“When you realize it’s not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to react as if it were.” Eckhart Tolle
Lately, the message I keep hearing over and over is,”nothing is personal”. One of my best friends is upset with me and I’m not exactly sure why. A family member lied to me. I was really frustrated when my son wouldn’t nap the other day and I slammed a door. The opinions of politicians, who are in serious contention to run this country, differ wildly from my own. Then I get the above quote in my inbox. So I asked the Universe for a sign of Nature that relates to the message of taking things personally. What came to me today was weather.
It’s a very cold day here in Nebraska (high of 6° farenheit). There were tornados last night in Florida, and there are floods right now along the Mississippi River, both of which have destroyed homes and taken lives. Weather does not discriminate. These storms didn’t target certain people or groups, nor were they a personal attack on the people they affected. They simply happened.
Just like the weather, anything that happens to us or anything someone does to us is not personal, even if it initially feels that way. In the book The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, the second agreement is “Don’t Take Anything Personally”. A terrific passage from that chapter says, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”
If we can create some space around our rampant thoughts about the situation that feels so personal, (taking a few deep breaths can help do this), we may be able to see more clearly what is really going on or at least see that it isn’t about us, but what the other person is perceiving about us or what we are perceiving about them. I know this can be especially difficult when it comes to those closest to us or those who are in a position to make decisions that can greatly affect our lives. It’s not to say that everything that happens to us is fair or that we should allow people to take advantage of us. And it’s no excuse to act like a jerk or harm someone. We all must take responsibility for our actions and the way we react to others.
You never know what may be going on below the surface of someone’s life. Maybe that person who was rude to you just lost his mother, or her spouse cheated on her, or his son is gravely ill, or she just got a cancer diagnosis. I recently taught a Kundalini Yoga class to a 12 step recovery group, attending the meeting before the yoga class. The open sharing made me acutely aware that people have so much going on in their lives. We can never know everything that has happened in someone’s life that has formed the filter through which they see the world.
I heard a simple quote from author Mark Nepo that stuck with me and helped me greatly heal many of my past emotional wounds. He said, “Hurt people, hurt people.” The first people who came to mind when I heard that quote were my mother and father – my first relationships. But on a wider scale, I think of this anytime I hear of a crime, injustice, mass shooting or suicide bombing. I know what’s coming through is a manifestation of their own pain that they are expressing the only way they know how. What has happened to these people that has them thinking these actions are ok? I pray for their healing as well as the people they’ve harmed. It helps me turn toward compassion and feel like I’m helping in some small way in situations that feel so helpless.
Same with the little situations in my own life. When my friend is ready to tell me what’s upset her, she will. And I know it’ll be about her reaction to something she perceived about me. I’m open and we’ll work it out. I know that my family member lied to me because of something going on in his world that I don’t need to know right now. If he wants to tell me, he will and we’ll work it out. I slammed the door in frustration because at the time I was thinking about all the things I needed to get done during my son’s nap and he was protesting sleep. I realize it was about me, not him. I apologized and we worked it out. Lastly, those politicians can have their opinions and I can have mine. Both equal. They’re just thoughts and many political opinions rarely come to fruition. It’ll all work out.
I write this not because I’ve figured out how to not take anything personally (just ask my husband), but because I’m working on it and I’ve found some tools that have helped me make little perspective shifts when I feel the urge to react to situations that feel so personal. It’s because of these shifts in perspective, I can rest easy knowing that just like a snowy day in January, nothing is good or bad or personal. It simply exists. It happened. Only my thoughts about the snow give it any meaning at all.