The separations that exist in life are created by language. Egos live comparatively. They identify this then they identify that and then a narrative unfolds that compares the two on a personal value scale. In the actual world there are no borders. No one is truly half-Chinese, or even Chinese at all. They can’t be fat unless there is thin to compare it to. They can’t be poor unless there’s rich to compare it to. And they can’t be unhappy without happy to compare it to….
A great example of this is weather. Today it snowed for the first time this winter where I live. This is an annual experience I know well. It’s no surprise that winter is here or that this part of Canada would get snow and colder temperatures, but most people will ruin much of the next five months complaining about this predictable fact. And it’s nothing more than perception.
Everyone in any place that gets truly cold knows that +10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in September-October is much much much colder than +10 Celsius in the spring. In the former case people are putting on long underwear and wearing heavier coats, but once they have the colder -25 C (-13F ) weather of winter to compare to; that very same +10 C will elicit t-shirts and shorts! Temperature is relative.
Another good example of this is pain. As I write this I currently need a root canal and I spent a couple nights at Emergency. Sitting there in agony, the last thing I wanted to do was focus on that pain in a resistant way—that is to say, I didn’t want to spend my time suffering by wishing the pain away. I accepted it by not arguing with its reality and instead I focused on how it teaches me how easy it is to take general health for granted. It also means that any time the pain reduces even slightly I feel grateful. I’m happy to be in less pain even though I’m still in extreme pain, so I feel gratitude rather than think agonised thoughts.
Life is. The weather doesn’t happen to you. It doesn’t rain on your wedding, the laws of nature combine to create weather and you’re present for it. But it’s not your weather. It’s just weather. Same with everything. Bad bosses. Hey, they’d be bad with anyone that works for them, not just you. There’s no meals that are bad, just ones you don’t enjoy. Nothing’s wrong; if you don’t tell yourself a story that something is wrong, then nothing is. This is how I can live largely free of suffering even though I must accept actual pain. Even severe pain. That’s just part of what you sign up for when you become human.
Pay more attention to things you complain about. Note that you’re making the world you-centric. You’re placing yourself at the centre of events that have nothing to do with you personally and only your narratives convince you that the events are yours. You haven’t been dumped. Someone chose to do something else with their life which meant they weren’t available to do the thing with you they historically had. Life happens moment by moment. You don’t have a relationship, you have a history of spending time together.
I know this can sound harsh at first, but it’s true and your freedom and salvation are on the other side of that highly personal world. If you stop making all of your internal conversations about you, you will immediately be available to experience the world openly. The only reason you can’t see it is because you keep hiding it behind a veil of opinions. That’s nothing more than ego.
Stop judging the world as good and bad and acceptable or unacceptable. Just be. If you have to put on a coat, put one on. But don’t put it on and wish it was summer. That’ll absolutely make it feel colder. And remember, while a wind will feel colder, there really isn’t any such thing as wind chill, because if temperatures were actual experiences for people, then +10 would feel the same in fall as it does in sping, and anyone with direct experience knows that simply isn’t true.
Stay warm inside and out by being kind to yourself and the world. Stop your comparing and you’ll stop your suffering. I wish you the very best in developing this ability. Trust me, it’s easier than you think it is.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.
One thought on “Comparative Living”
Hard lessons but oh so true.