“Everything in the universe is within you.” ~Rumi
When I was twenty-three, I lost my job through chronic illness. I thought my life had ended, and I spent the next few years an anxious, panicky mess—often hysterical. Eventually, I took off to scour the globe for well-being techniques, and searched far and wide for the meaning of life and how to become well again.
If you’re chronically ill, like I was, whether physically or emotionally, you’ve probably experienced the same misunderstanding, the same crazy-making “well, you look okay to me” comments, the same isolation, depression, and frustration that I felt.
You’ve probably been on a bit of a quest for self-recovery. And so, you’ve probably also felt the same exasperation when trying to figure out which self-help theories actually work. It can be overwhelming, right? I thought so, too, but I came to find it was actually really simple!
Searching the Globe for Self-Help Techniques
So many people are full of advice: “Try CBT/ tai chi/ astrology/ vitamins/ rest more/ exercise more/ zap yourself with electricity/ eat better/ stop being lazy (always helpful!)/ do affirmations/ yoga/ meditation/ wear purple socks…” Okay, so no one ever actually recommended trying purple socks, but there were so many weird and wonderful recommendations that I found myself lost, which might explain why I went away to find myself!
I traveled far and wide with my illness, training in every holistic therapy there was (which I loved; I’m curious, and well-being is my passion). But I was always searching for a ‘cure’ for my brokenness. I connected with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness on my journey, and I heard the very familiar Rumi quote: “Everything in the universe is within you.” This served only to confuse me even more as I struggled to analyze what it meant!
In Bali, though, I felt I had found home in yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. I felt connected to myself. I felt like I understood that all I needed was within. My anxiety had gone, my panic had gone—and my chronic illness had gone, too! Then, I came home to the UK, and it immediately returned.
I was disheartened. I still lived yoga and mindfulness—I loved it and I taught it at home—but the joy had gone from what I had once thought of as the answer. So, how was I absolutely okay in Bali and not at home? Was I a fraud? What was going on? There was so much thinking…
What I Learned About Being Human
It wasn’t until a year later that I discovered why, when I heard something differently. A colleague introduced me to a mentor who shared some profound insights about how the world really works.
She explained the basic underlying reality of humanity: that underneath all of our thinking about “how to be happier” is a healthy wholeness and perfection that is already innate—without having to do anything. You see, the reason that I had felt any anxiety or panic at all was because I had just forgotten the truth of what it is to be human.
The Power of Thought: All You Need Really Is Within
Our human reality operates entirely through thought in the moment. Everything we feel is a result of our thinking. If we feel anxious, it’s because we are experiencing anxious thinking. If we feel happy, it’s because we are experiencing happy thinking. Our entire reality, therefore, really does come from within! It is an inside-out world.
When we were born, we were perfect and whole, and not anxious. Then, when we gained the beautiful power of thought, we learned that the external comfort blanket was super comforting, because “it made us feel better,” right? Wrong. The blanket is an object, with no capacity to make us feel anything. One hundred percent of the comforted feeling came from our own thinking about the blanket. It’s the same with all of life.
So, when I was in Bali, I thought I was okay because I was enjoying yoga and meditation, which I loved with all my heart. Thinking that the external could impact me, I felt 100 percent whole. I returned from Bali and my thinking about the external changed; it felt like I wasn’t happy, because I thought that I needed to be back in Bali. But the thinking came from me: the happiness or unhappiness was all dependent on my thinking in each moment.
I didn’t remember this, so I attributed my happiness to the external. But it wasn’t, because we are always living in the feeling of our thinking in any moment. Everything comes from within.
The Innate Wisdom Under Our Thinking
The funny thing is that as much as this seemed profound to me when I heard it, it was also as if I already knew. It is innate wisdom that we just forget to tap into as we bustle through what feels a hectic pace of life.
As I began to remember this wisdom, I found that I would start to notice my thinking; I’d become an observer of it, almost in a mindful, meditative kind of way, but I no longer needed to sit and meditate to be happy.
New insights would come up as I stayed in the conversation about life, and more and more would drop away: the absolute reliance on meditation and affirmations in particular (though the joy returned for meditation when I realized there was less pressure to love it and just followed it because it was in my heart).
Because under my thinking—under your thinking—is an innate wholeness that is always accessible to you in any moment, if you just see that your reality is entirely experienced through thought in each moment.
We spend hours of our lives analyzing how to be happy, how to stop being negative, how to meditate, how to be less attached, how to be more empowered, how to be more creative, how to be more whole. Don’t get me wrong, this can be interesting, if (like me) you have your own small self-help library! But it’s more important to drop out of your head and into your heart—like I did in Bali, and like I did when I allowed my thinking to just flow and stopped analyzing it.
I still love yoga and meditation—I teach both and connect with them—but it’s to follow my heart, and I don’t need it. I’ve observed with clients, though, that sometimes it’s easy to misunderstand these concepts and get wrapped up in over-complication, analysis paralysis, denying true feelings, and forcing, trying to be ‘positive.’ This is why I ditched affirmations completely.
Don’t Miss the Point: Clarity Through Trusting and Flowing, Not Forcing
Some people miss the truthful essence of this beautiful wisdom. I’m a believer that we often try and force happiness and positivity through techniques like affirmations—and even in some meditation practices that suggest people need to “let go of thinking.”
We can’t let go of thinking; it’s part of being human. And affirmations serve only to suppress our true feelings, which is dangerous. When we allow our thoughts to just flow through us instead, dancing with them through life, we create space where we would once have analyzed how to solve them; and it’s in this space where clarity can arise and we can see the truth.
The truth is, we humans are a vessel of energy, and, I believe, part of something greater that has a plan for us—and through this human life, we are blessed with the amazingly abundant, creative power of thought. All we really need to do is let go and flow.
All we really need to do is allow the feelings that arise from our thinking, conscious of the fact that our reality is constructed through thought. We just have to observe what comes up, embracing pleasant feelings and allowing the darkness without paying it much attention. Like an uninvited guest, it will eventually pass through, without you needing to do anything to get rid of it.
These days, I laugh at the thoughts that come up and watch them with curiosity, marvelling at the creative capacity of beautiful brain, and knowing that underneath all of my thinking is the real truth: that I am entirely whole, perfect, and complete. Just like you. And you know what? I’ve not been anxious, panicked, or chronically ill ever since I remembered this truth of being a human living life through thought.
I’m not suggesting that our illnesses are “all in our head” and that we can think (or stop thinking) our way to health. Everyone is different, and there are many different causes for the illnesses we experience, chronic or otherwise. But for me, everything changed when I allowed my thoughts to just flow.