One of my favorite things about The Work is the way it encourages us to use our imagination!
We’re already using it, before The Work, to scare ourselves, get worried, get angry, feel powerless, feel sad, be unhappy.
So let’s expand that imagination to a broader, more inclusive, more trusting, more good-feeling perspective. The other side of duality, in this dual world of opposites.
But this doesn’t mean “try” to be positive, and to go straight from “I hate this situation” to “I love this situation” without inquiry.
That’s super hard, and not very respectful to yourself.
Someone asked me recently, what kind of positive affirmations or sentences do I tell myself, when I feel distressed and I want to ground myself in feeling better?
I had to chuckle inside. Because I wouldn’t tell myself one single thing that was a positive affirmation, or a pep talk, that I didn’t believe or hadn’t inquired into first.
I’m not sure I ever even think of telling myself positive things on purpose.
The person who asked me this then went on to say that she was on a long vacation with her extended family, and from the very first day she began to feel uncomfortable with quite a few things she was observing in all these family members.
Grandchildren were running across the street without their parents restraining them. Her adult children were gazing at their cell phones, and the teens were constantly snap-chatting with friends back home in the US. Older folks were holding up the group, or getting ditched by the younger set–resulting in people losing each other in crowded European piazzas. Siblings were acting rude during meals, and ignoring her.
What she then told me was that she decided on about the second day to Say Nothing.
“There was no point. It’s just the way it is.”
The opposite of Arguing With Reality is not Being Resigned To Reality with a chip on your shoulder.
I asked her if she wanted to try The Work, since she was asking me about it and wondering if I used positive affirmations. She agreed.
One of the most pressing, repetitive thoughts she had about several of the people in her family was….”they are ignoring me”.
They care more about “x” (cell phones, emails, themselves, their friends) than about this vacation. They don’t care about me. The last trip was much better. I may as well have stayed home.
This really hurts, when you believe it.
I asked her, is it true they ignored you?
YES. YES. YES. (She explained more about what they were doing, the way of the world these days, the neglect, the spiritual void of lacking an ability to be present, the rudeness she witnessed).
Inside a part of me had a little edge of a feeling….“She should slow down. She should relax and answer the questions. She shouldn’t explain and find additional proof for her stressful belief.”
“How do you react when you believe the thought”, I asked her, “that they’re ignoring you?”
She explained how she reacted by saying nothing, never one word, never asking for what she wanted. She didn’t bring up her complaints. She didn’t speak her regrets. She didn’t make her requests.
Too furious to speak. Too unhappy. Too upset.
I get it. I’ve been there.
It’s painful to believe I can’t speak up about how I’m feeling, because if I do a fountain of unhappiness will burst out of me. I’ll disappoint them. I’ll make it worse.
Wow, it’s rough to be so caught between a rock and a hard place–I can’t talk, I can’t Not Talk, and be happy.
I asked her who she would be without this belief that they were ignoring her?
She answered immediately: “it’s impossible not to have this belief. The world is like this now. People don’t care about each other. Everyone wants to look at their phones. It’s never going back.”
As she spoke, I could feel the pain of having zero hope, and no ability to really find one drop of what it would be like to not have the thought, in the presence of people ignoring you. To really not have the thought “they are ignoring me” (even if they are).
But then she said something swiftly, and lightly, even if just for a second “I’d notice the amazing place I’m sitting. I’d look around.”
I realized as I did this work right alongside her, that it is very possible someone is ignoring her, whatever that means exactly (not paying attention, not caring, not connecting, not loving, being dismissive, being interested in something else besides her).
But it doesn’t mean she has to think and believe the thought herself.
She could barely stay in the question “who would you be without this thought?” She was out of there in literally 2 seconds. She was back into how awful to be ignored, how sad, how ruined the vacation.
So we kept moving….into the turnarounds.
“I am ignoring myself” in that situation. Could this be as true, or truer?
“Oh YES!” she replied after considering this turnaround. She saw how in that situation she buttoned her lip and said nothing and got really small over in a corner, and quiet, feeling left out and distant. She ignored her own desire to connect more closely, and to ask others to walk next to her, or put away their phones for awhile. She might have thought of all kinds of solutions that would offer a sense of closeness, rather than distance and resignation in her situation.
It reminded me of believing there’s nothing I can do, in some situations, except withdraw, back away, separate myself.
It’s like the way I used to believe in dieting. Just go without. Starve. Avoid pleasure. Go hungry.
The only cure for this body problem, was to suffer silently. I never questioned “there is a problem”—is that true?
We looked at the turnarounds “I am ignoring THEM” and “they are NOT ignoring me”.
This inquirer’s answers were No, I can’t find any examples. They WERE ignoring me. And I was NOT ignoring them.
Right in the middle of that situation, me facilitating her, facilitating myself, facilitating inquiry on the thought “they are ignoring me” I felt the impact of “ignoring” or thinking of something as wrong (like someone not being able to find any turnaround examples).
What if what is happening, including these questions and these answers right here in the middle of The Work, are exactly what is supposed to be happening?
What if for this woman, the only turnaround that’s valid and helpful in that moment was the one “I am ignoring myself”?
What if I kindly and openly did not ignore her, as I facilitated, or ignored myself either?
What if what she was aware of, and clear about, and learning as she answered four strange questions she had never answered before….
….was just the right amount of ignoring, and awareness.
All I know is, it’s easy to love what’s happening than it is to hate it.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” ~ Albert Einstein
“Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified with the thinking mind. It means you don’t see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.” ~ Eckhart Tolle