Thursday, October 04, 2018

Feeling the Connection

I was recently meeting with a group of friends. We were talking about having lovingkindness for all beings. I was talking about my feeling of connection with all that exists, with all other beings. They were complaining that they don't feel this connection, especially with people with whom they disagree or they don't like. But I assured them, it's there.

I asked them to try this exercise with me. We sat in a circle facing each other. Feet firmly planted on the ground. Eyes closed, body relaxed. I asked them to hum a mantra or chant. We used the syllable Ohm. There's nothing magical about that syllable, you can use anything you want. But that ah sound is deep and rich and resonates well within your body, and if you're in a room with good acoustics, it resonates beautifully in the room. We happened to be outside.

So I asked them to repeatedly chant this sound along with me. We sat silently and chanted the syllable several times. I asked them if, as they were listening to the sound being produced by those around them, if this made them feel more connected to those individuals. We sat and chanted some more. As I listened to the person next to me, the energy of the sound connected with my hearing apparatus. Light and sound are both energy. They produce waves that are sent out and connect with other beings. When you see another person, light is bouncing off their bodies and into your eyes. When they make sound, that energy wave is being sent out and connects with your ears. You are literally connected to them.

But those are only the forms of energy that our senses are consciously aware of and can pick up. It's a fact that our unconscious minds take in 11 million bits of information per second, but our conscious minds can only process 40 bits per second. So almost all of what the communication we receive from the outside world is beyond our conscious perception. But our unconscious minds collect what we can't perceive, store it, and use it to help us make unconscious decisions.

The point is, you are connected to every other being in ways you can't consciously perceive, but they exist nonetheless.

As we sat chanting, we became aware of this connection because the sound allows us to perceive the connection. And after the chanting, those who participated said that yes, it did help them feel more connected to those around them.

I encouraged them to realize, next time they are hearing someone talking who is saying something they don't like, or they think about someone they've had conflict with or simply don't feel connected to, realize that you do have an imperceptible connection to that person. You can leave the room, turn off their voice, put them out of your mind, but you are still connected. You need to find a way to deal with your feelings toward them because you can't sever that connection, and you'll be unhappy the rest of your life by being connected to people who you feel negatively towards.

You can't change the fact that you are connected. You can only change your own reaction toward this connection. It's really the only chance you've got to be happy.

You can't even alleviate it by becoming a hermit, because even when you're alone, the connection to the rest of the human race is still there.

You were born into a network of imperceptible energy connections. The chanting only highlighted and made that connection perceptible for you. If you've ever had a thought about that person, that thought is in your unconscious mind, so even when you're not consciously thinking of them, you are connected to them unconsciously.

So you better get some happy thoughts about that person, or you'll be miserable the rest of your life.

How can you have happy thoughts about a person you don't like? It's not hard at all.

Your thoughts about that person are part of your story. The story that says they're a bad person. They story that says they've done bad things. But it's just a story.

But you say no, it's not just a story. And you start recounting all the bad things they've done. But the past is just a story. It's not happening now, it's over. The past is not real. It's only in your imagination. You keep it alive by continuing to think about it and characterize it as bad.

What happened in the past doesn't matter. It's just a movie that's playing in your head.

You might say "That person is hurting me by saying x, y, z. They shouldn't be doing that."

Can you absolutely, positively know that it's true that they shouldn't be doing that?

They're not saying anything to you right now. You're just remembering something that was said in the past. And the past isn't real. So in real time, right now, nobody's hurting you. It is absolutely not true that they are hurting you. Only your memory is hurting you. The thoughts you insist on clinging to are hurting you.

Who would you be without the thought "They shouldn't be doing that?" Pretend you're standing in front of that person, and they're saying something you don't like, and you're thinking "They shouldn't be doing that." It doesn't feel good, does it?

Now what if you couldn't think that thought? What if it was impossible for you to think the thought "They shouldn't be doing that." You're standing there in front of them and they are talking and if you couldn't think that thought, how would you respond to what they're saying?

Let's imagine they are saying "You never take responsibility for anything that's your fault." Now, if you aren't able to think the thought "They shouldn't be doing that," what would you be thinking about what they're saying? Answer this question for me. Has there ever been a time when you didn't take responsibility for something you did? I think we could all say that yes, we've done that at one time or another. So that person is speaking the truth to you, but you push that truth away by saying they shouldn't be telling you that. It's just a defense mechanism.

If you weren't thinking the thought "They shouldn't be doing that" you'd be able to see where the other person is coming from. And that would make them more human to you. That would make you both able to connect. Then you'd be able to respond by saying "Yes, I can see that, and I'm working on that." What would be so wrong with that? It's so important for us to be right that we're willing to make the other person wrong every simgle time in order to feel better about ourselves. Except we don't feel better. Remember, when you think "They shouldn't be saying that" it doesn't feel good.

The goal is to see things clearly, and by doing so, relieve stress and suffering so you can feel good. Blaming doesn't feel good.

Removing the idea of "I need to be right all the time" helps to alleviate stress. You don't need to be right all the time, and neither does anybody else. In fact, nobody has to be right, ever.

You don't have to be right all the time, and you can't expect others to be right all the time. It's just not reality. Reality is that people are imperfect.

You are no more perfect than the people you don't like.

We are all the same.

Yes, you say, but I haven't done x, y, or z like they did.

No, but you've done other hurtful things. We all have.

Own it.

The fact that you can acknowledge that we are all the same, we are all imperfect, we are all on a level playing field. There's nothing unfair happening. It's just your story, your illusion, to make youself look good.

There's nothing unfair happening.

When you truly see that, all the disconnection falls away.


