Dear Rose People,
We live in a material world where things like traffic, weather, money, and all that “life-in-a-female-body” stuff shapes our day-to-day reality. Simultaneously, there are unseen forces and intangible things running the show. These can be microscopic physical things (think bacteria, nanoparticles, mycelium), or these can be energies that are at work that we pay little attention to, like fluid dynamics or magnetic frequencies, which require fine-tuned instruments to perceive. And, there are intangible human forces at work, too. A big one is the stories we tell ourselves and each other about how the world is.
Our stories, beliefs and archetypes form a scaffolding, a way of making meaning from what’s going on in our lives. From that meaning, we make our choices. Sometimes people get very convinced that how they are interpreting and making meaning is the only way of seeing something- and that can create suffering. Author Byron Katie writes, “It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring.”
Here’s an example. Last week, I met a woman who told me that she had a recent breakup with a “lying, cheating boyfriend”. But in her details she also said that he had ended the relationship by communicating clearly with her, and that she only found out later he had been interested in someone else. Yet here she was in pain, angry and bitter, and demonizing him. One could tell this story differently and without blame. One could say, “The relationship was no longer a fit for him, and he chose to move on.” One could say, “I’m now free to find someone where there is a mutual “hell yes”.” One could say, “I really like these aspects of the relationship, and will invite that again, or something better.” It does no good to let the story of betrayal run our lives, it only affirms the narrative that others can’t be trusted. This might lead us to contract and block our own loving nature.
There’s no microscope or metering device for our stories. If you see an invention like that please let me know!
But there are some things that do help: if we are lucky, we have a really good and brave group of friends who won’t let us believe our own BS. We can also practice seeing things from another angle, and see how that impacts us.
The Work of Byron Katie is incredibly helpful in this regard. The Work offers a tried and true way to “identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It is a way to find peace with yourself and with the world. Anyone with an open mind can do this Work.” It’s best done with another person, where you can witness and help each other, but you can try it on your own, too. It is completely free and translated into most languages. Here is the link to a free pdf of her basic work, in English.
Our meaning-making stories can be about finances, about religion, about bodies, children, about sex, about politics, table manners, about what respect means to us- almost anything. The more that we can become aware of the narratives driving our personal and collective choices, the more we can create the world we want to live in, the more true freedom we have, and the more we can be happy. We can’t eliminate pain, it’s a fact of embodiment - but we can lessen the suffering and worry that amplifies it. Worry and suffering take up a lot of energy, and block forward movement and positive action.
Here's another quote from Katie:
“Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector— mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.”
Happy lint removal :)!
May you and me and all beings everywhere be happy and free.
Founder, Rosebud Woman