Minimalism has gained a lot of popularity over the years for having a very simple, neutral looking aesthetic. While I am all about the crisp cleanness of this type of living, my home has always had a few splashes of color and more softness…however, that’s not the topic of today’s podcast.
Today’s kind of neutral is a whole different kind and it matters a whole lot more to creating a happy, healthy life than a neutral paint color in your home – which by the way we just re-did our paint color in the main areas of our house and it honestly feels so much better. I will link to the paint color below if you need an idea for a good neutral, off-white color that just has a super calming feel…anyway!!!
We’re not talking about that kind of neutral. Today I want to talk to you about how to shift your mindset to be a little more accepting and…neutral about:
* What other say or do to us
* What we think
When we can slowly get a hold of how much we allow these things to weigh us down, we will find so much freedom on the other side.
I was recently reading Think Like a Monk for the first time – I had listened to the audiobook twice before but this time reading it was particularly helpful because it gave me a chance to slow down and think rather than just having the book continue to be read.
One of the stores the author, Jay Shetty, told the Parable of Perhaps
Parable of Perhaps
A man’s horse broke out of his barn and ran away during the night. His neighbors came over to console him saying that it was very unfortunate he lost his horse. The farmer said “Maybe”.
The next day the farmer’s horse returned bringing with him seven wild horses. His neighbors then said how very lucky he was to gain seven more horses for his farm. The farmer said “Maybe”.
On the following day his son tried to ride one of the new wild horses and was thrown and broke his leg. “O how awful!” cried his neighbors. “Maybe” answered the farmer.
The next week soldiers came to conscript the young men of the village to fight in a war but the farmer’s son was not taken because his leg was broken. “How wonderful for you!” said the neighbors. “maybe”, said the farmer.
The idea of not feeling some drastic emotion at the idea of a horse running away, a child being injured or a child being saved from battle… sounds a little bananas to most of us, I’m sure.
As someone who used to ride an emotional roller coaster, I can tell you, I believe truly, that in most of these situations I would be able to remain fairly neutral. The one exception would be if my child got called into battle.
Pretty sure I would rage, fight the power, do whatever it took, we’d flee the country!!
But that’s a whole Mama Bear thing that I think most of you can understand.
So, let’s focus on the more “normal” circumstances of daily life.
Things like getting cut off in traffic. Do you have any idea how long I would let getting cut off in traffic upset me? All day. I would be pissed all day.
I would get cut off. Get mad. Yell at the other driver. And proceed to tell every single human that I came into contact with that day about it. I would also use this as a reason for me to just be super pissed all day. I would also hold onto it, and allow any other small mishaps to pile o top of this one.
Get cut off.
Have to wait in line to clock in at work.
Boss doesn’t answer my question fast enough.
Co-worker is chewing too loudly next to me.
Have you done this?
We determine that one small situation is “bad” and then use it as the foundation for how we build our day. What a shitty way to build a day.
The thing is, this small event of getting cut off in traffic isn’t going to affect the grand scheme of our life. It’s really not going to, so it’s silly of us to allow it to waste even one of our days.
We so badly want to feel justified in our anger, we want others to know we were wronged, I get that. But ultimately, if you choose to hang onto that anger, then it is off of the other driver and put directly onto your shoulders.
And another thing that this can carry along with it is that you have now placed yourself in a victim mentality. You were wronged, everyone is against you. Not only is this pity party mentality not a good color on anyone, who in their right mind wants to spend their life being the victim in their own story? Not me.
Of course, bigger things come into play with this. People who were neglected or abused often continue to play the role of victim in their lives – they want the additional attention because they were deprived of it as kids. If this is you, if this is something you can relate to. If you didn’t get the time and attention you deserve, if you still have a parent or a spouse you are dying to feel loved from…let me tell you.
I’m so sorry. You are a person who is worthy of love and if they choose not to share that with you, that is because of some underlying issue they are carrying around and my friend, it does not have to be your burden.
I’m not saying forgive, forget, move on, don’t let it bother you. I know it takes much more than that. But, being aware that this might be causing you to continue to seek acknowledgement in other areas of your life can be key in helping you release some of this stuff.
For example, the next time you get cut off in traffic it might be helpful to remind yourself, you were simply cut off. You don’t have any more information than this. This person could have done it maliciously, it could have been accidental. Have you ever accidentally cut someone off before?
Instead of allowing this rage or frustration to take over, it might do you well to remember, that this situation does not require your attention or anger. Your feelings of frustration are still valid, but it’s not required for you to carry it with you. And you can choose to release it.
I started by simply telling myself this person was racing on their way to the hospital with their child in the backseat.
Because I have been that mother.
I remember multiple times, unfortunately, speeding a little too quickly down the highway because of a major medical injury that had happened to one of my kids.
