With an open heart, and embodying love and compassion for all, is a new way of existing possible? In my interview with the amazing Amanda she explains that our relationship with not only people but all things in our lives can be transformational when we ‘experience’ them with an open heart, acceptance and joy.
So tell us Amanda, What is your greatest unexpected achievement so far?
So far my greatest unexpected achievement would be in transforming personal relationships. I say unexpected as this is something, which as a child growing up and setting goals for the future, would never have occurred to me. As a child we all have fantasies about growing up, succeeding in a job that we are good at, getting paid well, getting married etc. But honestly, today, and also if I projected myself into my future when lying on my death bed and looking back, my greatest unexpected achievements would be how I have conducted my personal relationships. I nurture them all in my heart, the short ones, the long ones, my ex husband. They are rich with memories, experiences, growth. All of them factors in my journey of becoming a better human being. I have been able to remain friends with all of my ex-boyfriends and my ex-husband is my best friend. As I reflect back on them they all contain an element of:
Giving up a sense of entitlement
All doing our best
Taking nothing personally. Nothing anybody else does is about us (Toltec Wisdom)
Appreciation for the experience – with no expectation on how long that needs to last
Not taking the game of life so seriously
I will expand on all of these below:
This topic has always been important to me through my life. It didn’t always come easily and I remember always book marking wonderful quotes on what forgiveness actually is, something like “if you don’t forgive it’s
like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”…… and about, we can forgive the person but not the action etc etc. These are all good and a start, but if they remain on an intellectual level, then it doesn’t really transform your life. True forgiveness comes, ironically, when we stop condemning somebody in the first place. In A Course in Miracles they talk about “forgiveness does not mean forgiving others for what they did to us and being a better person” – this is just judgement masquerading as forgiveness. It is more a recognition that ‘nothing has actually happened’. The ego tells us that something has happened and in this judgement we separate ourselves from others. When you go beyond the ego, seeing ourselves as one, not separated by a body, we enter a state of love and compassion for us all.
2. Giving up a sense of entitlement
When going through my divorce I learnt this other valuable lesson, and it actually came from my lawyer strangely enough. It was also cemented to me by some of my male friends who had gone through divorces. I could see that they would have naturally been far more generous to their ex’s had not an ‘attacking sense of entitlement ensued’. When you feel you are being attacked, you defend. When we feel ‘entitled’ we attack. We think we are defending, but we are attacking. Both are fear based and both strangle the laws of abundance which can’t operate in this acidity. I trusted and I had absolute clarity when I reflected on these words ‘give up your sense of entitlement’, that the best outcome for our highest goods would arrive, and it did. I also wasn’t just faking it, I honestly didn’t have any expectations to what I would get from the divorce, we even shared the same lawyer and it was a very friendly process. That was 10 years ago, and I am constantly living in a feeling of being supported with all my needs being met.
3. Taking nothing personally. Nothing anybody else does is about us (Toltec Wisdom)
There is a brilliant, easy to read book by Don Miguel Ruiz, called the 4 Agreements, based on a Toltec wisdom, with 4 simple life lessons. One of them is this -Nothing anybody does is because of you.
The fact that we personalise everything anybody else ever does and make it about ourselves is the ultimate form of selfishness. He even goes on to say, in it’s extreme, if someone is pointing a gun to your head, even at this level, it has nothing to do with you. It’s the other person’s beliefs, experiences, judgements etc, their actions make sense to them, given their level of thinking, consciousness and programming in that moment. It has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. This has helped me a lot to not take anything personally. When I found out that my boyfriend had been cheating on me throughout our relationship, despite initial feelings of anger and ’taking it personally’ they didn’t last long, and I was able to go back to my state of peace. I didn’t even have to go back into my past with him and re-wire all my memories of our time together based on this new information I had received. I actually left all my old memories intact, as to how I had experienced them then. Why would I change them for a new story and more suffering? I had the best deal, I got to keep amazing memories. They say ignorance is bliss, I really believe it is. Not only that, I have a new friend now. I really like the girl he was seeing behind my back, we have become friends and are going on holiday together this summer.
We live an inside out reality, not an outside in reality. We can’t avoid things happening to us in our lifetime, but we are 100% in charge of how we experience them.
