By Diane Donovan-Vaughn
You would think we could understand others more easily than we do. Aren’t humans all humans? No, humans are complicated.
One of the big misunderstandings we have with other humans is that we think others are doing what we would be doing if we were doing the same thing. You can actually misunderstand someone for years on end by simply projecting your meaning onto someone else. Probably the other basis for misunderstanding is when we realize someone is doing something outside our understanding that we become confused and cannot accept that others can think or act in ways that seem nonsensical to our own thought systems.
Remember brains lie. We have many voices inside our heads and they are all different, focusing us on various realities and in fact creating a reality unique only to you.
Only recently, after attending a Shaman’s Gathering with Don Miguel Ruiz did I awaken to the understanding that I don’t even have the slightest idea what voices are going on inside the head of my own children. Sure they got some of those voices from me but they also have others from other people and experiences with voices that I have never heard inside my head. The voices in the head are private focuses that all of us constantly navigate. These voices create our life and our destiny.
As a therapist it is actually quite easy to make mistakes when you help anyone change their life. For example, one time I was seeing a former Meth addict for therapy. She was paranoid and hearing voices even though she had been off the drug for a few years, an unfortunate side effect of the brain damage caused by the drug in some cases. I sent her off to a psychiatrist to get an antipsychotic drug, which almost immediately stopped those voices. Within a very short time, this woman relapsed on Meth. When I asked her about what her mind told her, she said, “The voices scared me into sobriety and knowing I could stop them means I can use again.” I do not think like a Meth addict and did not know her voices were the reason she was sober. I could never conceive of using a drug in the first place that damages my brain to the point of insanity, much less think I would want it again if it had already damaged my brain. But these voices are not mine. I cannot hear them. I have had another very similar voice that told me for years to smoke cigarettes off and on and that it would be a very good idea to puff smoke into my lungs.
Now we enter the realm of compassion. Compassion will be hard to find in our own projections and judgments. Compassion is found in realizing how others perceive reality in a way that makes total sense to them not to us. Sometimes, when I start to grasp how the mind tricks someone or how it directs the focus of someone in painful directions and to frightening addictions, I can feel the pain that sometimes even the person thinking and acting cannot feel. Being a flaming codependent in recovery, I want to dive in and redirect, correct and save. But that is my logic. Stopping and getting outside that box and filter that is my desire to save someone is the only way I will have any chance of communicating with this person, the only way to experience true compassion. In fact, it is safer, much like St. Francis said, to teach peace and only if necessary to use words. With compassion, you can send peace and love to someone you do not understand. You recognize the pain and send healing love. You do not know how to heal with your words that are propelled by your brain’s filters. You only know how to heal with your heart just like the sun shining into the world.
Whenever you find your mind telling you about someone else, stop. Stop your thoughts and remind your brain that it knows nothing about someone else. It is making it up from its own limited view of its reality. You can actually listen to the other person and ask your own higher power to guide you. In this way, you move your own filters out of the equation and become a pure channel for the divine. Sending loving and peaceful energy can be your default. Talking can be your last resort and only after you can access your higher self for words.
Remember that we can barely deal with the voices inside our own head telling us to go forward and backward. How could we then believe what these voices have to say about anyone else? Get out the mirror when your voices become obsessed on someone else. Since I have been going to obedience school with my therapy puppy in training, Ellis, I am practicing using one word to back off my mind. My two voices, Eeyore (depression) and Chicken Little (Anxiety) are still ever present inside my mind. Although they do not have the power they once had, they are still offering some unwanted advice. For Eeyore, I say UH UH meaning “No, I am not going to engage in the thought that life or this event is the most awful event deserving all my attention.” Notice with depression, the mind globalizes and you will hear words like all, nothing, totally, the weirdest, the most awful and so on. Then, I redirect to what is good in my life, what disputes the globalized view, which is almost everything by the way. When Chicken Little says, “What if the sky is falling,” I say, ‘Wait’ meaning we will wait until is it actually falling before having a reaction. ‘Wait’ is the word that kept me from totally freaking out when my house was vandalized last week. ‘Uh Uh’ and ‘wait’ are words that remind me to be present; to not believe mentally created realities about others or myself. Refusing to believe these lies will always bring you out of judgment and help you return to love. ‘Wait’ can save you hours or days of recovery from something you basically created with a thought. ‘Uh Uh’ offers you a better view of everything.
Direct words, full of love and chosen just for one particular mind are available to you if you can surrender to the divine. You can access this healing power for you and for the world. ‘Stop,’ ‘Uh Uh,’ or ‘Wait,’ Breathe and Listen. Energy is talking and everything it says is amazing, loving, peaceful, compassionate, and truth. Remember our goal as peacemakers is always to return to love.
Today’s compassion lesson and practice from <em>A Year of Living with more Compassion – 52 Quotes and Weekly Compassion Practices </em>(Edited by Richard Fields) Selection 27 (pp 83-85) is byRoshi Melissa Myozewn Blacker, MA. She chose this quote by Frederick Buechner. He said, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Let’s practice. Take a deep, relaxing breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Place your attention on your heart, the center of your chest and find your true self that dwells inside. This part of you is listening to the voices inside your head. Watch the voices, the feelings, the emotions and your physical body. Let these activities just float by as you continue to stay in the center of your being. Now, send love, peace and compassion from your heart to the world. Finally, take another breath and allow peace, love and compassion to return to your heart.