THE FIGHT

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Do you relate to this familiar scenario?

You get into a spat with your partner, or it could be a family member, friend, or other.

The other person becomes angry and either communicates angrily, withdraws, or both.

You are angry, and maybe hurt.  There is distance between the two of you, and you feel that you are owed an apology.  You are focused on the other person’s angry behavior, words and withdrawal. How could they be so difficult? And you didn’t deserve any of this. Right?

As long as both you and the other person stay in this place, there continues to be distance between you.  Sometimes through no bad intention this painful distance can go on for hours. Or days. Or even can go on so long that you both forget why you a had a fight in the first place. Wow.

How can caring people climb out of this cold, miserable place?

What is needed is for you to step back and look at the situation more objectively rather than just from your own point of view. Look at the whole situation from the perspective of an impartial outside observer.  Try to imagine what the other person’s experience might have been like.  You need to be able to appreciate that both you and the other person are likely feeling very similarly.  The fact that you too have been angry and you also have something to apologize for can come as a revelation, and may be hard to accept initially.

Everyone has their own experience, and each person can legitimately see how they have been egregiously wronged. But why does each of us struggle to see the other’s painful experience? How can something so obvious remain so hidden from us?

The ego can be very good at focusing on the other person’s bad behavior, feeling wronged, and feeling self-righteous anger. That self-righteous smugness can feel pretty good.

And it gets worse.  Even when you start to see that it might be a good idea to apologize for anything on your part and take away the distance between the two of you, the ego can fight the idea.  It can make you feel that that would be a mistake, and that you would be giving in and losing something.  It can make you feel that you’re betraying yourself.

But the self-righteous smugness and the distance may not sit well with another part of you.  In actuality, in bridging a gap between yourself and someone you care about, you are actually being mature and self-aware.  The shift to being more objective, being able to see things more impartially and compassionately, gives you a more accurate perspective.  What you will likely achieve by apologizing for your part is feeling better about yourself for being more mature and coming from a bigger part of yourself, restoring the peace and harmony between you, and perhaps even prompting an apology from the other person.

So: practice mistrusting your ego, that part of you which tends to be one-sided, feel hard done by, and prone to self-righteous anger.  Practice shifting into an objective observer, calmly looking at the whole situation from the outside in order to gain the objectivity that you need to handle the situation with maturity.  You will be left feeling better about yourself, as well has having more harmony in your life.

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ARE YOU LOOKING UP OR DOWN?

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Please do this as an experiential exercise in order to get the most out of it.

Think of a time when you felt inferior.  Sit down and imagine looking up at others.  Allow the feeling of inferiority to be there now.  Notice how it feels in your body.  How would you describe it?  Notice the degree of unpleasantness there is.  Notice how familiar this experience is to you, and whether the familiarity of it has changed over time.  We will say that in this experience you are looking upward at others as somehow superior to you, and we will label it as “A”.

Now think of a time when you felt superior. This can include a time you were judgemental or angry.  Stand up and imagine looking down at someone.  Allow the feeling to be there now.  Notice how this experience feels in your body.  How would you describe it?  Notice if it’s pleasant or unpleasant.  Compare the degree of unpleasantness with that of “A”.  Of the two, which feels preferable?  Notice how familiar this experience is to you.  How familiar is it in comparison with the familiarity of   “A”? Has the familiarity of it changed over time?  We will say that in this experience you are looking downward at others as being somehow inferior to you, and we will label it as “B”.

Now think of a time when you felt equal to another.  Imagine being on the same level as someone.  Allow the feeling to be there now.  Notice how this experience feels in your body.  How would you describe it?  Is it pleasant or unpleasant?  How familiar is this experience?  How familiar is it in comparison to “A” and “B”?  Has its familiarity changed over time?  We will say that in this experience you are looking straight across at another, neither looking upward nor downward, and perceiving yourself as neither inferior nor superior, but rather as equal, and we will label it as “C”.

