From Dean G.:
‘What exactly do you mean by “Thought” with a Capital “T” (as opposed to “thought” with a small “t”)? I am assuming it’s beyond the purely grammatical? I do have your book, but am interested to hear it fresh from the source if you have time. It seems simple and complex at the same time.’
Dean, thank you for your question. I’ll answer with a real-life example. It shows how our small-‘t’ thinking, which is our conditioned mind, traps us in rigid patterns of being in the world. How a flash of insight, i.e. fresh, big-‘T’ Thought, opens new ways of seeing and experiencing life and our relationships.
WHAT WE THINK IS THE REALITY WE SEE
Some years back, colleagues Rolf Clausnitzer, David Bodman (now deceased) and I worked with a group of prison officers over a three-day retreat.
The superintendent of the prison, new to his position, was concerned with the unhealthy culture of callousness – even worse – among his senior officers – a culture that permeated the prison.
A mutual friend had explained to him our approach in facilitating a more humane (kind, understanding, wise and common-sense) culture within organisations. After meeting with the superintendent, he engaged us.
Our mission was to turn the prison culture from one that was toxic into one that was supportive of everyone, including the prisoners.
On the first morning, we asked each of the officers this question: ‘In a few words, describe the prisoners you are responsible for.’
We went around the group getting a response from each person. With one exception, the replies were similar: ‘Scum of the earth’. ‘Dregs of humanity’. ‘Scumbags’. ‘Worthless’, etc.
We were taken aback by the vitriol and contempt – the entrenched negative beliefs, opinions, and harsh judgements the officers held towards the prisoners.
The day proceeded with mixed responses and some strong reactions against the concepts we were presenting regarding small-‘t’ and big-‘T’ thinking.
We presented the idea that these two states of mind determine our mental health, how we see or see the world and our view of others. That is; the states of impossibility and Possibility.
The going was tough. The day ended at 5.30 and participants headed for the exit, except for one.
As we were about to debrief each other on the day, one officer (we’ll call her Gale), a rough-looking, heavy-set, muscular woman came up to us. Parking herself squarely in front of me, almost nose to nose, and looking me straight in the eye, she said: ‘John, you’re full of shit. All this is a fucking waste of our time and taxpayers’ money.’ Then she turned and marched off.
WHAT GALE SAW TRANSFORMED HER LIFE
On Day Two, we introduced the challenging concept of *‘innate innocence’: the idea that everyone does the best they can see to do in any given moment, based on their small-‘t’ thinking. To our relief, the atmosphere in the room improved significantly.
Several officers, to varying degrees, had insights – big-‘T’ Thought around what we meant by ‘*innate innocence’ and the way they had been seeing – and were now beginning to see – the prisoners, each other, their jobs and life in general.
Gale was, like the day before, silent. However, she appeared to be more attentive and engaged. She was listening carefully to what was being said by her fellow officers and by us. As the day progressed, she seemed disconcertingly different, in a good way. She seemed more open – relaxed – and, by the end of the day, at ease and peaceful.
Breaking at 5.30, unlike Day One, several officers engaged with us and the ‘new space and good feeling’ they had created. We stayed and chatted, but Gale left immediately. She returned about 25 minutes later and again walked directly to where I stood and once more faced me.
She was … transformed. That’s the only way to describe it.
Through tears, she looked me in the eye and, in a tentative, heart-rending voice, explained that she had just spoken with her parents. She said she hadn’t spoken to either her mum or her dad for over a decade.
Apologising to them, she had told them how much she loved them and had arranged to meet them the day after the program ended.
Gale also phoned and left a message for her sister, hoping to reconnect with her after an even longer estrangement than that from her parents.
Throwing her powerful arms around me, Gale hugged me, offering her gratitude and expressing much more.
Gale had encountered the realm of Possibility and, probably the first time in a very long time had undergone a powerful rebirth that comes from experiencing fresh, big-T’ Thought.
WE CAN EXPERIENCE POSSIBILITY IN ANY MOMENT
For decades, Gale had been experiencing her life with small-‘t’ thinking.
She had been recreating and reinforcing her worldview through the imaginings of her past, her beliefs, opinions and judgements – her lifelong accumulation, her memories.
Her conditioning, in the main, had been harsh, blaming, critical, lacking love and compassion.
Until her moment of insight, Gale had very dark thinking and feelings about most people, if not everyone – and especially about herself.
During Day Two, for whatever reason, she had a series of powerful insights and experienced fresh ‘T’ Thought. What she saw anew in the realm of Possibility caused her transformation.
During Day Three she inspired each person in the room with her love, understanding, wisdom and common sense.
Gale had an almighty change of mind and thus of heart.
THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY EXISTS JUST BEYOND OUR BELIEFS – ANY BELIEF
Big-‘T’ or fresh Thought is where we see what we’ve not seen before – or not seen in the same way. We see Possibility where we saw impossibility a nanosecond before.
Like Gale seeing her parents and sister in an entirely new way.
Her transformation occurred to such a degree that her feelings went from anger, judgement, resentment and never wanting to see them again, to love, understanding, wisdom, common sense and wanting to meet them the next day!
Small-‘t’ thinking, or thinking from our accumulation/our memory, is what each of us uses 24/7 to navigate our way through life – with good, bad and indifferent outcomes.
Gale’s small-‘t’ thinking, in the main, was not in service to herself or the common good.
Big- ‘T’ Thought = Possibility — small-‘t’ thinking = impossibility
Dean, big-‘T’ Thought occurs when we have an insight into the realm of Possibility and find a brand-new way forward – a creative idea, an invention, or experiencing the power of unconditional love and understanding.
Big-‘T’ Thought is simply an alternative name for the realm of Possibility.
It’s when we see our current small-‘t’ thinking for the ball and chain it is and see a new way forward. A way to a higher-quality and more peaceful life – a life that contributes to the common good.
It is you and I seeing beyond the illusion created by our accumulation to seeing what is, just like Gale did.
And Dean, we can’t rest on our laurels. Our fresh big-‘T’ Thoughts become our small- ‘t’ thinking at the moment we experience them.
Small-‘t’ thinking is another name for the realm of impossibility.
Why I refer to small-‘t’ thinking as the realm of impossibility, is because it always remains our block to see beyond it. No matter how evolved we may become our beliefs will always remain our block – until we place them aside. Until the moment we see them for the illusions that they are.
While our small-‘t’ thinking is the state of mind we invest our life in, so too is it the illusion we live in – until we don’t.
It’s the block each of us has to seeing Possibility – if we think our beliefs are ‘the truth’ rather than the illusion of reality in which we live.
The good news is that we experience a shift in consciousness – a new reality – as a result of seeing the illusion for what it is.
Moreover, there’s always more to see – deeper and deeper into the yet-to-be-seen realities and more to be understood.
Whether we do keep looking or not, is up to us. We can settle for the reality we live in now, or we can keep looking for the yet-to-be-seen.
There you have it, Dean.
Love … John
* ‘innate innocence’ – please see Possibility … a state of mind pages 50–57.