By Bethanie Jones
I was meditating the other night and something so obvious yet so subtle hit me. I saw the planet earth from the view of outer space and wondered how many people’s prayers were being sent out into the universe in addition to mine at that exact moment. I saw billions of tiny dots covering the planet and each had a tiny string of light shooting out from it into the black unknown. I saw human life as simply another layer of the planet, not any more significant than the water or land that also inhabited it. I tried to envision where my tiny little body was on a scale that big. How could the universe possibly hear my nanoscopic cries? How could all of our prayers be organized and prioritized and then actually heard? What made my concerns more important than anyone else’s? Was anybody out there?
The thought of being so insignificant both comforted me and concerned me. Do our problems even matter, and if they don’t, why do we spend so much time caught up in them? How many of the things that upset you 5 years ago do you remember? The traffic jams, arguments with the cable company or the daily stresses that at the time, had you really upset, can you now recall? How many of those moments have made a lasting impact on you? My guess is not many, if any at all. You see, almost ALL of the things we stress about, get angry about, fear or loathe, simply do not matter in the long term. When your coworker isn’t pulling their weight or your kids still aren’t picking up after themselves, none of these things make lasting impacts. These moments are simply experiences that pass through us and steal us from the present. Our bodies are just physical vessels that house our spirit. Nothing more and nothing less. Our senses gather information, our minds create a story, and the content of that story triggers our emotions. We feel the emotion in our spirits and in our bodies and then it eventually passes. This is the breakdown of all human experience.
There is a popular Eastern folktale about a man and a snake. The man is in the woods alone (he thinks) at night and comes across a large snake. His body seizes, he screams, his heart starts pounding and he begins to sweat. He is terror-struck and scared for his life. When all of a sudden, another man appears and he shines his light down on the snake. The snake wasn’t a snake after all, it was just a rolled up hose. The man with the light had no physical or emotional reaction to the hose and kept walking, whilst looking very strangely at the frightened man. The stimulus and the circumstance was the same, what differed, was the story each man generated in his mind.
Are you someone who generates positive or negative stories? Do you look for the bad or for the good in things? Do you assume others will hurt you because others have in the past? Do you assume that things will go wrong or do you assume that things will go right? How many of your problems are caused by these self-created stories? Do your stories make life more difficult for you or do they ease you through?
Sometimes we get so caught up with our stories that we come to believe they are fact. We hurt people we care about because our story is right and their story is wrong. We leave jobs, we leave relationships, or perhaps we never gave certain relationships a chance, because of the stories we create in our minds.
Try noticing your thoughts this week. What are the top stories that come up for you, the ones that seem to reappear again and again? Listen to your minds playlist, do you enjoy what you hear? Write your stories down. Analyze them. Where did they come from? Which ones should you delete? Should you download something new? Does your playlist describe the kind of world you want to live in?
“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.” –Confucius