I have been quite rude over the last week, and have linked to this post twice but had not yet published it. I am, however, glad I finished it for the link does take you here either way. But I will tease you again and publish it today before I begin my incredibly exciting three days of Exxxotica Chicago.
Practice: I have strong feelings about who and what we are as human beings and why we are here. This definitely gets into the metaphysical but that is beyond the scope of this post. In earlier internal debates on the general issue of what we can control and what we can not, I came to the conclusion that we have no control over what we are handed by forces outside of ourselves and complete control over our reaction to it. That conclusion is currently going through some level of readjustment, but that discussion is also for some other time.
What I do want to speak on is that internal reaction, the script we create on the fly in response to what happens to us, anger at being hurt, or seeing those we love hurt, agreement or rejection of shaming comments, empathy for a stranger’s sorrow, admiration of beauty, and those structured, repeated scripts, ways of discussing our own personal past. I can not clearly state that we have any control over the events that cause us to rehearse these emotional scripts, but I can state unequivocally that each time we rehearse them, we have an opportunity to change them, or forgo them entirely.
I was walking down the street just yesterday and an elderly woman walked by in the other direction. I am sure this has happened to you. I took one look at her face and there was no question in my mind that she had diligently practiced frustration and dissatisfaction all her life to the point were she had little ability to react to things in any other way. It was on her face. She had permanent frown lines and a mouth set in the most intense downward curve. These expressions and the emotional intent behind them had been practiced day after day from an early age. At this time of her life, they were the easiest things to do and came without thinking. What lovely company she must be.
But truly, each and every time is an opportunity to do just the tiniest bit of change. As you are walking down the street, take the opportunity to look for something different. I remember a man telling me that when he missed the bus and had to walk, that the world was telling him that there was something on that walk that was there particularly for him. All he had to do was find it. So instead of walking off angry and filled with the frustration of having missed the bus, internally grumbling to himself, it was a treasure hunt. “There is something here for me, some treasure, something I did not know about that is a gift particularly for me.” Which attitude, which way of being would you wish to practice? It is your choice. What kind of company do you wish to be?
I have to say that many times, it ain’t easy. Missing a bus or not getting that morning coffee are minor things compared with being jailed for a crime you did not commit or being unwillingly involved in abuse. But each and every time things happen, each memory that comes through your mind, you do have a choice. Perhaps your anger and frustration, all the piles of negative thoughts are completely justified, no one observing what happened would argue with you, they would commiserate and agree that your reaction was absolutely appropriate. They may even give you new reasons why a stronger reaction would be vindicated.
But if you can, to the tiniest extent, just consider this question. Do those feelings and attitudes make you feel better, or do they just perpetuate your justifiable misery? Remember, even with your attempt, thinking you failed or did not do it well enough, that too is a rehearsed script. Be gentle with yourself first of all, then take that gentleness and give it to others. What do you want to practice? What kind of company do you want to be?