“The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you already are.” ― Rumi
I once spent an entire lunch break listening to a friend who complained about how she felt so “wronged” by another person who cut the queue during her usual trip to get her morning coffee. The situation reached a point where she had to confront the person and call the manager, which created a scene and ended up with her storming off.
As a friend, I let her vent out and empathized with her feelings of frustration. Perhaps it was a hectic day for her and the cafe incident was an added blow. She could have been feeling tired and probably not had breakfast, resulting in a bad mood. The list could go on but when I had a chance to sit down and decompress, I realized that this was an example of our tendency to blame “the external” to justify how we feel internally.
Let me first establish that this reflection is about variables within our control. We are not speaking in absolutes. Having said that, let me posit this statement:
Our reality is not created by what is happening to us, but rather, by how we react to what is happening.
In tangent to my friend’s feelings of anger and frustration, what we can learn is that:
- Engaging negatively with a situation without taking the time to think about how it will affect our entire day will often be to our emotional and mental disadvantage.
- There are multiple ways to approach a potentially negative situation and we have free will to choose which path to take.
- The reality (or experience) that resulted from the said incident can be controlled.
This is not to say that our immediate emotions are invalid because they are valid. But what I’d like to highlight is that the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in during our lifetime are mostly caused by being reactive.
HOW WE FEEL PAIN IS UNIQUE TO US, BUT PAIN IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO YOU
So many works of art have been produced because of heartbreak, sorrow, fear, anger, and other similar intense emotions. Poignance and sentimentality can fuel one person’s entire way of thinking.
Feeling and learning from painful experiences is a powerful catalyst for growth. Yet there are people who use their painful experiences as a universal excuse as to why they are stuck in their reality. It’s as if the world has decided to conspire against them to keep them down.
This “Woe is me” attitude is, in many ways, a viewpoint that will absolutely hinder anyone from reaching their full potential. Not only is it a reflection of being entitled but it’s also a significant factor that inhibits a person’s capability for true compassion for others.
People who wallow in self-satisfying misfortunes tend to blame their family, partners, friends, their economic situation, their career, but they never seem to see what (or who) the real common denominator is–what’s within.
Overcoming this destructive behaviour requires deep self-awareness and constant self-reflection. It also takes practice to train our mind to sort through our immediate reactions before taking action. Remaining present within your body and witnessing what is expressed within physically can help to shift into response-ability. We are fallible beings and there will be missteps, but when practised consistently, we can live happier and more meaningful lives.
IT’S NOT YOU. IT’S ME.
I have a strained relationship with my family and it is giving me anxiety.
My day job is keeping me from doing what I’m really passionate about.
All my business attempts have failed and I feel discouraged.
These statements can all be retorted with the question, “So what are you planning to do about it?”
If we analyze each of the three statements closely, we can see that the presented cause of the problem is external. The arrow goes inward and stays that way. But, what if we can change our reality so that the arrow goes outward?
The quick answer is “yes”, we can change our reality by creating the conditions for the reality we want.
We can look back at the Double Slit Experiment to support this human capability which essentially means that the perceived reality we see in our external world can be transformed into a different reality dictated by how we consciously observe the reality.
And how do we do that? We do it by going within and pinpointing the exact source that is causing the pattern of behaviour that’s keeping us stuck.
So the adage “It’s not you, it’s me” bears truth that’s worth looking into.
It’s similar to the idea of “having a type” when it comes to people we get in relationships with. It’s not that you “have a type.” The truth is, you attract the people who become close to you. If you find yourself complaining about dating people who are always emotionally unavailable, then it’s time to turn this arrow inwards to examine your beliefs about yourself and others and how these beliefs create resonance with emotionally unavailable people. You might believe that you aren’t loveable or not deserving and without knowing you end up in a relationship with an emotionally distant partner. Or you were taught that it’s not ok to express your needs and therefore you attract relationships that require you to do exactly that.
Playing the victim is an easy way to avoid accountability. “It” happened to you. “It” led you to your misfortune. Whatever “it” is, many of us use it so that we can be spared from seeing our not-so-desirable side.
THE JUDGE AND THE REDEEMER ARE ONE AND THE SAME
While practitioners like myself encourage self-love and self-acceptance, it is important to clarify that accepting one’s self with all our imperfections does not mean “we are good as is.”
This can be a misguided idea about channelling our power within.
As we go through life, we (ideally) become more equipped with making qualitative distinctions about our way of life. We can tell that X is better than Y, which is why we make the choices we make to move forward and upward. This process is a judgement where we are the judge.
Knowing and separating ourselves from variables we’ve judged as “not good” is the process of redemption, and that is why the judge and the redeemer are the same person.
Reacting with presence invites us to constantly go through the judgement and redemption process over and over. It keeps the direction of the arrow outward but invariably rooted in knowledge from within.