5 min read

My daughter wet the bed the other night, so I had to get up and change the bedding.  Unable to get back to sleep, I started listening to a podcast - the lovely Jason Shiers was interviewing Rupert Spira, and two things Rupert said really caught my attention before I started drifting back to sleep (only to be woken by the alarm moments later - isn’t that always the way?!).

Here they are: 

1) ‘There has to be a space between thoughts because otherwise we would only ever experience one continuous thought.’ and;

2) ‘All reality is not made of thought.’


Objective ugliness doesn't exist.  We experience our appearance via our own subjective thoughts.

In my work helping people learn to judge their appearance less, I talk a lot about thought, and how our thoughts, many of which are below our conscious awareness, create our experience of our appearance.  

I try to convey that when we look in the mirror and feel despair, it’s not because we’re objectively ugly (objective ugliness doesn’t exist), but because we’re seeing ourselves through the filter of judgmental thinking – thinking we’ve taken on from the people around us and the wider culture throughout our lives, often without realising it.

And, influenced by a conversation about how our experience of life works, started by a man named Sydney Banks, I often use the phrase ‘Reality is a thought-created experience.’  

So, when Rupert challenged that, my ears pricked up!

I realised that even though I try my best to share from what I know first-hand from my own experience, I can sometimes get lazy and just parrot what other people say!

I don’t apologise for that too much because a lot of the stuff that I ‘parrot’ about thought has helped me enormously – it’s transformed my life and allowed me to experience a deeper sense of wellbeing more of the time.  And that’s not to be sniffed at!

And it’s also good to keep listening deeper for what I know to be true and sharing from my inner knowing in my own words and in my own way, as I’ve been encouraged to do by the wonderful teacher, Rohini Ross. Because that will always have a greater impact than just repeating things I’ve heard other people say.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with how you can stop judging your appearance and start enjoying your body and your life more?!

Hang on a sec, I’m getting there…!


Every day presents countless opportunities to drop out of the thoughts that are creating the negative, painful experience of your body.

What I heard in the two points that Rupert shared above was:

If you are suffering because you’re taking painful, misleading thoughts about the attractiveness of your body to heart, isn’t it good to know that throughout your day, there are innumerable gaps between the constant flow of thoughts that make the transition from one thought to another possible…?!

And the wonderful, glorious implication of that is that our whole waking life is peppered with plentiful opportunities to detach from the narrative in our heads, drop into the space between thoughts, and have a whole new experience of reality!  

Isn’t that amazingly hopeful?  

Change can literally happen at any moment!


So, why do we often stay stuck hating our bodies for so long, and sometimes, forever?

And yet all too often it’s not like that.  

We often get stuck in habits for a long time.  I struggled with body image and disordered eating for most of my life, for around 30 years, after all.  

How come?

The answer is simple:  I wasn’t focussed on noticing the gaps between thoughts.  

Because I didn’t value them.  

I didn’t think anything useful would come from them.  

A product of my culture, I was trained to focus on using my cognitive abilities to navigate life.  

If I didn’t spend all my time trying to figure out the answers to my problems, then no one else would, and nothing would happen.  I wouldn’t get anywhere in life if I wasn’t constantly trying to think my way to a better experience.

This is a huge misunderstanding. I’ve written about it in the poem, The Great Nothingness, which I wrote last year.  


Trying to change our thoughts through willpower is usually impossible.

And this is where I feel that approaches like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can sometimes get us into trouble.  

Although CBT helpfully points to the fact that our feelings and behaviours are a reflection of our beliefs (thoughts we take seriously), the solution – trying to change your thoughts – can often just feel impossible.  Like trying to push a boulder up a hill that keeps falling back down.

Take this example.  You look in the mirror and hate what you see.  Then you have your CBT homework which gets you to analyse the thoughts behind that.  And I do think that does have a lot of merit.  

I definitely find it helpful to question all the brainwashing we get subjected to throughout our lives on how we’re ‘supposed to’ look.  

