Getting Our Story Straight and Building Something Real.
This idea of perception shaping stories we make up in our heads, and then how we give all kinds of meaning to our perceptional stories, is an idea that interests me… a lot.
In Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, he carves an important distinction between perceptions and perspective, by saying perception is subjective, and perspective is an objective, big picture.
About the subjective and insubstantial nature of our perceptions, he says, “…There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself, and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
Have you ever found yourself telling someone a story about an event in your life, then — Shazam! — smack in the juicy middle of your storytelling, some inner Bullshit Police shows up and slaps verbal handcuffs on you, ordering you to stop making shit up, and suddenly you see yourself from a less-than-favorable angle, bathed in an unbecoming light?
Such a moment happened a few months back when a healthy debate with my husband took a wrong turn, and a wound inflicted in the course of our 22-year marriage was pricked, and in a matter of minutes the scab came clean off.
As easy as butter follows bread, an argument followed that we’ve had enough times to memorize the script for, and deliver our lines with Academy-Award-winning performances.
Him: “…yeah, but it was you who____!”
Me: (defending my innocence) “… and you weren’t a victim!”
The gloves were off. I was barely into the good part of my Not Guilty defense, when his eyes filled with tears and he stopped me, asserting that I was missing the point… that I’d never actually listen to how he felt long enough just to acknowledge his feelings, and perhaps even feel the pain he may have felt regardless of the facts.
Was it the gemlike blue of his prominent eyes filled with a heartbreak so palpable I could nearly take his pulse from where I sat? Maybe. Was it the alignment of the planets on that day? One never knows these things. But whatever alchemical combination of elements or events may have conspired in that moment to stop me in my storytelling tracks, and listen, listen I finally did.
While listening to him, I heard a voice in my head speak up and clearly say, “Is it true? Is this story you’ve been telling all these years real or something you made up to protect you from feeling his pain, and seeing a part of yourself you don’t want to see, and could this be a different version of the story you’ve never had the courage to investigate?”
Of the many self-aware moments in my life, this one was transformational.
I’d crafted a narrative of the event to build a suit of armor, shielding me from feeling the truth of his genuine pain, and what’s more, to maintain a self-image I want to project, but which is unsustainable, and ultimately untrue.
The moment I allowed curiosity to run free, and investigate a more real version than my self-validating narrative, the armor began to crack and the light seeped through.
I felt my husband’s pain about the event for the first time, and I wept tears of deep remorse. What came next was a profound gratitude and far deeper love for a man, whose, despite the inevitable wounds both partners inflict in a 22-year love affair, context of love was always the big picture.
Self-aware moments of this sort are genies we cannot put back in the bottle.
These profound moments of awareness may be our Buddha-nature helping us remember the big picture. Or for some of us, it is our soul calling to us, or a Holy Spirit moving through us, but whatever it is, this numinosity pulses in all our veins and through every heart of every race and color, to remind us of the big picture — which is Love, and consciousness itself attempting to get through the cracks in our armor.
It was the French spiritual teacher, Arnaud Desjardins, whom I heard say something to the effect of Love is the background of being, and that until we choose Love as the context for our lives, the transformation of our human condition is not possible.
And to end, here is another gem from Ryan’s book: “You know what’s better than building things up in your imagination? Building things up in real life.”
Tarini Bauliya moonlights as an author, blogger, Yoga practitioner and instructor, and by day she is an executive Purpose Coach and Sales Whisperer, coaching massively transformative purpose to make sales an honorable profession, one leader at a time. Tarini’s first book is Saved from Enlightenment: The Memoir of an Unlikely Devotee. You could contact her via her website, Twitter or Facebook.