“Don’t ponder others.” ~ Tibetan lojong
There was a time where I could have an argument with you—start to finish—without needing you to be present for it at all. Or I could invent entire scenarios and live out the angst of what I thought would happen or could happen or might happen—long before it ever did happen. I think part of it is being a writer. Oh, the imagination! Always making up stories.
Imagination is a wonderful thing when it’s me making up stories while I people watch on the train or when I’m making up bedtime stories for my children. When it’s fueling my projections about what may or may not be going on in someone else’s mind or what he might say or do? Totally useless.
Well, not useless, but to no good use. If we want to live in a state of baseless anxiety and constant drama, constant contemplation of others is a great way to go. If we want to live half a life and make someone else’s choices instead of our own, thinking about what someone else will say or think about our choices is a good start.
Personally, I’d rather not live in a constant state of imagination fueled anxiety about what others may or may not being saying or thinking. I’d rather enjoy my life and focus on what is actually going on in my relationships. Pema Chodron summed it up best:
“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”
Hard times will come in life often enough without us constantly giving ourselves new ones. It’s great to think first of others, but this doesn’t mean “thinking about what they might be thinking about and how it affects me,” it means thinking of how I can be of benefit to others. Gossip, projection and drama…not of benefit to anyone (except maybe people who write soap operas of those movies for Lifetime).
Five ways to knock off the drama:
1. Don’t take things personally. If someone does lash out at you, stop before you react. Is it deserved? Own your part and apologize. Clear up any misunderstanding if there is one. If it’s not, it’s about what’s going on for them and it’s not about you. Get over yourself. Go outside and look at the stars instead of fretting about it. Let it go.
2. Talk to people, not about people. It’s easy to forget this one. We want to “vent” instead of being direct and “hurting someone feelings.” Guess what? When we choose to be indirect, it’s our own feelings that we are trying to protect. We don’t need to be aggressive, but direct in a respectful way.
3. “Don’t ponder others.” Don’t contemplate others. Don’t sit and enjoy your fairy tales about what he might do or say or think about something. Let it go. It’s not real. I used to have this one woman who I saw, maybe twice a year. I would work myself up into this huge anxiety about what I thought she might think of me or say about me. Then, one day I realized, whether she approves of me or not, she’s never going to be direct about it. If she talks about me behind my back, it won’t be to people who would tell me about it. So, in effect, I had wasted a tremendous amount of energy on something that was never going to have a direct impact on my life (except for the hard time I had created in my own mind).
4. Choose your words carefully. Respond rather than reacting. There’s something I have found to be true about mindful speech. I find that the more I am mindful with my own speech, the less trouble I have responding to mindless speech from others. If we know we are coming from a place of mindful communication, we can feel grounded and not constantly tossed around by ideas about how our words may have been perceived. Speaking (and emailing, Facebooking, texting and all of it) clearly, respectfully and lovingly goes a long way towards preventing communication problems.
5. Live a passionate life. When we focus on what brings us joy, there’s a lot less room for drama and angst, especially the self-created kind. On the flip side, if we get wrapped up in these projections and in contemplating others, we leave ourselves little time to do what we love. Skip the fairy tale and live an adventure in real life.
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