By Indira Grace
I have decided to change my story.
This isn’t new for me. I am the Queen of Reinvention; my niece even says so, so it must be true! My change, however, is less about reinvention and more about authenticity.
For years, I have been The Compassionate Observer. I love to sit back and observe with peace and compassion in my heart and on my tongue. I know that I will always be that; and, yet, there is a part of me that is also a radical revolutionary, an impetus of change, who, taking my cue from Glennon Doyle, embraces and celebrates doing hard things, and encouraging others to do hard things, as well. We have spent years, as a society, relishing in the disempowerment, whining that “it’s too hard.” My response to that statement is now, “Compared to what? Suffering? Watching others suffer?” It is time that we change our stories.
It is a revolutionary act to change your story. Each act, though it may seem small, will be huge. So, I am inviting all of us, myself especially, to stop making excuses for our own bad behavior and to take active steps into our authentic selves.
I know how this sounds. Why is it all about me? Have you seen how others act? I am not that bad.
And my answer is this: “My darling, it is always about you.” Just as it is always all about me. It is so very easy to be aware of everyone else’s crap, but we are not here to do easy things. We are here to do hard things. We are here to look at ourselves and do the things that are ours to do to leave this world better than when we came into it, just like Buddha. We cannot do that if we are constantly running around telling everyone else that they are the problem. Buddha never did that, so why are we?
Recently, I created a new mantra for myself—and by mantra, I do not mean something lovingly healing and affirmative-like, however, it was necessary. It went like this, “I will not read the comments. I will not troll the commenters. I will not leave sassy comments or enlightening memes for those who do not believe the same as I do. I will keep scrolling.”
Do I even need to explain to you why I had to create this mantra?
My comments, I discovered, do not change minds. How could they not tell from my excellent word choice that I am a beacon of righteousness and wisdom? You might be able to guess what happened when I made these changes. Nope, it was not peace. Not at all. My ego went berserk. The mental chatter about, “But if you had just said this, or posted this meme, I am sure someone’s life would have been altered exponentially” was deafening.
My ego got so much pleasure in trolling. I even bargained with it. I said, “Okay. We can post one meme. Just one. And then we are going home.” Huge mistake. I posted the one meme and then I got so many compliments. “Gold,” someone said. “Brilliant” another exclaimed.
My ego all but threw herself a parade. “See! They LOVE you!” And yet, I knew that the person that I had meme’d was getting bullied. I participated in bullying them into submission. Literally. They said nothing else. My heart hurt for them. My awareness of the pain that I may be inflicting on another was in my face. Maybe? Who am I kidding? I knew what I was doing. I was intentional with my ugliness. And in that moment, I refused to be that any longer because I am not a victim of anything, not even my own ego.
So, I am changing my story. I am taking my power back and I am walking my talk.
As a Buddhist who has taken her Bodhisattva vows, I vowed to never harm another sentient being. Period. Not “other sentient beings who think like me,” but all sentient beings. I wrote an article last year about Michael Vick. I honestly think that no one read it, but many had things to say about it. Everything that they said indicated that he deserved no grace, no forgiveness. One person even commented about how he has the right to choose whom he grants his forgiveness to; some Buddhist teacher told him so. However, I still stand in my truth, and in Buddha’s teachings, when I say forgiveness is not conditional; and neither is love.
If I am to take my vows as a Bodhisattva seriously, I must forgive and love all. There are no escape routes here. There are no exceptions.
It is hard when we don’t want to love someone who is cruel and who has done cruel things. Hard, compared to what? For me, it is harder to make excuses for myself when I am holding others to a higher expectation. Read that again. It is harder to make excuses for myself when I am holding others to a higher expectation. How can I expect others to behave from a place of love and compassion when I am still behaving from a place of judgment and anger? I do this every time I troll and comment. I do this every time I meme from a place of righteousness. I do this every time I make excuses for my inability to forgive the perceived transgressions of another.
Here’s the thing. There is no handbook on how to “human.” There isn’t even a handbook on how to be a decent human. People do astonishingly, amazingly cruel, hurtful, and horrible things every day. And it is our job as fellow human beings to show them the way to peace. We do not do that through being cruel right back at them. We don’t. I have never learned love through cruelty and hate. Have you? I learned to sit down and shut up. You may have learned to fight back. We may have even learned how to turn ourselves into a victim. But we never learned love and compassion.
At the end of every year, I take some time to look back at my life and how my experiences shaped my year and my life. This year, I am inviting all of us to look back at our story. Use the awareness that the Buddha teaches us about, the awareness that we develop through our meditation practices, and change our story from where we are now.
This fall, I had an ah-ha moment with two Unity ministers, within a few weeks of each other. They both had written books that I had recently finished reading and I complimented them on the material. Both said something to the effect of “Thanks. Of course, that was me back then. I have strengthened my practice, deepened my beliefs and so now my story has changed. But I am glad it spoke to you now.” I was speechless the first time I heard that and blown away the second.
Here were two authors showing me that it was not only okay, but totally appropriate, even expected, to change one’s story. We can change our own stories and behave from that place where our core values and beliefs exist. When we do that, then we can accept the change that others bring forth in their lives with grace and love.
It starts with us changing our own story, and that is how we will change the story of humanity.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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