4. We are all doing our best
This is another of the 4 Agreements. I use this one a lot. It comes from a natural evolution of spending more time in my heart, than my head. In doing so, I feel at one with all human beings, not separate and different. We all have the same struggles. We all are ‘feeling’ our ’thinking’. Nobody escapes that. We all have moments of anger, insecurity, joy, apathy, pleasure etc – nobody escapes them – we are all the same and we are all doing our best, given our level of thinking and our state of consciousness in any moment. This leads to a large percentage of my time in compassion for us all.
5. Appreciation for the experience – with no expectation on how long that needs to last
I don’t believe that a successful relationship is determined by how many years you stay with somebody and we should stop using longevity as a rule to measure it. Length of a relationship in my mind doesn’t necessarily equal ’this is the one’. I believe you can have a deep connection and life changing experience with somebody that only lasts 20 years, 2 months, a day or an instant. I remember after my 15 year marriage came to an end, people would ask me “oh, what went wrong?”. I think this is absolutely the wrong question. They should have been asking me “wow, what was right about your relationship that it lasted 15 years? how can I achieve that?” I would rather trade 2 amazing years with somebody than a lifetime with somebody I have signed a contract to stay together with.
I also believe we look for a partner based on ‘are they the marrying type, will this be good for me etc” Nobody ever bases their decision on “Is this the right partner I am choosing based on divorce/separation”. Nobody ever asks that but they should.
6. Not taking our ’stories’ so seriously
When I start to take myself seriously or somebody else, I just remember that our physical life here is a game, with made up rules, and eventually an end to our story making. So while we can let’s make fantastic stories to tell our grandchildren. I always think wouldn’t it be boring if you went to the movies and watched a film with just one emotion, just neutral happenings. We need to see it all, the falling, the rising, the hope, the lessons learnt. A bit like the hero’s journey, by Joseph Campbell. Every hero follows a similar path, departing from familiar beginnings to unleash the unknown within by answering a call to adventure. Next facing life’s challenges and rising above them to return home, changed and in victory. This is all our stories, we are all one. Let us celebrate that, fiercely in love with each experience.
Would you say that life is ultimatley about relationships?
Yes as we are always in relation to something: our partner, our family, friends, pets, even inanimate objects, our car, food, plants, our bodies and even our thoughts.. I’m over here and you are over there. We even ask each other questions like: ‘What is your relationship with your body? with food? So personal relationships that we spoke of above are not really any more important than all these types of relationships, apart from we make it so.
Are you in a relationship? Everybody knows what somebody is referring to when they ask this question, as though it’s the relationship of all relationships. Have you found the one? When we view our partners like this we strangle the relationship with expectations and judgement. Ideas of perfection, Why? Because we have invested a lot of time in it. A belief system about marriage, partners, soul mates. What about when we invest money into a car? Do we have the same expectations for perfection? Is this the right car for me for the rest of my life? etc.
As an exercise It can be helpful to think of a relationship where you struggle and a relationship which comes easily to you and notice the difference in your thinking between the two. An easy comparison could be your partner and your pet. In one are you more allowing, more expansive in your loving? Carry that on, briefly reflect on all different types of relations to things in your life…. notice when you are in your heart and expansive and when you are in your head and constrictive, heart closed. Do you see a pattern? The relationship where you are successful in, adopt the same strategy to the ones that you find more difficult.
I remember a beautiful zen story about a boy who asks a wise man “how do you know who the most important person in your life is?” The wise man doesn’t answer him directly but sends him on a mission to go and find the answer. It is a tireless mission having the boy interview his family, friends, neighbours, to spend time in nature and to push himself out of his comfort zone, looking to find ‘who the most important person is in his life’. When he eventually returns, still confused as to what the answer is, the wise man gently directs him to this wisdom – In any moment, the most important person in your life, is the person, object or thing that is in front of you in that moment. When you start living like this, there is no hierachy to opening your heart. Everything becomes one.
A friend of mine who worked for the airlines often got to meet famous people. I remember her telling me a story of Ewan McGregor being on the flight and how amazing he was with everybody. She pointed it out to him, that he had a certain way when he interacts with people. He answered that whoever was in front of him, he would make sure that they were the most important person in his life, if only for an instant. Whether he is a spiritual man ( I don’t know) or it’s an acting technique, it works!
You say ‘ignorance is bliss’ but is this not like living in a bubble? To say ‘nothing actually happened’ is this not denial or does it mean it’s not about who I am now?
