I'm sitting in the cafe at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and I overhear two people beside me having a conversation. Conflict and tension is so easy to identify, even in hushed tones.
Listening to others made me mindful of my own process, my own inner thoughts. I've been doing that all weekend but this one sentence jumped out at me, "you're so caught up in how you're seeing it, that you're really not even hearing me".
Do you know that we have a story about how things are? Our story is our perspective, our version, our interpretation of a conversation, interaction, experience or event.
It's the same truth, told with different words or in different ways: your perspective is just that, yours. And there are as many different perspectives as there are beings.
This is useful to remember especially when difficult feelings come up--things like fear, rejection, frustration, disappointment, confusion and shame. If we can remember that we're feeling those things because we are only considering our perspective (and essentially missing 50% or more of what's REALLY happening), we can potentially reduce the impact of those feelings. And I'm not even saying that those feelings are bad or wrong. But compare how you feel in your body and soul when you experience those feelings compared to joy, lightness, compassion, love and connection. It's liberating to know that we can decide which ones we experience and for how long.
It's liberating, but it does require effort and intention.
It's so simple as a concept but was really hard for me to grasp initially. For many years, it was an abstract idea that I got but didn't really integrate into my everyday life. Recently, it's become more consistent in the background of my mind whenever I feel triggered and slipping into what Pema calls "disagreeable" feelings or experiences.
When I heard these two people in conversation, going round and round, trying desperately to communicate but being so invested in their own story, it felt so familiar. I heard other people struggling with what I know so well.
Isn't it so comforting to know other people experience the same turmoil, confusion and struggle that comes with being human?
So much of that is caused by our story--and our attachment to it. I got so clear that my story isn't the problem, really. It happens. It comes up. It's a product of my mind doing it's job which is to make sense of everything. If it didn't happen at all, wow. Pure bliss. Perhaps that's enlightenment. I'll tell you when it happens.
The problem or, more accurately, the suffering, comes from my attachment to the story. Whatever I make the story mean then guides my actions, behaviors, thoughts, words, etc. In the moment I think my story is "the truth", I make decisions based on that. If I can remember my story is one of many possible truths, a whole new set of possibilities is open to me.
By letting go of the story, we can liberate ourselves from the box of limited options of responses. We can limit our suffering. We can move from a dead-end to an open road. With this simple action, we can flip the switch of sadness, isolation and despair to happiness, connection and joy.
What powerful beings we are!