I was playing some relaxing piano music the other day and a client told me they experienced it as depressing. I found it soothing, evocative, moody, haunting, beautiful. See how that is? An experience can be radically different for each of us. And how often do we assume that something just is a certain way? Static, global, we make sweeping generalizations about a topic and can assume others are in agreement.
But it’s not like that at all, in reality, is it? How often do we really take in what another’s experience is, or ask them what their experience is? Most importantly, how do we respond/react when someone has such a different experience than our own? Do we give them the dignity of their own experience, which is based on a lifetime of conditioning and soul evolution?
Anaïs Nin said, “We don’t experience things as they are, we experience them as WE are.” Right on sister.
It’s a compassionate act to really allow someone else’s experience in, because from this deeper place we can engage with them with more authenticity, heart and soul, interest, humanity, and potentially a greater overall understanding than we started out with. Believe me, I know how hard this can be. We can all struggle with it. I do see the moments when I get “judgy” about it, thinking my way is best and if only they knew. I’m working on that.
Imagine a world where we allowed this kind of breadth of experience to flourish, non-judgmentally, where curiosity and interest and lightness or maybe passionate engagement that serves growth is stimulated?
If you feel into your body and your awareness the next time you hear yourself not accepting another’s experience as okay, track what that feels like. Does it feel good? Does it serve understanding? Does it trigger something in you? I’ve said it a million times, I’ve learned that the way we deal with the issue IS the issue. It is always the arrow that is pointing us at our deeper growth and soul work.
Just look at the past year with COVID-19. People have had radically different experiences! Some have lost everything, some have not been able to pay rent or mortgage or feed their kids, they’ve lost their jobs, maybe their lives or their beloveds, while others have thrived personally, monetarily and even spiritually. So when you hear someone say that the past year has been the worst, or best ever, it’s clear that’s not truth. This has been an in-your-face example for all of us, globally.
There is a simple 3-step process we can adopt to spend more time in this less judgmental, more understanding place overall with others:
1) Stop and listen—instead of responding right away, stay silent and just listen to what the other person is saying. And if you can listen without formulating what you want to say next, and take in what they are saying, all the better;
2) Whatever you feel triggered inside of you, make a mental note to look at that when you have time. If you have a strong reaction, you might consider taking some space and not continuing the conversation until you spend some time clarifying. If you really trust the person, you might be honest that you are triggered and have a deeper dialogue about that. Otherwise, you can take time over the next couple of days digging into what triggered you so much and track that for clarity and understanding. Why? Because when you understand why you triggered, you find that the charge can dissipate dramatically because it isn’t so out of your awareness and control. You can at least begin the process of healing the part of yourself that separates you from deeper understanding, and this can bring more compassion next time you are in conversation. You might not assume so quickly that agreement with the other person is a black and white scenario;
3) Adopt a reverence for the complexity of things—I find that the more I stay away from black-and-white, I’m-right-and-you’re wrong, This-OR-That-But-Not-Both kinds of thinking, and honor that most situations have many nuances and layers to them, I am in a better position to hear someone out and share too. I know that we are not just speaking about a situation globally but speaking FROM our awareness and conditioning that informs our opinion…so far. When I step back in the framework that we are each bringing a complexity of life interpretations to our current one, and probably aren’t being neutral about it, I am aware that these conclusions we make are moving targets, that our observable reality is just that, OUR’S. It helps me react less. And heck, it very often stimulates a fascinating and deeply satisfying conversation!
When I was a little girl, I was always astounded that no two faces are alike, even in a sea of billions of people. How could so many variations exist in one tiny face?! Same with our understanding. No two are exactly alike, at least not on the human plane. The more we accept that, the more we accept.
So there you have it. Human understanding really is an infinite variety of expressions. We will never get to the whole of it. So we might as well enjoy and learn from the different colors and textures that weave our human tapestry together, and enjoy the ride along the way with less self-imposed suffering.
I’m wishing everyone a very festive, connective, restive summertime 2021!