“Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.” A Course in Miracles
Two of the prompts that Paul gave me this week have come together and lodged themselves in my psyche. The words are “alert” and “ego.” In order to not get caught up in ego ( thought processes), it is necessary to remain alert, or what I call conscious. When I go unconscious, I forget to see the world through spirit and get caught up in narcissistic thoughts. I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in thoughts and actually believe that what I think is true. Once I get stuck in my “true” thoughts, I begin to project them onto the world and almost every one who is in my path. It’s easy to make our thoughts a belief system and when that belief system winds up corrupting instead of creating love and peace, we know we’re in ego.
When my thoughts are focused on judgment, anger, jealousy, and self-righteous indignation, I’m caught in ego and I step out of my peaceful, loving state of being. Something happened recently where I felt unimportant to a group of people. Instead of being with the hurt that this created, I chose to make the people wrong and spent the greater part of the next thirty-six hours in anger. I used my anger to gain allies who would support me in my stance, and as I did this the anger grew hotter and blacker. Finally, consciousness took hold of me and I saw that I was turning my hurt within to anger without and how unhealthy this was for me and for the people involved. Being in an alert state of mind, I clearly saw the entire event unfold before my eyes, and I was then able to turn it around and focus on what really mattered, which was the hurt within.
I get it that it’s easier to stay stuck in misery (and being angry is miserable) than to change our minds. I also get how much energy it takes to hold on to anger, control, and judgment and what a waste of energy it is. Finding allies and people to support me in my anger allows me to feel self-righteous about it all, however I’m aware that this is a luxury I can’t afford. It costs too much in the end. It’s easier and better to just choose to change our minds and let it all go. Life is malleable and it really is what we make it to be. We can make it a healing, peaceful, and loving journey or we can fill ourselves with judgments about what others are doing and saying and make them wrong in the process. When we do this we set ourselves up to be stuck and to possibly, or perhaps probably, wind up estranged from others and filled with big doses of unhappiness.
Being alert to what we’re thinking and creating, and how we’re reacting to events, is what I call learning to differentiate between the content and context of life. Content is what life is made of and context is how we choose to view the content. It’s like the difference between seeing through spirit or seeing through ego. Many times I find the content of my life to be disappointing and I want to change it, but change is not always an option. We may need to sit in something for a while because that something could be the catalyst that will enable us to change our context. I believe we can learn to be okay with any content that shows up in our life, if we know how to see it from a conscious state of being, or a more positive context.
I have a friend who lost her job and has had trouble getting another job that would pay what she was used to making. She had to move back in with her mother, and she called a couple of months ago to tell me how unhappy she is because she and her mother fight over everything. It sounds like the mother wants to control the daughter, and the daughter, being an adult, wants to make her own decisions and have those decisions honored by her mother. Well, from what my friend says, it looks like this is just not going to happen because the mother is still living in the “you live in my house so you’ll follow my rules,” state of mind. As I listened to my friend’s angst over the situation, it seemed clear that she was in a place where she was going to have to make an effort to change the context of how she was perceiving life to be.
At the present, she can’t move out on her own (the content) so changing her mind about her situation was the only possibility to restore peace to the floundering and angry relationship. As we talked about how she could change her mind and view the situation differently, she began to develop a different point of view. What she realized is that this could be an opportunity for her to heal her own childhood issues and perhaps grow her relationship with her mother into an adult relationship, instead of a parent/child one. Coming from the stance of “I need to focus on what’s being activated within me, instead of being angry with my mother”, has made a change in the situation. Now, when the mother starts to tell the daughter what to do, instead of responding in anger and both parties yelling at each other, the daughter says, “Mom, when you talk to me like that, I feel like a naughty little girl. Can we talk about this as adults and see what and how we can do this to make it work for both of us while growing our relationship with each other.” The content is the same, but life is livable now because my friend is holding the context of it in a different space. And, I’m happy to say that she and her mother are experiencing many happy and healing moments together.
Being chained to anger and judgment is being chained to servitude of the ego. Instead of life serving us we set ourselves up to serve the negative. Bob Mandel said, “Every upset is a setup.” When something happens to upset us, it takes a lot less energy and is much healthier to take a deep breath, examine what we’re feeling, and see if we can identify the setup. Experience has taught me that almost every setup is about healing some area of my life. Whatever emotion is activated by the upset is the key to what I’m being set up to see. Using the example of my feeling unimportant to a group of people, was a setup for me to recognize the pain that has permeated my life as a result of not feeling like I mattered from the time I was a child. Because I still have a lot of pain associated with my childhood experiences, it’s easy for me to set myself up to keep hitting the same brick wall. However, every time I find myself in this place and I choose to be with what’s going on within, I get to experience another step in my healing process.
I’m continuing to learn the importance of staying conscious and looking at what’s really going on in my life. Holding the content of how others behave towards me, in the context that I can’t change them and that their behavior is their stuff, sets me free to deal with my own feelings.