How do you look at the world: in judgement, or in acceptance? Our very first experience of something is pre-determined by what mindset we have. If you have gotten a ticket every time you park on that one street in that one neighborhood, you are most likely going to enter the situation with hesitance and anxiety. It doesn’t matter that those were separate situations and bound not to happen again because you learned from your mistake.
The entire history of our lives works this way. Our past experiences establish our opinions, judgements, and general outlook on things. It is very difficult to live in the present if you are basing your experience of now on your experience back then. Our history is a part of us. It can be good for learning lessons and generally keeping ourselves safe, from bad situations and bad people. However, if we stayed as innocent as we were when we were children, then we wouldn’t get very far. It is important to distinguish between learning from mistakes and how to keep yourself out of trouble and judging others who may look or act like someone who hurt you in the past, or avoiding the situation described above.
You become more powerful with every lesson, but you must approach new situations anew and open your heart to alternative outcomes. One way to do this is to really examine your emotional and physical reaction to a situation. Take a moment to breathe and be present. In time, you will be able to do this without much effort at all. Once you have discovered yourself, acknowledge and accept your gut response, then react to the situation accordingly. It’s easy to close ourselves off to the world if we have been hurt or wronged, to let the negative get the better of us, and to act from a place of protection. Take down the wall bit by bit, only as much as is safe for you in your situation at this moment, and you will find a whole new land of opportunity to love and be loved. Once you find this path, you will have less negativity in your mind and you will reform your history into a brighter past that taught you everything you need to know to experience now!
In very basic terms, the Ego is the faux you. It is the part of you that wants to attach itself to anything in an effort to survive. It leaches off of identities and opinions and judgements in an effort to give you a definition of self. However, by attaching to things, the true You is unable to flourish and be released to fully experience of the world. This mysterious enlightened, true-You, state can be intimidating, so rather than seek it out, we often cover it up with false versions of reality.
Think about the last time you complained about someone. Rather than let go of their action and attribute it to their ego (unenlightened state), you may have created a complaint about them by telling yourself a story about why they were lacking and how they were totally defined by their action. Handling the situation this way ends up boosting your ego, making it stronger and more able to take over your awareness of the now and the real you underneath all the false identification. Instead, try releasing the complaint by accepting the person or situation as it is, and forgive.
To forgive is to allow yourself the freedom to move on. You are able to let go of whatever pain, offense, or simple annoyance someone has brought up in you. Forgiveness allows you to move forward as a free and accepting human, who is not bogged down by societal distrust and resentment (the cousin to complaint). Accept others as they are. We don’t always agree with each other, or even understand each other. How could we? You and each individual that surrounds you has had different experiences, influences; come from different races, classes, neighborhoods, sexual orientation, you name it. In our quest to get along with those around us, it’s important to step back and accept differences in viewpoints and choices. Often, what we are offended by wasn’t meant to be an offense, but merely a difference of opinion. Accept and forgive.
Not only others, but yourself. We all make mistakes and are just doing our best to navigate a complex world. Look through the negativity into the light. “You look through the ego to the sanity that is in every human being as his or her essence” (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth). By accepting others, you can accept yourself.
Change Your Perspective
Honest self-reflection and assessment of others have their place. If something is going wrong in your life, a close friend, family member or a therapist is invaluable for talking out and solving problems. Additionally, if someone is making a mistake that you identify as truly wrong, all judgement aside, you must tell them of their wrongdoing and possibly even help them to set things right. As an example, it is not a problem to tell your child not to run into the street aimlessly, but to think her a dummy for taking such action shades your response with negativity, and leads to inefficient guidance.
In your everyday experience, try to think in a more positive light, giving others the benefit of the doubt, having patience with them, giving them their turn to shine. Be as good as possible and let that version of you live amongst others. “Forget selfishness, make others happy, and you will be the happiest person” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:4, explanation).