My heart goes out to the families and communities of the victims of the two mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am heartened that their government’s response is to immediately commit to making changes to their gun laws. The Islamophobia that fueled the terrorist attacks in New Zealand makes life uncertain and unsafe for Muslims everywhere.
If you want to support grassroots Muslim led organizations working to the support the rights, safety, and dignity of Muslims in the US please click here. As a brown, immigrant woman who has lived my life in majority white cultures, I am all too personally aware of the impact of racism, prejudice and dehumanizing rhetoric that leads to discrimination and violence. We can stand together in unity, see the oneness that is our common source, and act from that understanding.
Closer to home I’ve been working with clients navigating the unexpected loss of loved ones some recent, some past. I am so moved by the experience of witnessing people find their way to be with unimaginable grief and to continue to live life with that being part of their felt experience. The resilience and human capacity to experience the depth and intensity of feelings we do is amazing.
The ideal I used to strive for was to be so “spiritual” that I would not have intense feelings. I measured my spiritual progress by my lack of big emotions. I never felt I was making much progress. What I see now is that the intensity of the human emotional experience can get even bigger as spiritual understanding deepens, but along with that deepening comes greater internal spaciousness to simply be with what is.
This capacity to simply experience emotions is freeing. It stops me from creating more mess and suffering in my life as a result of reacting to those feelings. The flush of emotions comes, but the reaction to them is less. This allows me to love and appreciate my feelings more. They are no longer a problem to be fixed or an encumbrance to endure. Instead, they remind me of my vitality and are part of the gift of being alive.
When I look at what my clients often find challenging in relationships, and life in general, I notice that it is that they feel uncomfortable with their feelings. They feel upset, and it looks like the upset comes from other people and/or circumstances. This can look so real that it is hard for people to look beyond the illusion to the truth that the experience of upset does not come from outside. It can only ever come from the meaning we make of things. We make someone’s behavior mean something personal about us. We forget that bad behavior is a reflection of a person’s state of mind. They are doing their absolute best with the understanding they have in the moment. This does not mean I am condoning or encouraging bad behavior, but I do recognize when someone is doing their best that is their best whether I like it or not.
When I am able to see the state of mind behind the behavior it makes it so much easier to not take the behavior seriously. I was dealing with a very upset family member on the phone earlier this week. They wanted me to do something that did not work for me. They became extremely escalated and very angry.
Fortunately, I was clear on my boundary, and I was also clear that the other person’s upset was a reflection of their fear in that moment. Seeing this made it easier for me to remain calm. I did not take their criticism and derisory personal comments to heart. I knew we could find another way to work the problem that would be mutually satisfying, and I was willing to wait to talk about it at another time when clearer minds could prevail.
I was only able to do that because I had the internal spaciousness to be present with my experience. I did not react to my initial physical tightening and feelings of dismay when the other person’s voice raised. I stayed open. I was not a rigid unfeeling automaton. I was soft, human and fleshy. I felt and I held. Not through effort. I was able to hold in calm because I felt the comfort of my internal spaciousness. I trusted the space. I trusted the openness. I leaned into it.
Fortunately, it is not often that I have to deal with highly angry and volatile people, but it is good to know the experience of love and openness can co-exist with feelings of hurt, sadness, disappointment, and anger. In my ability to stay open, there was enough space within me that my emotions did not catch on fire. The emotional sparks would light, and then they would fizzle out. My openness allowed room for the sparklers of my humanity to ignite. I felt their brightness without it turning into an emotional inferno as it has in the past.
Previously, these sparks would have caught fire, and I would retaliate. I would have said even worse things and been even more unkind. And I would have felt absolutely justified and righteous about my behavior because of what I was being confronted with. I would think, “No one gets away with saying that to me.” And, “No one gets away with treating me like this.” But my volatile actions would leave me feeling guilty and ashamed afterward. From the perspective of a calmer mind, my actions would be clearly seen as hurtful, unkind and unnecessary.
I am not perfect, but I am grateful to the understanding of the Principles that allows me to see how I can have greater internal bandwidth so I can recognize when someone is suffering and stay in integrity with myself while remaining compassionate with them. I feel blessed to recognize it is possible to look inwardly to the infinite wellspring of love, compassion, and empathy that is available to all of us simply by looking in that direction. This experience of connection with the true nature of who we are does not eradicate or even dull the human experience. It simply creates the space to be fully human while experiencing the infinite capacity we all have to love and to feel.
From this state of mind the fear that drives prejudice, discrimination and biases dissolves, and we find we are no longer afraid of our own humanness. We experience our humanity without flinching and contracting. Not because we will ourselves to do this, but because we see the innocence. We see our original innocence and in that seeing, our hearts open wide, for ourselves and for each other. A wide-open heart does not discriminate. It has room for all of humanity. It starts with us. It starts with you.
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free ebook Relationships here. Rohini currently has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website, www.rohiniross.com.