It All Starts in my Head...
The quality of our life is determined by our mind’s response to the circumstances of our life. It is not determined directly by the circumstances.
Yoshin David Radin, “Brief Teachings”
I don’t know about any of you but my mind’s response to the circumstances of my life have not always been the best. I frequently get lost in the circumstances of my life. My mind grabbing hold of some detail of the circumstances, some particle that makes the emotional storyline propagate and roar forward.
When I was younger and drinking, my mind, numbed from alcohol while also set aflame, would light onto some small, usually incorrect perception of the circumstance and then conflagrate a mighty fire of thoughts that raged for days, weeks, even years. The fact that whatever it was that I thought was wrong, was in fact not wrong, never really stopped the inferno.
As I age, I can see that the process of examining thoughts as they rise, before they really begin to burn, is not only helpful but vital if I want to live in the present and have that present have some basis for the life I am actually living.
I can see the quality of my life has improved immeasurably because I have been able to sometimes detach from my mind’s need to grab onto a circumstance and begin a fiery tale. Today, sometimes, I can sit and just watch it burn. I can be almost mesmerized, like a camp fire, holding my gaze as I sit trancelike and watch the thought burn. It may grab me, cause me concern. Will this thought burn into a raging fire or is this just a tiny ember that will float upwards for a brief moment, then die out and turn to ash?
I can see now, today, at this place in my life that I am more likely to enjoy and appreciate the life I have when I do not allow my thought life to dictate what the circumstances of my life mean.
Let me provide a very fiery example.
I kept going back to Lane for the last five years because my perception of why he left was I was somehow deficient. There was something about me that caused him to leave. I was not worthy enough for him to stay. My mind’s response to his repeated departures sent me reeling and made me feel horrible. The ways that he left, so callous and cold, made me feel like he never loved me. So whenever he would return to my life, I felt redeemed, made whole, vindicated. So I would always take him back because I believed, really needed to believe, that now I was whole. I was complete because he was here ready to love me again.
Today I can see that I was off from the very start...
My mind’s response to the circumstance where Lane left was askew from the beginning. I always assumed that Lane left because of me. Something in me that wasn’t lovable, or loving, or good enough or something like that. Some version of the story where I didn’t deserve his love or wasn’t good enough for him. And I can see now that my mind’s response to this circumstance was off from the beginning.
Lane left because of Lane. Not because of me. I can see that so clearly now. But I couldn’t for a long time. The wounded part of me always thought it was my lack of worth that caused his departure, and because that very vulnerable place got lit up, that is what burned, this persistent idea that he left because I was not worthy of his love.
But this last time, I saw his departure differently because my mind was more open, more centered and balanced. I still had all those old fears and wounds and it still hurt when he left again, without even saying good bye, I was again discarded into the ethos as if I had never been there in the first place.
But because this time I was ready to see it different and my mind was shifted from before, interior work having been done, I saw his departure as squarely about him. It still hurt, but not like it did in the past. And the hook for me to believe that if he ever came back again I would gain some sort of redemption, gone. Lane left because of Lane. Not because of me.
I can see now that I had it all wrong. If I walk into a store and am in a good mood and am pleasant to the checkout clerk and the clerk takes one look at me and tells me to FUCK OFF, is this about me? Do I walk away from that interaction, that circumstance and think that I am somehow deficient? No, I think that the clerk is off their rocker or having a bad day or life. I do not take it in because the relationship that I have with the clerk is so tenuous...but with Lane, so much closer to my heart, and I allowed that proximity to change the way I viewed it.
But I don’t anymore. Lane left because of Lane. Not me. I mean, sure I must have had something to do with it, but his reaction his own and not my doing. His mind created its own reaction to our circumstance and that dictated and controlled his painful and unfeeling departure.
What meditation has done for me is to allow me to sit still and experience circumstances without adding anything extra. I just allow the present moment to be as it is without adding more, letting my mind just hang agape without all the storytelling and grasping it usually brings with it. And because I can do that on the cushion, I have learned to do it anywhere, at any time...
The quality of my life has drastically improved because I am experiencing more things as they are instead of how my mind responds to them. Experience is happening to me more directly rather than something happening, my head telling me about bunch of crap and then me relating that to my circumstances, the actual event now all covered and colored by my head’s need to alter any painful reality into something far more enjoyable or at least less painful.
Lane’s last departure was just as painful as the others. Perhaps more so because it was his last one. His treatment of me no longer acceptable to me and I lost complete confidence in him and no longer wish to know him, love him or allow him access to my life. I am done, finally.
And I can say that with some finality because I know that I now see that his behavior was not caused by me. I didn’t do anything to deserve being left, the causes and conditions of his shitty treatment, his, and his alone. Me, I am on the hook for allowing him to perpetuate it in my life for so long. But like an irascible clerk in Target, his behavior will not alter my life or change my storyline or alter the actual circumstance because I no longer believe that it was because of me that I was treated so poorly.
The quality of my life was shaped because I believed that somehow I deserved the shitty treatment and so that always paved a path for him to come back into my life and do it differently. But now, my mind has shifted and I see that he will always be the same. He cannot or will not do it differently because he can’t. And this change of perception has drastically altered the quality of my life.
My thoughts about the situation changed and because my mind’s response became different, I am able to have a better quality of life now. I am detached from the old story that kept me stuck for five years. It matters not what he does or doesn’t do, I am different, I have been changed, altered and melded into someone new who will not allow the shitty treatment of another to be picked up and owned by me anymore.
Lane’s behavior his and mine, mine. And that has forever altered my experience of the us that used to exist. I need do broad proclamations of finality or decisions. It is just done and blessedly so. I changed my mind’s response to the circumstance and the quality of my life has improved. Same circumstance, different ideas about it, which has meant that I finally feel free to move on because I no longer want him in my life. I will no longer give away myself to someone who isn’t capable of meeting me where I am or lacks the capacity to give anything back at all.
The quality of my life does all start in my head but it can end there too. What I think becomes my reality and that is the best news yet because I really am in charge of what I think, what I allow to persist. What I allow to be the crucible that changes me. And so like the Phoenix who is burned to ash, I rise again from the scarred earth to live and love again, this time realizing that I have the power to do it differently because I am, in fact, changed by the fiery thoughts through which I have walked. The quality of my mind and circumstances forever changed...because it all starts in my head.