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.
Do most people want to be authentic or do we prefer pretending to be perfect, happy and easygoing? If the accepted behavior is one of cheerfulness and security, should we break out of that mold and be truthful and honest? Should we pretend, regardless of the truth that lies underneath it all? The closest I have come to being authentic is in writing this blog and let me tell you it is full of difficulties. The insecurities that arise and the fear that shows up could keep anyone sane from posting (lucky you I am not sane). Yes, I am getting positive feedback. The readers are enjoying the honesty but it is “my” honesty, “my” stories, “my” vulnerabilities and “my” insecurities. I am putting myself out there for all to see and that is scary but what I have noticed is that the stories I tell might be different but all of us share the same feelings. We all share the same insecurities and fears. The only difference are the tales we tell about those things. As soon as we can recognize that we are more alike than different the sooner we will be able to enjoy the world and the people in it. We have an opportunity to embrace each other in all of our vulnerabilities and fears because we are all the same and we all want the same things. No matter how tough, shy, conceited or confident we appear to others. We all want to be loved, to be accepted and to be told that we are ok just the way we are. Once I was able to see this I was able to notice more love in the world. The perceived threats I feel from the outside come from the same feelings I feel on the inside. When a friend lashes out at me, it is an opportunity for me to recognize that she feels threatened and rather than reject her for it with my own hurt ego I can embrace her and love her because I know how it feels. Because I am her and she is me and the only difference is in the stories we tell.
Rabbi Esther Azar