When We Take Things Personally

It’s so easy in relationships to take things personally. In truth what other people do is just what they do, it isn’t about us even though it can really look and feel like it is.

Lately I’ve been seeing this more clearly in my own relationships. I’m seeing the normal human tendency to take what others do as being about me. Fortunately I’m also seeing what wakes me up to that fact so that I can fall back into peace.

Sometimes it looks like what my partner is doing is about me.

I know that due to a lifetime of social and cultural conditioning PLUS the amazing special effects department of my mind, that I’m going to take his behaviour personally at times, even though deep down I know it can’t be, because it doesn’t work that way.

Everyone’s behaviour is a natural consequence of how reality looks to them in the moment. Given how life looks to someone in any given moment, they’ll do the best they can.

The good news is that moments are just moments; we live in an ever-changing, constantly evolving mental landscape. The other good news is that when people see better, they do better. Automatically.

Seeing better is the most natural thing in the world because thought flows and transforms by nature.

With different thinking comes different behaviour. It’s all so impersonal even though the details of what was said or done can trick us into believing it has to be personal.

The fact that I know this but don’t always see it is not a problem or anything worth trying to fix.

I know that consciousness will bring my thinking to life as if it were reality, and if I have thinking that someone’s behaviour is personal it’s going to appear that way.

More often than not I see the humanness in that and can give myself a huge break. Telling myself I should know better is a recipe for getting more stuck in my illusory thinking, not less.

What wakes me up to the fact that I’m buying into an illusion is the feeling.

It doesn’t feel good to take things personally. It doesn’t feel good to blame yourself for the behaviour of others. It doesn’t feel good to make impersonal things about you.

Our feelings are these beautifully reliable guides. They let us know when we’re on track or off track with our thinking.

When we get caught up, take things too seriously and treat the illusion as truth, we don’t feel the peace, love and wisdom that we are.

When I’m with my partner and my good feelings plummet, I know it’s a surefire sign I’m caught up in some thinking and believing something is real and true when it isn’t.

In that sense, thank god for feeling bad. What a relief we have a built-in check engine light that will click on when we’re using our thinking in ways that harm us instead of help us.

When we’re feeling good, loving, peaceful, wise and well, we’re in touch with our true nature. When we don’t feel that, we’re taking our thinking too seriously.

So if you’re taking something someone did personally that’s okay. You’re human and the illusion is very compelling.

But in truth you are both doing the best you can with your current level of thinking. When that shifts, as it naturally, inevitably will, you’ll see differently, you’ll do differently, and the impersonal truth will become more and more obvious.

The Effortlessness of the Design

One of the things that drew me to teaching and sharing this understanding is I could see how different this was from everything else.

Everything I had come across prior or since has been focused on doing. There was always something to practice, affirm, remember, find, solve, fix, manage, control, change, adjust, uncover, investigate, do, be or have.

And when I was introduced to the principles I teach, share and coach from, it was obvious that none of that was necessary.

Instead of effort and having to do something to feel better, do better or have a nicer life, I saw how truly effortlessly we’re designed.

New ideas, solutions, perspectives, fresh thinking comes to us automatically.

Without having to do a single thing.

Insights, understanding and transformation are built-in to the system.

They’ve been happening since you were born and will continue to unfold throughout your lifetime. They’re what allowed you to learn how to speak, write, read, cook, drive, and a million other things.

Your mental health and well-being is a given, a default setting no one can be without.

It’s not the result of achievement, striving, effort, or anything else we think is a pre-requisite.

You already have it all. You already ARE it all. 

Clarity, love, peace, joy, creativity, calm, resilience, well-being… it’s all already yours.

Job done.

Effortlessly. Easily. With nothing you need to do to earn it.

If you’re not feeling that in this moment it’s perfectly okay, no human lives in the feeling of their true nature 24/7.

But dropping into that feeling is natural and effortless. So full permission to just relax. Give up. Stop trying. Stop seeking. Stop striving. Chill. Enjoy. Be.

The effortlessness of the design is already working perfectly.

On The Benefit of the Doubt

How easy it is to assume we know why people do what they do.

We see an action or hear some words, our minds tell a story, and instantly we assume we know what’s what.

But this trips us up more than we know. Because what we’re actually seeing when we’re looking at someone isn’t coming from their intent, motive or backstory.

It’s coming from our thinking in the moment, always.

So really what we’re seeing is our own projection, our own reality, our own ideas… we’re not seeing people as they are, we’re seeing them as we are.

Which is why giving people the benefit of the doubt is so crucial. We’re never perceiving them as these solid, stable objects with clear cut motives… that’s just the story our mind is telling.

I saw this so clearly at a holiday party last night.

So many people, some I loved, some I didn’t understand, some I was annoyed by, some I was grateful to reconnect with.

But none of that was coming from them, all of it was coming from my mind and how I’m relating to it in the moment.

The person who annoyed me is someone my mind is playing a story of annoyance and injustice about and I’m buying into it hook line and sinker.

