Last week we looked at the relationship between freedom and responsibility, and I encouraged you (and myself) to take ownership of the good and not-so-good aspects of our lives. Only when we stop blaming others for our challenges do we step into the driver's seat of our own lives.
Synchronistically, the day after writing that post, I found myself passing time in an airport bookstore. I already had two books in my backpack, as well as a stack of unread books waiting for me at home, but as I passed the self help section of the store, the Byron Katie title Loving What Is began to glow and vibrate from its shelf. I picked it up and stared at the cover for a really long time, until I remembered that this is what often happens when I'm being guided to buy a book that I never would have selected on my own.
Just out of blind faith I bought the book, and was truly surprised (but not really) when I discovered its contents. This was a guide to finding personal freedom by learning to deal with reality as it is. Katie says that most of our suffering is the result of believing a thought that argues with what is.
For example, let's say it's raining outside. The objective reality is that drops of water are falling from the sky and landing on the ground. This is a neutral situation, right? But our minds, our egos, are designed to judge every situation and make everything personal. So instead of, "it's raining outside," we spin ourselves a lively tale about Murphy's Law, and how it's going to ruin our day, and how our hair is going to frizz, and how we're going to catch our death of cold, and how rain is inherently depressing, and how the roof is going to spring a leak, and how much life really sucks. After all, it shouldn't be raining!
Well, I've studied Buddhism and other cool philosophies, and I've engaged in the practices of nonresistance, acceptance, being in the present, etc., so this wasn't a startling premise in and of itself. What was new to me as I read through the introduction was the extent to which we routinely delude ourselves into believing the sometimes outrageous stories we make up. Like when a friend fails to return our call and we become irritated, then outraged, then depressed, then hopeless about ever being valued by another living soul (... then we find out that she lost her phone and never received the message, and we feel like a big dope).
The truth is that we do this all the time, we're all living in our "own private Idaho," and our mental creativity is so automatic that we don't even know we're engaging in it.
For the next couple week's I'd like to work on reeling ourselves in---learning to strip away the stories and judgments from what's actually going on in any given situation. For now, I'd like to ask you to start identifying thoughts that upset you, and ask yourself the simple question, "Is that true?" Is it true that rain is inherently depressing? Is it true that your kids never call you or that your husband's behavior is driving you crazy? Just start inquiring as to the objective reality of any given situation. Next week we'll continue the conversation.