How many times have you defended yourself with the protest, "But he/she started it!" Of course, you may not use those words, as I would hope we have all moved on since kindergarten, but I still hear people justifying their behavior by comparing it to other's actions on a regular basis. Your actions stand alone, and if you constantly find yourself saying things like, "He/she really hurt my feelings!" or "He/she made me angry!" then you are in a pattern of REaction. This translates into giving away your personal power, letting someone else dictate your actions. We have all had this experience, as we all have egos, and that part of us enjoys drama. One of my favorite "zen stories" of all time goes like this:
Is That So?
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parents went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”
Hakuin could have defended himself and made a huge drama out of this, but he accepted the child and raised it in a peaceful, loving environment. As the mother clearly was not ready to raise the child as her own, he accepted the gift from the Universe and likely gained some knowledge of his own. When we defend ourselves, or allow the ego to take over, we are creating drama where there does not need to be.
Next time you find yourself "mad" or "hurt," ask yourself if the words you are about to say, or the action you are about to take, can stand alone. If you are cut off in traffic, and, in turn, flip off the other driver, take out their action and leave yours in the equation. Is this who you are? Or is that you reacting to them? The answer is clear. In beginning to live a conscious life, and turning around your actions so that they are yours alone, you will start to see an inner calm that perhaps has eluded you until now.
"Your actions should not be contingent on someone else's. Stand alone in love!"