By Kevin Schoeninger
It’s been over thirty years since I had this experience and yet it’s so vivid that I am still learning from it today. In this article, I’ll share why the insight from this experience was so important—and how it led to another insight that was even more profound. This second insight opened the door to a special technique that I now use every day to put me into a state of heightened awareness and powerful positive energy. I hope you’ll find these insights just as powerful in your life.
The first experience happened on a sunny spring day in the early 1980s, when I was attending St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. I was walking up the steps to the library and my mind was running over notes from my last class, when I saw a leaf on the ground in front of me. Now, normally, a leaf wouldn’t stop me in my tracks, but I can say that this particular leaf changed my life. And here’s why.
“Hey, that’s a sycamore leaf,” I thought. I looked up and saw this massive tree towering over me. “Wow, what an awesome tree! It must be hundreds of years old. How could I have missed that up to now?”
I had passed this way hundreds of times before, but I’d never even noticed that tree. That’s when this insight flashed into my mind. “All our experiences are like that!” I stood still as the meaning of that sunk in. The words “What we experience is the result of what we bring to the experience!” came into my head. I rushed into the library, found a desk, and began to write furiously as the impact of this hit me.
You see I had just learned about the sycamore tree and the shape of its leaf in my last class. That’s why I now saw the leaf and then the tree that I had never seen before, even though I’d passed by it hundreds of times. Because I now knew something about it, it now meant something to me, and that knowledge was fresh in my mind, I saw the tree for the first time.
So, why is this important?
It’s important because everything we experience is like that. Our current experience is the result of “where we are coming from at the moment.” At that moment, I was coming from a class in which I learned about that tree and “all-of-a-sudden” it appeared before me—almost like magic.
In that moment, it dawned on me that what we experience is the result of the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, memories, knowledge, insight, the state of our body, and countless other internal factors that filter what appears before us. What we experience from the infinite variety of possible experiences that are available at any given moment is determined by our inner state.
Now, here’s the exciting part. If what we experience is the result of what we bring to our experience, that gives us tremendous power to change our experiences by changing “where we are coming from.” If we choose to focus on something different, hold a different belief, feel a different feeling, learn something new, change the physical state of our body, or any number of other internal changes we could make, we change our experience. We have the power to do that—instantly—at any moment!
I call this first insight “The Law of Perception”: What we experience is the result of where we are coming from at the moment.
When we don’t understand this Law of Perception, it can lead to all kinds of struggle.
First, when we are unaware of the process by which we have experiences, we think that we just “see things the way they are.” Experiences seem to just happen to us and we live with what we get. When we are unaware of the process by which we experience things, we live as passive receivers of whatever happens, rather than seeing ourselves as conscious co-creators of our experience.
Second, we get very attached to our experiences, thinking that they represent what is Really happening. When we don’t understand the process by which we have experiences, we hang onto our perceptions as if they are the REAL TRUTH. We cling to our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences. We identify ourselves with them.
This leads to all sorts of conflict. It sets up conflict with others when they don’t see things the way I do. It also leads to internal struggle. For example, what if I have the thought that “I’m not safe, “I’m incompetent,” “I’m unworthy,” or any number of limiting beliefs that I could hold? If I view these beliefs as “the way things are,” I’m in for a struggle.
Third, when we don’t understand that our experiences result from what we are doing inside, we end up seeking what we want “outside ourselves.” We search for what we want in other people, jobs, status, recognition, and things. We end up searching outside ourselves for something that is only available inside. The result of that is “coming up empty.”
Now, that first insight set me off on a quest to understand the factors involved in “where I am coming from at the moment.” If I understood those, I’d have power to change my experience for the better. So I dove into studying philosophy, psychology, phenomenology, and the like.
That led me to this second experience. A few years into that quest, between undergrad and grad school, I took a trip out West—to the “Big Sky Country” in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming. For thirty days, I drove, hiked, and camped far away from the city life that I had grown up with on the East Coast. I visited Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons, and the Rockies.
At first, I was actually a little terrified of the spaciousness, the silence, the lack of what I was used to, and the lack of human and technological stimulation. I walked for hours and sat with my fears in the vast open space of that landscape. It felt eerie to be without all the lights and busy-ness of “the human world.” One thing I noticed in the silence was that my thoughts and feelings seemed to broadcast like a bullhorn.
Then, after a few weeks, I came to enjoy the absence of the things I had known. There was freedom in not eating the same food, seeing the same sights, or doing the same things. There was freedom in all this space, silence, and doing nothing productive.
My mind quieted down. My body relaxed. My feelings chilled out. I had thoughts like “What is the absolute minimum that I need?” And I began to feel that I might actually be much happier with having less, doing less, thinking less, and just being present and going with the flow of life without detailed plans for every little moment.
At the end of that month, I remember sitting on the airplane coming home with the deepest feeling of peace, clarity, and comfort that I’d ever known. I felt that everything was perfect exactly as it was. I felt whole and complete.
When I arrived home from that trip I was a bit overwhelmed with the return to “mega-stimulation.” I didn’t want to lose that experience of inner peace. I wanted it to stay with me. If I lost it, I wanted to know how to “get it back,” to repeat that experience and grow it—without living in the wilderness.
So, I began to investigate “what that was” and “how to cultivate it.” I learned that this experience was described in many traditions, with many different words, but the same idea. It was an experience of Inner Essence. Some years later I learned to describe it like this:
Underneath it all, under your thoughts, feelings, memories, and experiences, you are a peaceful, loving presence. You are part of One Life that we all share. And this Essential experience is available to you at any time.
I call this The Law of Essence: that you can tap into that peaceful, loving presence at any time and, when you come from there, you experience who you are and what you truly desire.
My quest then became: How do I come from my Inner Essence? How do I practice “that” and grow “that” in my life?
Now, you could say, well, you already “are that,” in fact, that is who you are, so what’s there to practice? While there’s some truth there, it’s also true that we forget and that we can grow in remembrance, understanding, and realization. That became my quest.
This quest took me into T’ai Chi, Qigong meditation, Kriya Yoga, HeartMath, Bio-feedback, Reiki, and numerous other arts and techniques. Through this journey, I found a way to put together what I learned in a daily practice that shifts me into an integrated Essence experience of heightened awareness and powerful internal energy. I’ve discovered that, when “I come from there,” life unfolds in the best possible ways.
If you’d like to learn more about this special technique, follow the link in the Resource Box below.
Enjoy your practice!
Author’s Bio: Kevin Schoeninger graduated from Villanova University in 1986 with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. He is certified as a Life Coach, Reiki Master Teacher, Qigong Meditation Instructor, and Personal Fitness Trainer. Kevin is a co-founder of The Mind Body Training Center.