I flew to the South West of France last week to meet my adorable five-month old nephew Eliott for the very first time. My sister-in-law and her husband live in Australia, so it was a treat to be able to spend time with them in Europe. Oh and the 20+ degree (celsius) sunny weather didn't hurt either! During one of many baby conversations with my sister-in-law, something she said stuck with me: "There are times when I feel exhausted, irritated and stressed, and tempted to completely lose my cool; but Eliott's presence forces me to take a step back, pause and then choose a different reaction and response."
I know all about losing my cool. I grew up not really knowing how to deal with feelings of intense frustration, anger and sadness. My automatic response would be to raise my voice and scream at the very top of my lungs... heartbeat racing and out of breath. Ironically, this was never my fault, I always blamed others for my behaviour; the ones that deeply hurt me. I would love to say that this all changed when I became an "adult", but sadly no. Looking back to my early to mid-twenties, I remember fights I would have with my boyfriend (now husband - yes he stuck around despite it all :)). My reactions followed the same pattern: frustration then anger, followed by a complete shut down and finally sadness. Back then, I wasn't even aware of this. There is only one way I feel best describes this: I was asleep.
Baptiste Yoga Level 1 training, in June 2014, marked the beginning of my journey of self-inquiry. What does this mean exactly? To me, it means taking a close look at myself. I began to notice and question my actions, reactions and thoughts, in many of life's situations. This ranged from relationships with loved ones, interactions with acquaintances and strangers; to eating habits and career choices... I learned to cultivate none other than awareness. I was waking up to my own life.
These observations give us access to certain insights, which then have the potential to create significant changes in our lives.
I had one of those "aha" moments shortly after returning from the training. I was on a bus in NYC, where I was living at the time, when I received a text message from my sister. While I don't remember the content of the message, I remember my reaction very clearly. I started making various assumptions about the meaning of each word, and creating stories around them. I noticed that I worked myself up to a place where I was frustrated, maybe even angry. Was she responsible for any of this? Absolutely not.
Don Miguel Ruiz says: "Every human is an artist. We are the creator of a story about ourselves, and we are its main character. Everybody that we know is just a secondary character in our story, which is a virtual reality that only exists in our mind".
My sister is one of the secondary characters in my story. My interpretation of the message was solely based on my own story, the one I had created around our relationship and the person that I perceived her to be. None of it is real. So this time was different. Rather than responding angrily in haste, I paused and noticed all of this happening. For the very first time, I started to question the stories that I was creating in my mind. I then responded calmly, with no agenda, no story. And what was the result? She replied in exactly the same way. All the stories I had created were lies and had I reacted as I usually would have, fuelled by anger and frustration, I would have created conflict from absolutely nothing.
Also remember, if you are creating stories, others are as well. You are the secondary character in someone else's story and their interaction with you is based on their own story, their own virtual reality. So next time someone upsets you, remind yourself that everyone is dealing with their own shit and their own lies. Don't take it personally; it has nothing to do with you.
Don Miguel Ruiz says it beautifully: "Don't Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering".
Transforming your life is not about changing the secondary characters in your story, it starts by changing the main character, you. Take a close and honest look at yourself. Have you been asleep? Wake up to your own life. Question your stories, your beliefs, your lies and most importantly stop believing those lies.
The next time you feel upset, frustrated or angry, perhaps try out these simple steps:
Step 1: Pause, take a breath
Step 2: Observe your reactions and your thoughts
Step 3: Question your stories, change your perspective
Step 4: Respond
Has anything shifted? Notice how by changing your response, by changing the main character in your story; just like magic, all your secondary characters will start changing as well.
"We often need to change our position so we can see things differently. We don't have to make a dramatic change; we just need to move around a little. Perhaps an unresolved issue, anger or self-contempt is blocking and interfering with our vision... Take a break. Move around. Learn to change your perspective. Maybe you don't need to change what you're looking at. You just need to change where you stand." Melody Beattie
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