I was talking to a friend recently who is going through a lot of the things I went through. He is more and more becoming aware of how the voice in his head is running the show and he is doing his best to come to terms with the havoc it has created and is still creating. When I heard him talk it was like hearing a former version of myself. I so much wanted to let him know that he will be okay, that, however confusing and hurting life seems at the moment, he is birthing a transformation, and that however much he would like it to be, this is not a linear, logical process. I probably said too much for this to come through.
Our conversation triggered in me the desire to distill the most powerful way I know to silence this self-critical inner-voice, a way to help you see things from a different perspective. It is called detachment. I am going to describe two ways of detachment, followed by the practice that is needed for it to be healthy.
The first way is called ‘It’s a story’. Whenever something happens to us, many of us give energy to it by weaving a story around it. Let’s say someone says something to us that doesn’t feel good. Now an interesting process will unfold. You must know that we always judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior. Which means that we judge by different standards. Because we know what we did and most of the time we understand why we did it, or at least we know that we tried our best, we judge our own actions in a positive light. And because we don’t have that insight in the actions of others, we judge their actions in a less favorable light. Truth is that although from our frame of reference, what we have done most likely was completely logical, from the other person’s frame of reference it very likely was not so logical. On the other hand, their reaction, the reaction that didn’t make sense to us, was most likely completely logical to them. Am I still making any sense to you? The lens through which we view life is made up of subconscious programming. We see life through a set of filters that were put there in the first seven years of our lives, in that stage of our life our mind was absorbing, trying to make sense of the world searching for behavioral patterns in others around us. Later in life, those programs color the world we see in ways we are, most of the time, not conscious of.
Let’s go back to the moment someone says something to us that doesn’t feel good. Our reaction may be to think ‘That is rude!’. This is is the beginning of the story we’re weaving. It is based on the belief that certain things are rude and should not be said or done. Then we may say to ourselves, ‘He shouldn’t treat me that way.’ Here we infuse some righteous indignation, which is based on the belief that it is unfair that we are treated this way. Then we may think ‘What a jerk!, adding some more judgement. Before you know it, we have created a whole story in our mind about why he said that, and most of the time this is not the kindest version of what just happened between the two of us. Now it gets even more interesting, because at some point we decide to believe the story or scenario we just made up. In that moment we get attached to our version of the story. And we have created a new filter through which we see life. This is not a conscious process, it is what we have learned.
When we become conscious of the fact that we are story weavers and that we are trying to create logical explanations by unconsciously filling in the gaps with information that fits our frame of reference, it becomes possible to not get attached to the story we are telling and detached to the stories we have invented earlier. We do that by simply not believing the stories our mind is weaving. We can do that by interjecting the enlightened mantra ‘blah blah blah blah blah’ everytime we catch our mind trying to sell stories as truth. You could use other mantras like ‘thinking thinking thinking’ or ‘don’t know’, but for me this one had the added benefit that it helps me not to take myself so damn seriously, it makes me laugh. By moving into the don’t know mind, we acknowledge that we don’t know through which filters we are seeing the world, most of the time, and that we cannot possibly know how others see the world, and we replace ignorance with innocence.
The second way of detachment is called ‘It is not personal’. Whenever something happens to us, whether we perceive it to be good or bad, many of us start weaving a story, or said differently we take it personally. We get angry or sad when someone calls us names and we get happy when someone gives us a compliment. I want you to contemplate the idea that nothing is personal, that how other people react to what happens to them is a reflection of the filters through which they are are seeing the world. And that your reaction to what happens to you simply is a reflection of your filters. When we can see that everyone is weaving stories in their mind and reacting from them, we start seeing the world more clearly. The art of taking nothing personally is to not get stuck in the strands of the web anyone is weaving. When we start seeing anything that happens around us as a story someone is weaving, we can decide not to become entangled. When we do that, the energy we would normally invest in weaving and co-creating a story can be directed to uncovering personal behavioral patterns, the unconscious beliefs behind them, and releasing them.
Becoming detached can only be practiced in combination with compassion. Compassion is going from our mind into our heart, opening us up to both our perfection and our suffering, and those of others. Without compassion, detachment becomes another mind game, it’s called rationalization. Without compassion we beat ourselves up when we don’t instantly do it right 100% of the time. We need compassion to stop punishing ourselves for not living up to our overly high standards. We need compassion to take our pain and the pain of others seriously. Practicing compassion is getting to know our perfect ‘Buddha nature’ by really feeling, and thus dissolving, the pain beneath our subconscious beliefs, which tell us that we are not good enough, not lovable enough, unworthy and undeserving. Not judging our pain as inferior, but holding ourselves as if we were a new-born babes, soothing and caressing, loving with all our hearts. Practicing compassion is realizing that everybody carries with them these pains and caring about their pain as if they are our own. Practicing compassion is not identifying with our stories, but seeing our inherent humaneness, seeing how you are like me, seeing our shared Buddha nature. Compassion is the understanding that we are all interconnected. It is learning to forgo the mind’s story that we don’t deserve love, that we aren’t safe, that no one understands us. Compassion is the courage to open our heart and to give to ourselves and others what we need most, unconditional love, safety and understanding. When you say to yourself ‘blah blah blah blah blah’, you follow it up with ‘I release the power these stories hold over me. May I love myself just as I am. May I sense my worthiness and well-being. May I hold myself in compassion. May I meet the suffering and ignorance of others with compassion.’ It may feel mechanical at first, but somehow it will find a way in, it will seep in like water through rock, slowly but surely.
In the meantime, my prayer for you is and will be
May you love yourself just as you are.
May you sense your worthiness and well-being.
May you be at ease and happy.
May you be well.