56h, 16 August Reply

    Absolutely love these articles! I look forward to them popping up in my email. Much of this is new to me amd I am finding that I go back to re-read most of them. I have the Well Life and the planner. Thank you for sharing your work!!

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 18:57h, 28 August Reply

      I’m glad these writings speak to you, Sherry. You’re welcome.

  • Marci Herrera
    Posted at 04:51h, 16 August Reply

    Thank you. That was extremely helpful and timely in my life.

  • Jan
    Posted at 13:28h, 16 August Reply

    “Faking it…” Sounded negative and I almost skipped the article. But as always, by the time I had read the part that comes in the email, I was hooked! “What is the actual thought behind the unpleasant feeling?” I’m going to get to WORK!! Thank you Peter.

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 18:59h, 28 August Reply

      You’re welcome, Jan. Yes, I’ve been advised to make my titles more provocative and sometimes it feels a little silly, but if it gets people to read the article and hear the message, I consider it worthwhile. Be well.

  • Pamela Strickland
    Posted at 22:01h, 16 August Reply

    Hi, I am Pamela Strickland. I just lost my soul mate, my husband of 22years. June5th. We found each other in our 40s and 50s. I love you article. Is there any help you can share on grief. Thank you.

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 19:22h, 28 August Reply

      Hello Pamela. I’m sorry for your loss. It’s still so new that I’d guess you’re not yet in a place where contemplation is going to be helpful, so I would practice feeling your grief in your body and releasing it through your body and breath.

      Grief, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is considered to be the emotion of the lungs. When we’re grieving, we can tend to collapse in our posture, squashing our lungs, and kind of forgetting to breathe. Inhalation is also called “inspiration,” and it can be hard to find things to be inspired by when we’re immersed in a sense of loss. Bringing your attention to your breath, picking yourself up, straightening your spine, and breathing fully and deeply can help a lot. Your breath reminds you of the natural coming and going of things.

      The lungs are associated with autumn, a time of decline and the loss of all the flowers and leaves of spring and summer. And the lesson inherent in this part of our cycle is to recognize what can never be lost – even while physical loss is all around us. As we contemplate the whole cycle – the dormancy of winter, the new growth, rebirth, and hope of spring, the flourishing and communion of summer, the ripening and harvesting of late summer, and the withering of fall – even while trees become bare and stalks brown, there’s a certain simplicity to all of it, in the nakedness that’s left. If we go past the tendency to cling to what is changing, we can get a very clear sense of what will never change – the ESSENCE of what we’ve been through – the connection, the love, the experience.

      Meanwhile, there’s a basic principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine that everyone should know – all pain is caused by stagnation. Whether it’s muscular pain, bone pain, digestive pain, or emotional pain, there’s always an element of IMPEDED FLOW. In your case, the blockage of flow is caused by your clinging. Clinging is natural, of course, so there’s shouldn’t be any self blame for it. Just understand this it makes it hurt more. It hurts because it’s a form of stagnation, and it’s a form of stagnation because it is out of sync with the present reality. The present reality is that his body is gone. When we argue with that reality, you take yourself out of the flow and it hurts more. When you accept that reality, you get back in the flow and it hurts less.

      But meanwhile, there is a lot of opportunity in pain. Pain can be a tremendous catalyst for growth and creative expression. Do something with that pain. Make something beautiful for your husband. He’s not really gone, and it’s exactly what he wants.

      • Karen Ananda
        Posted at 21:24h, 04 September Reply

        Thank you for this. All of it. I am grateful to have found you all.

  • Aliece
    Posted at 22:01h, 16 August Reply

    What a great article!! I am printing a few paragraphs to keep with me as a reminder. I tend to forget these things when I’m caught up in emotion. Very timely article. Thank you!

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 19:22h, 28 August Reply

      Thanks, Aliece. We all tend to forget!

  • Darlene
    Posted at 14:16h, 17 August Reply

    Thank for being so open and genuine about your being stuck in the mind and body layer.
    Sharing this vulnerability helps us all to take another look at presence, mindfulness, and meditation and understand why we suffer and how we can be free and find our universal truth.
    Many blessings to you

    • Peter Borten
      Posted at 19:23h, 28 August Reply

      You’re welcome, Darlene. And yes, what better a use for our own pain and challenges than to share what we learn with others?

    Posted at 05:46h, 18 August Reply

    Wow, this was truly motivating!!

  • Peter Borten
    Posted at 19:24h, 28 August Reply

    Thanks, Vikki. I’m glad to hear it.

  • Laurie
    Posted at 13:26h, 02 October Reply

    Thank you so much for the work you do. I stumbled on your web site and am devouring your articles. I’m 58 and have been experiencing a shift in my awareness, my reality which has offered both breakthroughs and breakdowns! I feel so greateful to have found you. Thank you.

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