Did you find that the experience of feeling equal was by far the most pleasant, feeling relaxed, at ease, and “right”?  Did you find that “B” was not ideal, but was preferable to “A”? In “B”, people tend to feel big/powerful, and less constricted that in “A”, but it tends to feel uncomfortable or wrong.  In “A”, people can feel small, they may feel like hiding, and they may feel tension, constriction or other unpleasant sensations in the body.

Making Sense of  & Using Your Experience

Equality (“C”) is based on the truth that we are all of equal worth.  That is why it feels so right.  When we are not coming from an ego driven place, and therefore equal is available to us, it is always chosen because it is by far the most preferable.

When we are trapped by ego, equality (“C”) is not available to us, and so we must feel either inferior (“A”) or superior (“B”).  Can you see how these two are actually flip sides of the same coin?  Because “B” feels preferable to “A”, sometimes the insecurity of the ego will unconsciously take us into superiority or judgement, in order to escape inferiority that feels so bad.

So when you witness a bully or an arrogant or critical individual, you can know that it is their insecurity that is driving  their “B” behavior.

Also, you can watch your own experience.  Celebrate and enjoy it when you are feeling equal.  When you notice yourself feeling either inferior or superior, don’t trust it, and don’t stay there, but shift into the truth of equality.  If someone’s behavior is inviting you to go into feeling inferior, don’t accept the invitation.  Rather see what is happening, know that it is their insecurity driving their behavior, and stay feeling equal.  You may even have compassion for them from here.  When you are judging others for being judgemental, you have been lured into feeling superior (“B”).  Catch yourself and come back into equality, feeling understanding and compassion for those others instead of judgement.  Likely, their environment has influenced them.  When you judge them, you’re operating from your insecure ego.

JUDGMENT: THE GOOD,THE BAD & THE UGLY

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inTo clarify what I am referring to, passing judgment onto someone is to look down on them, seeing them as somehow not okay.  This is obviously different from having “good judgment”.

Also, separating a behavior from the person doing it and seeing the behavior as negative while having compassion for the person, is not judgement.

So for the type of judgment we are talking about, there is actually no good; there is only bad and

Of all the harmful things in the world, one of the worst, I think, is judgement. One of the reasons it is so harmful is because it is everywhere. Wherever there are people, you will find judgement. Another reason is because it is so insidious.

Individuals judge others. Individuals judge themselves. Groups judge others. Races judge each other. Countries judge each other.

And the result is conflict everywhere from an intrapersonal to interpersonal to a global level. There is hatred of one’s self, hatred of other persons, hatred of groups and types of people who are different in different ways, and hatred of nations, resulting in war and bloodshed.

Judgement of one’s self is the root cause of shame, which can lead to a whole host of suffering, including depression, anxiety, isolation, substance abuse, behavioral problems, problems with the law, and suicide.

Judgement is the root cause of all types of discrimination, whether over race, religion, sexual orientation, or whatever.

Judgement is the root cause of exclusion, bullying, and inhumane treatment of others.

Judgement is dangerous because people often feel self-righteous, not realizing that whatever they are judging is not as bad as the judgement itself that they are taking part in.

It is also dangerous because, as we said, it is so ubiquitous and insidious. I have more than once caught myself being judgemental of people because they were so judgemental! Or once a person becomes attuned to how much self-judgement there is, they may fall into the trap of judging themselves for self-judgement.

Feeling judged, whether it is from within or the outside, creates a noxious feeling of feeling unacceptable. That’s why it can lead to a lot of misery. And when people act out of that ungrounded state, it definitely does not bring out the best in them. They may react in some form of anger or violence towards others or themselves, or may withdraw or isolate.

Judgement is a product of the human ego, which is by nature insecure. Looking down upon someone else at an unconscious level makes us feel better about ourselves. The ego is very good at potentially using any difference in order to do this. Because we all have an ego, and are thus all prone to judgement, we need to be on a constant watch for this destructive activity.

The Antidote

 When we are grounded and know that we are okay, acceptable, and loveable, just as we are, we no longer need to judge. We can notice things and behaviors that we don’t prefer, but we can keep those separate from the people involved. Where appropriate, we can feel compassion for the people rather than judgement. We can enjoy feeling the reality of our equality with others, not needing to feel the inferiority nor the superiority of the ego.

