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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the road to acceptance

I used to be really judgmental.  A negative force that completely drained and annoyed me, this unattractive quality was one that drove me nuts.  I was very aware that I was analyzing the shit out of people and generally assuming the worst.  An equal opportunity judge, I formed opinions (good and bad) about friends, strangers, acquaintances and myself.  On countless days I'd come home from social gatherings and replay every moment and every feeling, bashing myself for faux-pas, condemning some for poor behavior or praising others for social grace. 

There were a number of times the judgment would manifest in the moment, too.  I'd walk into a room or onto a playground and greet friends who totally ignored me while they chittered away.  It felt terrible and I'd think things like, they're rude, they're cliquey, they don't like me.  I'd be overlooked for party invitations, dinner gatherings or birthday celebrations and feel terribly left out.  I'd think, I'm not fun to be around, I'm not good enough, they don't like me.  There are people who, no matter how many times I waved and smiled, always seemed to not see me.  In the moment it'd hurt or feel awkward and I'd think, I'm invisible to these people, they don't care about me, they're not friendly, they don't like me.  

Being the social animal I am, these judgmental and assuming thoughts were screwing with my Mojo.  So they had to go away.  The removal process started with becoming mindful, or present without judgment.  (Not suprisingly, I found mindfulness to be the first step to balancing every yucky feeling I wanted to work out; but those are stories for other days.)

For the first few months of my mindfulness practice, I'd have to remind myself daily or hourly to BE.  Some days I'd forget altogether.  As time went by, and very much without realizing it, I stopped the reminders and mindfulness settled in comfortably to my thinking.  I had a lot of simple yet profound moments in which I'd find complete peace of mind regarding various social scenarios.

The first and most important realization is that I could say with confidence that I really like myself.  I'm compassionate and open.  My intentions in relationships are pure.  I try to always be kind to others.  I help when I can.  I genuinely like neighbors, acquaintances, friends and family and wish them good fortune and happiness.

Second.  Cliques of friends can be beautiful, providing extraordinary comfort and security.  We all need close friendships to survive and there's not enough time in the day to be BFFs with everyone.  I feel happy for people who have fallen into a tightly-knit group.  Never in my life have I been exclusively committed to one particular clique but am insanely blessed to have several extraordinary friendships that deliver me so much comfort, joy and love that when I think about these girls my heart fills up with love and my eyes fill up with tears.  It's all OK.  Whatever makes your life work and brings you genuine happiness is perfection.

The third understanding was that I have no clue what's propelling a person's behavior.  She could be coming off a sleepless night, getting over a fight with her hubby, stressing about money, suffering through a bout with depression, rushing and clueless...  Maybe she doesn't remember my name or simply just isn't in the mood for small talk.  Maybe she has social anxiety disorder.  Maybe she just lost her job.  Maybe she's insecure.  Maybe I'm just not her type.  The point is, you never know what's going on behind another person's closed door.  We are all pieced together differently but we are all equally human and in our humanness we are divined from the same goodness.  At a soul level, we love and accept each other even if it's difficult to show sometimes here on earth. 

Finally, I stopped comparing.  I'm not a competitive person by nature but when other people so enjoy talking about spendy things they have, perfect relationships they're in and exotic things they do, all of the sudden I start thinking, Boy, I wish I had all of that.  And the jealousy creeps in.  I wish she didn't have that b/c I don't have that; I deserve all of that great stuff, too.  And then that ugly judgment.  Who does she think she is?  Does she think she's better than me?  She's materialistic, she's a show-off, she's not nice.  Okay, so this thought sequence is a little dramatic but I'm trying to drive home a point.  Unreasonable comparison and unhealthy competition can lead to bad assumptions and self-doubt.  When I recognized it in myself, I stopped doing it and it changed my life. 

There are lots of other smaller shifts that helped me balance out my unhealthy feelings but these were those few that were easiest to recognize and share. They're pretty amateur ideas but what made them profound for me is that they became a living and thriving part of the fabric of my conscious mind.  When an idea becomes part of your natural foundation of thought, it takes on a new power.

So the other day I heard some news that could have made me really upset.  Instead of getting mad and assuming the person was ill-intentioned, I instinctively accepted it.  But then my ego jumped in and said, "Hey, Vanessa.  This is not cool.  You should be pissed off."  So I processed the situation and tried being angry on for size - and the feeling just didn't fit anymore.  Acceptance suits me much better.  I don't know exactly when the shift happened, but it did and I'm grateful.

When I began my spiritual journey, I did so with intent to stop judging and start accepting everyone and everything.  And I'm very happy to have balanced this part of my life.  I feel like now that I have a handle on a universal feeling of acceptance, I can skip over the pain and analysis that crops up in social situations.  Or I can just acknowledge the hurt and move on quickly without letting negative judgment seep into my noggin or affect my self image. As Eckhart Tolle might say, it's a breaking down of my ego for the purpose of Universal Love.

By opening my mind in meditation and practicing mindfulness, I've broadened my perspective and now spend much less time indulging in self-destruction and self-deprecation.  In fact, I barely engage in that behavior at all anymore.  And in the end I think it makes me an easier person to be around.  Good for me, good for you, good for the planet.  ;-)

Peace, Love, Gratitude,

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