Our aim is not to be in silence. The exercise of practicing inner silence, like the ones we do in the Yogilates classes, or the ones we can do at home or in a park, are a wonderful practice, but our aim is not to spend our days in that silent space; our aim is to feel in harmony with life. This sense of harmony is what I call happiness. And happiness does not depend on what we have, or get, or do; it does not depend on the outside world, but it depends entirely on our state of mind because our whole life is nothing but an interpretation. Our whole world IS an interpretation.
Our senses fool us into believing that the meaning of the world is outside, in the world. But this is not so. Something happens, we interpret what happens, and then it’s this interpretation what we take as reality.
If you are very happy with your life, if you feel that everything is going exactly as you wish it is either because you are getting from life everything you want (which I hope will keep happening, but it never really does) or because you are interpreting your life correctly. But if you are not as happy as you would like to be, what you need to understand is that your ‘unhappiness’ is only an interpretation. That is all there is. (Sensations of pleasantness or unpleasantness may be there, but sensations don’t necessarily create happiness or unhappiness, unless I happen to interpret it that way.)
Reality is not out there, in what happens to us, but in here, in our minds. We construct reality with our thoughts, with our interpretation of what happens.
This is a very crude example: If I point to the floor and ask you what this is you will say it is the floor. But if we could ask a dog, he may tell us that this is a place where he can hide his bones. Or if we could ask an ant, it would tell us it is home. Yes, it’s a floor, but only from a limited the point of view. To say this is a floor is only an interpretation based on the circumstances of where and how and when the question is asked.
That was a very simple and basic example, but if to say that this is a floor is only an interpretation, what about our emotional and mental life? Our whole psychology is based on interpretation! When at any moment you look at something, what you see is an interpretation of an experience. And every interpretation of an experience is your past, your conditioning. When you see a person, for example, you interpret what you are seeing according to what you know already. And you believe that the interpretation IS the person, but in reality you are not really seeing the person in front of you, but the interpretation inside your mind.
We always interpret things according to our past, there is no other way to do things, but our past is very large, and varied and is full of different possibilities.
It is very important to understand this mechanism because our whole life is based on the way we interpret what is happening to us.
If I am lost in thought – which is pretty much the state of most people most of the time – if I am distracted, if I am lost in worries, in projections, in problems, in past and future, I am going to interpret what happens to me with the first possibility that comes to mind, which is probably the easiest, least demanding, most superficial way to see a situation.
But one can also interpret what is happening with what I like to call wisdom. Wisdom is a more insightful, profound, enlightened way to see a situation. Wisdom is not something that just happens but it is based on my knowledge; it is based first, on an understanding of certain higher principles of life, and second, on having a quiet and clear mind in order to be able to choose to interpret what is happening based on those higher principles.*
If we want something to change in our lives, we need to learn to interpret what happens to us using wisdom, using a more insightful view than just the simplest common denominator – our first thoughts – that appears in our mind mechanically. Our first reactions to things, 99% of the time, are simply our most mechanical ways of interpreting life.
In this respect, we are very powerful beings because we are the creators of our life. As an example, imagine somebody says something very mean to you and you get offended. That offence is your own creation; you did not have to be offended. If half an hour before, for example, you would have met your secret crush from high-school and he/she would have asked you out for coffee, you probably wouldn’t have cared that someone said something mean to you and you wouldn’t have felt offended.
It is not what the person said but how you interpreted what the person said that really offended you. The offence was not outside, in the words, but in your mind, in your interpretation of those words. It was not what the person said, but it was what you heard. So in this respect we are continuously creating our world. It is an immense responsibility. And a beautiful responsibility, because we are not victims of the world any more, but its creators. People love to feel victimized because, in a way, it is easy… but we are not victims. We are the creators of our reality by way of our interpretation of life.
It is true, it is very difficult to change our interpretations because our thoughts are very much ingrained in our psychology. But this is precisely why we need silence, why we need space in our minds. In order to be able to look inside and see how I am interpreting my world, my life, my self, the people around me, what is happening to me and what is not happening to me, I need a quiet mind. I need a mind that is able to see my inner world and reinterpret it, as Epictetus said 2.000 years ago, ‘more in accordance with the nature of reality’.
*I have listed some of these higher principles in this NOTE.