An Essay on: What Does Their Reality Have to Do with Me?
And Why Do I Let Myself Think About It?
By Jane Tawel
December 10, 2022
I often tell my students, before you try to write the answer, find the question. And the important questions are always, “How?” and “Why?”. I read a lot about what, in shorthand, I might call “spiritual and life-quality improvement” books. I read theology and metaphysics and spirituality manuals and Sacred texts and philosophy and psychology and good novels of course. There is nothing like a well-written novel to teach one something about human nature and about what one might call the eternal cosmic laws of nature and human nature. But if you read anything along the lines of these genres, you may agree that good books mostly raise important questions and the answers are fluid. Answers are like streams and rivers, always flowing and never the same at the same place twice. Questions are like a Mountain Range. They have always been there, and always will. Every day, we look out from our perspective and we may change every day, but the mountain still stands before us, immovable like God. And no human has ever climbed and conquered all the questions and none of us can conquer them for the next person. We get caught up in the temporal questions that have no ultimate meaning, like “What? How much? When? Who?” But these are not the questions that lead to Life’s great anwers. The Big Ideas and the true meaning of what I am doing on this little blue ball always come from “How and Why?”.
Today I was reading about changing my thinking. This is something I think more of us can relate to after living through a pandemic. We had a lot of time to think and it wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always fruitful. Perhaps you, like I, got into the habit of anesthetizing our thinking and perhaps you, like I, got into the habit of thinking about things that weren’t real. What I mean by “not real” is that one often gets hit with a thought about someone or something and its negative impact goes in like a sharp arrow. And as Thich Nhat Hanh so wisely points out, for some reason what most of us do is refuse to remove the stabbing thought-arrow and we just shoot second and third and fourth and one-thousand more arrows into the same wound, over and over and over again by thinking about it. As I wrote in a poem called, “Do Not Let Them In, They Are Not Here”, we allow the negative thoughts of others to take up residence in the rooms of our Mind-Homes much more easily than we do the positive, loving, good memories, lovely moments to find a home within our Mind-Homes. And so, the question is: Why? Why do we do that?
Maybe you are like I am, and like a long line of the people in my genetic pool and in my current family and friend circle are — we keep thinking about the negative or hurtful or confusing or unloving or mostly SCARY things that other people do in our lives and in the world, because we have convinced ourselves somewhere along the way that if we could just figure out WHY they did that, or said that, or think that — then we would somehow UNDERSTAND. And we convince ourselves if we could just understand then we would stop thinking about it. What we really mean of course is that if we could somehow just confirm and convince them that they are WRONG and we are RIGHT, THEN we would be happy, at peace, have a positive attitude, etc. etc. etc. Our thinking so often goes, “If I figure it out, I could change them, it, that, her, him.”
So here is the “How” question: Haven’t I learned that the only thing I can change is myself, my thinking, my heart and soul; so HOW do I change myself?
And the Why is obvious — Why change me? Because I want to be happy, fulfilled, unafraid, not angry, positive and healthy and hopeful and free.
I read this today: “You demonstrate the state of your mind at any given time. You experience in the outer what you really think in the inner.” Jesus, who knew his sacred texts well, believed this: “As a man thinketh so is he.” And he acted on that time and time again in his own mind and heart and life. What a great example of being a fulfilled human being, Jesus could be if we would let him. His ministry was to heal people basically by convincing them of the truth of that statement. “Because of your faith (mind-set, heart-set, soul-set) you are healed. If you have faith (inner health, harmony, and freedom) you could move a mountain.” Our inner self is our reality. So why (there is that ultimate question again) do we muck it up with junk and crap that isn’t here? I am going to use a strong word in this next bit that I never use but if you have followed me so far you know that this is exactly what some people do to us and what some situations feel like to us:
It is sadly and far too often the case, that I cannot prevent someone from shitting on me. But I can stop myself from wallowing around in their shit. I can hose it off and walk away. But far too often, when something bad happens to me or someone I love, or someone is mean or hurtful or evil (and if you don’t believe in evil, well….I don’t know what to say, but evil can enter even the most normal or religious of us. For good information on that read M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie and well, The Bible is good too.) So …. Again, sorry for the strong word but “Shit on me once, shame on you. Shit on me twice, shame on me. Shit on me a thousand times? — Why am I still letting my own thoughts do that to me? Why?
