We are meaning-making machines and that capacity can either run through fearful ideas of the mind, or come straight from the heart of love. Which would you prefer more?
My son was struggling with his English homework last week. Reading An Inspector Calls, he was planning an essay that would highlight aspects of the character of the inspector. Identifying quotes to include and then saying what they were inferring, or what the author was inferring. What the meaning was behind the use of the word or phrase.
For example, one quote his teacher had recommended included the Inspector saying something ‘dryly’ and so my son and I were talking about what that meant and what could be inferred from it. But then he went online and found a site where there was a different meaning attributed to this word ‘dryly’.
‘You see! It’s all nonsense! People are just making up whatever meaning they want when there’s no meaning there. It’s just a word. Maybe the author didn’t mean anything by it! And yet we’re supposed to put the ‘right’ meaning to get marks in an exam.’
The boy has a point!
There is no inherent meaning in anything
Apart from the meaning brought to life in the moment through this incredibly creative, story telling capacity as a human. Filtered through the unique and particular experiences and cultural conditioning you’ve collected along the way.
And there’s nothing wrong with this. We literally can’t stop it from happening. It’s an inevitable process of the human experience — that the world appears as a function of what’s happening inside us in that moment. It’s a perfect guidance system when you know how it works.
And how it works is simple: when it looks terrible out there — we know we’re seeing fearful mind-based meaning. And if it looks beautiful out there — we know we’re seeing loving heart-based meaning.
So an example of fearful meaning
In that moment of the homework, my son was experiencing fearful meaning around his English. He is right that we are making up our own meanings for things, but the resistance to this fact with his homework showed there was a fear behind it. Probably a fear about what it will say about me if I don’t do well in the exam.
That meaning, layered over an English planning activity, makes the planning activity look terrible! Downright dangerous! Of course you would resist it if it looks like that — in that moment the meaning-made is that ‘bad’ is an inherent feature of the activity.
Nothing else can happen — our outer experience is a reflection of our inner. So fearful meaning inside, creates a scary world outside.
But then, an example of the opposite
Loving, heartfelt meaning. This is found with experiences like a Street Wisdom event.
During these events, the process is designed to settle down that fearful meaning-making mind, to allow the heartfelt meaning-making to come to the surface.
When I did my first Street Wisdom back in 2015, I stood on the steps where we were in Manchester, saw three sycamore leaves lying in front of me and burst into tears. Three leaves! And I was crying?
What meaning was I making here?
In that moment these leaves signified my sister, brother and I, and the realisation of how disconnected I felt from them at that time. I wanted more connection. Such a loving message.
But of course the leaves didn’t ‘tell’ me that — it’s simply that the heart can’t speak in words. It uses images, metaphor, poetry, music, art and story to communicate. The message it wants to share is reflected in the outside world so we get to see it and hear it.
And so, like a guidance beacon, or a revealer of deeper desires, a settled mind reveals messages of the heart all over the place. Nothing else can happen — our outer experience is a reflection of our inner. So when it looks terrible out there — we know we’re seeing fearful mind-based meaning. And if it looks beautiful out there — we know we’re seeing loving heart-based meaning.
That’s why anything that settles the mind is supportive of us going in a more loving direction for us. And so, whether from a settled mind you see your future desire in a tea bag or in a sky full of stars, the object is irrelevant.
All you need to know is that when it looks and feels beautiful, when it brings tears to your eyes, a burst in your heart, or a spring to your step, you can know that it’s your heart speaking to you.
Its meaning beautifully reflected back at you in the world.
So what now?
- Notice when things look bad and get curious about whether there are ideas of danger flying around inside. Not physical danger: danger to your identity, to remaining in connection with others, danger to your reputation, danger in an imagined future change, ending or beginning that hasn’t yet happened, danger of being let behind…there are many varieties it shows up as. The key thing is it looks and feels bad.
- And notice when things look easy, simple, obvious — even beautiful — and get curious whether there’s anything flying around inside. Or even if there is — is it being believed?
- Then notice moments of insight or realisation, lightbulb moments, ‘clicking into place’ moments. Notice when leaves on a step, a teabag or a sky full of stars seem to help you with that realisation. Those are the heartfelt meaning-making moments. And by the way, they do show up in both #1 and #2, it’s just easier for them to be heard or seen with #2. There’s less clutter for them to shine through.
Notice — and see what you discover!
With love, Helen
Would you like to join a Street Wisdom? They’re free with donations if you can. My next one is on 18th March (online) 2–3.30pm. The info and how to book is here. And you can see all their upcoming events here.
I coach and guide smart, passionate, curious people who care about improving the lives of those around them. Often coaches and leaders, they’ve worked hard all their lives to be the ‘best’ them and it doesn’t seem to have delivered the happiness, security or freedom they expected. Now they’re wondering what else is available. I guide you back, prior to stories, to remember the real you because that’s what you, me and the whole world really wants! Find out more here.