You know when ideas or themes start to repeatedly show up in your awareness and you think, “Huh; maybe I need to look at this more closely?” Well, that happens to me a lot and it’s happening again. This time it’s the topic of “Don’t take it personally.”
Oh, my gosh. Do you have as much trouble with this as I do? Several things occur to me. First, I think, “Excuse me, what? Not take that slight or criticism or spiteful act personally? Are you on drugs?” And then the more elevated part of my brain kicks in and responds, “Yes, of course. This is the evolved way. This is enlightened. That action or comment had nothing to do with me. It’s clearly a mirror of how that other person feels about himself.”
And then my first reaction, jumping up and down like a three-year-old who needs a cookie, chimes in again, “What the….? Of course it’s personal, and you, mean person, you suck.”
So here we are. Which part of our thinking is correct? One or the other? Both? Neither? And why is this so challenging for us to understand and at the same time so essential to master?
Needless to say, I’m still working this out. I’m not doing what most writers and spiritual teachers say to do and move through this discomfort before revealing the story. But I think I’m getting it, and as I navigate my way, I have to share my thoughts. By wrapping our brains around the fact that just about every negative interaction we encounter is NOT personal to us, we not only free ourselves, but we also free the other. And in doing so, we both have the opportunity to grow and evolve.
Spiritual teachers I admire explain it like this. Caroline Myss describes each human being like a building. On the first few floors, we are attached to form, have a limited perspective of our surroundings, and take everything very personally. On the upper floors, we are less attached to form, our perspective is greater and more expansive, and we take things much less personally. Pain and angst and constricted feelings are personal. Clarity, freedom, growth, spirit are impersonal.
Abraham explains it like this. Someone criticizes or comes after us. We are hurt. Then “we feel bad, because we are judging them about their judging us. We allow other people’s bad moods, conditions over which we have no control, to run our lives….Somehow we’ve trained ourselves to care more about their responses to us than our responses to us.”
How we feel or react or respond, then, to others’ criticism or attack is less about them than it is about us. Yes. The degree to which we feel triggered is the degree to which we have sensitive spots, holes, lack of clarity, and are detached from our true selves. Even when they are just wrong? Yes. Even when they are lying? Yes. Even when they threaten? Yes. Even when they do damage? Yes. Yes.
This is not to say that when we are hurt or feel attacked, we might literally or emotionally wince. But, to use Abraham’s vernacular, the goal is to sometimes take the hit and then disallow it from propelling us into a downward, spiraling momentum, resulting in anger, rage, self-hatred, and blame, all of which result from taking the action personally.
So what to do? Understanding the dynamic is the first step. As we do the work, we can then learn to feel the bump and refocus and realign. Through meditation and finding space in ourselves, we can discover the ways we best open to Source and allow alignment. Ironically, this very personal work of turning towards the light and truth and clarity ultimately allows us to reemerge into an impersonal, but deeply profound and satisfying state of being–a oneness with all that is good and abundant and healthy.
Abraham tells us that when we can discover this state, this impersonal state of loving and oneness, we can then not only energetically invite the person who hurt us into more wholeness, but we will also be able to see it in them ourselves. Then it is possible for both of our higher selves to meet and find resonance and peace.
Admittedly, all this sounds so very good and promising, and at the same time it is challenging. This is the work. This is one of the many steps on the journey towards greater awareness and a more enlightened way of being in the world. But we must try. If we want to honestly move to the higher floors of our beings, floors with more space, more beauty, more understanding, more abundance, we must be prepared to look at this aspect of ourselves and interactions with others.
Every once in a while I am able to get to this place of openness and clarity. And, oh, the views are brilliant.