As an environmentalist, one of my major pet peeves while driving around town is coming into close proximity with a souped-up, smoking lightweight diesel truck—you know, those with the exhaust stacks (metal chimneys) protruding from the floor of the truck, and spewing out the blackest and vilest fumes imaginable.
I find this kind of ‘road user’ repulsive, provocative and highly offensive to me and all earth-loving beings—that is, I have up until recently.
Now, thanks to years of spiritual growth, I process these inflammatory moments of anger quite differently.
Whether the anger moment is triggered by confrontation, a clash in ideology, perceived hypocrisy, or just day-to-day annoyances, I take a deep breath (or more than one) and apply the following four-prong approach to the situation.
I choose to be curious about the person or situation that I perceive to be pushing my buttons. For example, in the case of the fuming truck driver above, rather than screaming WTF and questioning how he could (morally) drive such a toxic, offensive vehicle, I wonder: Why?
Why is he choosing to pollute the environment in this way? Is he freely and knowingly choosing to do this? Is it a form of protest or a kind of political statement for him? Or is it none of these and simply his way of freely expressing himself—different to how I choose to publicly express myself and my values in life. Whatever his reasons for (consciously or unconsciously) behaving in a way that is offensive to some; or whatever the reasons anyone says or does anything that triggers our anger or indignation, the key to checking our reactionary response is simply to replace the angry ‘How?’ with the curious ‘Why?’
This way we don’t stew in toxic anger; we float in a mystery bigger than us and wait respectfully for the answer.
This is where I give myself permission to accept a number of things: Situations, circumstances, or people whom I don’t have the power to (directly) change or control; and the wisdom that it is not my divine imperative to change or control anyone—or any thing. Yes, I can influence the fabric of human consciousness through my thoughts, words, and actions; but I cannot coerce others to adopt the values and beliefs I choose to live by. The spiritual trajectory of their lifetimes is singular in value and experience.
Therefore, I choose to accept others and situations beyond my control—not in a passive, nonchalant manner—but respectfully and without resistance, judgment, or attachment.
When everyone and everything in the universe is broken down to the tiniest of sub-atomic particles, those sub-atomic particles are filled with one thing: space. When we look out at the universe—at the billions of galaxies filled with billions of stars—we’re actually only seeing five percent of what constitutes the substance of the universe; the rest is what physicists refer to as dark matter—an abyss of impenetrable space.
Point being: one of the most important components in all our relationships (intimate, casual, or otherwise) is space; the space to see sacred otherness and to allow all entities distinct from ourselves to fulfill their own destiny—unimpeded from unrequested intrusion. We need to bless rather than suffocate the space between us.
Akin to the acceptance component above, this guideline refers to letting go of control, the need or will to control, and the arrogance that we know better. It is about trusting that (perhaps) the words, actions, behavior or circumstances, that we find offensive or distasteful, may hold a meaning or message for us that will reveal itself in the fullness of time. It is about allowing others to breathe and creatively express who they are.
To sublimate our raw, negative, reactionary energy, in these four ways, is to disarm its potentially inflammatory fire-power and open an inner pathway to peace. And when enough inner pathways to peace have been opened, we will have co-created a new dynamic of peaceful co-existence in our world—a world where we can learn and receive from each other gracefully.
The Spanish word for home is Casa. And our home is where we find peace, refuge, and equilibrium. I use C-A-S-A as my acronym to remember the four-prong ‘toolkit’ above on those occasions when I need to use it.
Try it and see the difference!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Gerard Murphy
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Seth Woodworth at Flickr