Thursday, 18 November 2010

How to be Different – realise we are all the same

"So I never look at human beings as the President or King or Prime Minister or beggar... in my eyes all are the same." 
His Holiness the Dalai Lama – Interview with Barkha Dutt

Individualism – it’s quite an interesting concept isn’t it? 
How we long to be different, to stand out from the crowd, to defend our individuality!

It’s always quite ironic when someone famous stats a new trend. Remember the David Beckham Mohawk haircut? At the time it was completely unexpected for a ‘clean-cut’ footballer to have such a hair style, completely individual. 

How ironic that before long, in our rush to be different, we were queuing at the hair dressers in our throngs asking for a Beckham Mohawk. A haircut is generally something quite harmless but I think it’s an example of something more serious, a vein which runs deeply within many of our modern cultures.

Our desire to be different and protect our individualism can lead to so many problems. It can make us suspicious of others, unable to form close relationships, defensive, unkind, uncaring, aggressive, ultimately it can even lead to all out war. And all it takes to avoid all those negative consequences is a slight shift of thinking.

When we start to see the other people we meet as human beings, just the same as us, with the same capacity for fear, sadness, love and happiness it can completely transform our life.

Not that it’s easy. Because we all have different ways of coming at our emotions, unless another person’s mental processes exactly match our own it’s very easy to dismiss their behaviour as simply stupidity or to assume they’re bad, annoying, stuck up, crazy etc.

The remainder of the quote from the Dalai Lama goes like this
“So whenever I meet these people I say, "look at them, they are just other human beings... our brothers and sisters. So this also creates more peace in my mind. But I may not be that level of mind not always, occasionally I burst.”

It takes practice to realize that underneath, other people are just the same as us, just trying to move away from suffering and towards happiness in the best way they know. Even with practice, occasionally we still ‘burst’. But when we do actually start to see others as the same us, it can be a very powerful realisation.

So what can we do to see other people as fellow human beings, just the same as us?

Well I believe the key is to start small. We can begin by simply noticing people as we pass them on the street. Step into their shoes for a few moments. Think about what their life might be like for them, the hopes, fears, dreams, sadness and happiness that makes up their life experience. Allow yourself to feel empathy for them recognising that we are all trying to avoid pain and to achieve happiness.

The practice only takes a few moments but it can transform the way you interact with people, it can transform your mood, even your life. Try it, give it a go and see what happens. No one even has to know you’re doing it. 

As you practice more and more it will start to become automatic. You may even start to notice how routinely critical other people can be without them even realizing it. Notice how it affects their mood and their interactions. Let that be your inspiration to continue, to make it a practice. I think it’s a practice which is worthwhile.

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1 comment:

  1. It's also important to notice it at the level of language too; use "we" and "our" more than "me" and "mine" and you'll see your mind naturally opening up to the concerns of others.