We get into trouble when we take things personally. What I mean by that, besides the usual meaning, is that we make ourselves unhappy when we personalize our experience, when we tell a story about our experience rather than just have the experience. Telling stories wouldn’t be much of a problem if they were uplifting and true, but usually our stories are partial truths and complaints about life that generate unpleasant feelings. Those complaints and feelings color life and spoil the potential happiness and grace in each moment.
For example, you notice your spouse’s clothes on the floor and say to yourself: “Those clothes were so expensive; I can’t believe he/she threw them on the floor.” That story can make you angry, and you might express that anger to your spouse or do something else in reaction to it (e.g., eat cake, go on a shopping spree, complain to a friend). Instead, if you’re able to just notice the clothing and the story that arises, then anger and any other reactions the anger might spark won’t happen. Then just pick up the clothes or don’t pick up the clothes. End of story. The anger is unnecessary and so are the other reactions. Such feelings and reactions waste our energy and get us nothing but unhappiness. What if you just noticed what you notice without telling a story about it and then just responded? Voila! No suffering!
We create our experience of reality with the stories we tell about whatever we’re experiencing. When we tell a positive story, we feel good; when we tell a negative story, we feel bad. Meanwhile, life is just the way it is, neither good nor bad (the clothes on the floor are just what they are, neither good nor bad). The egoic mind chooses to like or dislike something about every moment. The moment is the way it is, but the mind tells a story about it, judging or evaluating it, assigning meaning to it, and relating it back to the me: “This is good (or bad), and it means x for me.”
These stories determine not only our experience of the moment and how we feel, but what we do next. The stories we tell often make us to feel a certain way and react a certain way. So our stories are important: They determine our internal experience and often shape our behavior, which in turn, affects how others react to us. So reality is the way it is, and then we shape, or color, our experience of it with our stories, and that determines what happens next. When our stories are negative, usually the result of believing them is negative as well, and we suffer not only from the negative story, but from the consequences of believing that story.
When we just experience reality as it is, without putting our spin on it, life is much simpler and there’s no suffering. Life is uncomplicated by unnecessary feelings and actions. So much of our doing is an attempt to fix our story or the unpleasant feelings (suffering) generated by that story. Without the story, we might not feel a certain way and we might not take action in a certain direction. Then what we would be left with is just the simple moment. And out of the simple moment come wisdom, clarity, and right action—action that is informed by our true nature rather than by the ego.
When we stop listening to the ego’s stories, our true self—Essence—has room to move in our life. The Being that we are will move us to act and speak in ways that are most true and fulfilling for us and for the Whole. So rather than speaking the ego’s words and following the ego’s dictates, when we stop believing and responding to our mind’s stories, we can begin to live from Essence.
The place of Essence is an impersonal yet intimate place. It’s a place where we intimately experience life without personalizing what we’re experiencing—we don’t turn it into a story about me. When we’re identified with the ego, we relate our experiences back to the me, to how the me likes or feels about the experience or how that experience might affect the me. We have an experience and instantly evaluate it: “Do I like it? Will it be good for me or not?” This personalization of experience is actually how the sense of me—the ego—is created and maintained.
The egoic self, the false self, is made up of ideas about what we like and don’t like, what we believe and don’t believe, what we want and don’t want. When these ideas get tangled up with reality, that is, when they get inserted into reality, they change our experience of reality. The experience of reality without all this referencing to the me, is pure, simple, and uncomplicated. There’s much less to do and no feelings to fix. What we’re left with is pure being, simple experiencing, with no me experiencing it and having an opinion about the experience. Action might happen, but it happens spontaneously and easily, with little thought and no thought about me, what I like or don’t like, what I want or don’t want—just acting because it feels right to take action. Who knows why and who knows what that action will lead to—and we don’t need to know.
This place of no me and pure being is a place of freedom, happiness, and contentment. The place where nothing feels personal is very free and pleasant because it’s free from the constant self-referencing of the ego, which is an unhappy, contracted state—a place of suffering.
This is an excerpt from Gina's book Trusting Life: Overcoming the Fear and Beliefs That Block Peace and Happiness, to be released September 1, 2011