I believe that the world is full of well-meaning people. Yet what a mess we have made of things! The reason, in my opinion, is that there is too much ego and thus judgement operating. If everyone only stopped being as concerned with others’ wrongs, and really focused instead on trying to keep themselves as free of judgement as possible, the world could be a much better place.

Common wise aphorisms expressing the same sentiment:

Live and let live.

Vive les differences.

From the Bible: Take the log from your own eye before you worry about the speck in your brother’s eye

So humbly practice compassion for yourself and for others, and enjoy feeling the truth of your equality with everyone. Nobody is perfect, including you, and that is okay.

 

 

CALMING YOUR BUSY MIND

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Everyone has what we’ll call “big mind”, which is quite wonderful, capable of planning, problem solving, great ideas, and creativity. It can be likened to beautiful wild flowers sprouting up here and there in a mountain meadow.

Then there is the troublesome “small mind” or egoic mind, sometimes referred to as “monkey mind”, which unfortunately, everyone also had. It is borne of fear. It produces negative thoughts of three main kinds: it DOUBTS, FEARS, and JUDGES. If one listens to it, it can wreak all sorts of havoc, causing anxiety, indecisiveness, and guilt. It is, by definition, never content. Even if you won the Nobel Prize, it could question why it took so long, or doubt that it was really deserved.

“Hinduism likens the mind’s restlessness to a crazed monkey cavorting about in its cage. Or rather, a drunken crazed monkey. But more, a drunken, crazed monkey that has St. Vitus’ Dance. Even this is insufficient. The mind is like a drunken crazed monkey with St. Vitus’ Dance who has just been stung by a wasp” Houston Smith

Fortunately, there are ways to manage “small mind” to minimize the trouble it can cause. First of all, it is helpful to think of it as “it”, and not you. Identify instead with inhabiting your body, where you can feel the calmness of knowing the truth as a felt sense, as in the expression: ‘I knew it deep down’.

Where attention goes, energy follows. So if you focus your attention on the truth and the felt sense of it ‘deep down’, it will feel more true. If you want, it helps to use a pleasant image that induces relaxation, as it is easier to trust the truth if one is more relaxed. If, however, you focus your attention on the nonsense produced by “small mind”, it will create distress and cause the body to tense up.

So one strategy is just ignoring it, and focusing your attention on feeling the truth in your body instead. As you continue to do this, the truth feels truer and truer, and the mind quietens.

Another helpful strategy comes from recognizing that small mind is actually trying to protect you, believing that you are in danger when you are not. This seems to be a learned activity, from the past. So you can direct it to notice the calmness of knowing the truth in your body and reassure it that it is safe to trust it and that you are no longer needing that protection. This will allow it to quieten. This feels very empowering, because you are taming “small mind” instead of allowing it to control you and drive you crazy.

You can also use what’s true to argue back with what “small mind” is saying.

You can also recognize it for what it is and dismiss it, laughing at it.

It is important to develop the habit of being aware of “small mind” when it arises, and not trusting it. Dealing with past traumas, or difficulties results in less negativity in thinking, as does treating depression and anxiety with medication.

When one tries to make decisions using “small mind”, one can spend a very long time and still be unsure, or make unwise decisions. Whereas if one goes to a calm state, where there is access to knowing and trusting oneself, groundedness, and wisdom, good guidance is readily available. So why waste time and energy going to the dry creek for water when the river is there? So when you need to make a decision and you’re not calm, the first thing to do is get yourself calm and THEN WONDER about your question. Allow time, and then notice what arises from your wondering. This process, which involves the felt sense of knowing in the body, is a slower process than the frantic rapid thinking of “small mind”. Allowing yourself to “not know” and “wonder” allows insights, truths, and ideas to emerge: the beautiful wildflowers of the wonderful BIG MIND.

So practice slowing down, being aware, wondering, and focusing on the calm feeling of Knowing in the body-on a regular basis.

Even though we all have a “small mind” that has the potential to drive us around the bend, there are ways to manage it, and tame it to become quieter over time.