My friend Nicholas (not his actual name) sighed, “I think it’s best to see situations as they present themselves.” He had pulled me aside last week because of the recent unhappy breakup with his girlfriend. “She said, ‘the only thing I’m giving you for Christmas is goodbye.'” I’ve heard of people receiving bad Christmas presents, but I think Nicholas’ gift from his ex-girlfriend takes the cake.
I had observed their relationship evolve during the past three years into something that appeared to be almost perfect. There was equality of give and take between the two. Their interactions were smooth and happy. They had a few typical lovers’ spats but resolved their quarrels right away through mindful negotiation. Nicholas said their relationship seemed to be “textbook perfect” and they were meant to be together forever–they were “heaven-sent” to each other.
I thought about my friend’s statement about seeing situations for how they present themselves. We humans like to embellish the facts about situations and people and give them meanings that are not truly there. Nicholas said his belief that his romantic relationship was “heaven-sent” was basically a case of wearing rose-colored glasses. He had seen signs of serious incompatibility, but chose to ignore his practical, rational side. His relationship and the breakup were not divinely ordained, they were practical lessons we encounter as we live our lives.
We humans have complicated personalities. As we seek to make sense of our world, we look into our deeper nature. Some people find inspiration in religion, others find profound meaning in simple spirituality. Contemplating life and situations in a spiritual way is a paradigm shift. That is a change in mental orientation from one point of view, to another. For instance, instead of believing demons cause illness, investigators discovered that microbes are at the root of disease.
I love to investigate paradigm shifts. There are times when my fragile ego takes command of me. After realizing this is happening, I like to go for a long, quiet walk–preferably at night. As I contemplate the environment around me and the sky above I remember that while my reality is centered around me, other people’s reality is not focused on me.
Probably 99.999… Percent of the people on Earth couldn’t care less about me or what I say and do. At first glance, this realization seems sobering and even frightening. During further mindful contemplation, I realize that the fact that practically everyone on Earth doesn’t know or care about me is very liberating. The small fraction of people who know me are my friends and my audience. This affirms that the Universe does not revolve around me but that I am an integral part of the Universe. To me, that is a beautiful spiritual truth.
“I want to be just a pure spiritual leader.” His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama is noteworthy among the world’s spiritual leaders in that he does not advocate proselytizing for his particular religion, philosophy, or point of view. He has often said that we can find deep spiritual resources within ourselves if only we take the time and effort to look within. He has witnessed first-hand how religious and political zealotry cause great harm to humanity.
The Dalai Lama’s exile from his homeland is a result of zealous persecution. There is an insidious tyranny waiting to be unleashed when belief systems vie for superiority and dominance over society. His experience has shown him that spiritual pride is not a virtue. Awareness and awakening are processes that naturally occur when we pause our lives and simply observe our surroundings and the judgments we place upon everything. We rediscover our strong, inner power that has been waiting all along. We realize that we are deeper and can be more profound than we believe we are.
As the end of another year is near, personal contemplation of ourselves and our place within the world come to mind. It is at the end of one cycle and near the beginning of another that people remember deeper meanings in life. The transition from one year to the next is a natural time to examine our spiritual literacy. Should we cling to our beliefs out of fear, or shall we expand our human experience out of sincere curiosity to seek truths?