Note: This is the last in a series of posts about living an aware, awake life. Here are the links to the series:
- Is Your Deepest Longing a Part-Time Hobby?
- Why Studying Your Habits Pays Off Immeasurably
- A Brief Guide to the Power of Love
Even though the series is over, the delights and challenges of inhabiting our lives completely, of living as aliveness itself, of surrendering into the flow of life continue. And I happily continue to share with you the tools and insights that have supported me along the way.
“When you struggle with your partner, you are struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them touches a denied weakness in yourself.”
Are you ready for the next level of clarity and happiness? Would you like your daily life to be more peaceful and sane? Well, here is the good news: the clues are all around you.
For, as the saying goes, what we do to others, we do to ourselves.
It Always Comes Down to You
Take any reaction you have toward someone else, any desire you have for the other to change. Turn it around and see that the source of it, and the potential resolution, is within you. Remember that common break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me?” Well, I’m here to tell you – it’s always you. Our thoughts and feelings originate within us and are never caused by someone else.
Can you see how freeing this is? We let go of the impossible – trying to control other people’s behavior – and we look within ourselves to untangle our own reactions. Once we do, we simply aren’t triggered as much. Our contentment is not dependent on what other people do or say.
Several years ago, I had a lightbulb moment that changed everything. I was driving down a street, and ahead of me was a high-end BMW with a vanity license plate. Immediately, a judging thought appeared in my mind about the car’s owner. Then, by some stroke of grace, I got the full extent of the impact of that thought. It was not at all about the other person. Not only did it bring disharmony to me in that moment, but it fed divisiveness and separation.
It was not how I wanted to be, and it didn’t serve me or anyone else.
The Truth About Our Reactions
Avoiding our own problems by focusing on the other is intrinsic to our culture. People who run countries and corporations rarely take responsibility for themselves. They look to others to satisfy their demands and expectations, which is one reason our world is in so much trouble. The most intelligent, compassionate thing we can do is start by looking within ourselves. Where are you still struggling? Here are some hints.
- When we lie to others, we are betraying ourselves.
- When we hide from others, we are hiding from ourselves.
- When we reject others, we are rejecting a part of ourselves.
- When we judge others, we feed inner division.
- When we are defensive toward others, we are blind to our own pain.
- When we blame others, we pretend we aren’t part of the solution.
- When we are heartless toward others, we miss that our own hearts are closed.
Any reaction we have toward another is a signal, a neon light, to remind us to turn our attention toward ourselves. Do you find yourself frustrated or fed up, lonely or lacking? Turn your attention inward to explore your own thoughts and feelings. I guarantee you will discover the kernel of truth that will set you free.
Overcoming Obstacles to Inner Reflection
Disconnection from our inner selves runs rampant in our society. Here are some reasons why:
- We are overstimulated by input which draws our attention outward.
- We resist being quiet and still.
- We are afraid of what we might find out about ourselves.
- We think that being vulnerable is weak.
- We don’t know how to handle strong emotions.
- We are afraid of our feelings.
If you want to nourish happiness and peace, if you want to express your light rather than your shadow, set upon a course to dispel these obstacles, with love. Start by being compassionate toward yourself. Then, find quiet time. Learn to meditate. Question your beliefs. Take the plunge and face your emotions. Get to know how your triggers work, and lovingly embrace all the hurting parts of yourself. If you need help, contact a therapist, guide, or teacher.
The Choice to Pay Attention
It all boils down to what we want. How do you want to live your life? What do you want to offer to the world?
The answers are not in vague ideas or broad brushstrokes. Pay attention to the moments of your life, because that is where the answers are. Notice all the sticky places – the places of disillusionment, settling, and despair. The tensions in your body, the reactions so familiar that you take them for granted.
Get a hold of yourself. Know that you will not find the ease you seek by changing other people. People do what they do – that is their job, and it is out of your control. Have the courage to take a stand for what is most important to you. Then continually open your heart to all the tender places in you.
Only you hold the key to your freedom.
How do you avoid yourself? What have you learned from reflecting inward?
image: Thomas Perkins