I believe life is a journey, an opportunity to learn about myself and others. The Buddhist philosophy to welcome everything and push nothing away was introduced to me by Frank Ostaseski in his book The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully. When my father was dying I practiced Frank’s five invitations and they transformed my way of viewing life. Every day I find new opportunities to practice!
When my life is going well and people are doing what I want, it’s easy to welcome everything because it’s all good, but when difficulties arise sometimes old habits rise to the surface.
Here’s an example. I’m sitting next to my husband in a movie theatre and he’s slurping his drink so loud the people in surrounding seats are staring. Welcome everything, push nothing away, I whisper to myself, and yet inside I’m seething. Here we are watching this beautiful doomed love story onscreen, and I can barely contain my irritation at the rude straw slurping. I shake my head, try to shush him, throw my hands in the air, still he doesn’t stop until the last drop is gone, and then he shakes the empty ice cup making more noise and tries to slurp again. At this point I don’t like my husband at all.
Is it Okay to Judge?
I ADMIT that I am absolutely sitting in judgement of him, a habit I’m trying to break in all areas of my life. I’m frustrated at myself for getting so sucked in and allowing the sound of the straw going in and out of that plastic lid to ruin the movie and obliterate any attraction I might have felt towards my husband before we entered the theatre.
I’m lucky to have a women’s circle where I get honest feedback. That week we were talking about the ways we don’t speak our truths. I shared what happened in the movie theatre thinking they would laugh along with me at how petty my complaint was. But that’s not what happened. Instead of laughing it off, they dug in and pushed me to go deeper. I described the scene. The movie was, A Star is Born. We went with my adult son and my mother. I admitted feeling ashamed that I was so judgmental. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Wouldn’t that have been the spiritually correct thing to do.
My friends listened as I explained how hard I’d been working to catch judgmental thoughts and replace them with love. Welcome everything and push nothing away. I realized as I spoke that my outer behavior was correct. I appeared to be welcoming, but internally I wasn’t acknowledging my feelings. Somewhere along the line, I thought if I ignored the negative feelings I would avoid getting sucked into judgement.
What you want matters too!
I felt the resentment and was angry that my husband kept repeating behaviors he knew annoyed me. I’d told him how and yet he kept repeating. And I did nothing to care for myself. I kept going to the movies, sitting there feeling irritated. Inside I distanced myself from him while patting myself on the back for choosing higher ground.
A friend asked, “Why aren’t your needs, what you want, as important as everyone else’s?”
“It’s stupid, I can’t believe I’m so upset. I mean, he has a right to eat and drink in the movie theatre.”
“And you have the right to do whatever you need to do for yourself! What could you have done instead of sitting there boiling?”
“Nothing, there was nothing I could do. I wanted to get up and leave, or to scream at the top of my lungs SHUT UP, but I sat there seething. My mom was really looking forward to the movie, if I left and didn’t come back she would have followed me out. I didn’t want my irritation with a drink to ruin the experience for everyone.”
As I listened to my excuses, it was clear that I could have done something to feel better, but I sat there like a martyr, hemmed in by self imposed rules and expectations over how a loving, non-judgmental person should act.
You have a Choice
“What are ten things you could have done instead of sitting there?” Someone asked.
They egged me on telling me to be silly, just think of anything. I started laughing, listing one, then another. “I could take the straw out, move to an empty seat, stand up and scream STOP SLURPING, I could leave the theatre, I could tell my mom and son everything was fine but I needed to move seats, I could accidentally spill the soda on him or knock it to the floor, or thrown it away.”
But I believed that what I wanted, felt, hoped for, or needed was not as important as the desires of others. At some point in my life I was labeled selfish if I ever put myself first. So I stopped doing it, making sure that those around me were cared for and happy, even if I wasn’t. I left our group that day feeling empowered. It was okay to judge and evaluate when a situation hurt or upset me, it was okay to make a choice that made me feel good. It was time to listen to my feelings, speak honestly and take care of myself. The words welcome everything push nothing away had new meaning. I would welcome my feelings and not push THEM away. I would be honest, communicate my feelings in a loving way AND do what I needed to do to take care of myself.
Be Honest AND Loving
When I returned home I spoke to my husband. I told him I would no longer sit next to him in the movies, that I wasn’t comfortable with the slurping and didn’t enjoy the movie under those conditions. He said he went to the movies because of the snacks, and we resolved not to sit together. It was a loving conversation. I took care of myself and for once I didn’t feel guilty. In the days that followed I used my new skill repeatedly. First by acknowledging my feelings, then communicating with love. I focused on my newfound freedom to welcome everything, push nothing away, AND in the process to love and nurture myself by doing what I needed to do. Simple and to the point. No pressure for you to change what you’re doing, but I’m going to take care of myself and choose the action that is right for me.
1.Was there a time in the last 24 hours when you didn’t speak your truth? Write down ten choices you could have made that would have made you feel better. Imagine yourself doing one of them, visualize it.
2.Are there other areas of your life where you don’t speak your truth? Maybe you’re afraid you’ll rock the boat, lose love, or hurt someone’s feelings. Write about your feelings. Think of a loving way you might communicate your truth without trying to change the other person’s behavior. Again write down ten things you could do or say that would be true to who you are and what YOU want.