You could say that how we create our reality is like living in a bubble. Our experience of anything (therefore our reality) can only come from what we ‘think’ about something. We live an inside out reality, not an outside in reality. We can’t avoid things happening to us in our lifetime, but we are 100% in charge of how we experience them. You could have 50 people all witness the same event, and each one of them will have a different experience. The experience doesn’t come from the outside event, but from the thinking (story) we attribute to it. Our thinking is variable, it is not a truth, just a perception from moment to moment, flavoured by our level of consciousness in that moment, how much we are in our hearts, our beliefs and so on. I remember when I used to pick up my 2 young daughters from school. One would be talking about a teacher, complaining about how difficult that person was, how mean they were’. The other daughter would always say ‘oh, that’s not my experience of her, she’s really nice, always so kind’. What is the truth, the reality of this teacher? Who was right? They both were, because we create our own reality. There is nothing else out there.
In this question you refer to believing ’nothing actually happened’ is perhaps a denial. I am not denying that my ex boyfriend had other relationships whilst he was with me – as I said earlier things happen to us in life, we are 7 billion people bumping up against each other all the time. Though my ‘experience’ of it comes from what I think about it, my version, my story = my reality. There is no other truth. Unless I decide to adopt somebody else’s version of events but this is still only their story, made up with their thinking therefore their reality. I am very particular of what takes up space in my head and I certainly don’t see the point in going back into the past (which btw is still only present thinking) to change all my stories of him to include hate and betrayal. My experience was great and I’m keeping it that way.
It seems like to live in a state of bliss we have to literally ‘clean the slate’ every day, every minute. Does that make sense?
I guess we only have to ‘clean’ if things are sticking to us in the first place. The more we hold onto, the more we are attached to outcomes, the more we think things are being done to us, the more we have to clean. As we move towards rising our vibration by spending more time in acceptance, willingness, gratitude and joy, the more we laugh, smile and open our hearts, there is just less cleaning to do. This is our default, our factory setting. I see it all as more of a subtraction strategy than an addition strategy to get back to our default setting. We need to do less to get back to our true nature, not more.
So to heal means taking responsibility for the role we play in our own suffering?
Yes although I would insert the word ‘innocent’ into this statement. It’s an important addition as it’s an innocent misunderstanding that leads to us creating our suffering. When we believe our feelings/experience are coming from something other than ourselves, ie our boss, mother-n-law, that middle seat in economy, then there is an awful lot of managing to do in the outside world. If only my boss would only do this, the event would look like this, I would feel better. The truth is these external things are neutral, not capable of giving us an experience. Our reality comes from the inside out.
When we start to take responsiblity for our own feelings/reactions, recognizing that they are coming from us, and not blaming others for how we feel, we realize that we have a choice. We can suffer them or rise them. We can be in joy or be in discomfort. So it starts with awareness, then comes a self reflection of the vibration rising in us and perhaps a familiar pattern and then we can rise it.
As we move towards rising our vibration by spending more time in acceptance, willingness, gratitude and joy, the more we laugh, smile and open our hearts..
‘We are all one’ is difficult to understand unless you actually get close to ‘feeling’ it, wouldn’t you agree?
Yes, and to be honest I think anything which is understood on an intellectual level is going to be harder to embody. When we try and understand something we remain in our heads with words and concepts and ideas and more thinking. We can accept the concept that ‘we are all one’, believing it to be a good idea and probably true. This may have an effect on our day to day life. Although it is a whole other level when we embody a new concept, because we have experienced it/felt it, deep in our heart. This is transformational. I remember always believing my growth, my success, my transformation would come from books, workshops, some wise words. I felt a new way of life would come from changing my thoughts alone. We are all one was something I had discovered many years ago and would tell people this fact, but didn’t really embody it. Though slowly, when you start to look at your life and other fellow human beings with love and compassion, realizing how cute we are all, all doing our best. When we judge less, condemn less, see the innocence in everybody, including ourselves – only then can you understand ‘we are all one’
In learning anything we all go through 4 stages. Firstly we are ‘unconsciously incompetent’ ie asleep to a new idea/way of being, we are in the dark to a new idea. Then we become consciously incompetent, which means we are conscious that we are living an innocent misunderstanding about something and would like to change. Then we enter into the realm of consciously competent, spending time practising or reading about how to do something better. Repeating actions or seeking out new knowledge. Eventually we become unconsicously competent. Completely embodying, on a sub conscious level, a new way of existing.
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