Some of us have had a tough go of it in life.  We have had experiences, maybe starting at a very young age, that have affected our self-esteem, relationships, and ability to succeed in life.  We might be dealing with depression or anxiety or have difficulty coping.  These experiences are commonly called “wounds.” We feel damaged and strive to heal through psychotherapy and reading self-help books.  We think that if we fix the broken parts of ourselves, we will eventually feel normal again.

The assumption embedded in this focus on self-improvement is that happiness (or contentment, peace) is a state that we might attain some time in the future once all our problems are solved.  It is easy to forget, but essential to remember that:  we are already whole.

All of the wounds we think define who we are are actually conditioned.  They are they result of lessons we have learned based on experiences we have had.  Consider a 5-year-old boy who is ridiculed every time he cries, or a young girl left to fend for herself while her mother lies drunk on the couch.  We don’t naturally suppress our emotions or feel lonely or abandoned – these reactions are learned from situations we encounter.

So who are we before this learning took place?  I invite you to take a look and see.  Drill down, like a miner searching for gold, to the place in you that has existed prior to any learning.  You may be going to your birth, or even earlier.  What do you find?  You will see that who you are before conditioning – that is, the unconditioned you – is whole, free, light, and clear.  It has no problems and is lacking nothing.  No matter how many challenging experience you have had or how badly you feel about yourself, this state of wholeness is still here.  It is who you actually are.

This unconditioned state can be subtle.  You can discover it if you investigate underneath your thoughts and feelings.  It also unexpectedly appears in daily life – do you recognize it?

  • Being caught up in the flow of an enjoyable experience
  • Laughing uncontrollably
  • At the moment of orgasm
  • A second or two of happiness that wells up from nowhere
  • A feeling of peace or bliss when in nature.

When we have experiences like these, we sometimes say that we lose ourselves in them.  I would argue just the opposite – that this is when we actually find ourselves.

What is common to these experiences is that the thinking mind is at rest.  We perpetuate problems in our lives by thinking about them.  Over and over, we repeat the same stories of what should or shouldn’t have happened, of sadness and despair, of being overwhelmed and unable to cope.  They become our identity and we live according to them.  If we look prior to the stories, or if our thinking naturally stops, we discover this place of wholeness and freedom that is, and always has been, present.

In the world of self-improvement, we tend to look outside ourselves for methods that will fix us so we can feel better at some future time.  Try something radical, which is making a U-turn with your attention.  Look inside yourself underneath the wounds, prior to all conditioning, and discover that peace is here, available now.

When you are in the throes of your problems, feeling like you will never feel better or improve, know this essential truth:  You are already whole.

Are you aware of the state of wholeness? I’d love to hear your reactions and insights.

Photo byEvil Erin

Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author who joyfully shares insights about discovering that suffering is optional. Find more from Gail at her blog, GailBrenner.com and on Twitter. Her work offers a bridge between psychology and spiritual understanding and brings clear seeing and compassion to everyday human challenges. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Way of Yes: Finding Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life."

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