A while ago I had an appointment at 9 a.m so I arrived 15 minutes early, which is something that I like to do: arrive early. The 15 minutes past, then 30, then 45, and I found myself getting increasingly annoyed. I had just enough presence of mind to be aware of this as my body began to heat up (literally) and become restless. The thought that was producing this uncomfortable feeling was, “He (the man I was meeting) is really inconsiderate”. And yet another part of me knew that whenever I was thinking a negative thought about someone else, it was my projection that was causing the pain… to me. The next thought, which actually surprised me was, “I am being inconsiderate….to myself”.
I grew up in a family that “prided itself” on never being late. People who were late were looked down upon and severely criticized as being irresponsible. Growing up in this atmosphere, I adopted it without question and believed it to be Truth. I began to hate it when someone was late and became extremely irritable when I even thought that I would be late. My emotional response was so far over the top that I almost felt possessed by anger when it happened, but I also felt powerless to stop it. What a hellish thing to put myself (and everyone around me) through in the name of being a responsible, “good” person. I always wince a little when someone prefaces a statement by, “I pride myself on…..” because this usually means, “I think I am (secretly of course) better than those who don’t do it like I do”.
So back to how I was being inconsiderate to myself by judging lateness as wrong.
As I sat waiting that day, I realized something deep within myself. I realized that I was thinking that some moments of life were insignificant. As I sat there, impatiently “waiting”, I could see that my mind found no value in that moment. I was alive, sure, but I wasn’t really living, I was waiting for something better and more important to happen (in that moment the more important thing was the meeting). I saw that I had put myself on hold, counting the present, waiting, as something to be gotten through. What a waste of my life. How could I even be more inconsiderate of myself. Sitting there in that little ball of self-righteous anger, all upset, unhappy, and uncomfortable, because someone wasn’t following “the rules”, I realized that I was, in that moment, throwing away and ruining my life, and I was blaming him.
I began to look around me. I noticed a beautiful light-catcher in the window. I saw a lady bug crawling on a screen and thought, “My god, that is alive! With little legs, eyes, a heart even? Where is it going?” The moment suddenly seemed sacred and valuable beyond words. I recalled a story that a spiritual teacher, Byron Katie, told about her awakening and how a cockroach had crawled across her body and she only felt awe and love. In that moment, I understood what she meant; there is no moment less important, or more important, than another. Driving in my car, making my bed, painting, visiting with clients, sleeping, eating, waiting ….all equal….unless I judge them to be otherwise.
After that day, I thought (hoped) that I’d never feel upset about lateness again, but this hadn’t been my experience. There are times when my mind will revert back to the old belief and I can feel the familiar, crappy, feelings coming back. But I now have the presence of mind to catch them before they take me over and ruin my life. I have become considerate enough of myself not to do this anymore.
“This stroke of insight has given me the priceless gift of knowing that deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life. …The feeling of peace is something that happens in the present moment. It’s not something that we bring with us from the past or project into the future. Step one to experiencing inner peace is the willingness to be present right here, right now.” pp 159 from the book, “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.