And I encourage people I work with to do the same.  It’s crucial, in fact, – we have to learn to be free thinkers and question our cognitive inheritance if we’re going to have any hope of healing and making the world a better place for ourselves and our children.

But it’s important to recognise that that will only take you so far.

Because if you think thought is all there is, and that the spaces between thoughts are just empty and useless, then all you end up doing is staying in the same stagnant realm of thinking that has created your suffering in the first place. 

Putting more attention on the thoughts that are making you miserable.  

Fuelling and strengthening the narrative that you’re unattractive.

And this is where many people end up.  For years.  Stuck believing the thought that they’re ugly because they simply don’t know how to take a break from it.  


A fresh perspective doesn't come from more thinking.  It comes when we create space for it to emerge - when we start focussing less on our habitual thoughts.

And yet if we don’t ever rest our minds, how can we ever open to something new?  

How can we ever become receptive to fresh, more helpful thoughts?

And that’s where Rupert’s second point above is so touching.  

There is more to reality than our habitual, conditioned thoughts.  And what is that?  CBT doesn’t tend to go there – it’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  That’s it.  The sum total of what it means to be human.  

But is that really it? Or is there an intelligence beyond our own personal intellects?  

My direct experience of this enquiry is HELL YES!  And to heal our sight that, so that we can start to see our beauty, we must depend on it.  Our own personal thinking isn’t powerful enough to change itself.

The therapeutic modality used is not what’s important here.  People can have mind-blowing insights during a CBT session or while walking their dog.  

What’s key is openness and curiosity.  

The area I’m discussing can feel vague, mysterious, ‘woowoo’ and impractical.  And that’s why we often rush past it to focus on something that seems more tangible – a 10-step plan, a glitzy technique, a popular practice.  Because we don’t trust that within the depths of our own being, beyond the stifling ‘comfort’ (straitjacket) of our own thoughts, there is anything there to help us at all.

But this attitude does us a disservice.  Because it is the intangible and invisible aspects of life – the love we feel but can’t directly see – that make life worth living.  


There is more to who you are than your habitual thoughts.

And this is hugely practical.  Without a felt sense of the spiritual dimension to life, we struggle to get out of bed in the morning or find ourselves developing addictions or getting into dysfunctional relationships.  Or we simply don't feel happy.  

We are not meant to live in our heads all the time.

The good news is that while putting this stuff into words is incredibly difficult, and ultimately impossible, it doesn’t have to be vague.  

You can approach it like a scientist.  And what do all scientists need?  Open-mindedness and curiosity.  

You can conduct experiments.  You can go within and see if you can notice the gaps between the endless stream of automatic, repetitive thoughts.  And you can experiment with what happens when you spend more time hanging out there. 


Healing happens when you rest in the quiet of your mind.

If you’re spending a lot of time thinking about how awful you look, I invite you to do this.  Get better at spotting the gaps between these thoughts, even if they’re teeny tiny – when you’re washing up or brushing your teeth, for example – when your apparent unattractiveness isn’t on your mind.  

What happens when you hang out in those gaps just a little bit longer?  Experiment and let me know!

Finally, I’d recommend the podcast – Misunderstandings of the Mind – to those of you who haven’t come across it.  Jason is so down-to-earth and honest, in a way which is very relatable and refreshing – a great role model for not making out he has all the answers cos none of us do!  He’s also had some amazing guests who have a lot of helpful things to share.  

Given how good the first couple of minutes of it were, I look forward to listening to the rest of it soon!


Conclusion

  • A lot of therapeutic approaches encourage us to look for answers to our body image suffering through more thinking.  But that's not where real transformation comes from.
  • Trying to change your thoughts is often a frustrating process that doesn't get to the root of the problem - our identification with our habitual thoughts and disconnection from our bodies and spirit.
  • Healing happens when we get humble enough to stop giving so much respect to our own thoughts and become receptive to fresh thinking which is not of our own making.  You can call this inspiration because it is not effortful.
  • A deeper understanding of who we truly are, and how our experience of life is created, is what leads to profound healing and lasting transformation.


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