I just re-read my post from Monday about the parking lot incident which illustrates identification, the first step toward ‘freedom from the bondage of self.’ Identification is one of my most valuable self-improvement tools. It allows me to assess the effectiveness of a certain behavior and not judge the person exhibiting it. Identification also frees me from chain-of-pain perpetuated by the prison of self-deception. Because I am able to IDentify a characteristic, I recognize it from memories of my past experiences. If I am willing to accept that I have been just as immature and forgive myself for the imperfection, I open the floodgates of compassion and forgiveness toward the person tempting me to scorn. Miraculously, I feel love for this person who has not yet found this path to inner peace. An overwhelming sense of gratitude follows as a result of realizing that forgiving myself is the key to freedom and peace of mind. How simple is that?
Okay…simple, but not so easy! It is just so tempting to go for the temporary high of ‘righteous’ indignation. Outrage is denial of my own earlier outrageous behavior. The brief exhilaration of feeling ‘better than’ comes from ignorance to the automatic low that must follow from karmic kickback. Why must I feel shame soon after feeling pride? It is because my disgust implies my innocence as if I have never and/or would never do something like that. However, I would not be agitated by this person if I didn’t feel shame about similar behaviors that I won’t admit to myself. Instead, my reaction would be magnanimous and I get a wonderful feeling about myself that lasts. When I tell myself that my agitation is about disapproval of them and not myself, they need to change – not me. While that may seem convenient, it is also very dis-empowering. I am doomed to repeat what I won’t admit. It sets me up for another opportunity to behave shamefully and then another to opportunity to temporarily feel better about myself by shaming someone else, and so on, and so on, and….
Admitting is the act of letting in. I can’t release what I haven’t let in! Conversely, the minute I admit a flaw, I can accept it, forgive myself and move on without carrying it around, walled off buried deep in my psyche like an abscess that causes me to react any time someone touches it. That which I resist will persist. Better to feel the pain of admitting it, so I can let it go. This is like feeling the momentary pain when piercing an abscess so I can feel the relief thereafter instead of guarding and defending it forever. If I could recognize my aggressor’s self-sabotaging animosity as something I have been able to conquer, my response will be gracious. This is far more likely to benefit me and anyone involved or even observing the exchange. Any time I have been able to behave with grace or dignity, it has put an extra spring in my step – not from pride, but from LOVE.
My niece is an amazing softball player. She was just in Florida with her team in some series that attracts a significant amount NCAA scouts. Apparently, the competition was fierce. A key player on her team was ejected very early in the series. Their star pitcher was taunted by an aggressive player on their opponent’s team. She let emotion get the best of her and retaliated with no regard to consequences. Her thinly veiled rage was detected, which is why she was charged with intentionally hitting a batter. This is grounds for dismissal. After this huge misstep, the team fell apart and they lost in a blow-out.
My son tells me that in soccer, savvy players will scout out the weakest link and make every attempt to break them down emotionally so they will react like a pressure valve and call a foul on themselves. I like that he knows this, which has taught him to understand the impact of giving one’s power away. He has learned to see right through taunting and use it to his advantage channeling that energy and adrenaline to enhance his own performance. Unfortunately, my niece’s teammate did not understand that she was falling for one of the oldest tricks in the book. She stooped even lower than her antagonist. She hurt her chances with the scouts behaving like a loose cannon in a high stakes environment. She also hurt her team by depriving them of an important aspect of their strategy – her.
Coincidently, I am friends with the pitcher’s parents. I promise you, they blamed her dismissal on biased refereeing. They denied that the hit was intentional and decried the refs for not intervening to punish the taunting that led up to it. This is a girl who has won prestige for her community service and respect for activism at church. The parents are anti-bad behavior! It was very clear to me that their love of righteousness only worked one way…. for them. When someone else acts out – they are sinning. When one of theirs acts out, it is because they have been pushed to it by victimization. Then I pointed out their self-deluded sweet-spot to my sister in some good old-fashioned gossipy back-stabbing. This is when my alarms starting blaring!
Here I was, the teacher of the mirror philosophy, pointing out a hypocrite as if the very act of doing so wasn’t utterly hypocritical! I had to stop to accept and forgive my self-delusion so I wouldn’t be swallowed by my shame and begin trying to rationalize or justify my behavior. Rather, I admitted it to my sister and explained all the various ways I have done what she did and how easy it is to fall into her parents’ trap… as I had so clearly just demonstrated. My God, this stuff is insidious Everything I spot – there I am!! This is why I affirm quite often that I intend to see and assume the best in all encounters and situations. As I always say, I am a work in progress that looks like two steps forward and one step back, two steps forward…..
Our Emotional Operating System (EOS) is not the same as our Inner Guidance System (IGS). But, the two systems work so similarly that they are easy to confuse.
- Emotions get our attention. They offer sensations of constriction or expansion in varying degrees of intensity according to the level of congruence between our attitude and our intention. Someone who laments having no friends may begin to feel lonely. The discomfort of loneliness indicates the futility of their attention to what is going wrong. A shift of attention to the solution and how it will feel elevates their mood and magnetism enabling them to attract what they seek.
- Our IGS gives us access to deeper Truths beyond our preferences and conditioning. It also uses sensations of expansion and constriction to communicate with us. However, the expansive sensation associated with the peace of Truth has no vibration at all. There is no mistaking the Truth when we you feel it…Ironically what you are feeling is nothing! However fleeting, it is a calm amid the turbulence of life caused by our attachments.
It is possible to feel the expansion of Truth and the constriction of emotional pain associated with accepting that Truth at the same time. For example, a parent might reach a sense of ‘rightness’ about weaning their child. They may know that the time has come when it is not in their child’s best interest for mom or dad to intervene, provide funds or solve a dilemma. At the same time, the parent may feel sad that the child is growing up and leaving the nest or the parent may feel anxious about trusting the outcome to the child.
To live the life of our dreams, we have two simple (not necessarily easy!) guidelines to follow:
- The constriction of emotional pain never trumps the expansion of peace from our Truth.
- Likewise, the expansive feeling from emotional pleasure never trumps a subtle constriction that may arise when we pay attention to our IGS warning us to come back into integrity. Too often we detect the fleeting tug and dismiss it in favor of the deliciousness of pleasure. Later we palm our foreheads wondering, “Why didn’t I listen to myself?!”
The presence of Truth cannot be identified in the midst of mental chatter or emotional turbulence. To maintain our course we need to go below the surface. As needed, we allow ourselves to admit and process our emotions, fully accepting how we feel as a result of our preferences, interpretations and conditioning. Then we can release them. This enables us to get access to the perfection of our Inner Guidance System.
If we pay close attention, it is very easy to recognize Truth. It does not feel good or bad. It is still. It is open. It is expansive. It just is. We may not like it, but it is there plain as day. There is no mistaking it. This “still, small voice” is the only arbiter of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – and it is unique to each of us. The guidance is telling us what is life affirming or debilitating. It tells us what works and doesn’t work for each one of us on a case-by-case and moment-to-basis. It tells us when our thought, word or deed or that of another is constructive or destructive for us. It is able to recognize the deception hidden in the temporary expansive feeling of emotional highs from escape mechanisms or ‘getting our way.’
Although we associate accessing Truth with stillness, it does not mean we live life in neutral. It means we process our feelings as they happen and let both the highs and lows pass in river of life. We don’t fear the waters that come or chase the waters that pass. We embrace emotions that get stuck so we can do the work to release anything that may cause coagulation and toxicity. The stillness of Truth is one of non-resistance, openness, release and surrender. We know that if the water stays still…we are dead!
Awareness is self-education ~ the only education one can trust implicitly.