Have you ever witnessed two people experiencing the same event and they each have completely different or even opposite reactions to that event? In today’s post-Covid world, polarized reactions and behaviors among groups of people exposed to a similar experience seems commonplace and practically normative. For many folks, myself included, these equal and opposite behaviors amidst our family and peer groups is hard to reconcile when the reactions are opposite our own.
Perhaps, we could reduce the discord and negativity we feel towards others who think differently from ourselves if we would pause to consider that the reason we react differently to a shared experience is because we each have a lifetime of past experiences. And none of our experiences will ever be exactly like another’s. If we could only hold back judgment and condemnation of the others, and instead consider that ‘reactions’ are nothing more than each person acting out their own true story as written from the script by the author of their each and every past life experience.
Consider this example set in this ‘neutral’ setting from a day at the beach. Observe two opposite reactions which two people might have as a result of their past history. The first person goes to the beach and expects to enjoy the day playing and swimming in the ocean. Whereas when the first person invites their best friend to join them at the beach for a day of fun, the friend experiences anxiety and declines the invitation because they witnessed a drowning and/or nearly drowned in the ocean when they were a child or young person. So this same, neutral place, creates for these two people, two opposite reactions. Isn’t it a little easier to accept that this seemingly neutral place, the beach, may cause differing reactions among all people when we realize that it is each person’s past history or experience which informs their present perceptions about a place or experience?
”There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”William Shakespeare
Again, we all know what it feels like to live in a world of either/or belief systems. Taking sides with or making decisions based on how closely others feel like we do about ‘neutral’ events, places, or activities gives group think its ability to steal our most precious super-power: CHOICE! Each and every life situation we encounter is an opportunity to make a conscious practice of our choosing. What if we were to neutralize our thinking about every day events before making value judgments about them? Could we teach ourselves to take a moment to re-view or re-frame a situation by placing it in a judgment free box and acknowledging that the event or situation IS WHAT IT IS? How would that feel, in our body, and in our emotions If we took a moment to be still and quiet ourselves when encountering difficulties, and simply give these things a time out from our thinking? Might we reduce our anxiety, stress and anger by simply acknowledging that it is our own thoughts about a situation that causes us to suffer?
“When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life.”Eckhart Tolle
I am by no means suggesting that taking a pause or neutralizing our thinking is an easy behavior to master. We are human, and human nature is positively wired to behold and attach negative meaning to things first and foremost. It is partly why we have survived the eons. However, because we are human, we have capacity to evolve and improve upon our base instincts and nature. And I am neither so naïve as to suggest or believe that the presence or experience of evil in this world can be positively negated by our good thinking. Rather, what I am asking us to grapple with and wake up to for ourselves is this: A life well lived, is lived from the inside out. And as Eckhart Tolle so succinctly teaches, “Life is primary (to life circumstances).
Life is your deepest inner Being. It is already whole, complete, perfect.”
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Observe your thoughts, don’t believe them.”Eckhart Tolle