In that moment I was barely aware of other humans. I was in that Mama Bear mode.
Now, is everyone who cut me off in traffic a panicked parent racing to the ER? Probably not. Probably some jackass who thinks he owns the road. I know that – in my brain I KNOW that. But that makes me mad. Haha. So, I choose another story, but the truth is, I don’t know the full story. Maybe that jackass is some other poor deprived son of a butt munch who never got enough attention either and is now fighting for power back any way he can.
In either of these scenarios, my heart goes out to the other driver and I can wish them well.
Was this practice of mine easy? No. It took a lot of intentional internal shifts. However, it did help lesson the frustration of getting cut off and now I can honestly say when I get cut off I feel…neutral. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It just is.
Now, bordering closely to this, even going hand in hand with it is our thoughts and our opinions of other people.
When we have encounters like this, it’s pretty easy for us to instantly begin casting judgment on the other driver, isn’t it?
Like the late Wayne Dyer said, “Stop Looking for Occasions to Be Offended When you live at or below ordinary levels of awareness, you spend a great deal of time and energy finding opportunities to be offended.”
Usually the things we are offended by, or the judgements we cast on others are really tied to limiting beliefs or made up rules that we have been unknowingly living by ourselves. Now, some of these rules might be serving us well,
For example, if you live by the rule that it’s important to be respectful and safe while driving, that’s a great rule to live by. It makes sense why you would feel some sort of frustration when another driver doesn’t live by it.
However, if you also want to live by the rule that other people – especially strangers you don’t know and haven’t even seen – don’t get to dictate your life, then it is crucial for your sanity that you allow yourself to become neutral toward these types of situations.
The same holds true for things that are said to us…
Imagine this: a single text message could go out to 3 different people.
The text message reads: I need to talk to you. (period)
Person number one goes into a panic. They have decided this person hates them. They’re going to break up with them. It is over.
Person number two worries about the other person. Oh my gosh, I hope they are OK! What if something awful is going on with them.
Person number three rolls their eyes, “oh my gosh, I bet this isn’t even important at all.”
If each person could have a completely different interpretation to this simple sentence…then there is no FACT behind this message. It cannot be determined for sure what it means. That means it is up to US…each individual person to put fact behind that message.
Allowing yourself to remain neutral you can potentially spare yourself the emotions of panic, worry, or annoyance and allow the message to simply…be…
The message isn’t good or bad, it just…is. It’s a message. That’s all.
We can even do this exact same thing with our own thoughts
You know I always used to believe that my thoughts were mine…like I owned them, I thought them up on my own…and sometimes I do. Sometimes I feel like I am a more active participant in my own thinking process. However, I read in a book – several books really – but The Unteathered Soul stands out the most.
When you have a thought come into your brain – are you also aware of that thought at the same time? For example, could you have a snap judgment thought about another person and then instantly go, “WHOA! Where did that come from? That was a harsh thought.” – This is because that THOUGHT isn’t yours. If you are still able to observe the thoughts as they come in, you allow yourself to become more connected to your true self.
I like to imagine it like thoughts are just ideas floating through the atmosphere – Elizabeth Gilbert sort of references this in her book Big Magic. We have the option to grab a thought and hang onto it, or we have the option to release it and let it go. In fact she talks about a very specific idea she had for a book – she started writing it and never really finished. It sat for a year or more and then years later she met a woman who was basically writing the exact same book.
It was even said Michael Jackson had an idea for a song and insisted on recording it instantly…it was like the middle of the night or something – because otherwise Prince would record it before him. He knew the idea wouldn’t be his unless he chose to do something about it.
Wayne Dyer references these thoughts like a ticker taper screen – where messages just shoot across the screen like stock market prices. If we can allow the thoughts to just BE and choose the ones that feel good for us, then we stop allowing thoughts to control our lives and can select only ones that feel good.
This work takes some time – just as it would if you were painting the walls of your house a more neutral color. There is one layer, one coat – this might be practicing alternative thoughts when we’re cut off while driving. Allowing ourselves not to believe the stories about situations like this and instead writing stories that make us feel better.
When that layer becomes a little more natural, the second layer might be just releasing the need to hold a thought at all about the other driver.
When we have been taught to live in a world where we must take our thoughts and the behaviors of others very seriously, it can be tough to just stop caring or let it go…it takes intentional choice to let go. You must choose your peace over your desire to be right or to be the victim.
In allowing more and more of the thoughts, words and events of our life to become neutral, just like in well-planned home design– we allow the important things to stand out in our life. Imagine a white room with one amazing art piece at the center of it. That same art piece would be drown out should those walls be painted in graffiti.
For you maybe that’s family, friends, your partner, your SELF, a dream you have for changing the world. Only in allowing everything else to become neutral can this focal point of your life truly be allowed to shine.