The people I loved were people I was seeing with innocence and purity. I naturally gave them the benefit of the doubt, I didn’t indulge my mind if and when it tried to assign meaning behind their actions.

The people I didn’t understand were people I tried to see with interest and curiosity. I was less interested in what my mind said about them and more interested in what I can see if I show up fresh: what’s there when I’m in this moment, not in my thinking about this moment?

The people I was grateful to reconnect were simply people who I saw beauty and goodness in. I relaxed into the moment with them and was grateful for the natural connection between us when we’re not indulging our personal thinking.

I definitely don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt. I get caught up in my stories, convinced by the grand illusion of consciousness and bought into my ideas at times.

It’s totally human, normal and nothing to beat ourselves up about!

But the beauty of life is found in being in life, not in our minds.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt, going back to the freshness of the unknown and being willing to be wrong about our assumptions, ideas and beliefs about someone is where freedom is found.

Freedom to discover something new.

Freedom to experience life fresh.

Freedom to be in the moment instead of thinking about it.

That’s something we can all benefit from.

On the Mystery of Wisdom

Wisdom: A word often used to describe the innate intelligence of all living things, including us.

Human beings generally don’t like not knowing things. We don’t do well with uncertainty, surprise or the unknown.

So often when I discuss the truth that we are made of wisdom, people want to know what wisdom will say.

How will it show up?

What will it have me do?

What solution will it come up with?

What new thinking will I have?

How will I see things differently?

What will occur to me?

And the truth is: I don’t know.

I know wisdom is within all of us; it’s the very essence of our being. It’s wisdom that’s beating our hearts, breathing our lungs and dividing our cells.

It’s wisdom that’s moving experience through us, and giving us something new and fresh in each moment.

But the form it’ll take? We have absolutely no clue.

It’s a bit like signing up for a mailing list. We know we’ll get something on the related topic: if we’re signing up for a culinary list we’ll get recipes. If we’re signing up for a yoga list we’ll get yoga practices. If we’re signing up for a music list we’ll get recently released songs.

But the form it’ll take? No clue. The recipe, the song, the practice… it’s completely unknown.

But we know we’ll get something.

If we can relax into the certainty that something will show up: a new solution, thought, perspective, idea, or action…

Then we can stop concerning ourself with the who, what, when, how of it and relax into our lives more.

We don’t have to sign up to the “wisdom” mailing list. It’s automatically set on “deliver indefinitely” when we’re born.

So we either understand that it’s inherently unknown yet reliable.

Or we think we should know it and drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out what will be sent and when.

Or we think it’s not reliable and stress ourselves out over what will be sent and when.

Both become unnecessary when we see that wisdom is 100% reliable but 98% unpredictable, as my mentor Michael Neill likes to say.

We don’t know what we’ll get, but we can relax into the fact that we’ll get something, we simply can’t not.

On Ingrained Beliefs

Someone in my community emailed me last week and asked me to share my views on ingrained beliefs and conditioning. She wanted to know if they serve us (if so, which ones?) and should we work at changing them.

I love getting questions (seriously if there’s something you’re curious about, just ask!) so here’s how it looks to me.

Ingrained beliefs and conditioning are something every human being has. While the content of the beliefs and the specifics of the conditioning vary between cultures, religions, languages, upbringings and more, there’s no one that escapes meaning-making about the world they grew up in.

The beautiful, really hopeful thing about this understanding is that it points us away from the content of our thinking. Away from our beliefs, away from our opinions, away from our ideas and judgements and conditioning and towards one thing: what is universal.

Universally, we all have ingrained beliefs and we all have the in-built capacity for those beliefs to shift, change and disappear all on their own.

We see this all the time. People you knew from school that are totally different as adults are just one example.

Human beings are always changing. Sometimes in small, subtle ways. Sometimes in huge, holy-moly-who-is-this-person ways.

Change is built-in to the human system.

Fresh thinking is built-in to the human system.

Beliefs falling away is built-in to the human system.

So no, I would never, ever recommend to someone that they should work on changing them.

Mostly because it’s completely exhausting (and we all have better things to do with our time) but also because we don’t need to take on a job that’s already being done for us.

Your beliefs will change, if you let them. Your conditioning will have less importance on your life, if you allow it to.

Your ideas, preferences, opinions, judgements, affiliations, and concepts that seem so solid and real only look that way because we don’t see them for what they are…

Energy.

In a million different forms, looking a million different ways, telling a million different stories.

Don’t some of our ingrained beliefs serve us?

I suppose it’s possible that some may… but overall no. Any concrete belief can’t hold a candle to the beautiful responsive intelligence we’re all made of.

It’s a bit like asking ‘do the files on my computer serve me and guide me to live my best life?’

While I suppose it’s technically possible that you got gifted some exceptionally brilliant files, it’s just never going to be as good as having access to the internet.

Wisdom is designed to live us, it’s the very thing breathing our lungs and beating our hearts as we read this.

