What do school photographs have to do with how the mind works?

It was photo time a few weeks ago at my son’s school. ‘Right,’ I thought. A chance to get a lovely one of Mason and Violet together. So, I got super organised (for me!), rallied the kids together and was out the door and up the school by 8.30am for the ‘siblings’ session. Standing in queue, waiting our turn, it was clear to see that Mason wasn’t going to play ball. ‘I hate having my photo taken’ he said with a frowny face and his head hung low. I knew this was going to be tricky and immediately my thinking revved up a notch! All I wanted was a lovely photo of my two kids, that I could put on the mantelpiece and share with other family members. Was it really too much to ask that he sit still and smile for 2 minutes?  Actually, in his reality, yes!  And on reflection, here’s what I noticed to be true.

1. We’re not in control

It doesn’t matter how much we think we are, we just aren’t. I can’t control what shows up in my own mind, let alone my children’s minds. It’s just not how the system works. Thoughts show up within us from goodness knows where and we make up what they mean! If we think a thought means something personal to us, we believe it and that becomes our absolute reality, until the very moment it butts up against another thought and dissolves into a new reality. Life is a string of thoughts that show up within us, moment to moment. They’re fleeting, they’re temporary, they’re impersonal and they’re vaporous! If we leave them alone, they’ll move through us. I can take my children to have their photos done, but I can’t control whether they sit there and smile and I can try every trick in the book to make it happen, but ultimately, it has to come from within them.

2. We all live in separate realities

We all live in a world of thought, so there isn’t one objective reality….there are 7.8 billion (or however many people there are on earth) separate realities, each brought to life by whatever thinking we have going on in our awareness in the moment. Back to the photoshoot, Violet was sat there loving the camera, doing what the photographer asked, but Mason hated every second and didn’t do anything he was asked to do. Same photoshoot, two very separate realities. When we see that what’s going on for us is the same as what’s going on for everyone else, we can relax a bit. We can let life move through us. We can take things less personally and we can be more compassionate and understanding. Unless we don’t know or forget that our thinking isn’t real – as I did! But the beauty of knowing how we operate means we don’t get caught up in the illusion for long!

3. We are all doing the best we can

All behaviour stems from a thought, which usually leads to a whole lot more thinking. If that thinking looks absolutely real and solid to us, then we just can’t act any better than in alignment with that thinking, so in that respect we’re all just doing the best we can, given the thinking that we have in that moment. Mason was just acting in a way that made sense to him at that time!  A person’s behaviour will only change when their thinking changes, and we’re not in control of that. But, when we see that the nature of thought is that it’s arbitrary and fleeting, we tend not to take it so seriously.

4. Our our minds work like projectors, not cameras!

We think our minds work like a camera – that we’re looking out through the lenses of our eyes, we see some kind of objective reality which comes back to us and we feel something! So in my example, I’m looking out at Mason who is not willing to have his photograph taken and I am getting frustrated. But in actual fact the truth is very different. A more accurate description is that our minds work more like a projector. We project how we feel out into the world, and how we feel is directly aligned with what we think. We don’t experience the world as it is. We experience it as we are! What we get (through our thinking) is what we see! As much as it looked to me that Mason’s behaviour was causing my frustration, that’s just not possible. My feelings were coming from me, and only me. There are infinite ways I could have felt in those moments, but it happened that frustration showed up, caused by a lot of thinking about how he should be behaving and how I’m never going to get that lovely photo of the both of them. Had I not have taken that thinking seriously, it would have left space for fresh thinking to come through, giving me a totally different experience.

So was it a big deal that I didn’t get the photo that I wanted? Actually, not at all because it turns out that I was making that up too. I have plenty of lovely photos of the two of them together, so really, what was all the fuss about? Isn’t it funny how we can get our knickers in a twist over stuff that we’ve made up?

Until next time

Jo x