I wanted to share a few experiences that instill within me a sense of awe at the immense practicality and beauty of the inner work Belsebuub writes about.
These experiences are about little changes; the changes are quite tiny in and of themselves, but a life full of these little changes, over time, amounts to bigger changes and becomes a life quite different from the original.
Cutting down on Pedestrian Rage
I’m quite a fast walker, which most of my friends can attest to, and even when I’m walking at what I consider a relaxed pace, I still pass lots of people on the sidewalk.
Where I have lived so far, driving hasn’t been essential, and so my everyday experience of “road rage” has been limited to “pedestrian rage” in trying to pass people on the sidewalk or in grocery stores who seem to almost intentionally get in my way.
I’m sure it’s more coincidental and unconscious, but if I try to pass on their left, they sway their arms out to the left and move that way. I try to pass on their right, and they move to the right and block me. I just can’t get past them. It kind of reminds me of a hilarious Mr. Bean skit.
Initially, I would feel extremely irritated at those sorts of people. I would curse them in my mind, and after passing them, I would feel considerable frustration and walk extra fast, just so they were more aware of their slowness.
My mind would continue with angry thoughts, fantasizing about turning around and telling them to learn to walk better or wanting to give them a dirty look, etc.
With the techniques of awareness and self-observation, and later the elimination of the egos, I began to catch myself in these states of frustration and actively go against the anger, bringing myself back to the present moment.
Over time, I began to catch myself sooner and sooner, breaking the cycle of negativity from after I had already passed the “offending pedestrians” to, perhaps, the moment I was first trying to pass them and feeling thwarted.
With more persistence, this impatience was further reduced so that I could catch its first manifestation: almost an anticipation that the person I wished to pass would get in my way.
It sounds odd to anticipate a frustrating situation and to have anger beforehand, but that’s just what was going on: a small spark of anger would be ready to ignite given any justification from my mind. This, too, I had to reduce.
Eventually one day, after a few weeks of diligent work (it was not an overnight process!), I found that I could pass people, regardless of the situation, without feeling any negativity at all.
It was so much of a change that I only noticed after having passed a series of people that got in my way that I hadn’t reacted at all. The emotional pattern had been broken.
Improving Interactions with Others
Through one of my places of employment, I had to work with an individual with character traits that were particularly effective at getting under my skin. This individual would interrupt me mid-sentence, sometimes make snide remarks during my presentations, and take my work off on irrelevant tangents that caused others in the workplace to feel stressed and annoyed.
In the beginning, I recall struggling to respond calmly to that individual, while feeling an immense, seething rage towards them, and wanting to roll my eyes and get the approval from others that this person was a troublemaker.
I would observe my emotions when interacting with them, nonetheless, but I felt very weak and as though I could have snapped at any moment due to the strong emotions.
It was actually quite frightening to look within and see such darkness and such strong anger.
To my great relief, things did get easier. The individual in question didn’t change their behavior, but as the weeks went by, I found myself more able to take a step back, to listen to them with respect, and to even feel more warmth towards them.
At the same time, I became more capable of separating my own negativity (a mixture of pride, impatience, fear, and irritation) from the objective need to be more assertive and to not give them so much control over some of the situations.
I found that I could regain control of the situation, while at the same time feeling a state of calmness and compassion.
From these encounters I was learning about how to act with consciousness, free from negativity, even if that meant standing my ground, which on the surface could actually sound aggressive.
Although my negative feelings may have led to my taking a stand anyway, the drive behind such my behavior and the eventual consequences would likely have been quite different.
I could have perhaps hurt that individual or brought hostility into the workplace, and that would have been very bad.
Transferable Skills in Dealing with Rejection
What I find most striking with these incremental changes is that a change in one situation may lead to changes in different situations.
I remember at one point, a friend had canceled plans together only to go out with another group of friends. Actually, this was far from the only such occurrence throughout my life, but with this particular event, I was able to observe myself quite carefully.
I felt betrayed and disrespected. The usual sorts of negativity associated with being hurt and feeling unwanted emerged, and I worked hard to observe my emotions and reduce them.
Shortly after working through these emotions, I was with two of my friends and also someone who was more of an acquaintance. This acquaintance, right in front of me, began to make plans with my two friends. Plans where I was clearly not an intended participant.
Then the three of them discussed these plans as though I wasn’t even with them.
The same thing had happened a few weeks prior with these individuals and I felt quite offended and hurt.
But this time, I didn’t feel a strong reaction.
I calmly listened to their discussion and after a few minutes, we returned to a conversation that we were all part of.
Even though the situations were a little different, I realize that a similar set of emotional states are involved—states like pride, in wanting to be well-liked, and attachments to events and people.
By reducing one series of reactions, my response was improved in a different situation.
These sorts of changes are very delicate: it can take quite a while to change, even something quite basic.
And I am well aware that I haven’t fully overcome all the negative states associated with the situations I cited, but I have gained a level of understanding of these situations.