It’s so much more helpful to look away from beliefs, away from the content of anything that goes on in our heads, and towards the fact that we are constantly connected to the psychological equivalent of the internet.

New thinking, solutions, possibilities, potential, perspective, insight, epiphanies… they’re all much better at serving us than our ingrained beliefs are.

The internet is inherently more helpful than a database, no matter how good a database might seem.

Perhaps most importantly, trying to sort, analyze, compare or ‘get to the bottom’ of our beliefs is a huge waste of time and energy. Ironically it often has the opposite effect of getting us more entrenched and confused.

I wasted too many years of my life trying to wrestle with thoughts and it’s always a lose-lose outcome.

Rather than trying to be aware of what you believe and try to judge if it’s helpful or not (please don’t attempt this) it’s far more helpful to see that everyone has beliefs, everyone has conditioning, it can all be there floating through our minds in various forms but we don’t need to take any of it seriously, agree with it or use it to guide our lives.

Like I said, it’s all simply energy. It’s in the process of changing by the time you notice it.

You don’t have to take anything you think seriously. Said another way, you don’t have to believe anything you think.

Let it all be there, let it all come and go, and know that the wisdom that’s living you will guide you effortlessly to what you need when you need it. It’s already taken care of, we can just relax and enjoy the ride!

With love and gratitude,

S

On Pink Fluffy Lives

Somehow, somewhere, we’ve all picked up the idea that life should always be great and we should always feel amazing.

Always happy, always loving, always peaceful, we all get along, never get sick, are loved by everyone, have lots of money, no one dies, taxes don’t exist… etc.

We all have our own personal ideas under the category of “this is how life should look”, but on some level we’ve all bought into a misunderstanding that it’s a problem when life sucks.

That it’s a problem when we feel uncomfortable physical symptoms because we shouldn’t feel that.

That it’s a problem when we’re heartbroken, sad and lonely because surely it means something is wrong with us or our lives.

That it’s a problem when we’re struggling financially, it’s a problem when people we love leave our lives, it’s a problem when we could have done better than we did, it’s a problem when we don’t perform as well as we could or should…

The only “problem” that I see is that we believe that things – normal, everyday, human, safe, temporary, totally fine things – are problems.

Life was never meant to be all sunshines, rainbows and fluffy kittens.

Now I love fluffy kittens as much as the next person and I would love if every day could be Play With Fluffy Kittens Day, but that’s not the nature of life.

The nature of life is that there’s ups and downs. Dark and light. Misery and bliss. Sickness and health. Richer and poorer. 

(I just realized this is starting to sound like wedding vows but perhaps the inherent predictability of these things is why those sayings became cliché)

My point is this: if we expect life to be something other than what it is, we’ll be disappointed, confused, and bothered by the totally normal, totally predictable, totally safe parts of life when they inevitably arise.

The human body gets ill sometimes. That’s what bodies do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of fever, sore throat, stuffy nose and sleeplessness.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel under the weather, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a body fighting infection.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to catch colds, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my body resets.

Our minds work the same way.

The human mind gets bogged down with insecurity, anxiety, low mood, dissatisfaction and upset from time to time. That’s what minds do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of feeling like life is hard and unfair, that I’m less than, that I have all these problems, that things or people are causing my anxiety, etc.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel that life sucks or I suck, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a mind bogged down with distorted thinking.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to feel like everything sucks, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my mind resets.

And allowing what is to just be, with no resistance or fighting, is what allows it to change quicker than we ever thought possible.

On The Warmth of Love

What do tenderness, compassion, intimacy, warmth, affinity, connection and bliss all have in common?

They’re simply descriptions of our true nature. That deeper place that exists universally in all of us is made of love.

As a space of love it comes through as a beautiful feeling because it is a beautiful feeling.

It’s a deeper essence underneath all the temporary dancing of our personal thinking.

It’s a solid place beneath the transient ideas we have of ourselves and others.

Sometimes it will come in the form of self-forgiveness: a deep sense that we knew we were doing the best we could in that moment and that’s perfectly okay.

Sometimes it’s seeing the innocence in someone’s action on tv: that they’re so clearly acting out of insecurity and are trying their best to feel better, no matter how misguided their actions.

Sometimes it looks like two lovers that can’t take their eyes off each other because they’re drinking in each other’s beauty.

Sometimes it’s that cozy feeling you fall into when laughing with your best friend.

Sometimes it’s the heart-bursting bliss you feel when you hug your furry friend.

Sometimes it’s standing at a hockey game and feeling the sense of oneness in the crowd.

Sometimes it’s a quick smile between two strangers on a snowy street.

A look, a touch, a feeling, a moment.

We drop beneath the noise of our personal thinking and we touch something more fundamental.

We move away from the fuzzy distortion of our ideas about life and fall into the signal that’s always present.

We wake up from the nightmare and find ourselves just sitting in a beautiful feeling with no effort whatsoever.

The default state we share reveals itself and we feel it instantly, deeply, profoundly.

We just find ourselves in the warmth of love. Welcome home.