I’m waking up, this morning, on the other side of change. It’s interesting to feel it unfolding in my experience; different actions result in different outcomes. My appointment yesterday was somewhat intense, challenging, very intimate and connected, and…personal. It didn’t feel ‘bad’, or cause me great distress. That alone is a change in my experience. The everyday practice of taking a few moments for real stillness, for calming my mind and my heart simply as an exercise in mindful presence, and doing it regularly, has definitely changed my emotional resilience, and reduced my level of panic when I am overwhelmed, which happens less easily, and less often. Progress.
When I choose to behave differently, I change the way I interact with the world, and potentially open new opportunities and choices for people involved in my life. It isn’t about ‘fair’ or who did what first. It is very much about making real choices to be who I most want to be, to willfully and deliberately choose to honor my values, and act in accordance with them. It is about who I am, and how I treat fellow humans along the way. I create the world with my choices and my actions, or at least that small piece of it that revolves around me. Sounds so simple. Figuring out those pesky choices is the challenging bit. I’m definitely certain, at this point, that repeating ineffective behaviors again and again is not going to change an unappreciated outcome. I’ve also got substantial empirical evidence to support the idea that treating myself badly limits my ability to treat others well, and that treating others badly generally results in two outcomes: one, people react and behave in life in accord with the way they are treated by others, and two, it tends to set up a perception of ‘who I am’ in their experience that isn’t very pleasant when reflected back on me in the way they choose to interact with me later.
I don’t always see my progress. I definitely experience my challenges in a visceral and immediate way. It can make for a pretty negative experience without the balancing effect of a daily meditation practice. At least, that has been true for me. (Your results may vary.) What I bring to my experience, myself, definitely colors that experience, affects my understanding of my experience, and filters it through the context of my chaos and damage – often in spite of efforts to be more present in the moment, more ‘now’, more mindful, more aware – and less ‘think-y’. I guess that’s why it is ongoing ‘practice’ with no ‘mastery’ in sight. This morning is a little different from other Thursday mornings, largely because Wednesday evening had a different outcome; we made different choices, my partner and I. I am more aware of small everyday differences in my choices, decision-making, and experience, these days. It’s more important than I understood that I, myself, acknowledge and validate my small successes from within; it’s part of that ’emotional self-sufficiency’ notion, and it feels pretty good to enjoy this experience of recognition, alone in the dim light of dawn over my morning coffee.
There’s a lot of violence and tragedy in the world. Humans killing humans. Humans treating other humans badly. I can choose differently, myself, and although I am ‘just one person’ – I am also, actually, one person making choices, and that matters. I can choose, myself, to be non violent. It makes a direct and immediate difference in every one of my relationships with individuals, every time I make that choice. That is true of each of us, each time we make any one choice we do make; it matters, and it changes the world. I suggest, based on my own experience, that when we choose actions that result in violence, that result in overstepping the boundaries of others, that result in actions which violate another human being, or our own values, it also changes the world – and every one of those choices is an act of will. Choose differently, if you want a different outcome.
So, here it is Thursday, and I’m headed to work. Today I won’t bomb any school children in their sleep, or violate boundaries willfully. Today I won’t steal, murder, or deliberately put other human beings in harm’s way. Today I won’t use my ideology to justify the maltreatment of others. Today I will not go to war. Today I will not justify bad acts with my experience of anger. Today I will not make choices that worsen the circumstances of others in order to profit. There are probably very few among us who ever do most of these things – but I snuck in a couple that I know many of us do choose. It’s pretty easy to casually use ideology to justify mistreating someone whose ideology is different; the ease of it doesn’t make it excusable, or less ugly. Certainly, many of us have used our own subjective experience of anger to excuse treating someone else badly, and my observation is supported by the plethora of news articles about domestic violence, and police brutality; the reality of it doesn’t excuse it. Wheaton’s Law truly covers the basics; that and The Four Agreements could easily ‘save the world’… but there are choices involved, and ideology and anger can get in the way of good choices.
Today is a good day to treat human beings with humanity. Today is a good day to love and to help. Today is a good day for compassion. Today is a good day to change the world.