Not taking anything personally
was something personally liberating.
Barely knowing her, I was wondering for some time, as to why she tends to make eye-contact with me in a somewhat ‘unnatural’ way, as if there is some suppressed spite. Then one day, I saw her looking with that same look at someone who is much closer to her as a friend. Only then did I realise that the look was probably wholly habitual and nothing personal towards me. I suddenly became immensely relieved and glad that I did not take her ‘look’ too personally – I only felt some curiosity as to why it was the way it was. However, it could be a big and continual problem for her and others who encounter her sulkiness. Maybe I should advise her to nurture greater mindfulness on this? I hope she will not take it personally – though it is from my ‘personal’ perspective! If those who ‘offended’ you do not really know you personally, how can they hold anything really personal against you? It’s good to ask to check if in doubt though – because sometimes, others do have personal issues with you from their personal points of view! It is always easier to go around gathering random judgmental opinions of others, than to personally seek to uncover the truth, which might be nothing close to anyone’s opinions at all – including your own!
A caption on an existential New Yorker cartoon with a man sitting up in bed reads – ‘Ask not for whom the refrigerator hums… Hmmmm… It hums for thee.’ If you put yourself in the centre of the universe, the universe centres around you. If you take things personally, everything you experience becomes personal. But the truth is, things are just the way they are in themselves, and though karmically deserved, you choose how you want to experience them. Krauss chides Hellboy in ‘Hellboy II’, on his fatal flaw of being unable to take criticism. ‘Your temper! It gets the best of you. Makes you weak, makes you vulnerable.’ To frequently take things personally is really a huge personal flaw. While the fiery might think their quick wrath is their ready strength, it is really their immediate weakness – for their buttons are so easily pushed by anyone! When we lose our temper, we lose our peace of mind. When we lose our peace of mind, we lose our mindfulness – and all hell breaks loose – which leads to the creation of negative karma that has repercussions proportional to the damage wrecked by word and deed.
A total stranger looked at me with a disapproving expression. I couldn’t imagine what I had done wrong. Maybe he was just unhappy with how I looked? I took another look at the stranger. He was now looking at another person who is a perfect stranger to him, but with the same expression too. I wondered what she had done wrong. The stranger then turned away from her, and looked at no one in particular – yet still wearing the same expression! It was his natural expression after all. Then I realised it was nothing personal, that I took it too personally – because he behaves that way to everyone, not just to me. More importantly, even if it was a personal thing, there is nothing ‘personal’ about the illusory ‘me’, since ‘I’ am but a continuum of constant change, just like everything else around me. He probably had nothing personal against the world, though the world might take his expression personally! What is your natural expression? Some do have ‘inborn’ frowns. Is it really natural? Can it be more natural? The Buddha’s natural expression is pleasing to all, because it is the most spiritually natural possible – as natural as Buddha-nature!
You have to give up your ‘self’
to save your’self’.