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     Judie McMath

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Friday, February 23, 2018

We Are In Control of Nothing

The idea that we are in control of our lives is an illusion. We are not in charge of anything; whether or not we get cancer, whether we get a good job or not, whether someone else loves us or not, or whether or not we get shot down by terrorists. Sure, we might be able to improve the odds of good things happening by eating healthy foods, going to college and working hard, being sweet and trying to please people, or staying out of dangerous places. But ultimately, we just aren't in control of what happens in our lives.

When you really think about the prospect that you have no control over anything, that can be a little bit upsetting. But there is one thing you ARE in control of, or can be in control of. And that's yourself.

I often tell people that I am happy all the time, don't worry about things, feel peaceful and contented despite my circumstances and can get along with even the most irritating person. I don't stress about life. When I say those things, some people are in awe of it, and some are incredulous. They don't believe it's possible, don't believe I am capable of it. They think I am exaggerating or even outright lying.

But I'm not. This is truly how I feel.

But that's not to say that those worries don't pop up. Sometimes a disquieting thought will happen. But I'm in control of what I do with that thought.

Thoughts fleetingly come and go through our minds at all times. We can't prevent that from happening. Our minds imagine all kinds of things. We have good imaginations and our brains work constantly to stretch our creative muscles. Therefore, we are constantly creating scenarios in our minds where we make up stories about what MIGHT happen. Most of those things never happen. But we can frighten ourselves into living a very limited kind of life if we believe those thoughts.

When a disquieting thought comes up, I choose to deal with it in a way that keeps my peace intact.

The other day, I was explaining to some friends that I feel this connection with all that exists. This connection helps me know how to treat people in every situation because I believe our universe is a large living organism of which we are all a part. I would no sooner hurt someone else than to hurt my own body. In a way, every person or thing that exists is part of my body. Just as we don't want to bring pain to our own bodies, it would hurt me to know I'd brought pain to another being.

My friends were saying that they don't feel this connction themselves. They can accept it intellectually, that we are all dependent on each other in this ecosystem which we all share. But that it is not something they feel with their hearts.

I don't like being judgemental because it doesn't feel good. It feels like I am hurting others and myself. I don't like putting others down, it doesn't feel good. I like having unconditional positive regard for everyone. Everyone deserves respect, even if their thoughts, beliefs or actions aren't desirable. If I injure my foot, I might not like the fact that my foot is hurting, but I still love my foot and want to nuture it back to health. The same is true of others in my life. They may say or do somethign unpleasant, but that doesn't mean I am going to abandon them or cut them off. I will try to nurture them, be supportive to them, and if it's the only thing I can do, leave them alone to live their lives. But I won't intentionally hurt them.

I try not to take a side. If you take a side, that's a judgment. You've judged that one side is right and the other is wrong. I have learned that rarely is it that black and white. If I don't take a side, I can maintain respect for everyone. If I get up on my high horse and start to preach about one side being wrong and the other being right, I have become divisive. I've alienated someone. Mostly myself, because if I believe someone is wrong, then that makes me feel negative toward them, makes me feel I don't want to be around them, and creates this artificial wall between us. And that doesn't feel good.

It's also not constructive because when you create that wall, you've stopped listening to that other person. You become unable to consider their point of view. Once you've decided they're wrong, something in your brain prevents you from seeing your bias.

Now, having said all that, this finally has become very easy for me to do. I've trained myself to think this way. But I don't want you to think that I never had a stressful thought or never feel inclined to take a side. It still happens, but it's what I do with it that counts.

Yesterday I was watching David Letterman interview Barack Obama after he had left office. When the interview was beginning, I didn't know who Letterman's guest was going to be. He then said, "Let's welcome the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama." And then, my heart jumped up into my mouth. There was a sudden rush of adrenaline and I was so happy. Because I don't think there is a person in the world that I respect more than Barack Obama.

It's no secret that I have been very disappointed in our current president and the direction he is taking the country. But as I do with every other person in my life, I try not to have negative feelings toward him, and I continue to believe that everything will be all right in the end.

But for a moment, my mind started to stretch its creative muscle, and I imagined what it would be like if Barack Obama was to run for president again. I imagined hearing the announcement that he had won the election, and I watched my internal reaction. I jumped for joy, shouted, and felt vindicatred in disliking our current president.

In that moment, I had taken a side. You must realize how easy it is for this to happen, even for someone who has trained themselves to do otherwise.

The difference is, you don't have to stay in that moment. I make a conscious choice every day to be happy in my present circumstances, whatever they are, not to make other people wrong, and to go with the flow of life.And it works for me pretty well.

Because I am not in control of anything, except how I respond to my circumstances. When I start to take a side, that's a circumstance I'm not in control of. But my response to those thoughts, I can make a choice about. Eventually, after constantly reminding myself not to take a side, not to make others wrong, not to try and be right, it becomes almost second nature. And those judgmental thoughts stop happening as often.

The point is, being happy no matter what your circumstances is possible for anyone. It may take you a while of constantly training yourself to get to that point. But I wouldn't trade the ability to stand in that place for anything. It's an invaluable skill. And it's a skill that you can learn.

Whether I'm in control of my life or not (mostly not), the point is, I don't want to suffer. This way of life has reduced my suffering from 90% down to 5%. And it continues to inch lower. It might not ever get to zero because I still have a fight-or-flight response that kicks in occasionally in an involuntary way. But I can quickly dispense with whatever the momentary fluctuation in mood is by reminding myself to stay out of other people's business, and just enjoy my life.

Because no matter what's going on outside myself, right here in this present moment, I am still all right.