I had an experience with my friend Sam that I will tell you about: As usual, we often sit around and debate politics, religion or life. This week was like any other. Conversations about Obama’s state of the union, the weekly Bible reading and quantum mechanics were all present. Oftentimes, in discussing things with Sam, he gets excited often trying to prove his point and I react accordingly trying to prove my own. This conversation was different. As soon as he started getting excited, a part of me took a step back; the part of me that was secure in myself, the part of me that knew that I didn’t need to defend my position because the position or lack of it held no importance.
Don’t get me wrong. I have wonderful ideas but they are just ideas. I recognized that in that moment Sam was not trying to defend his ideas but rather himself. We are oftentimes defending our beliefs as if they are who we are. We relate ourselves to our thoughts so strongly, that if someone challenges those thoughts, it as if they are challenging our whole being. In my experience we as humans revert to fight or flight mode because deep down in all of us we fear for our security and safety. We have given our thoughts such credence that they are who we are. We must defend them to the death . We see it all the time in the news; religious fanaticism, suicide bombers, and ultimately 9/11.
What happened that night with Sam was that, I was able to take a step back, become an observer of the fear, the fear in me and the fear in him. We are so identified with our thoughts, that we allow them to take over and we say things that can be hurtful because we are afraid.
When we can recognize that we are not the thoughts but rather the observer of those thoughts. We can notice that we are not different but the same as the person sitting across the table from us. If we recognize that we are identifying with the false idea that we are not safe in this world, the false idea that we are separate, then we can open up to compassion. Opening up to kindness and allowing the ego to rest enables us to relate with compassion and love rather than fear and defensiveness. It is in the moment of noticing the fear in ourselves and the other, that we can let it go and be free to share our love unconditionally.
Rabbi Esther Azar