Recently a dear friend paid me a lovely compliment. It was along the lines of, ‘You are so lacking in bitterness.’ We had been talking about the struggles, ‘injustices’ and loneliness I experienced as a single parent in the early years post separation. I had observed that, because I didn’t know then what I know now, it was at times very painful for me. My ignorance of how life actually works had led to several years where I was really floundering.
I’ve been reflecting on that observation quite a bit. He had touched on something key about how simply knowing about the 3 Principles can help us enormously.
At the same time I had been listening to an acquaintance rail against the injustices being meted out by his ex-wife and her parents.
It struck me that it’s not virtue nor saintly forgiveness that has resulted in the peace of mind I now enjoy. It’s physics. Or maybe metaphysics? At any rate it is information: better clarity about cause and effect of how humans create their experience.
For many years I have been fascinated in what makes people tick. And until 2010 most of what I came across in the many, many books I read or trainings I completed was missing a simple, revolutionary truth. What I feel doesn’t come from other people, no matter how appallingly they behave. It comes from the Thought I entertain about their behaviour.
Because without thought – which includes knowledge, judgement and values – there is no feeling about any situation. Once we truly see the role that thought is playing in creating our experience of life we tend to start creating less of the painful stuff. This truly seeing involves more than a perfunctory acknowledgement of cause and effect. It involves a deeply embodied insight about it – which is where the work I do comes in. After than we can begin to see other people’s bad behaviour in more neutral terms. This does not mean lying down to abuse. Far from it. In fact from a more neutral viewpoint, we are far more effective at making wise decisions. It’s like the difference between ranting at the TV because extreme weather is forecast; and taking action to lock the windows and bring the washing in. Being in denial or reframing bad behaviour is no part of a 3 Principles understanding.
Once the role of moods is allowed for – the fact that all of us go up and down in state of mind, often not at the same time – room for perspective is created. For example a spouse may behave badly and this can seem unfair. [Of course the definition of ‘unfairness’ is itself created unconsciously by thought in each of us.] However any marital ‘crime’ looks different when the fuller picture re-emerges and the person’s mood defaults to a place of inner neutrality. From there the truism that no one is perfect emerges. The spouse’s positive qualities come to the fore. How much better would any relationship be if the people involved took the bad behaviour less seriously?
Even when the ‘injustices’ seem more important and personal, such as in the case of my friend with the vengeful in-laws, knowing about how we really work can help. When he sees that the source of all feelings, hurtful or compassionate, is within, he can step out of the pool of pain, to the more resourceful, quiet place within. From that perspective it will be obvious whether he needs to take action or can just let their behaviour go. The in-laws like most people have no idea where their feelings are coming from and, when they are in pain, tend to thrash about blaming others – such as their ex son-in-law.
Today I am no better a person than I was when I was mired in that terrible pain. I am simply better informed. But the difference is immense.