A single flower can be my garden,
a single friend my world.
– Leo Buscaglia
In Embracing fear I discussed the importance of accepting our emotions as they are. Yet our emotions do not come about entirely by chance.
Our reality is an inner stage representing the real world. We can see the glass as half-full or half-empty: one will tend to make us happy, the other anxious. I’m not talking about positive thinking, or trying to keep an unrealistically bright view of the world, but about thinking positively or looking on the bright side. Looking at the photo I can see a sorry excuse for a garden or someone’s personal little paradise – my choice.
This is especially important when we think about our relationships with others. The same interactions can be viewed in many different ways. Two people may have widely different ideas about their relationship with one another.
When I think about a person and our relationship, I am envisioning two little avatars on my own inner stage: a little “me” and a little “them”. All the thoughts and feelings I have about that person are messages in my brain, transmitters flooding my synapses, hormones coursing through my veins.
When I hate someone, I may do something to hurt or even kill them, but feeling the hatred makes me suffer, not them. By nourishing angry or hateful thoughts I am poisoning my own life. Why on earth would I want to do that? Conversely, when I feel kindness or compassion towards someone, endorphins flood my system.
Viewing our relationships with others through rose-tinted glasses would only create unrealistic expectations of their behaviour. But it’s a good idea to avoid nourishing grievances (Heresy n°2 helps) and to accept a share of the responsibility in a conflict. Not only can we then approach the other person more compassionately, we can also focus our attention the part in the relationship we have the power to change: our own. Denying responsibility always makes us powerless.
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
– Eph. 4:26 KJV
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
– The Dalai Lama
Throughout history, spiritual teachers have advocated practicing compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, and gratitude. Not because of any moral imperatives, not because we “should”, but because doing so will make us happier.