Every day there seems to be no shortage of events that cause reactions in us. People and events surface that leave us feeling happy or sad. Each event has numerous details that support its existence. Yet, if we can dive a bit deeper into what is really going on around the events that create upheaval for us we might see the story behind the headlines of our life. In this week’s blog, I am sharing my contemplations of events and the stories that we make up about them.
I have been noticing the suffering or joy that surfaces around the events in our lives. You know what I am referring to. There is some event that happens and all of a sudden there is tragedy or happiness because of the event. If something that we perceive to be unpleasant surfaces we feel upset, maybe angry or hurt. When a happy event surfaces, such as we got the job we wanted, we feel happy and celebratory. Life is good. Regardless of the event that occurs, we have a story that we tell ourselves about the event. This story causes us to experience suffering or happiness, depending upon what we tell ourselves.
This very situation occurred for me this week. I experience a couple of tough days. It wasn’t the event that was tough, it was the story I was telling myself that created my upheaval. In the moment when things are unfolding one doesn’t think about “the story.” It is much easier to project blame, anger, frustration towards those that are causing us to suffer. Once one is in upheaval, everything that follows seems to reinforce one’s own anger and frustration. However, it wasn’t the circumstances around the event but the story that I was telling myself that caused me to suffer. We tell ourselves, “It’s not how it should be!”, “Why is this unfolding this way?” or “I am looking like I don’t know what I am talking about.” All of these things we tell ourselves, the story we make up in our head, result in the experience we have around the events.
These stories are created so easily and automatically in our being that we often don’t notice they are being made up. We have become conditioned to view things in a certain way based upon our experiences, beliefs and values. It is this conditioning that helps us to create the story. At the same time, it is challenging for us to stop and question our conditioning, which is so ingrained and automatic. Yet, others may have very different conditioning than we do and view different stories. Who’s to say which perception is right? Who’s to say that our perceptions are valid? What if there is no right or wrong, there is only what is? I recall a story my meditation teacher told of a student always going to his teacher asking if he had it right. The master responded with “No, not yet” every time. Surely, the disciple thought there must be a right answer, a right perspective. And yet, all perception is simply that, a perception of something through a lens of interpretation. A filter that takes in what is and distorts it based upon the lens being used at the time. In the Buddhist tradition, students are encouraged to ask themselves whenever they think they have an answer, “Is this a true perspective?”
Events just happen. If we can stay with the event and not add our own story, events soon disappear and we are left with simply the manifesting and un-manifesting of life. Life is full of things that happen, which is the nature of existence. Our analysis of life and the events helps us to interpret and categorize things. To create safe ground that provides a sense of security and safety. At the same time, our interpretations of events is the story we say to ourselves like “oh that’s terrible and I am suffering because of it” or “oh that’s wondering and I am elated by it.” Similarly, when we are bored we often look for things that will create some excitement or drama to fill the emptiness, Rather than just enjoying the experience of emptiness.
If we could experience each moment just as it is, without commentary, we would see that life is constantly changing. There would be no judgement of whatever surfaces because it simply is what is. Life would be a wonder and delight as there we would be amazed at the moment-to-moment unfolding of creation. This may for some, be a very scary and threatening thing. To experience the richness of life with free abandonment to whatever is unfolding could rock one’s world. That is why teachers speak about peeling back the layers of the onion to experience life. If you simply opened the flood gates most people would be overwhelmed and left in shock. This is not unlike a drug experience where the barriers between consciousness and unconsciousness are removed leaving the individual overloaded with the experience. Once Pandora’s Box is open you can’t close it again. In some regard, it is beneficial to slowly reach a state of conscious awareness as instant self-realization could leave one burned out.
When something comes up that you find challenging catch yourself making the story to go with it. Step back and notice what is surfacing. When that person has ticked you off, or that situation drives you crazy, try to see what the story is that you are telling yourself about how it should be. Listen for the words that tell you it should be different. Notice that the story you are creating is based upon your own perception and may not be real. What else could be the truth? What else could be going on? Is this person really harming me or is it my perception of how things should be? Know that whatever you are telling yourself is a story. It is made up of all your previous experiences which have brought you to this place. Moving forward you can create a new story. One that serves you better and ultimately one that is simply the observation of what is without commentary. This is the meditator’s journey. To experience the moment without judgement or analysis – to simply be is the observation of what is.
Notice the stories you are telling yourself this week about life and the events in it. Whenever possible suspend the story. Try to experience the moment as it is. If it is intense, just stay with it. If it is joyful, just stay with it. Be observant of what is unfolding for you.