Last week, I was told I was full of new age bullshit. Two days later I had someone tell me I was a warrior of light. The highs and lows of a week in the life of a yoga teacher? Karma balancing everything out? One can’t be sure.
Sure, the first statement made me cringe and also made me feel more than a little sad and confused. And, yes, the second statement had my ego puffing up its chest and thinking, “That’s more like it!” but honestly, each statement said more about the person saying it than it did about me.
I can’t own either statement. People will always see what they want to see.
I find that what you see in others, the stuff that inspires you about someone and the stuff that truly annoys you is a direct reflection of how you are feeling about yourself and the life you are creating. If you find the people surrounding you are angry, combative, and stressed all of the time, you are also probably angry, combative, and stressed. If you see others as inherently good and working for their best outcome, guess what? They will be.
People will say things about you or to you throughout your life. That’s the way people are. Some of these things will be compliments and some of these things will echo some of the worst thoughts you’ve ever had about yourself and be tough to take. What matters most is if you make a choice each day to respond with kindness no matter what is said or done to you or if you choose to react and let the other person drag you down to their frequency.
One of my favorite Zen stories is an illustration of this kind of flexible and dynamic acceptance.
Three hundred years ago in a small Japanese village Zen master Hakuin lived a quiet, contemplative life and was well loved by the villagers. A beautiful girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child. This made her parents very angry. She would not tell them who had fathered the child, but after much harassment she at last said” “It was Hakuin.” In great anger the parents went to the master and expressed their rage. “Is that so?” was all he would say.
When the child was born, the parents brought the little boy to Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
A year later the young girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth — that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market. The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again. Hakuin slowly placed the baby in the grandmother’s arms. In yielding the child all he said was: “Is that so?”
Life will bring up challenges every once in awhile. Not everyone is going to think well of you or love you when you want them to. Practice love and forgiveness anyway. When I run into adversity or have someone come at me with anger, jealousy, or fear I practice forgiveness as I would practice my yoga – diligently. Forgiveness is hard work, but I find I do it for myself more than for the other person involved. It helps me to release the feelings from the situation so that I can look at it objectively and clearly know where I might have been in the wrong. Here are a few ways in which I have learned to come back to peace.
- In the moment, I connect with my breath and listen to what they are saying so that I can be perfectly clear with myself afterwards. I become silent and only speak if I truly need to. If I speak, I try to be as calm and clear as possible.
- Whenever my mind brings up the conflict, and it will over and over again until I acknowledge the situation bothered me, I pray for that person. This is not easy to do, but when you make a habit of it over time it will be your first response. What it does for me is opens my heart to their journey. Maybe I’m not someone that can be a positive influence for them and that’s okay. I can still honor their place on this planet and wish them well.
- I sit in meditation and picture the person that has caused me any drama or conflict as the happiest they have ever been in their life, surrounded by every single thing they have ever wanted for themselves in this lifetime even if it is something I also want for myself. This is tough stuff and you will have a natural resistance towards this practice. When someone hurts you it is natural to want them to hurt in someway or wish for their karmic retribution. For me this practice helps me release the negative energy and move on in a positive way, leading with love instead of fear.
- I try not to talk badly about them. Why add fuel to the fire? When you live your life the best way you know how, and someone says something bad about you, your true friends and loved ones would never believe it. Always treat others the way you would like to be treated.
Now, this may all sound like a bunch of new age bullshit. I get that. But these tools have over time helped me to live a more balanced life and continue to do so. Remember it doesn’t matter how others see you in the long run. What matters most is how you see your Self.
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter.
As you see him you will see yourself.
As you treat him you will treat yourself.
As you think of him you will think of yourself.
Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.”
-The Course of Miracles
(title credit: Wayne Dyer)
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