When you said in the last retreat I attended that the nature of ‘things’ is that everything changes, I smiled, thinking that maybe that was true of everyone else, but not of me: I had a good job, I finally had a man that was in love with me and was happy to have me in his life, I worked on myself to be a better person… What could go wrong? Not long afterwards I discovered that reality was different. At home I found a person that suddenly did not adore me anymore, but felt angry and agitated when I was around. He started to reject me and finally decided that his life was easier without me. This was really a shock because I have been trying to be a nicer person, to go with the flow. And then some other things started to not be OK anymore and I started to feel the emptiness, I wanted to change where I live, where I work. And I started to wonder what my purpose is? How can I end this feeling of not being good enough?
Suffering is a wonderful opportunity, if we have the strength to use it. Yes, change is good, and external change sometimes can be very useful and necessary, but real change has to be internal (otherwise whatever happened before has the potential to repeat itself).
Our life is nothing more than the interpretation of our experiences (what happens to us). But those experiences don’t have a label that tells us how we should interpret them. The interpretation is always done by the mind. An animal is programmed to respond to its experiences and will always respond in precisely predictable ways. But human beings have a mind, and so interpretation becomes much more complex and varied.
The fact is that everything changes. Most people never come to this understanding, and keep living their lives ignorant of this; and when things change, as they will, they always find somebody or something to blame. Some people blame other people, some people blame the circumstances and some people blame themselves. This blaming is the interpretation of their experience. And this interpretation is influenced by their past, mostly the way their parents, and the parents of their parents interpreted experience. In a sense, they are no different than animals, interpreting experience according to their programming.
But blaming is not necessary. I remember when I was quite young and a girlfriend I liked very much left me. I was completely destroyed, depressed, and felt so bad about myself! My father found out and very gently and without getting touched by my depression he told me: ‘She is missing the opportunity to get to know better a great guy like you’. And he left.
I was left perplexed. I was so sure it was my fault that I never ever considered the possibility of thinking anything else. But my father opened my eyes to a different interpretation. I did not think that what he said was the final truth, but I did see that there were many possible interpretations for what happened, not just me not being good enough.
Now, more than 30 years later, I can see that there are so many variables involved in a relationship, that it is actually an exception for a relationship to work, more than a norm.
Most (not all but most) relationships are based on personal needs, and when those personal needs are not met, the ‘love’ that was there dissipates. But it is nobody’s fault. It is just mechanics. There is usually some kind of physical attraction, but then, that attraction needs to be backed up by a series of ‘mechanical interplays’. Generally, a person feels lonely and so he/she hopes for another person to bring happiness into his/her life. First there is this natural attraction, which usually manages, at least for a while, to keep the person happy. But this attraction is extremely volatile, and so as soon as it starts to wear off, even slightly (as it always does), the ‘mechanical interplays’ between the two people become very important: I feel unhappy and I hope you will make me happy. If your way of being matches my way of being (your inclinations and visions and desires and fears – the way you see life), then I will stay… at least as long as those things make me happy. But if they don’t, I will look for another person that can give me what you cannot give me and I don’t find in myself.
But there is nothing personal in it; it has nothing to do with you as a person, but everything to do with the mechanics between two people.
Nothing that happens has a meaning attached to it. All the meaning is given by our own minds. Blaming oneself and feeling bad for oneself is only one interpretation out of many possibilities, and not a very wise one.
Wisdom means harmony, and harmony means peace and love (not love in a sense of attraction between two people but love in a sense of unity, of recognition that everything is connected, that all is one). Any interpretation that takes me closer to harmony and peace and love is a wiser interpretation. Any interpretation that takes me away from harmony is closer to ignorance, blindness. No interpretation is absolutely true, but wisdom is a possibility for a human being. Go towards it! (‘Go towards it’ simply means be aware, very aware, of the ways your mind interprets experience and always chose a wise interpretation). Finding wisdom, finding peace and love, is the way to realize the real meaning of our lives.
Of course this wisdom doesn’t come overnight, but it is something that can and will grow if you are really interested in it. And this interest manifests as a strength that does not allow an unwise interpretation to fill your mind. It may not always be easy. It may take some effort, will and perseverance, but I promise you, its result – a more beautiful life – is worth any struggle. Our life is nothing but the interpretation of our experiences.