It’s Not Personal
Another practice of devotion.
When I was taking my daughter to camp this week, I happened to come upon a woman who was struck by the pangs of life, and how personal it can be. She was pushing her sweet new babe out the door when a young man with a cognitive disability told her that he hated her baby. I stopped her outside the door. She seemed to have an intellectual knowing that what transpired was not personal, but clearly she was hurt. The situation was so tender. And I thought it so curious that I was there. As a mother of a child with special needs, I have been asked by typically developing children why my girl is ugly, or looks so funny, and many other questions that feel like a punch to my soul. In those moments I have the opportunity to really commit to my practices. If I choose to remember that my response to another can impact their perception of a child that is different than them, I am more likely to teach kindness. It is delicate, and remembering that it is not personal is a big time commitment. There I was, truly sympathetic to the new mama that was struggling, and also deep into my inquiry of the applications of this exchange to my own life from a different and amazingly similar lens.
What stories do I tell myself when I’m greeted with indifference, ignorance, or negativity? When strangers stare at my child because she looks different, or ask questions that feel terrible, what happens to me inside? When a yoga student sees I am the substitute teacher and leaves before class begins, or when someone I have shared space with before acts as if they don’t know me, how do I feel? When your ex-husband, who was once your best friend isn’t the one to tell you he remarried, or that he is having more children, what do you tell yourself?
My list of personal shame incidents could go on. But here’s the thing: they are not personal. So why do they always feel that way?
As human beings, we want to feel welcome in the world, we want to be seen and recognized as another embodied soul on a journey. This is what we share in common, and yet this is what can bring us suffering. This lovely and innocent desire can become an unconscious expectation, which can result in internal discord.
My practice (out of necessity) has my curiosity up to the task of imagining what it must be like to be another as to understand their stirrings. And to connect at a heart level in the devotional practice of staying in love even when being stretched.
What if, instead of needing to feel a certain way in an exchange, we paused in the moment of being triggered? What if we paused to wonder, silently, about the other? Maybe they had a rough morning. Maybe they’re feeling ill. Maybe they are afraid, and you are now part of the scenario that is amplifying an experience of groundlessness.
I attempt to be real. Therefore, I offer humbly, (but not grossly) that there have been many beings on the other end of my psycho-emotional movies, consisting of edges, wounds, elevated states of arousal, and dark demons. I am not immune to the transgressions of meeting a circumstance out of past influences. I long for partners in the duet of life and the teachings that come with difficulty. I find it most unfortunate when I am left standing solo in the negotiations of interpersonal relations. However, even that desire is stemming from a place of control in an attempt to manage vulnerability.
When I want a scene to play out differently, I experience discomfort. As I become less captivated by my own idea of what should be happening – my own “picture” of things – I experience a freeing, a sense of mending. The way someone else treats or responds to me is all about their own story, their own picture of the world. This will always be influenced by something out of my control. How do I react in these uncomfortable exchanges? How many times have we responded to someone else’s story of us, only to become their character. What if we turned our attention into being who we know we are, our essence. Dropping below the stories, our conditioning takes much less of a hold, and in turn our physical, and subtle selves will be much less interrupted by strain.
There is a freedom in waking up and seeing that the different running themes do not have to make for catastrophe. From this angle there is cause for revelry. And there is a return again to our real world practices.
Connection is such a full being brilliant miracle. This can happen when one is in touch with their own inner wisdom, and can nurture the free flowing humming of their own subtle self. In this place, enemy has no meaning, and judgment, pride, and doubt begin to dissipate. They are tag lines of illusion.
There is something brilliant when we can be our bounty, and our bliss. It is a tremendous practice that may take many digressions, twists, face plants, and elevated climbs. For now, I see no greater task than to continue waking up to love and devotion, within and without. If I can just remember, it is not personal. Ever.