“Letting go of taking things personally” is an experiment based on an idea from Eileen. Taking things personally is something that we all do, and at times it really clouds our sense of peace, our relations to others and everyone’s quality of life. ” Letting go of taking things personally” is a practical course in 5 parts, looking at the most important elements of taking things personally, with some exercises to put in practice.
Part 5: Can I be the space for it ?
I have given it a little time before concluding with the last part of our little online course. We have been making good progress – from the working mechanism of the ego, forever being concerned about physical survival. On to the habit of judging everything we encounter according to our experiences, with the goal to avoid all that does not agree with us. Eventually enquiring deeply into fear, the henchman of the ego, keeping us away from everything the ego does not know, and believes to be dangerous.
Taking things personally is the the fundamental process of egoic conditioning. Only if I really believe something out there can threaten me – I will create an emotional reaction that moves me to keeps myself safe. And believing my own thoughts about being attacked personally, does exactly that – they keep me in the doldrums of what I came to believe about myself.
Why is it that I choose to believe derogatory or damaging thoughts about myself ? Most of it is based in our childhood, a time we experienced ourselves as vulnerable and dependent on our caregivers. Inevitably something might have happened that caused us a traumatic memory and from that time on, we have solidified a belief of “not being enough”, or “not being safe”. Many secondary and tertiary emotions have been layered on these original traumata, that are all but forgotten.
In the course of a spiritual awakening, these ancient structures and constructs break open. We are becoming more sensitive towards our own reactive patterns and conditioning, we observe, we learn to recognise judgement and cease to be identified with it.At a certain point we encounter fear. This emotion has been covered up by a lot of conditioning and other belief-systems, piled up high on the original thought” I cannot keep myself safe”.
While we are able to observe the ways of the ego, in particular catch our constant judging and automatic patterns of avoiding situations that cause us an unpleasant feeling, we are able to disentangle our attachments to illusionary thinking to a certain degree. But as it happens, when the icing of the cake is removed, the structure underground is exposed and we face naked fear and raw emotions.
The way here is “always forward”. Always go right into that sensation of fear, disgust or the umpulse of running away from it. Catch it, where you can and stand up to it. When conditioning is exposed, it ceases to torment us.
What I am saying is – we only can disentangle from our judging (the thought) and conditioning (emotional reaction) to the degree we become aware of it. There are many sub-conscious beliefs, identifications and patterns, that we do not see and it takes some time – and a good dose of grace – before these deep seated patterns melt and come to the surface.
This stage is about becoming comfortable not knowing. What is meant by that is to have ceased to be identified with all judgement and emotional conditioning, as they pertain to a certain situation. It does not necessarily mean not to have feelings, judgements or a conditioned reaction, it just means to be aware of it and not follow an impulse into the realm of unconscious behavior. It requires us to fully understand, accept and let go of our “desire to be right”, and open up to everything and anything that is coming our way.
This is what is meant by the pointer ” Can you be the space for it”, It means to allow whatever occurs to happen, without working up a resistance, or shutting down. But being in a state of acceptance and openness, does not mean non-action.
So on our journey, once we have seen through the working of egoic conditioning, the futility of judgement and the distraction of fear, we are ready to take on “not knowing”. This is not really something we can force ourselves to do. All we can do is to be aware of our own resistance in certain situations, and inquire into the thoughts and belief patterns that we can observe behind it. Not knowing is a state beyond letting go. It means abiding in a field of openness, without contraction or resistance to anything that is arising – may it be considered “good” or “bad”. And that is the beginning of a state of finally having mastered the art of not taking things personally. It means to no longer having to follow that automatic synaptic connections of our nervous system. It means to no longer work up intense emotional responses of resistance and it means to see the other as what they really are – inseparable from us. they are us and we love them not like ourselves, but as ourselves.
To be the space for it – or acceptance – can be practiced to a certain level, simply by observation and enquiry. To allow a difficult situation or emotion to be with us fully, until we melt into it and become what seemed to be separate and hostile. Acceptance does not mean to succumb to unfairness and abuse, it only means not to argue with Life, why this situation is happening. It is one thing to have an emotional reaction, quite another to follow it and acting out in an unconscious reaction.
A situation is simply just happening. And that is all I need to know. So if it s a disease, a difficult person, a challenging life event – all these occurrences are invitations to “be the space for it”. It means that I may have to look at certain belief patterns about myself – like “not being enough” and the subsequent cascade or controlling patterns, to keep this belief alive. To ” be the space for it” means both – to open up to the other – and myself.
Many times, I have seen that the latter may be the ultimate challenge – to be the space for ourselves. To accept ourselves and everything that is coming through us, may it be considered good, bad or ugly. But this is something we all ahve to learn to do ourselves – with the help of grace and the determination of wanting to see it all.
Part 4: Beyond fear – Letting go