I worked a very stressful job once at a “Christian” place. Most American Christian places I have worked on, well…. God have mercy. But at this one I was so stressed after a year I thought I was having heart issues. The doctor assured me I had a heart as strong as a teenager and it was just panic attacks. If you have ever had panic attacks, there is no “just” about it. Panic attacks are the body’s desperate attempt to show us that our worst enemy, however he or she may choose to appear as anger or hate or righteousness or — our biggest and most virulent enemy is — Fear.
I had a dream during those years. I was walking toward the auditorium with all the other employees and there was a big hole in the ground — a sort of chasm really. I fell into the hole and when I clawed my way up out of it, my beautiful suit and high heels and panty hose and all of me, head to toe, were covered in mud. I kept walking with the other people toward the doors of the auditorium and here is why I still remember that dream — the astounding thing was that no one noticed I was covered in mud. No one noticed.
We don’t do we? We don’t notice each other’s pain. We aren’t willing to look in the mirror and see the real reason we keep feeling our own pain. And God forbid we feel guilty about the pain we cause someone else. So, we pretend we aren’t all wallowing in the dirt and mud. Because if we did, we might reach out a hand or pass around a clean cloth or offer to baptize each other in the healing pool of forgiveness and love.
The real reason we obsess about the negative things people do to us or with us or sometimes, mea culpa, because of us (I too am guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit), is not because we want to understand them, or even because we want to be right and prove them wrong. In our hearts we all know that being right is a fleeting joy and like those bags of chips or cases of beer or Netflix streaming shows that we all over did it with during the pandemic, being right will anesthetize the pain for a while but we have to keep the anesthesia flowing and eventually its efficacy wears off. We all know those people (often ourselves) who have become so needy to always be right that they will insist they are right even if they are quite obviously wrong. It would be funny if it weren’t rather sad. But isn’t that really what we are doing when we keep convincing ourselves we just want to “understand” or we just want to keep thinking about something because we want to make sure we are “right” about the situation? Why are we so afraid to admit that even being right does not bring us peace? Why do we not want to live with inner peace and love more than we want to “figure out” the answers? Wouldn’t I rather live with joy and peace and love of self and others more than I would to live with an endless, pointless, hopeless search for the wrong answers to the wrong questions? Because even if I know them, the answers for someone else’s reality will never make me feel at home with the questions about my own reality.
Today, I think I found my Question of the Day that may help me write my life-story’s next chapter –
Question to self: Even if you do in fact “see them” for what they really are, what does their “reality” have to do with your reality right here and right now?
And if my answer is, “Nothing”, then I need to rinse myself off, pick myself up, stop wallowing in the shit that isn’t here anymore, pull the arrows out and throw them as far as I can throw them, walk away from the things that I use to mask the pain and fear, and free myself from the prison with no bars to keep me in it. I need to find why I am still alive and breathing and seeing and hearing and talking and loving — -
“Yesterday is gone and will never return. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118)
“Get away from me, ‘Satan’.” (Jesus)
“Flee from evil and do good, and dwell forever. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his Saints: they shall be preserved forevermore: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous men shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.” (Psalm 37)
“Oh, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Since we’re together, we might as well say: Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?” (Fred “Mr.” Rogers)
Today, I will focus on the thoughts that I choose to be my neighbors. I will live with good neighbor-thoughts and I will only open my heart to the loving thoughts and ideas of goodness that I want to live within me.
Today, I cannot prevent a thought from arriving at the door of my mind, whether a fear for the world in which we live, a hurt from the past, or a desire for something that is not ultimately good for me or for those I love. I can, however, after opening the door to that negative thought, say, “Sorry, you may not come in. Sorry, your appearance is useful only in reminding me of what is important. Sorry, you hurt me once — see the scars? But you cannot come in and reside with me now; you may not hurt me now — you are not here with me in my reality. Even if you are here outside with me, I will not let you in here, inside the temple of myself.
Today, I will love myself enough to start anew — clean, free from fear, full of faith that the Universe is a Good place to live in today and that it is my job to protect myself from evil and harm and then to, in love, protect all others from what I can — outside in the world, and from within my own heart and mind.
Today, I shall feel all there is to feel and not anesthetize myself from that which can teach me to be a better human and to live with the great cosmic natural laws of God. And when any of those feelings are scary or hurtful or cause me anger or fear or greed or confusion, I will ask:
And I will know I can live within the question because someday, I will be what I have always been meant to be, and I shall see The True Reality, Face to face.
And all will be well with me today and forever, in the Kingdom on Earth as it is meant to be in a The Perfect Cosmos of God and Humanity. Amen.