What does reality mean to you? Although it sounds like the question has an obvious answer, if you ask five different people, you’ll get five very different, very unique answers. Our choices, preferences, upbringing and past experiences all play a part in coloring our perception of reality. In turn, those perceptions manifest the reality we perceive.
As an example, let’s look at an employee in conflict with his boss. He requested that his boss tend to a situation that directly impacted him, ASAP. When his boss didn’t respond immediately, he took it personally. He was very angry that his boss did not take the time to communicate with him clearly and resolve the problem in a timely manner.
He reacted to what he perceived as a snub, with emotion – anger. Ultimately, he got what he wanted from his boss. However, he was filled with remorse for his behavior. He knew that he had sown seeds that would cause him to reap a bitter harvest at some future date.
In truth, the boss was entrenched in a system of poor communication and the lack of timely response had absolutely nothing to do with the employee. The employee was valued. No one in the firm ever got a direct response. There was dysfunction in the system.
By taking the situation personally the employee viewed current events through the lens of his memories of having been marginalized in the past. Because he could not evaluate the situation independently of his personal history – he reacted in a way that engenders disrespect. Rather than stop the cycle with new behavior, he made another contribution to this self-perpetuated reality further distancing himself from his desire to be respected and acknowledged.
This is the prison of Karma. Somewhere in his past our employee made a decision that life is unfair and people overlook him. When our thinking or interpretation of a situation leads us to negative emotions, which lead us to non-supporting actions, we have no power or control over our lives. We are trapped in the memory of interpretations of past events which have nothing to do with the current situation, the present moment.
One powerful way to bypass the prison of your own perspective is to consciously observe your thoughts, emotions and actions. Challenge your interpretation of events instead of justifying them. Communicate truthfully with yourself and others. Try this exercise the next time you find yourself suddenly recreating past negative patterns:
1. Ask yourself, “What just happened?” Describe the incident without judgment.
2. Observe your feelings without evaluating them. Be sure to distinguish your thoughts from feelings. For example, don’t say “I feel as if you should have known better” when the truth is “I feel sad.” Sadness is a feeling; feeling that someone should have known better is a thought.
3. Take responsibility for your feelings. What others say to us may be the stimulus for how we feel, but it’s never the cause. We choose to feel a certain way based on the interpretation we give to their comment. Do not accept judgment from others or blame them. Begin to focus on your own feelings and acknowledge your needs, desires, expectations, values and thoughts.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and use positive language when making requests. Instead of blaming your spouse for your feelings of neglect, try saying “Honey, I’m sad that you spend so much time at the office, but I really enjoy it when you have dinner at home with the kids and me. I would love if you would come home early enough to have dinner with us at least one night a week.” Clearly requesting what you want is much more effective than accusing your spouse of spending too much time at the office and casting blame for not spending enough time with the family. Can you feel the difference?
It’s not easy erasing negative karma, and you may find yourself slipping more than once. But remember that this is a lifelong process, and every new day provides plenty of opportunity for you to change your perspective — and, by extension, your reality.