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The Value of Meditation in Training to ‘Not take things personally’

Published on 05/11/15
by randy


Wave Hitting Lighthouse


The Four Agreements:  1. Be impeccable with your speech. 2. Don’t take things personally.  3. Don’t assume 4. Be/do your best.


Our great wisdom teachers suggest we’ll have a more peaceful life if we can not take things that others say personally. When we can accept that everyone is processing their world differently we can relax our desire to have them think and experience like us. We all build a map to the territory and try to do what we think is best. Yet, that’s all it is, a map. The map can not and never will be the territory. Actually, that’s what language is. We’ve taken arbitrary symbols, put them together, and assigned meaning to them. Yet, that meaning will always reside in the minds of each of us. Their are a couple illusions we have to break to have a peaceful life.

First, to break the habit of taking things personally, we have to see that our notion of personhood is a concept. Our mind has taken various identities and to function in the relative world, we’ve attached to these. Some have called this the ego, that sense of being a fixed entity. Yet, when we explore deeper, we can see that ‘who’ we are is a huge mystery. Some have said our life will go better when we function as ‘awareness residing in a body’. This practice of witnessing our thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. seems to work better in leading a skillful life. We can see how we suffer to the degree we attach to our discursive thoughts and we find peace and freedom to the degree we can release them, coming back to the ‘here and now’ witness mind. This takes dedicated practice since the next thought is just around the corner, ready to take us for a ride.

Secondly, when we truly get the notion that ‘meaning is found within the experience of the mind/body concept and NOT within the word’ we cultivate a deep respect for our primitive attempts to understand one another. The complexities of the universe far exceed our collective level of knowing. Our ignorance is correlated to our felt sense of ‘knowing we’re right’. When we ignore the mystery, ‘thinking we know’, we’ve attached to our thought, elaborated it, given it momentum, and now are ready to go to war over it. Our refusal to see the limitations of language results in great suffering throughout the planet.

So what can we do? Perhaps the most important skill is to train in the ability to witness our thoughts. When we can just watch them arise, let them go, and return to the non discursive reality of the moment, we can re-align the body/mind. We can better tune ourselves to the moment for a more conscious, skillful action. We’re deepening our sensitivity to this precious gift of life, softening the assumptions we carry, opening ourselves to the creative experience. We can also develop better listening skills. This is especially important given the downward spiral of communication skills resulting from our addiction to devices. Face to face communication is diminishing and we’re losing all the nonverbal cues that make up a large part of the message. Tension and misunderstanding are rising because we assume of written message is somehow being understood, even though it has just a small fraction of the message. Even before we had all our devices, however, we were quite primitive in understanding the skill of active listening.

When we’re humbled to the complexities of communication, we no longer assume we heard the message. We’re humbled past our tendency to judge another, and in compassion, we’re ready to explore and dig deeper into the message. Basically, this body/mind concept I have experiences and so does yours. We can never have each other’s experience, only our experience of the others’ experience. They also have this. Now we can deepen our understanding of that experience through our willingness and skill at suspending our opinions, beliefs and thoughts. Some have called this the ‘open mind’. Active listening commands this. Without it we’re blocking our journey to understanding with the reactive mind. This mind is attached to the ‘meaning’ as something fixed, rather than a fluid target we’re trying to synchronize to. This deeper listening is filled with phrases like, “I heard you say ____________. Am I close to what you mean?”, “Tell me more about that”, etc. It’s a listening that aims to drill deeper. It’s the opposite of persuasive speech which assumes one is right and the other is wrong. The deeper we go the more intimate (into me see) we experience one another. With practice and skill development it’s hard to avoid the empathic response. There’s a place where we get closer to touching the experience of the other to the extent we lose our concept of being separate. This is the synchrony of body/mind/spirit, where we break the illusion of dichotomy. It brings us back to the illusion of our ‘personhood’. It feeds our capacity to meet another’s suffering, what we call compassion. It loosens the rigid, suffering, judgmental mind to forgiveness and gratitude. It results in healing (discovering our wholeness in one another) over the wounding that comes from functioning in our dichotomous world of ‘knowing’ and ‘thinking we’re right’.

It’s my experience that meditation and active listening go a long way to leading a more peaceful, joyous life. It’s my thought and consequent opinion that training in these skills should take far greater precedence in the educational process that limited focus on technology. It’s my opinion that the very health of our planet rests on our capacity to teach this skills so the body/mind/spirit can synchronize to the experience of humility, gratitude, forgiveness, and consequent joy. It’s really what all our great spiritual teachers have said. It’s not religion. It’s skill that needs development for a better life. Meditation (resting in the non-discursive experience) and active listening are key components to the creative experience. Isn’t that what we’re here for?

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