There are certain things that make sense and then there are some things that make an unexpectedly profound sort of sense. So yes it makes sense that people don’t like feeling anxious. But, while it’s a bit counter-intuitive at first, it makes sense that nature has given us the sensation of anxiousness for a purpose, so there must be times where it is appropriate.
We’re learning through doing these meditations that it is appropriate to feel hyper aware of danger in high-stakes situations. But it is also appropriate to keep in mind that real danger is much different than feeling anxious due to your narrative thoughts about what past or future events might mean to you right now.
For instance, it makes sense to your ego to not like it when your reputation gets hurt. Your ego is fundamentally who you believe you are, but your identity to other people is who they think you are. Just knowing those two things proves that a “reputation” doesn’t really exist. It would be more accurate to say, anyone who is aware of your existence will have an opinion. That’s it. So if it’s that certain and arbitrary then what’s the point in having an emotional reaction to that? You might as well spin a bottle.
Someone not liking you isn’t the edge of an actual cliff. Even if you’re correct, those are ideas someone will think for a while inside the confines of their own head. Whether people like you or don’t like you, that has almost nothing to do with you and almost everything to do with them. So that’s a big difference: a cliff is real danger and a useful place for a cautionary emotion. But creating / experiencing that emotion over a zillion people’s casual fleeting opinions is like begging to be neurotic.
Status and reputations matter to people who don’t understand what those things really are. People thought many brilliant scientists were wrong. At a certain place and a certain time that made sense. Same for Van Gogh. It appeared he hadn’t succeeded as a painter but it turned out we needed time to understand how brilliant he was. So what is Van Gogh’s reputation? To someone dead from his era they could easily rise and pass a lie detector saying he was no good. And they would be telling the truth–their truth.
It makes sense that people will think the worst things about people who have hurt them but that does not mean hurting you was what they intended. Even if it was, from their perspective they may have been trying to neutralize something that threatened them. So the mean pretty girls in high school pick on the girls that make them feel dumb, ugly, shallow or less cool. Can you see having a personal reaction to that sort of general fear-based behaviour makes no sense? You’re above that.
Pride, status, reputation, regret, guilt, worry–these are thought-forms in your consciousness. You need to replace them with something, because to exist is to create the world with your thoughts. That’s why people like me can have bad accidents, have their bodies die but yet the other aspect of them survives until the body is inhabitable again. Your life isn’t your cells, it’s the experience you have within your consciousness.
See your day as a running commentary on a world that simply is, and even when it seems directed right at you remember that it is still just itself being itself in all of its chaotic glory. Don’t ask the ocean to shape its waves in very particular ways and instead just crash as many times as it takes to learn how to ride any wave successfully.
Forget managing your own and other people’s judgments. Your ego wants to be impressive but the real you just wants peace. Don’t let thoughts about non-real things like status and reputation and guilt be thoughts you choose to think when you have so many others available.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.