During last week’s session we discussed the principle we called, “choose not to take it personally.” Our culture tries to teach us that we must react in certain ways to external stimuli. If you are the target of a one-finger salute in traffic, for example, the culture suggest that you must take the gesture as a personal insult and become angry. However, we do have a choice. In our discussion we agreed that often the external stimuli we receive from other people tell us more about them than they do about us. Perhaps the sender of the salute is having a miserable day or a miserable life.
I told the story about being dangerously cut off in traffic, and then watching the offending vehicle make a crazy fast left turn and speed up Baron Cameron Rd. My automatic reaction was to feel anger welling up, but then I thought, the car is heading toward Reston Hospital, maybe that person just got a call that a family member has been taken to the emergency room. That thought quelled the incipient angry reaction inside me, and I began to feel sympathy for the other driver. In fact, I realized, the whole incident had little to do with me personally. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and anyone else in the same place would have had the same experience. I could have let the anger seethe and stewed about the incident all day. It could have prevented me from calming down enough for my daily meditation. I chose not to take it personally.
Of course, it is one thing to choose not to take the actions of strangers personally, and it is another to choose when it comes to people who are closer, such as family and friends. The closer people are, the more they know how to get to us personally. Again, however, you may want to stop and think, “what’s going on with them?” Asking that question, rather than getting angry and lashing back, might take the personal out of the equation and create an opportunity for finding out and discussing what is really the matter.
We wondered whether being able to accept and apply the principle of choice is dependent on the experience you gain with age. We thought it is true that age and experience makes it easier to apply the principle, but I think we also agreed that the ability is probably not dependent on age.
This week’s discussion will be about the principle of balance. There are several dimensions to balance–self/others, job/family, work/play, spending/saving–and I think we may be working on this principle for more than one session. Come and join us tomorrow or, if you can’t come in person, comment on Facebook or on this blog.