What Encounters Teach Us
Everyone one of us has had moments during a week, or in a single day when we feel like we’re wearing a sign around our neck that says “Piss me off”. Comments from complete strangers that push a button and cause us to feel hurt, attacked or self-conscious about something. And it could be about anything, even things that don’t even make sense later on.
Sometimes we say wave a hand and tell ourselves we’re being overly sensitive. Sometimes we actually let the comments get under our skin and truly get angry. Other times we pretend we didn’t hear the comment, ignore it, but play it over and over in our head.
As one of my very wise Shamanistic teachers once told me “It’s not all about you. You’re learning to be a Shaman, stop crying about your little hurt feelings and use your head and your heart to help those who are coming to you and screaming for compassion”. Yeah I didn’t like that comment much when he said it to me, but I’ve come to understand what he meant.
I’ve also learned that this perspective isn’t only for the “ministers” in the world. It’s for everyone walking a spiritual path. And maybe even those who aren’t.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve faced in my life and on my spiritual path, has been the realization that we are all reflections of each other.
“What you don’t like about someone, look in a mirror. Because you’re seeing something you don’t like about yourself”. There are some people who have been on my path that have made that phrase very difficult to deal with. But I believe we do reflect aspects of our self back to us in an extreme amplification, so we’ll notice the pattern or characteristic we need to work on or change.
You’re not perfect and neither is anyone else. Our imperfections are what make us human. When we hold others up to a standard they can’t possibly meet, we maybe doing the exact same thing to ourselves.
Many years ago I had a boss I could not get along with at all. No matter what I did, we were always at odds with each other. One of the things he did that seriously angered me the most was that he would argue with you until you changed your mind and agreed with him. It wasn’t good enough to say let’s agree to disagree. Nope. You had to change your view and agree with his view.
That situation is what caused my teacher to tell me to stop whining about being a victim. Look in a mirror and see how you’re doing the same thing in your life. I was seriously incensed by his suggestion that I was some how doing the same thing, that I was that inflexible. That night I went home and logged into a spiritual chat room on AOL (it was really a LONG time ago). I found myself getting into debates with certain people in the room over perspectives. At that moment I realized how I was mirroring his behavior. I realized that even though I wasn’t putting for an argument for my opponent to agree with me, I wasn’t taking in their position and seeing how it stood up to my own. I wasn’t allowing it to expand my perspective and therefore I wasn’t opening doors to other possibilities that I could agree with. It was one of the biggest lessons of my life and especially for my spiritual path. You can’t say “anything is possible” and then refuse to open the doors to other possibilities.
Each one of the encounters of angst we have, are lessons we need to see and go through. Perhaps to remind us of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve really changed. Perhaps to teach us that the definitions of others do not define who we are, unless we allow them too.
Perhaps they occur to speak out loud the self negative talk we speak to our self inside our own head. The same comments that sound a lot different when someone else says it us. But when we speak the self doubt in our own head; it has a much bigger and greater negative affect on our consciousness.
Honesty is a key component to any spiritual path. Being honest with yourself is the only way you correct the negative, change the patterns that aren’t good for you and move things forward toward greater understanding. Sometimes that means being brutally honest with yourself and perhaps those close to you as well. Compassion isn’t always playacting and enabling others to continue their own negative patterns. It’s also being honest and telling it like it is. Even if the person you’re telling it to is your own reflection.
Recently someone shared a comment that made them upset. Walking their dog in a park, a stranger said “Well, your dog doesn’t look like he’s missed to many meals”, commenting on the overweight dog. This person wanted to respond to his comment “You don’t look like you have either”. Instead, my friend replied “That’s why he’s out for a walk”.
I probably would have said the first comment. The gentleman could be speaking out loud what he was really feeling about himself. If said with compassion or an air of humor it might have changed his life for the better. Perhaps inspiring him to change his diet and get more exercise. It might be a comment that connects you to those around you and shows that you have more to share and more that connects you than simply a comment that you hear as snide or mean.
How many of you have had a day where your boss is jumping all over you for seemingly little things. Making a bad day feel even worse than it was when you got to work. Take a moment to consider, your boss may have been having a bad day too. I would calmly ask “what’s wrong, who peed in your Cheerios and made you upset today? Because you’re taking it out on me”. Your boss may not have realized what they are doing and perhaps they really needed someone to lean on and listen to their tears, fears or frustrations.
Instead of reacting with your reflexes of emotion, take a second, a brief moment and pretend you’re looking in a mirror. Be honest with yourself about what you see. How are you using the encounter at hand, to see your own reflection. You may not be doing exactly the same thing, remember reflections are amplified so you’ll notice them. But you are doing something that needs to be seen in yourself so you can come to terms with whatever it is.
Reflections work both ways sometimes. And sometimes they happen to us, not so we can feel attacked or victimized. But so we can use compassion to help others and probably help ourselves at the same time.
Acknowledgement is the first step to change. Acceptance of the behavior is second. Then you work to change it and come to terms with. Looking in the mirror helps you love yourself by accepting who you are. It helps you to end the self loathing (especially when you don’t even realize you’re doing it.) It helps you to end the self negative talk. It helps you to be kind to yourself and let’s face it, we all need more of that.
© 2013 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.